GSOT – II Anyone?
As a devote Rams fan, I can’t help but hope that the team will return to the days of the "Greatest Show on Earth." Those golden times of watching the Rams offense totally destroy the opposition at will was truly some great times for fans. I want to present why I think those days are going to return, maybe sooner than later.
But first a little history to support my theory:
It really all started with a guy named Don Coryell who was the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Don Coreyell was tired of his Stone Age run heavy offense that kept the team in games, but lacked the ability to close it out on top. (I think Jeff Fisher has learned this too.)
Don wanted to create an offense that would put pressure on the defense in every part of the field…especially deep. He borrowed Sid Gillman’s four verticals idea, but wanted to stretch the field horizontally as well. Coreyell’s offense was based off one-back sets, and two tight ends. This offense was armed with a multitude of formations and motions used to confuse the defense. By having so many different looks that would create mismatches each time the defense was set.
A huge piece of Air Coryell was a tight end from the University of Missouri named Kellen Winslow. The Chargers selected him in the first round of the 1979 draft. Winslow never played football until he was a senior in high school. Which makes his story even more fascinating because he led the NFL in receptions in 1980 and 1981? He was the first tight end to ever lead the league in receptions in back to back seasons. In 1980 Winslow set a single season record of 1,290 yards. That record stood until Rob Gronkowski totaled 1,327 yards, 31 years later in 2011.
Winslow was put in motion to avoid being jammed at the line, or lined up in the slot, or even out wide against a smaller corner back. The TE only being covered by a slower safety or linebacker, required that another defender was needed to keep the speedy tight end contained. This of course would create a hole in the defense that could be exploited. If not the linebacker or safety would lose the battle trying to cover the big fast tight end.
So let’s enter the first potential player of the new GSOT resurgence. Enter Jared Cook, a large and fast TE who has played both wide receiver and safety at North Gwinnett high School in Georgia. As a senior he hauled in 32 passes for 800 yards and 10 touch downs. Drafted in 2009 by the Tennessee Titans he wasn’t used properly and I think Fisher realized he might just be the TE piece needed for a totally new transformation of this offense.
So back to the Chargers, even though they had a great tight end they also had a couple of other guys named, Charlie Joiner, and John Jefferson. Retired hall of famer Charlie Joiner was known as and intelligent player who ran precise routes. John Jefferson known as the "Touchdown Man" because of his rookie year in which he caught 56 balls, for 1001 yards and 13 touchdowns.
I can easily plug in several of the current Rams receiver’s into these spots. To me it’s not a stretch at all to say Tavon Austin, and Stedman bailey could produce some equivalent production in the first year.
Okay let’s get back to the story, if you don’t know by now, the other piece of that offense was another hall of famer named Dan Fouts. Dan played his entire 15 year career with the Chargers. Dan was touted as one of the most prolific passing quarter backs of the 70’s and 80’s.
Fouts was a 6-time Pro Bowl selection (1979-1983 & 1985) and compiled passer ratings over 90.0 for a 3-year stretch (1981–83). Fouts threw for over 4,000 yards for three consecutive seasons (1979–81), led the NFL in passing yards in four consecutive seasons (1979–1982) and six times eclipsed the 20-touchdown mark with a career high 33 in 1981. His career high of 4,802 passing yards during the 1981 season was an NFL record at the time.
Fouts first few years in the league were inauspicious, but with the arrival of head coach Don Coryell in 1978 the Chargers' fortunes turned. Yet it was actually two years earlier, with the arrival of Bill Walsh as the Charger's offensive coordinator, that the seeds of success were planted. Under Coryell, the Chargers were known as Air Coryell for the deep passing game and the involvement of the tight end as a key receiver. This required a tough, intelligent quarterback with a strong arm. Fouts fit the bill.
Can you say Sam Bradford?
Pass protection was also critical for such an offense. The Chargers had an excellent offensive line which protected Fouts well. (Rams are trying to come up with the same type of line.)
Despite going to the playoffs from 1979 through 1982 and playing in 2 AFC Championship Games, the Chargers never went to the Super Bowl under Fouts. Usually this is attributed to poor defense and their unwillingness to run the ball. In Fouts prime the defense was not as stellar and desperately needed an effective pass rush.
So now we know what went wrong for the Chargers…..a lack of an attacking defense. (Put a check mark in the box next to the Rams.)
Hey OCR, that’s great but how does that relate to the GSOT days?
I’m glad you asked because a guy name Mike Martz brought the Air Coryell philosophy to the SL Rams in 1999 as the offensive coordinator. Today Martz version of Air Coreyell is a bit different than Norv Turner’s version.
"The Martz variant is a much more robust offense with a more complex playbook. It is a much more aggressive passing offense, frequently deploying pre-snap motion and shifts, with the run often forgotten. There is much less of a focus on play action. The Martz variant favors an elusive feature back that can catch the ball over the power runners the Turner scheme favors. Martz credits his influences on his variation of the offensive system to Sid Gillman and Don Coryell. Martz learned the so-called 3 digit system the offense is famous for with how the plays are called from Turner when they were both in Washington. The Rams set a new NFL record for total offensive yards in 2000, with 7,335. 5,492 of those were passing yards, also a new NFL team record. Martz tends to favor a 3 WR set with more elusive players, a third receiver and the Half back filling the role of middle receivers that TEs & FBs fulfill in the Turner offense. The Martz offense works best with two elite WRs with top speed. Unlike the Turner variant, due to the complexity of the Martz offense, the QBs who execute it best are often the more intelligent QBs who intuitively get what Martz is trying to do, not the elite athlete whose team's personnel department might favor drafting with a high draft pick. Whether it is due to the personality of the coach or the nature of the scheme, the Martz variant has historically had problems when teams shut down the run and make the team one dimensional. Additionally, the QBs sometimes take a lot of hits in this system."
I want to finish this history lesson with a quote from Kellen Winslow.
Winslow points out that Coryell had an indirect hand in the 49ers', Washington Redskins' and St. Louis Rams' Super Bowl teams. "They call it the West Coastoffense because San Francisco won Super Bowls with it, but it was a variation of what we did in San Diego. Joe Gibbs' itty-bitty receivers on the outside and two tight ends in the middle, (that's) a variation of Coryell's offense in San Diego. It's just a personnel change, but it's the same thing. When the Rams won their Super Bowl, it was the same offense, same terminology."
Okay so now we’ve learned about Air Coryell so what about Brian Schottenhiemer’s offense?
I’m going to borrow a quote from Sando’s NFC West blog on Jan 24th of this year.
- Philosophy: The offense St. Louis will run has roots in the Don Coryell digit system, though Schottenheimer said his offense would be more concept-based than reliant upon actual numbers. Schottenheimer learned the game from his famous father, Marty, but he initially thought he would fall under the West Coast tree. He pointed to Mike McCarthy, Jimmy Raye and Steve Spurrier as coaches he had borrowed from over the years. He learned the Coryell-based offense from Jerry Rhome in St. Louis during the 1997 season, when Dick Vermeil was coach. Schottenheimer said he likes the way "the formations flow" and the flexibility afforded coaches on game days.
Alright my last piece of this argument is Jeff Fisher. I think here is a man searching for that super bowl win to cement his career before it’s over. Many times it’s been said that his mediocrity in Tennessee means he can’t get over the hump. I say just the opposite; he’s learned from his mistakes and with the help of the front office is quietly building another GSOT like team.
Let’s see what we need to have a GSOT – II type offense.
1. Small speedy receiver’s that can line up anywhere on the field.
2. Big receiver with speed and red zone ability.
3. Running back(s) than can catch the ball and have breakaway speed.
4. Power running back.
5. Pass catching big tight ends.
6. Offensive line that can protect the QB.
7. QB that can make all the throws, and run up tempo offense.
8. Strong Defense.
Sure we have no idea that all of our new players will actually perform as advertised, but it looks to me like Fisher has decided to go with a proven idea that has won many a super bowl. Whether or not this is the year it all works out is anybody’s guess. But it sure looks like to me that this team is quickly taking on the traits of the previous Air Coryell Chargers, and the GSOT era Rams.
How about it, are you buying into this yet?
I think it’s happening right in front of our eyes, and I’m pretty excited for this season!
Thanks for reading!