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’10 Offense Unveiled … Monday Cup O’Chiefs

The Chiefs will hit the practice field for the first of their OTA sessions on Monday.

It will be then that the offensive players get their first real indications on what the new Chiefs offense will look like.

New offense? Yes, it’s going to be new, although it won’t be quite the change that the players experienced at the end of the 2009 pre-season when head coach Todd Haley fired coordinator Chan Gailey and installed himself as the play caller and man in charge of the offense.

However, there will be noticeable differences when they crack the books this week and get a look at the scheme. Is it Haley’s offense? Is it the playbook of new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis? Will it be a combination of the two?

No, the father of the Chiefs 2010 offensive scheme will not even be on the field Monday. He’ll be somewhere in Florida, more than likely on a golf course. The man behind the Chiefs offense is Ron Erhardt. It is an approach that he developed from his time as a head coach at New England, seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator with the Giants-Patriots-Steelers and Jets and even a bit back to his own days as a college head coach at North Dakota State.

The Erhardt philosophy does not establish any sort of new agenda in the sport. It’s a tried and true formula.

“Its run the ball and then throwing play-action passes off of those runs,” Haley said when asked last week to describe the offensive philosophy for the 2010 Chiefs.

 It’s always chancy to characterize an offensive or defensive system with just a few words, or even a single sentence. It creates a picture that sometimes isn’t accurate. Consider the high flying scheme used by Dick Vermeil and Al Saunders that set new standards in the Chiefs record books. It’s easy to look at the passing numbers of Trent Green, Tony Gonzalez, Eddie Kennison, et. al. and say it was a passing offense. That would ignore the remarkable running numbers of Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson over the years.

The 2010 Chiefs offense is not the so-called West Coast scheme made famous by the late Bill Walsh with the 49ers and still used in the league with disciplines from his coaching tree like Philadelphia and Green Bay. It’s also not the Don Coryell based offense, which was the base for what the Chiefs did under Vermeil and Saunders, and is still in use around the league with teams like Chicago and San Diego.

The Ron Erhardt (left) offense was created in concert with former college and pro coach Ray Perkins and grew in stature with the success of Bill Parcells teams with the Giants, Patriots and Jets. Those are the roots of what the Chiefs will do this year.

Erhardt is famous for his often repeated line: “you pass to score, run to win.” During his time with the Steelers and even with the Patriots, Erhardt’s offense frequently had five receivers on the field. It’s similar to what New England still uses today with Tom Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker. And, those offenses were always able to run the ball, using the likes of Ottis Anderson, Barry Foster, Curtis Martin and others.

Here are some of the basics of what goes into an Erhardt-type offense:

  • Rather than hundreds of plays, the scheme relies on multiple formations and variations in personnel groupings that are used with a core number of base plays. Take 10 basic plays, make changes with formations and groupings and those 10 plays can have enough different looks that it seems like 70 to 80 plays.
  • The formations and groupings are based on taking advantage of personnel matchups against individual opponents. From week to week there can be a very different emphasis on what the offense focuses on. Analysis of the opponent may make the emphasis one week on power running, the next on a shot passing game.
  • The running game is generally used to set up the pass with play-action passing being the primary method of throwing the ball.

“I think you can cut down on the plays and get different looks from your formations and who’s in them,” Weis said several years ago when talking about implementing the Erhardt offense. “It’s easier for the players to learn. It’s easier for the quarterback to learn. You get different looks without changing his reads. You don’t need an open-ended number of plays.”

The Erhardt-Weis-Haley approach believes more in matchups than trickery. There’s a belief more in formations and player groupings than any single play in the playbook.

“We are a game-plan offense and we will be a game-plan defense,” said Haley. “We will do things each week that we think our players do the best against the team we are facing. If you don’t think that way, then you are a system offense, fitting players into the system all the time. You are going to do what you do, and it’s not going to vary; you are less concerned with the opponent.

“That’s the two different thought processes that go into any offense and defense. We are game plan, not system. Both systems have worked in the league. We just choose to do things based on game plans.”

There have been cuts made to the scheme since Haley and Weis got together in January. They both have the foundation of the offense from their time with the Jets in the late 1990s, where Parcells was the head coach and he brought in Erhardt to teach the system to Weis, who became the offensive coordinator. Haley was offensive assistant and then wide receivers coach.

“The great thing about this situation is that when we were together back in the 90s, it was a pure form of the offense,” Haley said. “I guess you could say in my mind it’s become impure because when coaches that run the offense go somewhere else, things get changed. Whether it’s because of the personnel or terminology already in place, there are things that get added on, there becomes additional language.”

Haley used an example of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the last decade. Ken Whisenhunt left the Jets where he had time in the offense and moved on to Pittsburgh, where a similar offense had been established years before by Erhardt. “You’ve got Ken going into an established system, and then he’s working with Russ Grimm, and Russ comes out of the Joe Gibbs-Dan Henning-Norv Turner school and he’s got a big influence on things.”

By the time Haley met up with those two with the Arizona Cardinals in 2007, the scheme was different.

“There were changes that Kenny made in Pittsburgh, and changes that I had made in Dallas, you’ve got to run them together and make it as whole as you can,” Haley said.

“With this opportunity with Charlie, we’ve had the chance to go back and eliminate some of those changes. It’s more about terminology and verbiage and things like that. They add up, just adding and adding and adding and then a word that means this, now it means that.

“There are still the ideas and thoughts that you’ve come up with over the years that you know work and have been proven. You are not going to do away with what you know works, it’s just put into a more basic frame.

“Ron Erhardt would be proud. It’s much closer to where it started from a terminology standpoint.”

WHO IS RON ERHARDT?

It was after the 2000 season with the New York Jets that Ron Erhardt retired as an active NFL coach. He was just about to celebrate his 68th birthday and had spent 45 seasons in the business.

A native of Mandan, North Dakota – which is across the Missouri River from Bismarck – Erhardt graduated with the class of 1953 at Jamestown College in North Dakota. After two years in the Army, he was hired as an assistant football coach at Williston High School in North Dakota for the 1956 season. He moved on to serve six years as the head coach at a pair of North Dakota High Schools, racking up a 45-9-2 record.

From there he moved to North Dakota State where he spent three seasons as an assistant and was named in 1966 as the head coach. Over seven seasons he had a 61-7-1 record, won six conference titles and Division II national titles in 1968-69.

In 1973, Erhardt joined the coaching staff of Chuck Fairbanks with the New England Patriots as the backfield coach. After four seasons, he replaced offensive coordinator Red Miller who left to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Fairbanks left the team near the end of the ’78 season to become head coach at the University of Colorado. Erhardt was named as his replacement, spending three seasons as head coach (1979-81), posting a 21-27 record. His linebackers coach on that staff was a fellow named Bill Parcells.

Erhardt joined Ray Perkins staff with the New York Giants in 1982. Perkins left late in that ’82 season to become head coach at the University of Alabama, and was replaced in the job of head coach by Parcells. He kept Erhardt on the staff and the Giants eventually won a pair of Super Bowls. When Parcells retired after the 1990 season, Ray Handley was named his replaced. He demoted Erhardt for the 1991 season.

When Bill Cowher left the Chiefs to become head coach of the Steelers in 1992, he hired Erhardt to run his offense. Four years later, the Steelers lost in the Super Bowl to Dallas. Erhardt resigned after the season become of a conflict with Cowher on offensive philosophy.

That’s when he landed with the Jets on the staff of Rich Kotite. After suffering a 1-15 season in 1996, Kotite was replaced by Parcells for the 1997 season. That’s when Erhardt was asked to educate Weis and prepare him to become the offensive coordinator.

Erhardt retired on January 12, 1998.

NIGHTHAWKS TAKING FLIGHT IN OMAHA

Last week, the new Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League announced its coaching staff for the 2010 season.

The Nighthawks have joined the league for its second season, and right now the UFL claims four other franchises besides Omaha: the Florida and Las Vegas returning from the inaugural season and teams in Sacramento and Hartford.

There’s a former Chiefs flair to the Omaha staff of head coach Jeff Jagodzinski. Serving as quarterbacks coach is Ron Hudson, a long-time college coach who worked at Kansas State and spent two years in the pro personnel department of the Chiefs (). The defensive line coach is Carl “Big Daddy” Hairston, who spent seven seasons in two different stints (1995-96, 2001-05) with the Chiefs as an assistant coach under Marty Schottenheimer and Dick Vermeil. The offensive line assistant is Michael Ketchum, who spent three seasons (2006-08) on Herm Edwards staff.

PERSONNEL FILE/FRIDAY-SATURDAY, MAY 14-15

  • BEARS – signed seventh-round draft choice OT J’Marcus Webb to a 4-year contract.
  • BRONCOS – claimed G Stanley Daniels on waivers (Packers).
  • PATRIOTS – re-signed UFA DE Derrick Burgess.
  • TEXANS – signed sixth-round draft choice WR Trindon Holliday to a 4-year contract.

25 Responses to “’10 Offense Unveiled … Monday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • May 17, 2010  - aPacificChief says:

    Awesome Read Bob! Always wondering the type of offense that we ran.


  • May 17, 2010  - Justin D says:

    Bob, great article. Loved the background on the offensive philosophy. I am curious how you got Haley to open up on this – was it part of an interview that you had solo or as a group. If a group, your peers are lame for not udertaking it as well. Excellent job.

    BTW, not sure what time you post your articles but a re-read about 15 mins after you finish would eliminate many of the typos. I get that this medium is more prone to errors but…


  • May 17, 2010  - Dan Sample says:

    Great article Bob! Can’t wait for Chiefs!


  • May 17, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    It’s interesting that Mike Vrabel is going to participate in the OTA’s this year. So, good for him…and good for the team.


  • May 17, 2010  - andy says:

    Why do people have this need to point out typos and grammatical errors as though they are some kind of “official” in charge of pointing out what is wrong with everything or something. Give it a rest already, just enjoy the fact that he writes what he does. This kind of nitpicking is childish and extremely self-aggrandizing.

    PS Thanks Bob for all the hard work I think most of us could care less if you have a few typos and don’t need to act like a high-school teacher handing out advice like they have the right to criticize you.


  • May 17, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    Brian Waters is attending OTA’s as well. Wow.


  • May 17, 2010  - MikeO says:

    Vrabel and Waters show up, makes Page look pretty bad. My quess he’ll either sign and come in pretty quick or ask for a trade.


  • May 17, 2010  - sdchief says:

    thanks for that Bob, appreciate all the information.

    The biggest question on my mind is what Page’s motivation is…is he injured? on the block?


  • May 17, 2010  - Danny W says:

    Andy
    Thanks for saying something its like really? serously?

    Any way my two cents is this. I have seen the play calling in K.C. get really predictable so predictable before that Len Dawson even says stuff about on the radio.

    I hope Charlie isn’t going to be like first and second down are run plays then we pass no matter what. The old Lambardi way of doing things were the other team knows what you are doing they just have to stop you simply put the Chiefs are not ready for. The line is not equipped for that yet. They need to get creative to get some wins.

    Anyone remeber the Dolphins going 1-15 then making the playoffs the following season because of the famed wild cat. I’m not saying the Chiefs should do that but just saying this ball club right now cannot afford predictability.


  • May 17, 2010  - jimmydee says:

    This whole process is officially on the move and if Page doesn’t show up REAL soon, my guess is that he will be “on the move” out of KC. Can’t be one of the right 53 if you’re not willing to be there and buy in from the jump (i.e Waters/Vrable).

    It’s beginning to be fun to be a Chief’s fan again.


  • May 17, 2010  - Gump says:

    Andy:

    Well said.


  • May 17, 2010  - el cid says:

    Good news for my buds, the Chiefs have signed another TE, Banks off Atlanta waivers. You all know how I am fascinated by Pioli’s wonderment for TEs. Let’s refresh our memories. 09 give up a 2010 draft pick for McC, 2010 give up a pick for Iowa TE, and, wait for it, grab a kid off Atlanta’s waiver wire. Mad Chief, just 3 more and we get a discount at the Arrowhead snack bar.


  • May 17, 2010  - SG says:

    “They need to get creative to get some wins.”

    Do we really have a worry of that occurring? I think our selection of McCluster helps increase the unpredictibility as we can now make more plays and do more things. Ultimately, we have more playmakers who can do something with the ball once they get it.


  • May 17, 2010  - SG says:

    “Good news for my buds, the Chiefs have signed another TE, Banks off Atlanta waivers.”

    Is that somewhere in a “player to be named later” clause in a Gonzo to ATL trade package?


  • May 17, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    Since Page hasn’t signed his “tender”, he can’t work with the team. He signed late last year, too (May 29th). They could be working on a longer-term deal. He’s coming off an injury…so he’s probably not real eager to sign another one-year deal. My guess is, it’s all no big deal and he’ll probably be there soon.


  • May 17, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    el cid,

    Ha! I thought of you when I read they signed another TE. I just knew it would make your day.


  • May 17, 2010  - Dean in Columbia says:

    Bob,

    Articles like that keep me coming back to this site. Can’t get that kind of clear explanation and history from the hairdo’s on ESPN or NFLN.

    Great work.


  • May 17, 2010  - bigvess says:

    In other words this offense will be very conservative. The old Martyball Joe Pendry run,run,pass, not impressed at all. But will give it a chance.


  • May 17, 2010  - St. Paul 1 says:

    My thought exactly re Martyball! Except I think I’m a little more positive, bigvess. There were a few years when that offense was a bit brutal to watch, but when it was clicking under Steve DeBerg, it was pretty nice.


  • May 17, 2010  - jimbo says:

    Way to early for the critics to be judging the Chiefs offense. None of us have enough information to even begin a intelligent debate on such matters.
    Let’s just revel in the fact that 84 of 85 players are on board & working together. A great start indeed.
    Go Chiefs.


  • May 17, 2010  - el cid says:

    I would take Martyball over anything Herm threw on the field. If Haley has the horses to run it, Martyball is just fine with me. It begs the question of lack of talent on the Oline and how the Chiefs attacked this year’s free agency or draft.


  • May 17, 2010  - Mark says:

    MartyBall?????
    We have Jamaal, DMC, Weiss and Haley. It’s about as anti- Martyball as you can get.
    If anything, we’re going back, thankfully, to Saunders-Ball. Exploit matchups, gameplan for specific opponents.
    No more Herm, Marty uncreative nonsense.


  • May 17, 2010  - Michael says:

    Bingo, TE Banks from Atlanta! I, too, thought of El Cid when I saw that. Actually, I did read somewhere Pioli said TE’s and LB’s are usually the most athletic and versitile players, especially when you’re talking about bigger guys. Many can play multiple positions, and most are usually good special team players. Banks, for example, could play TE,H-back, mayble fullback and special teams. Makes some sense.

    Martyball? I don’t think the Erhardt tree has a branch there.


  • May 17, 2010  - Adam says:

    I’m guessing this is similar to what peyton mannings’ colts run. Four plays: Two pass two run. QB adjusts to what he sees on the field. I’m guessing if two of the best O-Coords’ in the game believe in it. I will at least give it a chance.


  • May 17, 2010  - td says:

    Page probably won’t sign his tender until June 15. Teams can reduce the amount after that date. SOP for FAs.




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