The days when the no-huddle offense was reserved for desperate times are long gone.
Teams dont have to be in rally mode to use the no-huddle these days. They simply need a quarterback with the experience, smarts and decisiveness to run it, which is why fans might see Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Joe Flacco running it from the get-go this season.
Baltimores fascination with the no-huddle is, well, the most fascinating. For much of his previous four seasons as the Ravens starting quarterback, Flacco was considered a developing player and not one to be trusted as a focal point of the offense. That began changing last season when he stood out in leading Baltimore within a dropped pass in the end zone of the AFC title.
This year, even with the dynamic Ray Rice in the backfield, Flacco could be the Ravens spotlight player when they have the ball.
Last year, we were a pretty young offense. This year, we have those guys that we had that were first-year guys last year that are really comfortable, Flacco said in explaining the willingness to go without a huddle. If you remember last year, we didnt have our offensive line until Week 1 against Pittsburgh, and were still dealing with a little of that this year.
But we have guys that are more ready and more confident in themselves, more confident in the playbook. You can have more freedom with those things, and everybody is going to grasp it and be able to be on the same page. This year, I think we are going to hit the ground running, and we are going to be real smooth at it.
As smooth as, say, the Patriots, who probably use the no-huddle better than anybody? Perhaps not. But if the Ravens do reach that level of mastery, they should be the conference favorite because their defense and running game figure to be better than New Englands.
Other teams expected to frequently turn to the no-huddle are the Broncos with Manning – nobody reads defenses better, so speeding up the tempo of a game plays right into Mannings strengths – the Lions, Falcons, Chiefs, Jets, Cardinals and Packers.
Obviously, the Chiefs, Jets and Cardinals dont have established stars at quarterback, so why use it?
You know if you can operate correctly, its a great change-up, Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt said. Teams have to spend time preparing for that, which will help take away from their preparation in other areas. So its a good way to have another way of attacking teams.
You cant live in it, because if you stay in one thing, just like the run-and-shoot that was in the NFL for a while, people will defend it.
The Jets, whose offense couldnt get out of its own way in the preseason – no touchdowns scored by the starters – toyed with it, and Mark Sanchez looked more effective running the no-huddle than he did in the regular attack.
But theres an ulterior motive for Jets coach Rex Ryan, one that makes lots of sense for any defense-minded coach.
This is not just great for our offense, its great for our defense because so many teams now are no-huddle or they do all these types of things and our guys will be used to playing at that kind of tempo, Ryan said. I thought a lot of no-huddle teams were gaining advantage because, quite honestly, theyre not used to working at that level. I think we are.
So many teams use situational players on defense that the no-huddle has become a strategic weapon even between plays. If the offense isnt huddling, even if it isnt using a hurry-up scheme, getting the right – or the right number – of defenders on the field becomes problematic.
I like it a lot. Its tough on a defense, and they cant substitute or get off the field, Ravens receiver Torrey Smith said. And for us, we know what were doing, so we have to think on the fly. It benefits us in games because we practice that way anyway.
The key to running the no-huddle is how well the quarterback can take charge of the offense.
That, of course, is little problem for the likes of the Mannings, Brady or 2011 MVP Aaron Rodgers.
I like the opportunity to have some input in plays, Rodgers said, but when you play in this offense long enough and with the same coaching staff, its the natural progression to have a bigger role in the offense.
Obviously in the meetings and the game-planning and the ideas and then being able to have a direct impact at times in those no-huddle (situations), its just kind of a seamless transition for us.
And, apparently, for a lot of other teams.