Coaches and general managers across the NFL are able to agree on one thing: college spread offenses are hurting the development of every single position in the draft.
It makes it more difficult to project quarterbacks, offensive linemen, wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers, defensive backs, everyone.
And some intrepid reporter asked all of these head honchos a question about spread offenses to collect their opinions. Here's a compilation and highlight, along with my thoughts.
Cardinals HC Bruce Arians
On offensive linemen in a spread offense: "The hardest thing, so many of those guys never get in a three-point stance. You’re drafting a guy right now coming out of some colleges that haven’t been in a three-point stance since high school, and you’re going to pay him a ton of money. You have to teach him to get in a three-point stance and run block. It’s fundamentals that we’re going back now and have to teach. We never had to teach it before. Great athletes. The athletes are much, much better, but the fundamentals are worse than they’ve ever been."
Essentially, players are coming out of college with more potential than ever before, but they're needing more time to achieve it. The Patriots took Bryan Stork and Tre Jackson out of Florida State because they operate in a Pro Style offense and expected them to be able to start mid-way through their rookie season.
The original hope for Shaq Mason, coming out of a triple option offense at Georgia Tech with no real passing plays, was for him to receive some additional time to develop and learn. We saw his performance in the playoffs, where he was the team's best lineman, and it appeared to take a full season to catch up to speed.
Next year should be night and day compared to 2015.
49ers GM Trent Baalke
On tight ends in a spread offense: "It’s like O-linemen. You’ve got to factor in the development. It’s going to take them a little longer to develop, especially in the run game, because they’re not asked to do it as much. There’s some things you have to look at differently now than you had to 10 years ago, because the college game is quite a bit different than the game we play, especially at the line of scrimmage."
Full time tight ends are harder and harder to find because college teams are treating them like slot receivers instead of inline blockers.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert
On differences in spread vs pro offense: "It is obviously a hurry-up, there’s usually not a huddle, there’s not a lot of adjustments that are made, there’s not a lot of sight adjustments that receivers have to make. So I think there’s a huge learning curve and it just takes a little longer."
Impact of the spread offense: "It really affects everything. The offensive line plays different, the receivers are different. The tight ends, instead of being attached to a formation, they could be flexed in the slot and they’re used for the block on the perimeter. The running backs have different reads, they have different run lanes. But the part that’s left out is that the defense has to adapt and change—play a different style of defense than they would against a traditional offense. So, it really affects a lot."
This is the TL;DR of the entire article.
Raiders HC Jack Del Rio
On offensive linemen in the spread offense: "What you see are fewer and fewer college offensive linemen getting in three-point stances and doing some of the combination blocks we do in the NFL. There are more and more of the guys playing in a two-point stance and not used to coming back to a huddle. There is a little bit of development once you get to the league. I think that’s the biggest part of it. You’re still getting big, strong, talented young men with feet to move and they ability to play. But maybe their development isn’t as far along as it was when colleges were more closely aligned with what we’re doing in the NFL."
Panthers GM Dave Gettlemen
Impact of spread offense on defenders: "When those guys are seeing spread, that's why you're seeing linebackers play defensive end at the college level. Because they're coming over, coming out, let's go wide and now you've got to run to the ball. [DTs Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short] certainly played against spread offenses and it hasn't hurt them. It's like anything else. It's a different style game and it keeps you in shape because they've got to run to the ball. But I don't think it hurts them."
Okay, maybe it's not unanimous, but even Gettlemen admits there's a major shift in role responsibility for linebackers since they need to be closer to the line of scrimmage to react to quick plays.
Broncos HC Gary Kubiak
Impact of spread offense on quarterbacks: "A lot of it is projecting guys going under center. I know that sounds simple, but that is a little bit more of a conversion then you would think. I think you’re looking at those types of things. I think studying guys sometimes that play in the gun the whole time and trying to project them and what you do, making the conversion, how quick they can make it, it might be a little harder as a coach to make that decision as compared to watching a guy do the type of things that you do for three or four years in college.
Impact of spread offense on offensive line: "It is more difficult, I think, because of the types of things they are doing. Especially watching them in the run game. When they are in the spread game it’s a little bit of a different type of run game as far as watching a guy come off the ball and power-type football and those types of things. I think evaluating their football knowledge [is important]. In my history with guys—we had a guy like [G] Max [Garcia] last year that came to play for us from [the University of] Florida. Through this combine and through our time with Max, we knew talking football to him that he could make a quick transition. I think that’s really important—their football knowledge and how quick they can help you." "
Buccaneers GM Jason Licht
On difficulty of evaluating quarterbacks in a spread offense: "A little bit. With the spread offenses – not saying that that’s the wrong offense to have in college whatsoever, it’s been effective for a lot of teams – it’s a little bit more difficult to see. One of the terms of our offense, we want a guy that will sit in the pocket and doesn’t get nervous and can make plays when there’s chaos. It’s a little bit more difficult to find out if a guy can do that if he hasn’t been in that particular offense."
Titans GM Jon Robinson
Projecting spread offense players to the NFL: "Yeah, great question. You see the college game and the tight ends, most of those guys now are flexed out, and a lot of the offensive linemen, they’re not necessarily asked to run off the ball and sit a guy up and try to move a five-technique three yards down the field. They’re kind of asked to just zone and occupy and let the backs cut off the blocks. So you really have to dig through those plays where you can really see him unroll his hips and dig his cleats in and really get moving. So the style of football that we’re going to play -- a downhill, run the football, be a physical football team – we need to identify those players that fit what we want."
Titans HC Mike Mularkey
On projecting spread offense players: "It’s harder, offensive line has been harder in recent years because of the offenses in college. It is a little different. You don’t see, like Jon said, guys coming off the ball, run blocking. You don’t see them in three-point stances. Rarely do you see that. There’s a couple SEC schools that still do that and they’re pretty successful with those guys. So it’s easier obviously to evaluate some of those teams that are more pro style than the spread."
Just another reason why the Patriots love to dip back into the well with coaches that Bill Belichick is friends with. Urban Meyer and Nick Saban get their players ready for the NFL, as does Kirk Ferentz and Greg Schiano. They're ready to go.
Seahawks GM John Schneider
On the offensive line and more spread offenses: "Over the last 10-15 years, heck my sixth-grade son’s team runs a spread offense. They are not learning how to play football the way we did. We are going through a generational shift. And also in college football they are not allowed as much time as they used to have with guys on an individual basis so you are seeing a lot of teams just going to a little bit of individual periods and then getting out there and going to team because they’ve got to win games and they are going to score a ton of points. So we have to spend a lot of time --- it’s not just with the offensive linemen it’s tackling, it’s catching the ball,it’s all the fundamentals of football that are different than what we grew up with.’’
Vikings GM Rick Spielman
Learning curve for receivers coming out of spread offenses: "It depends what system they come out of. I think they have to get used to the style of defenses here, the precision of the routes because of defensive backs and how skilled they are. The timing as far as the quarterback may throw you the ball and you’re not going to be as open as you were in college. Also, depending on what offense they came out of, how much knowledge they just have on an overall scheme. Some schemes are watered down but very productive. Other schemes are more complicated. But I think it’s just the nuance of learning what it is to play receiver at this level because they probably aren’t going to have that experience coming out of college."
You can be certain that coaches will be harping on spread offenses again today.