clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How to Improve the Offense in 2007

Sporting News' Paul Attner said this about QB Brett Favre and Mike McCarthy:

About 80 percent of QB Brett Favre's bad decisions last season came with the Packers down by at least two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Coach Mike McCarthy will continue to work with Favre to be more careful in those situations and not to view them as so desperate. But it will help the Packers, and Favre, even more if McCarthy's desire to develop a Broncos-like running scheme works out . . .
I can't confirm whether his "80 percent" and "at least two touchdowns in the fourth quarter" statements are true, I'm guessing Attner just heard those from someone else or it's all just an estimate, but the basic point is correct. When games start to get out of hand, Favre has the tendency to make the situation worse.

Many times Favre's approach might be the best decision. If you're down by two touchdowns in the 4th quarter, something better happen soon. However Favre doesn't get frustrated only when he is losing, but he gets frustrated anytime the offense isn't working well too. In week 16 vs. Minnesota, Favre was determined to get the ball to WR Greg Jennings, but instead he made CB Fred Smoot look great and ended up with a passer rating of 52.5 against a weak Minnesota secondary.

The Packers couldn't run the ball against Minnesota because NT Pat Williams owned the Packers offensive line in 2006 and Minnesota's offense was in a coma. The two events combined to give Favre a lot of opportunities to throw the ball. Instead of slowly picking apart Minnesota's weak pass defense and pass rush, Favre forced the ball downfield and gave Minnesota a chance to win a game the Packers should have easily won. I don't think McCarthy cares if Favre tries to force a tight spiral downfield between two defenders when they are getting shutout at home by Chicago or New England, but he cares a lot when they're winning against a weak opponent and the playoffs are still a possibility.

The Packers are trying to build a "Broncos-like running scheme" in the sense that they switched to a zone blocking scheme in 2006. I still don't understand why McCarthy made the switch in 2006. He didn't use a zone blocking scheme when he was the offensive coordinator in New Orleans or San Francisco. Why did he change his mind and implement it when he became a head coach?

The offensive line was much better in 2006, but it might have been just as good with a conventional man-to-man blocking scheme and the additions of OL Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz. This article on zone blocking from Football Outsiders is a very good analysis. The one thing I really like about zone blocking is best said by Brian Hook:

The data seems to indicate that odds of getting stuffed drop with a zone scheme. This makes sense, since in a zone one-cut scheme the running back chooses the hole instead of sticking with the play's pre-selected gap.
Unfortunately I really hate that zone blocking relies so heavily on cut-blocks:
Note that the cut block is legal in this case, as long as the offensive lineman isn't hitting the defender from behind and as long as he doesn't roll up on his legs. But hitting him below the knees near the line of scrimmage is fair game, as much as the NFLPA doesn't want it to be.
Anything that helps the offense and is legal sounds good to me, but as Brian Cook explains in his article, it isn't obvious that zone blocking is better than man-to-man. Something to watch is whether the run blocking continues to improve in 2007.