Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Way of Strategy (#25): Understanding the Innovation Game

Regardless of the features of any new innovations, there is always a minimum of one technical weakness within its scheme. In most cases, quality is rarely a part of any innovation scheme.

By using our Compass AE process, we assessed this innovation with the following steps:
  • Identifying its approach in terms of various strategic variables;
  • Determining its tendencies through the collection of information;
  • Evaluating the sequences of events through the use of those strategic variables; and (finally)
  • Analyzing the data reliability through "probable and possible" scenarios. ...

September 6, 2009
N.F.L. Preview

N.F.L. Looks to College Game for a New Plan of Attack

It has been 10 years since the St. Louis Rams rode a fast and furious offense that resembled pinball on cleats — the Greatest Show on Turf — to a Super Bowl title.
But that attack, which seemed to come out of nowhere along with quarterback Kurt Warner, was merely prologue to an explosion of innovation that is transforming the N.F.L.

Conjured by coaches who borrow from the wide-open college game, new-look offenses have developed into something previously imagined by video gamers in their living rooms.
Nearly every team now has a Wildcat package, the scheme that carried the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs last season by putting players in unexpected positions.

And the spread offense floods the field, with receivers stretched from sideline to sideline, to such effect that Warner and the Arizona Cardinals used it about 85 percent of the time on their stunning run to the Super Bowl last season.
On the horizon is the University of Florida’s star quarterback, Tim Tebow, who will enter the draft next year. He could open the door to what was once virtually unthinkable in the N.F.L.: a quarterback with the size and sturdiness of a linebacker who reads the defense and has the freedom to run as often as he passes in the college-style spread-option offense.

In many ways, change has been forced on the N.F.L. because defenses are so fast and complex, and because fewer drop-back passers, fullbacks and blocking tight ends are being produced in a college game dominated by the spread.
So it is little surprise that almost all N.F.L. teams occasionally use a four- or five-receiver offense, and that Florida Coach Urban Meyer, who has all but perfected the spread with the Gators after giving it prominence at Utah, has been asked for advice from at least four N.F.L. teams, including the New England Patriots. “I think it would have worked years ago,”

Meyer said. “No one has had enough — I don’t want to say courage — no one has wanted to step across that line. Everyone runs the same offense in the N.F.L. A lot of those coaches are retreads. They get fired in Minnesota, they go to St. Louis. They get fired in St. Louis and go to San Diego. I guess what gets lost in the shuffle is your objective is to go win the game. If it’s going to help you win the game, then you should run the spread.”

The resistance to the spread was based on a belief that no N.F.L. team would expose a quarterback to the pounding that might result with fewer blockers on the field. The Patriots, who rewrote the single-season record book in 2007, are the best N.F.L. team at the pass-heavy version of the spread precisely because quarterback Tom Brady gets rid of the ball so quickly, said Bruce Arians, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive coordinator.

The Dolphins went to the Wildcat to exploit a different advantage. They have two superb running backs, and they could be on the field at the same time.
“You can’t sit back and do the same basic stuff, because both sides have to try to fool the other,” Warner said. “It’s guys in their little laboratory saying, ‘What’s the next big things we can pull out to fool people for three or four plays?’

Many teams still use a form of the West Coast offense, which stresses methodical movement down the field. But the tipping point for the offensive revolution might already have occurred. When the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden attended his son’s high school football tournament, only one school of 77 used a traditional center-to-quarterback snap. The others were in the shotgun, running the spread-option offense. Those are the players who feed into the college game, where even traditional running teams like Texas and Oklahoma have switched to the spread after watching opponents with less talent become competitive with it.

The new schemes force defenses to honor all 11 players on offense. Against traditional offenses, defenses do not account for the quarterback. But if the quarterback — or the player taking the snap in a Wildcat formation — is a threat to run, it removes the defense’s numbers advantage. When the offense is spread out, the running lanes widen and it is easier to spot blitzes. That holds the promise of more effectively attacking defenses like Dick LeBeau’s confusing zone blitz, which has propelled the Steelers to two Super Bowl titles in four years.

When Kansas City Chiefs Coach Todd Haley was with the Jets earlier this decade and with Arizona last season, he said the teams deployed the spread against opponents they thought could manhandle them because forcing a defensive player to line up wide neutralizes his ability to overwhelm an offensive lineman. And with the defense easier to see when spread out, quarterbacks tend to make fewer mistakes.

Last season, the interception rate dipped below one per team per game for the first time since such statistics were first kept in 1932, even though teams have passed more in the last 20 years.
But the new offenses have also created problems for coaches. Quarterbacks are no longer schooled in the traditional drop-back model that is still the N.F.L. standard personified by Brady and Peyton Manning. It means quarterback coaches must teach rudimentary skills like how to take a snap from directly under the center or even run a huddle. This may eventually force teams to pluck college backups with little playing experience from programs that still run traditional offenses — a risky draft strategy.

“As coaches, we have to find ways to use what we have, and we have to do it fast,” said the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, Dan Henning. “They don’t give you a five-year program. What are you going to do, live and die until you get a franchise quarterback? Nobody wants that, because they don’t want to pick him No. 1 because they don’t want to pay them.”

This season, more teams seem to be trying to adapt elements of their offenses to their players’ talents. The Dolphins drafted Pat White, the former West Virginia quarterback, who is widely expected to run a fuller Wildcat package this year. In Minnesota, the former Florida receiver Percy Harvin will probably be deployed at a number of positions. And in Philadelphia, the Eagles signed Michael Vick — once the highest-paid player in the N.F.L. because he could deploy designed runs to such devastating effect — to run a specialized package of plays.
Still, as tantalizing as the Wildcat is, it is likely to remain a curveball more than a regular part of the offense. “I’m not a fan of putting a $100 million quarterback on the bench or at wide receiver, where they can take a cheap shot at him,” Arians said. The threat of injury is probably what will keep the college-style spread option from migrating en masse to the N.F.L., the way the passing iteration of the spread has. In 2006, Vick occasionally ran something similar: He was reading the defense and either running himself, handing the ball off or passing. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing that season, averaging 8.4 yards a carry. At 6 feet 3 inches and 245 pounds, Tebow is a physical marvel who Gil Brandt, a former personnel executive with the Dallas Cowboys, thinks will be a top-10 draft pick next spring.

/// There is a risk for each objective and every approach. The general objective for most ultra class professionals is to maximize their opportunities while minimizing the risks.

But for an N.F.L. team to make the spread option its full-time offense, it would need several quarterbacks who can do what Tebow does. Even trickier, it would need players who are built to take the hits he does. Otherwise, one injury means the entire offense must change.
“You’re not going to be running your $18 million quarterback in the option,” said Jeff Jagodzinski, the recently fired offensive coordinator for Tampa Bay who saw plenty of the spread option as Boston College’s head coach.

/// All that glitter is not gold. What factor is one willing to compromise when using something new and innovative?

“That would be a tough one to explain to the owner.”
Perhaps, then, Tebow will represent the end of this thread of innovation. Even fans of the spread wonder if it could someday go the way of the wishbone and the run and shoot, earlier offensive incarnations that defenses eventually caught up to.

Then someone will have to go back to the laboratory to dream up the next big thing.
Warner will be retired by then, but he will be watching. “I love the innovation,” he said. “Better than 3 yards and a cloud of dust.”

Pete Thamel contributed reporting.
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

/// *** Innovation is a good idea when one has the time and the resources to experiment with it.

Applying the Spread Offense in Business

In business, a "spread offense" approach works when the strategist is able to create technical mismatches within the opposition's defensive scheme. We discovered that it does always not work for those who have limited resources. If the mismatch does not work, the scheme will fail. One's supply of resources diminishes.

Whenever the difference maker (the principal implementer) is detached from the setting, the secondary option usually does not have the same experience and skills of the starter.

Lesson: It is not cost efficient for the strategist to sacrifice their difference maker in chaotic situations.

Sidebar: Regardless of the state of the settings, we professionally prefer the application of methodical movement in our strategic implementation. It creates a level of stability within the client grand settings.

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