The English South Division of the British American Football League (BAFL) is a “Smash Mouth” division if ever there was one. From the 5-on-5 Youth (ages 14-16) teams — using two back sets — to the unbalanced lines and two tight end formations of the Senior game (19+), this division likes to hit you in the mouth and run the football. Will the introduction of a Chip Kelly offense at the Junior Level (17-19) next season change the shape of the British game forever?
Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust
“There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.” – Woody Hayes
Whether it’s the influence of rugby, the inability to find skilled quarterbacks, or the overwhelming desire of those who join this minority sport to “hit something”, I don’t know – but it’s as if the news of Bill Walsh and the 3-step drop hasn’t yet crossed the Atlantic.
In my first season as Head Coach of the Marlow Wolves Youth Team in 2012, we finished with a 12-1 record using two-back, power football. We finished that season fifth in the UK after a heartbreaking playoff defeat on fourth and seven with two seconds to go.
Marlow is the only organization in the league not to have a Senior team. Most teams come from cities, but we’re a small town in Buckinghamshire, 30 miles from London.
Next season we are taking a giant step into the 11-a-side Junior League for the first time. Our season starts in April, and I’ve had more players ask to play fullback than any other position.
The defenses in the division reflect the offensive football that’s played. The 70:30 run/pass ratio sees defenses in 50 or 40 fronts most of the time; man coverage with a single high safety almost exclusively.
When I approached the British American Football League (BAFL) coordinator about entering a team in the Junior, I was told to expect to lose nearly every game for the first two seasons. “This is the best division in the country – so you’ll struggle,” he said, “The South Division has gone on to win the BritBowl for the last four seasons.”
“When do the playoffs start?” I replied.
Choosing the Kelly Offense
“A system should never reduce the game to the point where it simply blames the players for failure because they did not physically overwhelm the opponent.” – Bill Walsh
Whilst I didn’t appreciate the coordinator’s pessimistic view of our chances, he had a point. These were city teams (two London teams and Bristol among the best), they had big squads, and they’ve been running this old-school smash mouth football for years.
I decided to go in a different direction, and drew up a (much reduced) playbook based on Walsh’s 1985 San Francisco playbook.
It seemed like a logical place to start, given the style of the division.
I was looking into play communication, where of course the Ducks came up. One click lead to another, and the next thing I knew I was devouring the excellent analysis of Chip Kelly’s offense on FishDuck.com for the 3rd time in a row. I was sold. We had to do this. My ’85 Walsh playbook was resigned to the filing cabinet.
Kelly vs Walsh
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
We know the Chip Kelly offense is unique, explosive and successful, but has it really earned the right to sweep one of the most iconic playbooks in the history of the game to one side?
Yes. Because it’s so simple. It takes discipline and hard work, but the Kelly offense achieves ‘multiplicity’ in the most efficent and least time consuming way that may have ever been seen. We only train twice a week in the UK, so we’re running almost excusively out of a 2×2 set, one formation.
Out of that one formation, after the offensive line has learned but two techniques (covered and uncovered zone blocking), Kelly’s system opens up a whole Narnia of options to a co-ordinator: Inside Zone Read, Outside Zone Read, Bubble Screen, Jailbreak Screens, Speed Options, “Straddle” Triple options — and all this is before we had even learned pass protection!
With an intelligent, agile quarterback, some great one-cut running backs, disciplined wide receivers, and overall a smaller and a more intelligent team than most of the league, the Kelly offense, I believe, puts these players in the best position to win this season.
Put that in your 53 defense and smoke it.
Charles Fischer makes it very clear that he’s not a professional coach, and that his detailed analysis is purely for the fans’ enjoyment. Even so, I know exactly which video our offense will be seeing in pre-season in January to kick this thing off. For a non-coaching resource, coaching a team 5,000 miles away must make FishDuck.com one of a kind!
It takes more than just choosing the right philosophy to win games: good coaching, talented players, and consistent execution are all crucial. We are new to the league, but with a chip on our shoulder, and a ‘Chip’ in our playbook, this could change the way football is played in Great Britain forever.
I hope to keep FishDuck.com up-to-date on our progress during the season (your off-season). What would you most like to hear about?
Adam Dawkins is a freelance web developer, and Head Coach of Marlow Wolves Youth and Junior teams in (all) his spare time. As a passionate Philadelphia Eagles fan, and young Ducks fan, he’s always willing to talk football.