Why the Browns' 29 year old Rookie QB Should Inject Some "Airraid" into Cleveland

As you may know, Cleveland drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round with the 22nd overall pick last Thursday. Weeden threw a superb 71 touchdowns last year, and has a rocketlauncher for a right arm. However, by the time the one-time Yankee second rounder, develops into an NFL quarterback he will be in his thirties.

The following is from Chris Brown's Grantland article:

Weeden played in probably the best pass-first system in college football — and maybe all of football, including the NFL. The offense traces its roots back to the one designed by Mike Leach, but Oklahoma State and Weeden's version was installed before the 2010 season, Weeden's first as a starter, by Dana Holgorsen. That system has produced lots of prolific passers who didn't go on to great NFL careers — and Weeden also happened to throw a lot of his passes to fifth overall pick Justin Blackmon — so there's always the worry that Weeden won't be able to replicate his prior success.

But none of the other quarterbacks from that offense had arms like Weeden's. And in any event, Oklahoma State's system, which operated at a breakneck pace and required him to not only make complicated reads after the snap but often combined runs and passes into the same play, required Weeden to make more decisions about what to do with the football on a down-to-down basis than any other quarterback in the draft.

And if Weeden was a "system quarterback," he was a very rare breed: one who not only learned the system but taught it himself. When Holgorsen left to coach at West Virginia, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy actually asked Weeden to give input on who should be hired to run the Cowboys' attack. Once Todd Monken was brought in, he and Weeden held cram sessions, but it was Monken doing the learning. The results speak for themselves: Oklahoma State got even better: scoring more points, averaging more yards, and winning more games, including a Fiesta Bowl shootout with first overall pick Andrew Luck.

If you clcked on "including the NFL" then you will have learned a little bit about the most efficient offense in all of football. Early on this site rufio unintentionally broke down a key staple of the Airraid scheme: The Stick or more specifically for this play the Trips 410/Stick. Before I show you how rufio breaks it down, I'm going to show you how Weeden explained it in Jon Gruden's QB camp below.

The following is all breakdown is all from rufio:

The Play Itself: Trips Right 410/Stick

410 Draw

I'll start with 410, the draw play. Here, I've drawn it up from what Weeden's Oklahoma State teams called "Trips Right" against a 4-2-5 under front. You can see that with two deep safeties, the defense has 6 in the box against only 5 blockers for the offense. I've keyed the strong side LB and the RB here, because if this draw play were run the LB would be one-on-one with the back and have to make the tackle.



Stick is a simple concept. From this formation, the outside WR is going to outside release and make someone guard him deep. The slot WR (F) is going to run a 5 yard out (probably a "speed out"). The Y will run 5 yards and stick, turning over his inside shoulder:


Typically, stick is read off of the "flat defender" who is guarding the area on the line of scrimmage wide, away from the formation. If he widens with the slot, you throw inside. If he stays inside with the Y, you throw to the slot. (Note: this is the same read as the drill Gruden ran with Weeden where Gruden was the defender).

Packaging 410 and Stick together: Vs. two-high its "stealing"

With this run/pass option version of the play, Weeden will have to read the strong side LB and then (maybe) the flat defender. The line and RB will always assume they are running the draw play, and the wideouts will always assume they are running stick. The SLB will tell Weeden which play to choose.

If the SLB is outside to help defend stick, Weeden will hand the ball off. The defense has 5 men to fill 6 gaps, and the RB should be off untouched to the 3rd level. If the SLB stays in the box, the defense has the numbers to defend the run and Weeden will throw to the Stick concept. Once he sees the SLB inside, the offense has three potential receivers where the defense only has two defenders and someone is open.


With two-high safeties, the defense simply doesn't have enough men to stop both of these plays. This means defenses are almost forced to play single-high safety defense against this formation.

Vs. single-high it's a little different: Isolations

With an added safety up near the line, the defense now has enough men to both cover the stick concept and the draw. So what is an offense to do? There are several answers.

Depending on down and distance, you might just want to run the draw play and have your back try to pick up a few yards. The draw should influence that LB through pass action, and if Trent Richardson can't make 2 yards singled up on a linebacker, he shouldn't have been the third overall pick. Another answer would be for an offense to throw the stick and give the Y an option to break away from the S. Safety is inside, throw outside. Safety is outside, throw inside. These options are useful when exploiting a mismatch in your favor (fast TE, good RB). But if the defense has the right blitz or coverage called, they could fool you with this approach.

At Oklahoma State, Weeden had the freedom to audible WR Justin Blackmon to routes they liked based on the defense. When the defense rolls that extra safety up, they are now leaving Blackmon (the X receiver) essentially one on one with a CB and half the field to work with. For those of you who watched the Gruden video, this is where that little nod comes in handy. This single-receiver isolation could come in the form of a signal or an option route read on-the-fly after the snap.



The last option I'll discuss here is the "pop" play Weeden talks about. One of my favorite plays that just happens to work well against a single-high safety is 4 verticals. The play is almost exactly what it sounds like, with 4 guys going vertical and the inside two getting in the "seams" where the single-high safety can't cover them both.

The "pop" play combines 4 verticals with a fake of the 410 draw/stick option. Weeden drops back just like for 410/stick, as the receivers run their 5 yard vertical stems and then begin to break as though they were running stick. Weeden "pops" the ball to the back, faking the draw play. These two things hopefully draw both the linebackers and secondary up to defend the run and the stick, respectively. But instead of breaking, the receivers stutter step and then blow by the coverage, streaking downfield.


If you burn them with this, the defense doesn't have an easy answer. If they play two-deep, you gash them underneath, and if they play single-high they are vulnerable to 4 verticals. When your plays work this well together and you can keep a defense on its heels, it really is stealing.

Why The Browns Should Install Airraid

By now you must be thinking that there is no way that this would never be installed, because it is seems like it is incredibly complex. However, a huge part of what makes Airraid offenses so successful is, as we mentioned earlier, that they can be installed in 3 days. The data below is once again from Chris Brown, this time from smartfootball.

Day 1

Runs Base
Quick Passes Hitch Slant Fade/Out
Dropback Passes Mesh 4 Verticals Shallow
Screens/Specials Quick Screens
Day 2
Runs Zone Toss
Quick Passes Hitch Slant Fade/Out Y-Stick
Dropback Passes Mesh All-Curl Shakes Curl/Wheel
Screens/Specials WR/Jailbreak Screen
Day 3
Runs Power Draw
Quick Passes Hitch Y-Corner Y-Stick Slant
Dropback Passes Mesh 4 Verticals Y-Sail/Flood Y-Cross
Screens/Specials RB Screen Bootlegs

A few themes should emerge. One, broken down this way, a player's job should be much easier, thus maximizing the "indy" or individual time (let’s cover the two or three assignments) and then the rest of the day is spent doing this job over and over again, and the player can even benefit from watching your teammates do it too. Second, the you can drive home the "hang our hat on it" plays by carrying one or two things over for every day. For Mike Leach’s Airraid, that was the mesh play, but for Dana Holgorsen it might be four verticals or something else. This is the other great part about this framework: once you have it, it's easy enough to move a few pieces around and get the plan in place for a given year if talent shifts your focus.

I would also show the Pro-style offense chart, but it would take up way to much room and I have to convert it to Excel to fit it, so if you want to see you'll have to scroll down this article.

Besides Oklahoma State, West Virginia (Dana Holgorsen in his first year as head coach) is the best team at running the spread option. To see video of West Virginia's 70-33 Orange Bowl win over Clemson click on these words.

At the top of the article I linked to this article talking about how Weeden basically taught his coordinator how to run the offense. While I don't believe the FO would fire the offensive coordinator to try and hire Dana Holgorsen. But if Weeden would sit down with Brad Childress and Pat Shurmur much like he did with Todd Monken, and show A. His vast knowledge of Airraid, and its superiority and B. How easy it is to install, then maybe it could become incorporated within the offense.

I think this also a great idea because of Weeden's age. If Weeden has to learn a new offense, it will take up valuable time developing. If the Browns install the Airraid system, however, then Weeden can start immediately, and the backs, WRs, and lineman can learn the plays in 3 days. It might not be pretty at first with little repetitions, but then again the NFL will not be able to gameplan against Airraid in the first few games. I also think throwing Weeden out there immediately, would be just as bad.

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