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Is Coach Tedford's Offense Too Complex? (Part Two)

Welcome back, faithful Bear fans. Today we're continuing our look at Coach Jeff Tedford's offense. In Part One of our four-part series, we examined the # of pages in the playbook and took a look at the plays themselves.

Question #3: Is Tedford's Offense is more complex than some pro offenses?

Per MrBearister (former hydro technician and special teams assistant),

Tedford's playbook is similar to NFL playbooks with the use of language during the playcall.

"If you ever listen to an inside the NFL huddle, where you hear the QB spout off a bunch of words that sound like gibberish, a Cal play call is just as long and perplexing. If there is one thing to complement about Coach Tedford's offense, it's that the pro-style offense is identical all the way to the play calling."

Let's just take a look at the quarterback position.

Here's what NFL QBs have to do on each play:

Abridged List:

1) What defensive personnel are in the game? (protection calls, hot reads, route adjustments)

2) What is my pre-snap read? (audibles, route adjustments, drops)

3) What is my post-snap read? (progressions, coverage, drop)

4) What's the game situation? (down/distance, match-ups)

And here's a really good analysis of how quarterbacks learn to read coverages and go through their progressions.

The short version is that quarterbacks either:

1) Go through the progression of their receivers from 1st to 2nd to 3rd option and so on, ("Progression Reads")

2) Read the defensive coverage and go immediately to the receiver which takes advantage of the defense's scheme, ("Coverage Reads"),

3) Some combination of both.

We know that Tedford's quarterbacks go through progression reads because we've seen it on the field. For example, one our more knowledgeable readers dispelled the myth that Boller only "read" have the field by observing him check to the right, and then check back to a receiver on the left side of the field. (HT Cali49a) We've also heard Tedford talk about how Longshore would make it to his 4th and 5th progressions while Riley would only see his 1st and 2nd reads. More recently, I suppose one could make the argument that we have ample evidence of Cal QBs staring down their first read. But, of course, none of us remember that.

As far as making hot reads, audibles, changing protections, and adjusting routes, former Special Teams assistant MrBearister points out that Tedford's quarterbacks don't have the green light to make any changes they want.

QB's have restricted freedom depending upon the situation. It's not the NFL and we do have coordinators and a head coach who have years of experience in play calling, so most of the time the QB's make a choice of a few plays depending upon what he sees in the defense. Sometimes there is only one play call, maybe a trick play, and if the QB is smart and absolutely knows that the play won't work, he is allowed to change the play or call timeout. Our coordinators and head coach always have faith in our QB to make the right decision. In only rare instances would you see a player directly "defy" a coach and call a play that was not called for. Depending upon the situation, "icing" the defense, changing the snap count, silent counting, hard counting, snapping on the center, and quick counting are all options that QB has.

This limited approach is not unique within the college game. You frequently see coaches/coordinators making the pre-snap reads for the quarterback and then signaling in the proper adjustment. For example, a coordinator might send in two plays, the team lines up, then looks back to the sidelines, and the coaching staff signals which play to run based on the defense's alignment.

And this leads us to the simple reason that Tedford's playbook is unlikely to be more complex than an NFL offense; time and experience. It takes years for quarterbacks to mature into their craft both physically and mentally. College student-athletes don't have the benefit of 24-7 availability to devote to their development.

Coach Peterson breaks it down pretty well with regards to how quarterbacks develop at

1. Strict progression. Tell him to read first receiver, second receiver, and then third receiver - and then run like hell if they aren't open. In Petersen's view, if they don't know anything else they can know, by rote memory, who they are supposed to throw to. This doesn't require them to have any advance knowledge of the defense and it is where every quarterback begins.

2. Progression with coverage keys. The same progression concept as above except that the progression and sequence of receivers is determined by what the defense is doing. How many safeties are there? What kind of leverage are you getting from the cornerbacks? Is it a blitz? Is it man or zone? Once you've determined that, it's one-two-three.

3. Coverage reads. This is the advanced NFL stuff: Tom Brady sees the defense doing X, so he looks one way and then rifles it back to the receiver he always knew he was going to because he understood the coverage, he understood the technique the defense was playing, and he understood the theory of the play he was running. There are few, if any, college quarterbacks who ever do this kind of thing.

In other words, an underclassman college QB might be at level one, a good upperclassman QB could get to level two, and level three is strictly reserved for the professionals.

All of this simply takes into account one position, albeit the most-often noticed and glamorized role. When you take into account that each other position group(receivers, Oline, TE's, backs) also has so many more nuances and adjustments at the pro-level, it absolutely magnifies the complexity gap between the NFL and college.

Summary: Ultimately unknown and impossible to know for sure, but it's highly unlikely that Tedford's offense is more complex than an NFL offense. (At least a competent one.) Although Tedford's playbook might have more pages than some NFL playbooks, we know that doesn't tell the entire story. There's simply too much money invested at the pro level in all facets of the game for this to make any sense. And when you factor in the limited time that college student-athletes have to devote to their craft, I highly doubt that this rumor is true.