Fred Biletnikoff. He is a man who did impressive things during his pro career. Thought of as one of the best receivers in his era, Biletnikoff was a stud pass catcher in a land and time of run first, ask questions later. That is the closest thing to innovation we’ll find in the circa 1960’s-1970’s NFL. We all know that the NFL is ever evolving so enter in the “Pistol” offense.
Now I don’t have a problem with being innovative. Being able to act and react to changes in all sports is what makes them enjoyable to a fan base. It also doesn’t hurt when you, as a coach, upset the apple cart a bit in order to win (Jim Harbaugh), and it works. That my friends is a win/win for everyone. All of that said, how should we interpret the latest “great thing” to come along like the pistol offense? The formation involves three receivers, and a halfback. The death of the prototypical fullback in professional football helps this formation make sense to the lay person. So it works right? Given the personnel it works, right??
So far so good, but it’s still early. Watching Colin Kaepernick run it to a tee (he ran it at the University of Nevada where it was popularized by Chris Ault) made everyone sit up and open their eyes. Can Kaepernick do it again? Can he run all over defenses and execute the read option well enough to get his team to the Super Bowl for a second straight season? Time will tell and that is a discussion for a different day. Remember this however, there are only a handful of “Kaepernick’s” out there. It works for him because he had been doing for a long time and defensive coordinators couldn’t scramble quickly enough to stop it.
Ah ah! There it is! When something is fresh, it’s difficult to stop. (See rookie pitcher phenom goes 17-3 with a couple hundred strikeouts then gets lit up the next season). To add another aspect to this copycat league, I laughed my ass off when I heard that Peyton Manning and the Broncos were running a pistol formation in practice. I don’t claim to be a pistol or read option expert, but I do know that the pistol is enhanced exponentially by employing the read option effectively. Peyton Manning doing this? Not likely. The Broncos can line up in the pistol all they want, just don’t call it the pistol. On Peyton Manning’s team, it should be referred to as the “short shotgun” or even the “sawed-off”. I like Peyton, but he isn’t running the pistol offense. Nor should he.
The death of the prototypical fullback in professional football helps this formation make sense to the lay person. So it works right? Given the personnel it works, right??
What I’m trying to get at here is that I love new and creative ways to coach, play, analyze, and watch football. The pistol is just one small aspect of that. I say that in its form now, which is about at toddler stage in my eyes, it’s still a fad. Let’s put it this way, it’s no west coast offense. I’m not saying it won’t stick around for a while, but it will be limited at best. Does anyone really think that Colt McCoy or Scott Tolzien would be able to pick up where Kap left off if he was to leave a game with an injury? Not a chance. And hell, Brock Osweiler has a better chance at being successful at it if Peyton was ejected for throwing punches at linebackers who keep telling him that his brother is better than him because he has more rings.
The Pistol is still a fad. I’m rooting for it, I really am. I’d be ok if the wishbone was to make a comeback. I would simply like to see every commentator, armchair quarterback, and jersey color fanatic take it down a peg or two on the whole thing that’s all. When the pistol truly arrives as a svelte adolescent looking to pop someone in the mouth, then get over excited. The fans in San Francisco are the only ones excused from this because it was so effective for them and their team last season. If you still can’t get on board with my way of thinking, please just go and try to find the “wildcat” somewhere. I personally think it’s buried in Tim Tebow’s backyard shed in an airtight rubber bin with a tripwire surrounding it.