For years watching football on Saturdays and watching football on Sundays remained two different experiences, but that difference has widened over the last decade as the spread offense has proliferated. Schools like Oregon and Baylor started the trend in a big way, and now schools in every major conference run the spread, or some variation of it.
What does that mean for the NFL though? The spread is a little too gimmicky to be successful in the pro ranks, where speed in the secondary and more sure handed tackling limits the spread's success. Are college football players being prepared for the NFL by playing in these systems?
"When you’re a college football coach, you’re doing whatever you think is necessary to win. That’s what it’s all about. There’s a lot of pressure," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said when asked if college football prepares rookies for the NFL.
"It’s our job as scouts and as personnel evaluators to judge what they’re doing in their situation. Would I like to see them run a conventional offense? Sure, but we still have to judge them no matter what," Gruden continued.
The coach's remarks seem important considering starting QB Robert Griffin III is perhaps one of the most famous spread offense passers in history. In his time at Baylor, RG3 won the Heisman Trophy as he put up video game numbers, and was largely the player that brought Baylor to national prominence. Griffin's role at Baylor was so large the school built the player a statue outside of their new stadium.
Look around the NFL, and it's tough to find QBs having great success that came from spread programs.
The best young passer in the NFL is Andrew Luck, who played at Stanford, a school that ran a pro set with a power running game. Ryan Tannehill came from Texas A&M, but he played receiver for two of his seasons in college. Russell Wilson is certainly succeeding in Seattle, on a team that runs some zone read elements out of Urban Meyer's spread type offense, but in college, Wilson did best at Wisconsin, another power running pro set team.
Can a spread college QB succeed in the NFL? Griffin did, as a rookie, but that offense took a lot from Baylor. Mike and Kyle Shanahan devised an offense that opened up passing lanes through play action as the threat of the QB run paralyzed defenses.
It would be silly and premature to suggest no spread QB will succeed in the NFL. But it's hard to look around the league and point to much success so far - beyond RG3's dynamic rookie season. Perhaps that's why Gruden would like to see more pro-style offenses in college, and he's probably not the only NFL mind thinking that way.
Is the spread bad for the NFL? Are there examples where a spread QB has worked in the pros? Let us know in the comments.