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McVay vs Shanahan:




In a literal sense, putting players in the right position is the art of scheming. McVay might come from the Gruden tree, but it’s a core Shanahan philosophy that defines his system. “We want to have that marriage of the run and the pass game,” he says. Shanahan describes it as having different plays that start out looking the same.

As Cousins explains, “Sean’s and Kyle’s quarterback can have a lot of success in the play-action game because those passes look like runs. They create a lot of explosive plays off of that. They also create a lot of explosive plays when they can change the tempo and go no-huddle.”

Plays that start out looking the same generally stem from a zone-blocking ground game, where the offensive line moves in unison. Both coaches subscribe to this approach. The passing game is where their styles differ.

In the second half of last season, McVay used three wide receivers and one back nearly 90 percent of the time. He often aligned those receivers tight to the formation, where they were threats to run-block and had enough field around them to go left or right after the snap. That two-way go, mixed with outside zone runs, make more play-design possibilities available. The Rams capitalized with a precise timing-and-rhythm aerial attack and clever backfield passing game that often leveraged running back Todd Gurley off the wide receivers’ routes.

Shanahan, on the other hand, played with two wide receivers and two backs on around half the snaps once Jimmy Garoppolo stepped in—an exceptionally high rate. Two backs or two tight ends is considered “base personnel,” which, as the conductor of Atlanta’s Super Bowl offense in 2016, Shanahan had employed more than every NFL team except Tennessee. The second tight end—or often in San Francisco’s case the second back, fullback Kyle Juszczyk—serves as an extra, movable blocker, which adds significantly more variables to a running game. Having to account for those variables makes the defense more predictable in coverage, and Shanahan designs passes specifically exploiting that predictability. Those pass concepts tend to be simple, but Shanahan gives them the illusion of complexity by sending backs and tight ends in motion before the snap and presenting the same routes from different formations. This not only adds window-dressing—it also often forces the defense to reveal whether it’s in man or zone coverage.

Shanahan deploys base personnel more than most other coaches, using the fullback as a movable blocker.

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While Shanahan blurs a defense’s picture before the snap, McVay is more inclined to blur it immediately after. The Rams make great use of switch and stack releases, with receivers’ routes intersecting off the line, distorting defenders’ coverage assignments. He’s also become aggressive in jet motion and ghost reverse action, with wide receivers speeding across the backfield from one side of the formation to the other.

This isn’t to say Shanahan doesn’t employ switch releases or ghost action, or that McVay doesn’t use motion and formation wrinkles to decode a defense. As different as their schemes are, the coaches’ shared history creates plenty of overlap.

Nowhere is that more evident than in how they use their quarterback in the hurry-up approach mentioned by Cousins. Much was made last season of McVay rushing the Rams to the line and then talking into QB Jared Goff’s headset. But McVay is far from the first to do that, and it’s a tactic Shanahan has employed. He leaned on it heavily last year when Garoppolo took the field before he could possibly have learned San Francisco’s entire system.

Another approach both coaches take is to emphasize the tailback in the passing game. McVay did this steadily with Chris Thompson in Washington, then got to Los Angeles and found out that Gurley was unstoppable outside in space. Screens and passes to the flat became a Rams staple. Shanahan made great use of star tailbacks Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman through the air in Atlanta. In hopes of recreating that, the Niners this past offseason spent $30 million over four years for free-agent back Jerick McKinnon, formerly of the Vikings. He’ll pair at times with 2017 fourth-round receiving back Joe Williams and, more often, with Juszczyk, who last December was featured more on passes.


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On 5/22/2018 at 1:24 PM, StLunatic88 said:

I believe @jrry32 already called this scenario like a month or so ago

That was me.  Don't you be handing out my credit to other people.

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