In Glenn’s recap of the ambulance pre-season game versus da’ Bears he made a very astute observation about Eli.
The slashing and bruising 20 yard TD was set up by Eli. Glenn: “Before the snap, Eli realized the Bears were going to blitz. He changed the play call at the line of scrimmage. Great awareness by Eli.”
This leads us to ask why the coaching staff does not leverage a talent that Eli clearly has demonstrated in the past. Why are they not being more efficient between plays to ensure that Eli’s time at the line of scrimmage is maximized to breakdown a defense? It also leads us to question why, in 8 years with Eli in the same offensive system with Gilbride (QBs coach, then coordinator 2007-present), do they struggle to generate any rhythm early or even on a consistent basis? We witness on a consistent basis teams like the Eagles, Colts, Patriots and Saints right out of the gate develop a rhythm in preseason games.
There are two aspects of the no huddle offense or even running a quick formation that benefit Eli in his performance as a QB. First, he develops a better rhythm with his receivers and passing in general. Second, it also leverages his ability to break down a defense at the line of scrimmage and utilize audibles.
In 2008 William Sullivan of NJ.com discussed the success of the offense using a quick formation in a comeback win by the Giants versus the Bengals:
The Giants used the no-huddle offense to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. When the Bengals tied the game to send it to overtime, the Giants could have gone back to varying formations and personnel to confuse Cincinnati’s defense. Instead, they stuck with the shotgun formation and either three or four receivers for 10 of their 12 offensive snaps in overtime.
It was basically the hurry-up offense without the hurry up, and it allowed the Giants to build off the momentum of their final drive in regulation. It was a wise decision because, if they had gone back to switching personnel from play to play, perhaps the sluggish offense they displayed for three quarters would have returned.
In December of 2007 Vacchiano, after a come from behind win versus da’ Bears, queried Coughlin on why they do not utilize the no-huddle offense more often, given their success. Coughlin’s response was “we are reluctant to just go to that because of the flexibility, the utilization of personnel and the mix of run and play-action passes.” Let’s just ignore the comment about the use of “play-action passes” but his comments about “lack of flexibility” in “utilization of personnel” is telling. A rhythm is harder to generate with a constant substitution of personnel. Last season we heard the mantra about it’s on the players to execute. Perhaps, this is part of the reason they struggled to execute. Yet also how many times have we seen delay of games penalties and timeouts wasted due to the chaotic substitution patterns?
Sean Couch of the Bleacher Report back in 2009 discussed the idea of giving Eli some freedom in calling his own plays. This would of course be an “unconventional approach” for Coughlin. This ” ‘lightning in a bottle’ that separates the very good coach from the great one and Coughlin, whose nickname is “Colonel,” could take a strategic lesson from a great coach—Bill Belichick.” Belichik “handed the play-calling reins to his franchise quarterback, Tom Brady, in the 2004 AFC championship game on a first-possession, 4th-and-1 call at their own 44 yard line against a pumped up Colts team.” Couch also believes it would “help him overcome his propensity to start slow.” The knock on Eli “is his out-of-rhythm accuracy during the first 30 minutes of games.” But “his performance improves dramatically when he is forced to make decisions on the fly, often with his team down and in their quick no-huddle offense.” Why not have Eli give input in strategy and game planning given his genetic ties and the Hall of Fame success of his brother?