It is often said that the National Football League is filled with copycats. Whenever innovation proves successful, other teams quickly adapt by adopting the scheme or idea. In turn, a remedy will typically be adopted to neutralize the advantage. It’s cyclical, where every few years there’s some BIG NEW THING that comes and captures the league by storm. Very rarely does the new innovation have staying power. The West Coast Offense is one example of an innovation with staying power, along with the 3-4 defense, just to name two examples. But more often than not, innovations are fads, like the wildcat.
The NFL recently saw Bill Belichick adopt a two tight end system based around the incredible athleticism of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and more recently, a return to a power run game. The New England Patriots also started using more of a hurry up offense, all in the name of getting just even a slight edge over their opponents. The San Francisco 49ers made the read-option and the pistol formation popular, and now many teams have adopted some variation of it.
I believe the next BIG NEW THING has already started happening with the Eagles. Under Chip Kelly, the Eagles have begun looking at sports science in a way that hasn’t been quantified since the University of Florida started looking at ways to hydrate players better, which spurred the invention of Gatorade. Kelly’s approach has resulted in changing the days and manner by which the Eagles practice on and developing their own types of video games to simulate different scenarios (as a side note, I highly recommend you read this article on the subject). By the end of the season, the Eagles were the least injured team due, in large part, to their scientific approach to the game and their players’ health. As other teams catch on, this sports science-based approach will catch on, and there will be a football revolution.
One of the keys to winning in the NFL is to stay ahead of the curve. If nine out of ten people are doing something one way, you need to be the one to throw a wrench in the system, to throw a curveball, to do something different. That's how you get an advantage, even if it's short lived.
So here’s my question; what’s the next BIG NEW THING that’s going to hit the league? If you were a head coach and you wanted to gain an edge, what would you do differently that would take the league by storm?