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When Geometry Turned Geno Smith's Season Around

Mike Ehrmann

Heading into the Jets' Week 14 game with the Raiders last season, Geno Smith could not have been at a lower point. He was coming off a four game stretch where he did not once complete over 40% of his passes. There were people arguing that Matt Simms would be a better option as a starter. Seriously, Matt Simms. That's how bad things were.

Things turned around for Geno in that game against the Raiders. If his play wasn't great from that point forward, he at least finished the season with a stretch of credible play that gave him some momentum heading into his first full offseason. Many correctly note Jeremy Kerley's return in that game, but the Jets also got Geno back on track by extensively flooding the right side of the field with three receivers to simplify his reads. They created a triangle for him to read, which led to around five completions on that day.

This concept is one with roots in the West Coast offense. Generally you want one player to run a deep route to the corner, and two other receivers to run shorter routes. Our high tech GGN graphic can provide you with a visual display.


Now say you have a cornerback in zone coverage. If he comes down to play number 2, you throw to number 3. If he drops to number 3, you throw to number 2. Our high tech GGN graphic can provide you a visual display.


Now say you have number 3 covered deep and a linebacker playing zone short. If he goes for number 1, you throw to number 2. If he goes for number 2, you throw to number 1. Our high tech GGN graphic can provide you a visual display.


And if you're playing against man coverage, you might have the two underneath guys cross each other so that you legally create traffic for the defenders. Our high tech GGN graphic can provide you a visual display.


You also might simply have a back who gets the ball thrown to him in space and given a chance to make a play before his man gets to him.

At this point, your eyes might be dazzled by this breathtaking display of high tech graphics, but you might be wondering what practical application this has so let's look at a play.


On this play, Jeff Cumberland ran a corner route. David Nelson went into the flat, and Kellen Winslow ran a short curl. Nelson and Winslow ran within the vicinity of each other while crossing to create traffic in case there was man coverage, indicated by the blue circle. The green shows you the triangle. This particular route combination is a staple of the West Coast Offense.


In this case, Mike Jenkins plays Cumberland deep, leaving Nelson open. Geno completes a pass to Nelson for a gain of 8. The Jets didn't use this exact route combination every time, but the intended effect was the same. By putting three receivers on this side of the field, they created plays where there was a read and a throw to make no matter what the defense was, and they went back to this multiple times.

There are teams with established quarterbacks like Atlanta and New England that frequently use the entire field, running a route combination to beat one type of coverage on the right side, and another to beat a different type on the left. In an ideal world with an experienced quarterback, that is a better idea. It gives you more receiving options and creates better spacing with more of an opportunity for big plays.

That isn't where Geno was as a rookie, though, and it probably won't be where he is this year. It takes years of experience to get to a point where a quarterback can do that successfully. The approach the Jets took in this game against the Raiders cut only required Geno to read half the field and built in a decision for any occasion.

One of the keys to finding success in an NFL offense is finding a core set of things you can do well under any circumstance. When the chips are down, and nothing is working, you need to have something you are comfortable with that you know can produce a positive result. This is particularly true with a young quarterback. It is important to get the quarterback comfortable with something, even if basic, and then build off that.

It's part of a basic philosophy for creating an offense. Once you do something well, you can play off it. A lot of people get hooked on trying to find the next great deception. The defense won't know what to do if you have Ivory and Johnson or Tebow and Sanchez on the field at the same time. Or you can't play this guy because the defense will know you're running. You rarely register the big score where you create a major bust in the defense. The real deception tends to be less pronounced.

It comes from when you can execute something under any circumstances. The defense knows you love to do it. They know you can get a positive result anyway. They're expecting it. You give the illusion that it's coming. Then you make a subtle change like instead of sending the deep guy to the corner, he cuts to the middle of the field on a post, throwing man in coverage off a step or two creating a bit of separation.

So I reckon we will see the Jets make use of this concept as they continue to try and develop Geno into a franchise quarterback.

For more advanced reading on this topic here are some good links: