Carlson: Gruden Needs Old School Lessons

October 27th, 2008

Joe asked former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson to explain what’s wrong with the Bucs offense.

Catch Carlson every week on ESPN 1040 AM. He hosts the Monday Morning Quarterback Show from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., and a Bucs tailgate show Sundays at 11 a.m. He also is the analyst on Bright House Sports Network’s high school game of the week. His expertise is showcased periodically on

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson says Jon Gruden's offense needs to incorporate basics of winning football

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson says Gruden's offense needs to incorporate basics of winning football

Carlson also trains aspiring quarterbacks with America’s Best Quarterback. His firm manages football- and golf-themed charity events.

Please forgive me for being old-fashioned. I was drafted into the NFL a year before Jon Gruden became a quality control assistant for Mike Holmgren. 

Way back then the game was more simple. The defense lined up 11 guys and you tried to beat them, either by out-muscling them or out-thinking them by attacking their weaknesses. Weaknesses were either in their personnel and/or coverage.

Fast forward to 2008 and the game has changed, at least to Jon Gruden. The chess matches of D-coordinator versus O-coordinator are no longer. As we heard from Gruden after the Bucs lost to Denver, if you play defense like Denver or Green Bay the Bucs offense really has no chance for success. 

The same mantra (excuse) came yesterday with the loss to the Cowboys. The defense played “4 Across” according to Jeff Garcia and that limited the offense to underneath passes.  According to Gruden, the injuries at running back limited the offense. Problem is (check the record) this team doesn’t score on offense against any style of defense.

I like the good ol’ days; When the defense played off in a “4 Across” look, you peppered them with hitches outside until you set them up for a “hitch-n-go” over the top for a big play. I harken back to the days before the term “8-in-the-box” became a household phrase and 4 deep defenders means you run the ball until they come out of the prevent look. By run I mean inside and outside, not just straight ahead.

Gruden was satisfied with his “Red Zone Offense” against the Broncos when he ran out of bounds and kicked a field goal before halftime instead of trying to score a touchdown with :18 seconds left at the 15. That reminded me of yesterday’s first drive that started in Cowboys territory and ended after kicking yet another field goal.

Jon Gruden has not used play action on a short yardage play in forever, but he tried play action on 4th and 8 at the end of the game yesterday. Lost to the Broncos by 3 and to the Cowboys by 4 without ever throwing into the end zone one time!!

The remedy for the Bucs is simple, although it is a bit of a throwback idea. Call plays that go to your team’s strengths and take advantage of the weaknesses of the defense. You can’t run straight ahead on every called running play. Earnest Graham is good, but a little deception now and then is OK too (ask the Dolphins).

Jeff Garcia has mobility, so use it and design something for him on the move! There has not been a single designed rollout for him between the 20’s or in the red zone.

Every two-point conversion play ever conceived rolls the QB out either on a naked bootleg or straight roll to give the team the most options. Against the Cowboys with the game on the line and 4th and 5, Gruden drops Garcia into the center of the pocket (just like every other passing play all day) expecting a receiver to open on a stop route at the sticks, like every other pass play called. Predictable? Duh.

Remember the last play of the Saints loss that lost Garcia his job? Fourth and five, everyone stop at the sticks, Fujita with that pick.

Jon, next time you get a third and one or fourth and one, fake it to Earnest Graham (he is now the fullback in short yardage and gets the ball every time) and throw it to your tight end running all by himself to the end zone!!

That may be a bit much to ask because that is old school philosophy and not quite sophisticated enough for this Bucs offense.

2 Responses to “Carlson: Gruden Needs Old School Lessons”

  1. crackerick Says:

    This West coast offense crap is evolving itself out of the league. It doesn’t work if you can’t mix it up and run the ball. He’s right here. WHere the hell is the play action

  2. battered Says:

    Its so nuts that Gruden expects anyone to buy this load of crap that he can’t call good plays against these defenses. THat his job. Every other week he announces that he’s a secondrate offensive coordinator. Glazers don’t seem to care.