George Washington ran an extremely complex offense. No, really. That famous attack on Trenton, the one with the painting? Had it gone according to plan, three separate forces would’ve converged, simultaneously, from three separate directions, at night, in a snowstorm. Of course it didn’t go according to plan, because it involved three separate forces converging simultaneously. At night. In a snowstorm.
The point, ladies and gentlemen, is: If you’re going to draw up a ludicrously complex battle plan that no sane professional would ever dream of trying, you’d better be George Washington.
Bill O’Brien is not George Washington.*
Here’s the best short take I can find on Bill O’Brien’s offense, written just before he got to Houston:
The system [developed in New England] allowed O’Brien to build a complex bunch of formations and premeditated changes based on the defenses alignment, an offense that was extremely demanding on the quarterback’s football IQ as well as O’Brien himself who would make pre-snap reads from the sidelines.
Anybody see the problem here? (Aside from using “premeditated” as a synonym for “scripted,” that is, and the seemingly premeditated murder of commas and apostrophes)? It’s the same as George Washington’s problem at Trenton: Expecting untrained amateurs to pull off maneuvers that would make seasoned professionals sweat.
It’s a complicated system that’s a near carbon copy lift of the ’08-11 Patriots but the question will remain if Houston has the right pieces.
Aaaand there you have it. The ’08-’11 Patriots, you’ll recall, had Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, and arguably the greatest quarterback in the history of pro football. The 2014-Present Texans do not.
Which leads to a further question: Shouldn’t Bill O’Brien be derided as one of those “system guys” they’re always griping about in college football? Quarterbacks from our beloved alma mater, the University of Houston, never get drafted because they’re “system guys.” Same thing with pretty much every other program outside the Power 5 that puts up more than 40 points a game. Oh, he completes 70% of his passes and throws 55 TDs a year? System guy. And yet here’s Bill O’Brien, “[t]hought of throughout league circles as an innovator” according to our article, brought in specifically to implement a system so systematic it requires Tom Brady to run it.
Dumb it down, Bill. It worked for George Washington, and it can work for you.
*Hell, given that opposing defenses seem to know what he’s going to run on every play, I’m starting to wonder if he’s actually Benedict Arnold.