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Some Clarification is in Order: The "Chunk" Offense

When I started this series I set out to help fans better understand parts of the game and clear up some areas that were misunderstood and I feel I've accomplished that. But I want to get back to more basic aspects rather than some of the topics I've discussed in the past. The first post in this series was on defining what "mobile" "scramble" and "pocket presence" meant. This article will look at a topic that many fans have discussed and debated in recent weeks. It has to do with our offense. Now many ideas are being tossed around, Spread, Option, Shotgun and so on, but they really don't mean much until you put them together with what we see on game day, and that is what I wanted to look at.

We are going to briefly look at other types of offenses then delve into the offense that is being worked in by the Broncos and it's history. As I said this has been a topic of heated discussion so I hope I am thorough enough to get my point across, but simple enough to keep everyone's attention. This maybe my most thorough study yet, and most complex. I am relying on a number of statistics, watched hours of game footage, talked with former coaches and people who have connections within Dove Valley. This is purely the skeleton of the offense, the basics, there is much more, but it would require more space, a patience, than can be given here. I hope this piece is educational, because I can tell you I learned a lot developing and describing an offense that has largely been ignored.

So for those of you willing to journey with me, let's go.

A Brief Break Down of Offenses:

Now there are a number of offenses and styles in the NFL. The West Coast Offense changed the NFL and how both offenses and defenses game plan. The WCO focused on side to side motion rather than deep passing, it required precision and quick play. Martz's Greatest Show on Turf is a variant of the WCO, though it focus's more on a cerebral quarterback and down field passing. Both emphasise ball control and low turnovers. There are also the Walsh-Brown and Croyell variants, both of which have different takes on the WCO.

The Run and Shoot is another major offense that is taking hold in the NFL. Many fans know it as the Spread Offense. These types of offenses rely on a quarterback to make very smart and quick decisions before the snap. Then the quarterback needs to put the ball in a small space. This type of offense relies on a smart, accurate quarterback who can quickly adjust. There are other variants, the Spread Option, Pistol and Wildcat offenses, but they are almost never used as a full time offense in the NFL.

There are also older, archaic offense that are extremely run heavy such as the Run-to-Daylight used by Lombardi, and other "smash mouth" run offenses like those used in the early days of the league. But in a recent study done with 2008 offenses, they found that just shy of 80% of playbooks were the same with the exception of a few coaches. That means that most coaches run the same plays just with slight variants or in differing situations. The exceptions to this were the rare exceptions of Andy Reid, Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, Mike Martz and Mike Holmgren.

How Quarterbacks Fit Into These Offenses:

Some quarterbacks are successful in one offense but struggle in another. Rich Gannon is an example of that, as is Jake Plummer. Kyle Orton is another example who was much more successful in the McDaniel's Spread Variant than he did under Ron Turner in Chicago. Every quarterback is different, some are at such levels they could succeed in almost any offense, but most quarterbacks are meant to succeed in one offense. When analyzing a rookie, this is what coaches and GM's look at, whether the quarterback fits their current system or might only require minor changes. Andy Dalton fit's perfectly into a WCO because he's smart and quick on his feet and the offense won't play to weakness of an average arm. Dalton wouldn't have the same success as Cam Newton is having in Carolina's offense, which is more designed around the Air Croyell, going downfield more. While Dalton seems like a good prospect, he lacks the arm strength to make a lot of deep throws and the mobility to compensate for the poor offensive line play.

Look at Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, no one would doubt these are among the best quarterbacks of our time, if not of all time. But they might not be as successful in each others offenses. Brady lacks Manning's arm strength and would struggle to go down field as often as Manning does while Manning's abilities wouldn't fit into Brady's short, super accurate passing game. No one is taking away from either players skills, they just don't fit perfectly into other systems. Manning and Dungy pretty much built an offense together, as did Drew Brees and Sean Payton because they had unique strengths and weaknesses. Now obviously some quarterbacks are better than others, but to say Drew Brees is a bad quarterback because he he can't run the same offense as Manning is ignorant. This idea is the basis for the belief that Tim Tebow, like almost every quarterback, can't succeed in every system.

This is where the "Chunk" Offense comes in.

The "Chunk" Offense:

Now the "Chunk" Offense, or the CO, has been around for some time, or at least parts of it has. Certain players played parts the part of the CO. But it came to rise by an effort of Bill Cowher and Bruce Arians for their young quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. During Roethlisberger's first two season the offense was entirely focused on the standard ground and pound offense, relying on Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis to carry the offense and Roethlisberger not losing the game. He didn't even top 20 touchdowns till his fourth season, but in 2006 and 2007, after judging and determining they had something in Roethlisberger, they set out to create an offense that played to Roethlisberger's strengths. Cowher and Arians drew heavily on Andy Reid's offense that he built around Donovan McNabb, although with a different mindset because they didn't have the receiving talent Reid had in Philly.

While these two teams built varying offenses, they were founded on similar quarterbacks and similar ideals. Let's take a look at these two offenses. Let's look at some of the tenets of each offense and compare them to what the Broncos are currently running and how, or if, they play to Tebow's strengths.

Roethlisberger-Arians CO:

We are only going to look at Roethlisberger's and the Steeler's offense from 2007 till 2010 since the offense ran prior to 2007 was vastly different than what was run after that. So with that in mind, let's look at some key points of this offense:

  • Strong use of the quarterback in the red zone
  • While the Steeler's offense was traditionally built on a strong run game, but since 2007 the role of the running game has lost significance and plays less of a role in the offense. Since the change in 2007 here is the breakdown:

Year Rush Yds % of Total O Pass Yds % of Total O Total Yds
2007 2168 41.4% 3071 58.6% 5239
2008 1690 33.9% 3301 66.1% 4991
2009 1793 30.2% 4148 69.8% 5941
2010 1924 34.8% 3601 65.2% 5525

  • We see a large percentage of long passes. Since 2007, Ben Roethlisberger has ranked 5th in passes that go longer than 20 yards in the air. 23.7% of all his passes go 20+ yards down field, about one in four.
  • A Reliance on strong wide receivers in the middle to create space and hold onto the ball. Hines Ward is one huge reason for this success. On the outside they like big receivers who can go up an fight for the ball and having these receivers they can compensate for a lower level of accuracy.
  • Quarterbacks will take a high level of sacks but they are seen as a reliable risk due to the quarterbacks size and mobility to buy time.
  • Along with this comes one of the biggest factors of the CO, the difference between yards per attempt and yards per completion.
    - Y/C is generally a bad statistic because a QB can go 1 of 30 for 99 yards so his Y/C is 99 yards. That is why yards per attempt is much more useful, it would show the QB's worth a bit better with 3.3 Y/A.
    - Despite this comparing Y/C to Y/A is a good way to look at what type of quarterback you have. Let's compare two QB's:

    Y/A Y/C Difference
    QB 1 7.9 12.4 4.5
    QB 2 7.1 8.2 1.1

- We can tell a lot about these two quarterbacks. We can tell QB 1 is less accurate but uses longer passes more often. While QB 2 is more accurate but uses shorter passes.

  • Within the Roethlisberger-Arians CO the difference is very large. QB 1 is Ben Roethlisberger. The average NFL QB has a difference of 2.7. This is because accuracy isn't key in this offense. While Roethlisberger is a fairly accurate quarterback, the difference between Y/A and Y/C shows that missed passes shows a drop off for each missed pass.
  • The last thing that the Roethlisberger-Arians CO is built on is a metric put together by Pro Football reference known as Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A). This takes into account sacks, touchdowns and interceptions. Within this system that focuses on high TD%, low INT% and high yards per attempt difference shows up in a high ANY/A.
  • Here's Roethlisberger's statistics, including Y/A, Y/C, and ANY/A, I also bolded all stats that are key signs of the CO:

Year Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A Y/C Difference Y/G Sk Sk% ANY/A % Deep
2007 65.3% 3154 32 7.9% 11 2.7% 83 7.8 11.9 4.1 210.3 47 10.4% 6.5 22.9%
2008 59.9% 3301 17 3.6% 15 3.2% 65 7 11.7 4.7 206.3 46 8.9% 5.2 22.4%
2009 66.6% 4328 26 5.1% 12 2.4% 60 8.6 12.8 4.2 288.5 50 9.0% 7.1 23.3%
2010 61.7% 3200 17 4.4% 5 1.3% 56 8.2 13.3 5.1 266.7 32 7.6% 7.4 26.3%
Average 63.4% 3496 23 5.3% 11 2.4% 66 7.9 12.4 4.5 243 44 9.0% 6.6 23.7%

Reid CO:

Many of the major factors in the Reid CO are similar to the one run in Pittsburgh so I won't delve into the similar items, I'll just mention them later:

  • While the Roethlisberger offense was built around tough, possession WR's on the inside and large, quick WR's on the outside, the Reid CO prefers quick inside WR's, large tight ends and possession players on the outside who cut inside to make catches.
  • The quarterback in the red zone is still important but not nearly at the level that is used in Pittsburgh. Rather they are used more heavily in the middle of the field.
  • Rather than rely on a strong actual run game, running backs are used in the screen game to supplement and simulate a run game. Quick running backs are key to this success. They nearly double the percentage of total yardage gained by running backs in the passing game compared to other teams in the league:

Year Rush Yds % of Total O Pass Yds % of Total O Pass Yrds to RB's % of Total O Total Yds
2000 1882 37.6% 3124 62.4% 669 13% 5006
2001 1778 36.1% 3145 63.9% 880 18% 4923
2002 2200 39.3% 3404 60.7% 751 13% 5604
2003 2015 40.0% 3020 60.0% 847 17% 5035
2004 1639 29.2% 3979 70.8% 795 14% 5618
2005 1432 28.0% 3677 72.0% 702 14% 5109
2006 1984 32.5% 4119 67.5% 955 16% 6103
2007 1974 34.5% 3755 65.5% 858 15% 5729
2008 1697 30.3% 3911 69.7% 726 13% 5608
2009 1637 28.6% 4089 71.4% 629 11% 5726

  • Here's McNabb's statistics, including Y/A, Y/C, and ANY/A:

Year Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A Y/C Difference Y/G Sk Sk% ANY/A % Deep
2000 58.0% 3365 21 3.7% 13 2.3% 70 5.9 10.2 4.3 210.3 45 7.3% 4.8 19.3%
2001 57.8% 3233 25 5.1% 12 2.4% 64 6.6 11.3 4.7 202.1 39 7.3% 5.5 21.8%
2002 58.4% 2289 17 4.7% 6 1.7% 59 6.3 10.8 4.5 228.9 28 7.2% 5.6 21.1%
2003 57.5% 3216 16 3.3% 11 2.3% 59 6.7 11.7 5 201 43 8.3% 5.4 22.7%
2004 64.0% 3875 31 6.6% 8 1.7% 80 8.3 12.9 4.6 258.3 32 6.4% 7.9 24.3%
2005 59.1% 2507 16 4.5% 9 2.5% 91 7 11.9 4.9 278.6 19 5.1% 6.1 21.7%
2006 57.0% 2647 18 5.7% 6 1.9% 87 8.4 14.7 6.3 264.7 21 6.2% 7.7 20.6%
2007 61.5% 3324 19 4.0% 7 1.5% 75 7 11.4 4.4 237.4 44 8.5% 6.1 18.4%
2008 60.4% 3916 23 4.0% 11 1.9% 90 6.9 11.4 4.5 244.8 23 3.9% 6.3 20.5%
2009 60.3% 3553 22 5.0% 10 2.3% 60 8 13.3 5.3 253.8 35 7.3% 6.9 22.9%
Average 59.4% 3193 21 4.7% 9 2.1% 74 7.1 12.0 4.9 238 33 6.8% 6.2 21.3%

  • You could also compare Vick's numbers as well in the system because the principles remain the same.


  • Both take high numbers of sacks that are justified, hopefully, due to the mobility and size of the quarterbacks.
  • Both have high differentials between Y/A and Y/C. They also have a high fluctuation in their ANY/A.
  • Both use their QB's in the red zone or in the middle of the field. In both offenses the quarterback's mobility is a factor the defense takes into account.
  • Both use a large number of deep passes, with both Roethlisberger and McNabb ranking among the top in the league each year. To further emphasize this point, Vick, Batch and Dixon, during their limited playing time also support this tenant.
  • Both don't require high accuracy, as shown by our ANY/A and Y/C - Y/A study.
  • Along with lower accuracy requirement, consistency will also be low, also shown in the play calling and Y/C - Y/A.

There are some that may say "so what?" Well these basic foundations for the CO are contradictory to most major offenses in the NFL today. While some teams may have bits and pieces (Detroit, Carolina and Tampa Bay run an offense that is shifting towards this, and Green Bay runs this though accuracy and consistency plays a much bigger role in their offense) but none run it like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Now the Reid CO is a variant of the WCO that has shifted and the Roethlisberger-Arians CO is also a variant yet both are coming to the same conclusion, and both have been wildly successful. Between Roethlisberger and McNabb you have four Super Bowl appearances and seven Pro Bowls. Add Michael Vick, who also is playing in the Reid CO, you add another Pro Bowl visit in that system. Oh and the record for a player in these two systems is among the best of the decade, Roethlisberger-Arians (40-18) and the Reid CO (101-53-1). These systems work.

Tebow and The "Chunk" Offense:

Many here have been trying to say Tebow can be this or that and that's fine to make predictions, but I've found, as have others, that it's better to just watch Tebow and then let him build his own style and see where it fits. You could tell instantly that Dalton would do well in a WCO, it wasn't hard, and watching Tebow we can also tell what system he'd do well in. Now like we talked about with Brady, Manning, Dalton, Newton and every other quarterback, saying Tebow is one type of quarterback isn't a bad thing, it's saying he fits best in that system. Coaches, GM's and fans do it all the time and they do it accurately. And if you look at Tebow and the CO, you can see they were made for each other. Let's look at a few items:

  • Tebow has the highest sack percentage of any quarterback in the NFL currently but has the mobility and size to compensate for it by helping the play stay alive and running the ball.
  • Here's Tebow's stats and his Y/C and Y/A difference is included and is very high:

Year Cmp% Yds TD TD% Int Int% Lng Y/A Y/C Difference Y/G Sk Sk% ANY/A % Deep
2010 50 654 5 5.1% 3 3.7% 50 8 16 8 72.7 6 6.8 6.7 32.9%
2011 46.4 536 6 6.2% 1 1.0% 42 5.5 11.9 6.4 89.3 15 13.4 4.6 33.0%
Average 48.2 595 5.5 5.7% 2 2.4% 46 6.75 14.0 7.2 81 10.5 10.1 5.7 33.0%

  • Tebow is among the most used red zone quarterbacks.
  • Tebow has lead the league the last two seasons in deep passing percentage.
  • Tebow's accuracy is seen as one of his biggest flaws but in the CO it isn't a priority or as big an issue, though there is a basic standard to be met in the NFL, but 60% isn't required in the CO like it would in other offenses.

Currently the Broncos and Tim Tebow are running the "Chunk" Offense. They are calling plays that benefit the CO, their use of running backs is meant to allow for bigger plays down field. Since the running game isn't used a specific way in the CO, the fact we are relying on it at times means little. Also some other little things lend credence that we are running this offense. The first is the number of yards through the air a player throws for. This is total yards minus yards after the catch divided by completions. Tebow ranks in the top 5 in that category, meaning his passes usually go farther down the field than most quarterbacks.

Up to this point the Broncos seem to be making the adjustment to the "Chunk" Offense after Kyle Orton was benched. Now many will say "But I thought we were making the transition to the Spread?" That's partially true, the formations we are using are largely Spread Option based, but that isn't what is important, what is important is the play calling from those formations. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh both run out of different formations, but both use the same basic offensive game play, the CO. That's one of the things about the CO is it can be run from a variety of formations. What is key is that from a variety of offense formations the goals are the same. In the Spread Option, which we are running quite a bit of, we use Tebow's mobility and a strong run game to set up a lot of deep passes. The Spread Option maximizes Tebow's skills, while I prefer we don't run it the whole game, using it heavily allows for more success in the deep passes due to the defense being forced to keep a spy or more in the box.

The Broncos are finding success from the "Chunk" Offense, it tailors to Tim Tebow's strengths, and it seems to be working, I don't see a down side.

Well for those of you who made it through, well done. I hope this piece was educational, because I can tell you I learned a lot developing and describing an offense that has largely been ignored. I received a lot of help from those with coaching experience as well as those who follow the Broncos for a profession, so this is also rooted on behind-the- scenes information as well. This is likely the Broncos offense of the future, so I figured it would be best to learn about it.