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A good primer on Gibb's offense.

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Washington Redskins One Back Offense

Danny Knitzer

Assistant Orange County Bulldogs Semi-Pro


Many coaches are now incorporating the one-back set into parts of their offense. I feel strongly that it can be used as a legitimate full time offense. I believe it was developed early on by Don Coryell, but his protégé Joe Gibbs took it to the next level. His utilization of multiple formations, shifting, and motions baffled opponents. I believe in the year of their first championship (super bowl 17) the Redskins set a new NFL record for points in season.

Most standard offenses employ 2 wide receivers a tight end and 2 running backs. As football evolved and misdirection was being phased out, the I-formation was becoming the dominant set, and the fullback was carrying the ball less and less. The fullback was now a blocker first. But why have a back in the backfield that is doing nothing but blocking? What Joe Gibbs did was substitute that blocking fullback and put in a third wide receiver, a play maker. And when that third receiver lined up wide, the defense had to respect that and take a defender out of the box to line up on the wide receiver. Not only did this help the passing game but the more spread out formation stretched the defense horizontally and the passing threat stretched them vertically. The formation decreases the defense in the box by 18% which opens up a lot of natural space for the runningback. And when Gibbs wanted that blocking specialist in he employed another tight end (H-back) who was a bigger blocker than a fullback and was lined up in a position to be more involved with the passing game.

I will explain a few principles of the shifts that my team employs.

Personnel: X: split end, Z: flanker, Y: tight end, H: second TE or third receiver

Formations: We have four base formations which can be altered into infinite variations



When we are going to shift we get set and shift on the first sound, the farthest man moves first as if he was going in motion, when he passes the QB the second man starts to move WEAK <--> TWINS STRONG <--> FLOOD (we also will do a shift where the Y shifts to the other side, this is called "FLIP")

An offensive system that is unique and an opposing team is not used to facing will cause pandemonium for their defense. Defensive players are trying to remember their assignments and keys according to strength of formation, etc. then along comes a shift, then a second shift, then a motion...Multiple formation looks and a shift package is a weapon in itself.

We have two main running plays, the power slant, and the counter-trey. Both plays have to be run in a corresponding manner, the slant is the staple and the counter keeps the defense honest.


The power slant is an off-tackle run with zone blocking the last defender on the line of scrimmage is being kicked out by the TE the rest of the O-line is trying to seal their man in, if the defense over pursues they can push their defender out towards the original hole and the RB will find the cutback lane.


Lets say we're running the counter-trey to the right out of the WEAK formation (2 TE set)

H- Fill for LT (protect backside)

LT- Pull and seal

LG- Pull and kick out end man on line of scrimmage

C- Gap down

RG- Gap down

RT- Gap down

Y- Gap down

With all the shifts and motions, there 100 ways to block the frontside and there are 100 ways to protect the backside of the counter-trey.


3 receivers are clustered close together and then spread apart in different directions. can be run with motion or in the FLOOD formation in a "bunch" alignment

inside receiver (H) is running a 5 yard flat route

middle receiver (Z) is running a 10 yard flag route

outside receiver (X) is coming underneath the Z and picking H's defender

QB-5 step drop (man) progression from H-Z-X (zone) read flat defender if he drops off hit H, if he comes up or widens hit Z.

There are a few other 5 step plays we use out different formations with different positions interchanging roles on different plays (ex. In some case the RB will be running the flat in the starburst). Along with our 3-step passing attack (slants, quick-outs, 7 yd. bedrock) and the play-action series, it is quite a formidable passing game.

The main philosophy is to execute a few plays to perfection out of many looks. The pre-snap movement causes confusion on defense and creates match-up problems.

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actually the Redskins set the then NFL scoring record in 1983 when the club went 14-2 and lost to the Raiders in SB XVIII.

what is underestimated is Gibbs skills in improvisation and adaptation. there is nothing guaranteeing that the Skins will be running the one-back offense with two tight ends, or the one back with 3 wide receiver set that propelled the club to the SB in 1991.

if the players are there the Skins could very well run a two back offense with one tight end, much as the Cardinals and Chargers did when Gibbs was the OC under Coryell.

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Q: Granted, I may have a distorted opinion of the guy, (I keep thinking of him as a TE), but would Larry Centers have been the kind of guy you wanted for this "H-back"?

(OK. Mostly I wanted to bump this message.)

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The main philosophy is to execute a few plays to perfection out of many looks. The pre-snap movement causes confusion on defense and creates match-up problems.

Sounds like this guy channeled Gibbs.

I agree with Bulldog's assessment that it's hard to know what we'll ultimately see come opening day next season. Gibbs may very well decide that this team just doesn't have enough depth or talent at TE to use a two TE system and go with more 3 WR looks instead. Man, this is going to be the longest offseason EVER!!

The one thing I do expect out of our teams will be the above philosophy of executing a few things exceptionally well out of many different formations.

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