Installing an offensive system and having a new roster of players execute it effectively sooner rather than later is no easy task, especially when a good portion of the talent on offense is very green. Such is the case for Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Fortunately for Buffalo's offense Hackett has devised a way to develop synergistic thinking on his entire unit.
Bills quarterback Kevin Kolb shed some light on what the offensive staff does to have every member of the offense thinking like a unit instead of a collection of individuals executing assignments.
"The way that they installed the offense our sheet that Nate (Hackett) gives the quarterbacks he gives to all of the offensive players because he wants everybody to have a feel for exactly what every play is designed for while we're putting it in," said Kolb. "Anytime you can have that entire realm of the offense in your mind it gives you a better advantage out on the field of what the quarterback is thinking so now hey, 'I know this one is coming to me so I better beat this guy up the field and win.'"
The idea was spawned from Hackett's days as an offensive quality control coach. It's a coaching position where you spend a good deal of time drawing up plays for the run game, pass game and protection schemes. Outside of the offensive coordinator and the quarterback, the quality control coach likely has one of the broader bases of knowledge on the offense as a whole.
Once he became an offensive coordinator Hackett felt it was important for all the players on offense to possess that all-encompassing view of the offense as well.
"A lot of times in this world everybody gets compartmentalized," said Hackett. "As a quarterbacks coach and coordinator I still have to remember I am the coordinator and everybody has to see what's going on through my eyes.
"I always did a tip sheet just for the quarterbacks which told them just what we wanted, and I realized that if everybody knows what we're trying to accomplish with each play the whole team comes closer together. They understand why that play was called, what we were looking for on that play."
For example, if it's a downfield pass the offensive linemen know they'll probably need to hold up a little longer in protection. Perhaps a receiver running an underneath route will cut his route a bit sharper to draw attention from the intended receiver going deep. The wideout running the deep route realizes what the quarterback needs from a timing standpoint.
"It's a quarterback tip sheet, but it helps us as well," said rookie receiver Robert Woods. "We understand our role as receivers and what we expect, but we get an insight on what the quarterbacks expect from us and what they're doing. So it also allows us to be in their head on the field. So we know what they're doing, their steps, how many steps they're taking so we know not to cut our routes short."
If the play has the quarterback taking a five-step or three-step drop receivers understand they have to be a lot quicker in their route.
"You've just got to understand the quarterback's progressions and the reads and sometimes you're allowed to play slower," said Woods.
The synergistic thinking on offense has enabled younger and less experienced players like Woods to get a more complete grasp of the scheme.
"You get some insight on it," Woods said. "You have your receiver book and you've got coach Hackett giving you the inside scoop at everything. So sometimes you look at your receiver book, but you also check on your notes and it makes it a lot simpler for you. It makes it a lot easier getting some insight on what the quarterbacks are doing. It's another checklist for us to reference."
Hackett's efforts in creating a unified thought process for the offense has worked for him in the past. So he's confident that by exposing every offensive player to a view of the scheme that is broader than their individual assignments will bring more cohesive play that much quicker.
"We want everybody to be together just like the flow of a basketball game," he said. "You want everybody to know where everybody is going to be all the time. It's a little different in basketball, but we're trying to bring the same principle to football. Everybody needs to know what their role is on this play and why the play was called.
"That's hard sometimes to get that information out because everybody goes their separate ways and works on their individual techniques. So this is something we've tried to create that unifies everyone. Why just give it to the quarterbacks? Let's talk to everybody on this so everybody knows what we're trying to accomplish. It's done some nice things for us and the more you keep everyone on the same page the better your execution."