- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

Plenty of people who tuned into the Washington Redskins’ game at Cleveland last week were surprised to see them running an unusual offense.

Could that be right, Joe Gibbs going no-huddle?

It was no mirage. The Redskins did indeed run four offensive series without huddling, an approach that is used by other teams occasionally but rarely has been a staple of Gibbs’ system over the years.

“It is something we do,” Gibbs said this week. “How much we do kind of depends on the game plan.”

In devising their plan for tomorrow night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, Gibbs and Co. might have considered going no-huddle again. For all the discussion this week about Washington’s struggling and perhaps predictable offense, the unit did enjoy modest success against the Browns when it skipped the huddle.

After a stalled opening series that included a pair of illegal procedure penalties, the Redskins stuck with the no-huddle the next time they got the ball and marched 65 yards before settling for John Hall’s 31-yard field goal.

The tactic might contradict Gibbs’ general offensive philosophy of grinding out tough yards and eating away the clock. But considering the positive results, Washington’s players were more than happy to give it a try.

“Hey, anything that’s going to get positive yards and points is fine with me,” left tackle Chris Samuels said.

The Redskins are quick to point out they ran a no-huddle offense, not a hurry-up offense. The difference between the two is substantial.

In a hurry-up mode, the offense is trying to snap the ball as fast as it can to make its way down the field quickly. In a pure no-huddle mode, the offense comes to the line of scrimmage quickly but often uses the entire play clock before the ball is snapped. The intent isn’t to save time — it’s to give quarterback Mark Brunell an opportunity to scan the defensive formation first and then call a play that is more likely to succeed.

“We kind of look at it like you would a full-court press in basketball,” offensive coordinator Don Breaux said. “It creates some tempo for you. It might limit some of the defense’s substitutions. We looked at it and felt like Mark might be comfortable with it. And actually, we had some measure of success with it in there.”

Though the no-huddle places added pressure on the quarterback to call the proper play on his own, Brunell has shown he can handle the duties.

“You only get a certain number of looks, so it simplifies things,” he said. “You can go at your pace. You have time to look at the defense and call the right play. But it has disadvantages, too.”

Such as the physical toll it can take on offensive players. With less time to catch your breath, a lengthy no-huddle drive can be a demanding proposition for 300-pound linemen and speedy receivers alike.

“The thing about it is, you better be in good shape,” Samuels said. “‘Cause if you’re not, you’re going to get pretty tired.”

Which is why you won’t often see teams run a no-huddle offense through an entire game and why the Redskins aren’t likely to use it on more than a handful of series tomorrow night.

“It’s not anything you want to live with, in our opinion,” Breaux said. “But it’s something that every once in a while can be a jump-start and create some tempo for you.”

Gibbs’ offenses of the 1980s and early ‘90s never ran the no-huddle. But in preparation for Super Bowl XXVI against the Buffalo Bills, the masters of the no-huddle at the time, the Redskins’ scout team began working on it and started showing it during practice.

Almost instantly, a light bulb flashed above Gibbs’ head.

“In those two weeks of preparation, we found out a couple of things,” Breaux said. “We kind of liked some of the things we were doing [on the scout team], so we said, ‘Hey, let’s us do it a little bit!’ So we wound up using it in that game.”

The Redskins proved to be better at executing the no-huddle that night than the Bills, cruising to a 37-24 victory. But their no-huddle offense was put back on the shelf after that, and remained there until last week.

The question on everyone’s mind now is whether it will return tomorrow night. Obviously, neither Gibbs nor his players will say.

“Having done it now and having had a little success, we’re confident that if we get that opportunity again, we’ll be able to move the ball,” Brunell said. “It’s there if we need it.”

Added Samuels, with a smirk: “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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