Pistols, predictions, and the playoffs

Updated: January 5, 2013

NORTH CAROLINA (BASN)-There were several false predictions made in 2012.

If you don’t believe me, the Mayan calender predicted the world was coming to an end.

Karl Rove’s predicted that Mitt Romney would win the Presidency.

And ex-Washington quarterback Donovan McNabb said the Shanahans’ system was a bad fit for Robert Griffin III.

Well, the world didn’t end.

Obama got re-elected.

And the football team from Washington, DC made the playoffs for the first time since 2007 with a 10-6 record.

Was McNabb right?

But, despite Washington’s record, the question remains, was McNabb right?

In order for us to tell, we must go back to the statements McNabb, who was benched while playing under the Shanahans’ system in 2010, made on ESPN First Take about RG3 playing quarterback in Washington..

“Here’s a guy coming out who’s very talented, mobile, strong arm, we’ve already heard he’s intelligent, football mind,”  “Are you going to cater the offense around his talent, and what he’s able to do, or are you going to bring the Houston offense with Matt Schaub over to him and have him kind of be embedded in that?”McNabb said of Griffin

“We talk so much about Mike Shanahan and the things he was able to do in Denver……Well, I have a couple of names for you that Mike Shanahan — quarterbacks he’s coached — and the lack of success that he’s had.”

“We had John Beck, who was 0-4,” McNabb sarcastically explained.

Rex Grossman: 6-11. Jay Cutler, who was his prize possession: 17-20. Jake Plummer, a guy who had success, led them to the AFC Championship against Pittsburgh, as we know, and then benched him the next year, because he wouldn’t do what he wanted him to do. Brian Griese, who was supposed to be the heir apparent to John Elway, hasn’t had a lot of success.”

Then and now/ now and then

After presenting all of that evidence on ESPN FirstTake, McNabb, whom many felt sounded like a disgruntled employee rather than a NFL analyst, looked like Nostradamus’s after nine weeks of the season, in which Washington posted a miserable 3-6 record.

Washington’s slow start, in fact, had coach Mike Shanahan seemingly “throwing in the toilet” and dismissing all hopes of making the playoffs.

That was then.

This is now.

Because Shanahan quickly changed his tone, after his team went on a seven game winning streak under the talent and leadership of Griffin and improved their record to (10-6) , which made them the first NFL team to rally from 3-6 to make the playoffs since the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996.

As a result, now Shanahan is being called a genius again as he utilizes the pistol offense to highlight Griffin’s legs and arm. This, shockingly,  is what McNabb was suggesting on FirstTake before the season started.

But what exactly is the pistol offense?

The Pistol Offense

According to FootballXOs.com, the Pistol Offense was designed in 2004 by Chris Ault, the head coach of the University of Nevada.

The offense combines the shotgun and single back offenses into a hybrid system. In the Pistol Offense, the QB aligns tighter to the line of scrimmage than in a traditional shotgun and the running back aligns directly behind him. The offense has evolved to include multiple backs and Pistol formations have found their way into many college offenses and into the NFL.

One of those NFL teams, who have found success in Coach Ault’s offensive design, is the team out of Washington, D.C., with a young quarterback named RG3.

How the Pistol Offense Changed the NFL

SB Nation’s sports writer Chris Brown addressed this issue in his informative December 12, 2012 article entitled The Future is Already Here: How the Pistol Offense Changed the NFL, in which he writes:

In the NFL, however, under the direction of head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and with Griffin at quarterback, the Redskins have made extensive use of Ault’s creation. When Mike Shanahan was head coach of the Denver Broncos, he melded the West Coast offense he’d used to win a Super Bowl with the zone blocking schemes offensive line coach Alex Gibbs brought from the San Francisco 49ers .

Those schemes remain the foundation of the Shanahan-Redskins attack today. The Shanahans, in search of some way to mesh Griffin’s special talents with the zone blocking schemes they’d made famous nearly 20 years earlier, settled on the Pistol attack created by Ault as the centerpiece of their offense.

It’s worked…….. Although Pistol offense schemes are a big part of the Redskins’ identity, it’s not all they do. Their key to success has been that the Shanahans have found a way to blend the new schemes with what they’ve had success with for many years in the NFL, creating something that is a perfect fit for their uniquely talented rookie quarterback. (Just like Donovan suggested)

“There are no gimmicks in our offense,” Nevada head coach Chris Ault recently explained.

“When the shotgun offenses came out, I enjoyed watching those teams move the football. The thing I did not like was the idea of a running back getting the ball running east and west,” he said. “We have always been a north and south running game offense.”

The entire premise of Ault’s pistol attack is to combine the best of the shotgun spread offenses, like Chip Kelly’s attack at Oregon , with the traditional, north-south power attack Ault had coached for more than 20 years. The Pistol alignment is merely the means by which to do it; the “Pistol Offense” is this blend of old and new.

Washington versus Seattle

With the pistol in place and Griffin under center,Washington has only committed 14 turnovers this year, which is a franchise low.

On Sunday, however Washington will attempt to use the pistol offense in order to deceive an aggressive Seattle Seahawks defense.

For the record, Washington has lost three consecutive playoff games against the Seahawks. They lost at Seattle in the 2005 and 2007.

But I don’t think anyone wants to make any bold predictions on who will win this game, especially not Donovan McNabb.

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