I know I sound like an open record constantly talking about the Air Raid offense, and admittedly it’s a bit unusual for this story to come on the heels of a catastrophic collapse on the part of Washington State (Mike Leach’s team) last night against UCLA, but I just can’t noticing something about this week’s lineup of quarterbacks, which might give you an idea about which way this league is headed right now.
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Okay, why do I say that the Air Raid might be the wave of the future? Because when you look up and down this week’s schedule, you are going to find no less than NINE quarterbacks who have roots in the Air Raid:
— Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville (the rookie from Wazzu already played – and won – on Thursday)
— Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City. Of course, he won last year’s MVP in his second season out of Texas Tech.
— Luke Falk of the N.Y. Jets, who may have the toughest assignment, with his team getting 21 points (at -105) against New England. He preceded Minshew as Leach’s QB at Washington State.
— Kyrie Murray of Arizona, a Heisman winner who has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his first two games.
— Kyle Allen of Carolina, who actually lost his job to Murray at Texas A&M before both transferred. He steps in for injured Cam Newton, and the Panthers are getting two points (laying -105) at BetAnySports, facing Murray’s Cardinals.
— Mason Rudolph of Pittsburgh, who is now the Steelers’ starter in place of Ben Roethlisberger. At Oklahoma State, he ran an offense that has been described as being “Air Raid-y.” He’s getting 6.5 points against San Francisco (at -105).
— Jared Goff of the L.A. Rams, who rose to prominence running Sonny Dykes’ “Bear Raid” at Cal.
— Baker Mayfield of Cleveland, Goff’s Sunday night opponent, who ran the high-powered offense at Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley, a former Leach assistant. His Browns are a 3.5-point home underdog at BetAnySports (laying -101).
— Case Keenum of Washington, maybe the “big brother” of this group, who set all kinds of passing records with the Houston Cougars, where he played under Art Briles, a former assistant at Texas Tech to Leach, who himself was offensive coordinator at Kentucky under Hal Mumme, the true Godfather of the Air Raid.
Interestingly, there are four quarterbacks who are in place as injury replacements, so they gained entry to the league as backups. But at the same time, there are two Heisman Trophy winners (Murray and Mayfield) who were both picked #1 overall in the draft, as was Goff.
Despite the fact that they all established themselves chalking up huge numbers in their systems at the collegiate level, only Murray is actually operating the Air Raid in the NFL. Sure, there are concepts included in this offense that are also incorporated into some NFL playbooks, but Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury is still considered to be bringing in something considered – we dare say – radical into the league.
Leach doesn’t address the issue all that often, but he certainly does not subscribe to the belief that schemes that work on the college level couldn’t work in the pros. What we know as the “run-pass option” was in the college game for quite a while before so many professional teams adopted it. And it came in many forms, including the “wildcat.” Chances are, the Air Raid’s influence will continue to be felt. How much it will be felt is another question entirely, and might be answered to an extent by whatever success (or lack of same) the Cardinals have.
We know for sure that there will eventually be enough QB’s around to operate it.
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