BOOK PREVIEW: Breaking Down The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs Offense

By Taylor Kolste

Chiefs Book Cover

Within the next few weeks, I will be releasing my second book, Breaking Down The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs Offense. The book will follow the same format as my first book, Breaking Down The 2018 LA Rams Offense. This preview will contain a few excerpts from the book to hopefully give the reader a good idea of what the book will be like. There are 25 of the 345 pages shown below. The rest of the book follows the same structure that is shown in the preview.

PREVIEW:

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION – 1

CHAPTER 1: PERSONAL CHARACTER & LEADERSHIP – 4

CHAPTER 2: INTRO TO CHIEFS OFFENSE – 16

CHAPTER 3: RUN GAME – 20

  • Outside Run Locked RPO – 24
  • Perimeter Run – 63
  • UC Run w/ Perimeter Threat – 70
  • UC Run – 90
  • IZ RPO – 88
  • Gun Option Run – 100
  • Gap Scheme RPO – 121
  • Outside Run RPO – 133
  • Gun Inside Run – 137
  • Gadget Run – 141

CHAPTER 4: PASS GAME – 147

  • Quick Game – 147
  • Intermediate Pass Game – 188
  • Vertical Pass Game – 229
  • Movement Pass Game – 303

CHAPTER 5: SCREEN GAME – 324

INTRODUCTION

       The 2018 Kansas City Chiefs posted historically great offensive numbers. The Chiefs ranked 1st in the NFL in terms of points per game, total yards per game, and yards per play. The following chart shows these numbers in addition to where they rank in relation to all NFL offenses over the past 15 seasons.

Yards Per Game Yards Per Play Points Per Game
2018 Average 418.5 6.7 34.8
2018 Rank 1 1 1
2004-2018 Rank 6 1 2

The 2018 season was the culmination of Andy Reid’s progressive blending of the west coast offense with ‘spread’ concepts more popular at the college level combined with an influx of high-level talent such as Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce (just to name a few). I was initially hesitant to undertake this study due to great offensive talent possessed by the Chiefs in 2018. Although great players like Mahomes will always make every scheme look better (for example, 27% of the Chiefs yardage on dropback passes came from quarterback scrambles/broken plays), upon closer examination, the Chiefs appear to be on the forefront of the NFL when it comes to offensive innovation.

The goal of this book is to take an in-depth look at the schemes that helped the Chiefs be successful in the 2018 season with the purpose being so that other coaches can learn and use that knowledge to increase their own teams’ chances of success.

This book will focus on the schemes utilized by the Chiefs in the 2018 season; however, it will also look at how Reid’s character and leadership has led to the development of these schemes. The rest of the book will follow the structure as shown below:

  • Intro to Chiefs Offense
  • Run Game
  • Pass Game
  • Screen Game

Before getting into the rest of the book, I do want to acknowledge that there are a lot of contributors to the Chiefs’ success that are not touched on in this book. Hopefully, the first chapter will at least give some insight into the leadership of Reid and certain traits of his and his staff that have led to the development of the scheme we saw in 2018 (and again, great players will always make everything go), however, there are many aspects of the scheme that cannot be analyzed being on the outside. The Chiefs game planning process, the way the scheme is taught, and the way the techniques to be used within the scheme are taught are all just as important as the scheme itself. Reid’s play calling process, and the processes the Chiefs use at the line of scrimmage to ensure they’re in a good play are equally important, but, again, these are impossible to analyze being on the outside. I do still believe that there is a lot of helpful information presented in this book, but by no means is it the end all-be all source for analyzing the success of the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs offense (which again, had a lot do with the talent of the players, though good coaching does help).

CHAPTER 1 (EXCERPT)

PERSONAL CHARACTER & LEADERSHIP

          “The success of visionary companies… (comes) from underlying processes and fundamental dynamics embedded in the organization and not primarily the result of a single great idea…” The quote above is from the book, Built to Last, by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. In Built to Last, the culmination of a six-year research project aimed at discovering the differences between great, enduring companies and those marred by mediocrity, they discuss the concept of ‘Clock Building, not Time Telling.’ They stress the idea that the success of companies do not come from singular great ideas (time telling), but from a series of processes that lead to the development and execution of great ideas (clock building). The same is true in football. Schemes will always come and go, but the processes that lead towards the discovery of innovative and progressive schemes endure forever.

As was discussed in my previous book, Breaking Down The 2018 LA Rams Offense, there is much more that contributes to the success of a team than just the schemes they run.

Culture Flowchart

The personal character of the leader determines their quality of leadership. The leader’s character, manifesting itself in their leadership, helps drive the culture of the organization. The character and leadership of the leader is what determines the development of the scheme, and the culture is what determines how well the team can execute the scheme. Going back to the ‘clock building, not time telling’ analogy, the scheme used year to year by an individual team is the time. The top row in the chart (personal character, leadership, & team culture) are the processes or clocks that tell the time.

So, while this book will focus on examining the scheme of the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs offense, it would be incomplete without looking at the more enduring features of their success (i.e.: how they built the clock that leads to successful play on the field). There is not a ton of information about the culture that Andy Reid has developed in Kansas City, nor about his leadership how it relates to the players, so this chapter will focus on Reid’s character and leadership relating to how he developed the scheme of the 2018 Chiefs offense. Like any other team or coach, Reid’s system will continue to evolve, but by examining the processes that have led to the development of these schemes, you give yourself the ability to continue to evolve and sustain success over time. As the chapter shows, an important process that has led to the Chiefs’ success has been their coaching staff’s study of other teams. The rest of this book will provide you with the opportunity to do this yourself and continue to further develop and improve the tactics utilized by your own teams.

Throughout this chapter, I will connect Reid’s character and leadership with concepts from the extensive research projects of Jim Collins (Built to Last, Good to Great, Great by Choice, How the Mighty Fall). As was also discussed in my book on the LA Rams, Collins and his research team identified two common characteristics in great leaders for their book, Good to Great. They concluded that ‘level 5 leaders’ (the term they used to describe the highest echelon of leaders) all share the paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will. The character traits of humility and work ethic allow Reid to emulate each of the following concepts from Jim Collins’ research: Genius of the AND, First Who… Then What, Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs, while also avoiding Hubris Born of Success.

Level 5 Leadership

Below is an extended version of the flowchart shown at the beginning of the chapter showing how leadership, through the character traits of professional will and personal humility lead to the development of strategy and tactics.

Level 5 Leadership Chart.png

CHAPTER 2

INTRO TO CHIEFS OFFENSE

          As was alluded to in the first chapter, Andy Reid has done a great job or merging the west coast offense with the ‘spread’ offense. In 2018, the Chiefs were in the shotgun more than any other team in the league and used the most RPOs of any team. At the same time, the Chiefs did not completely abandon the under-center run game and play-action pass game. The Chiefs ran a very multiple offense in 2018 that featured many different styles of schemes. This short introduction will just provide a few metrics to give a feel for the style of the Chiefs offense leading into the rest of the book.

PERSONNEL USAGE

Personnel Grouping Usage Percentage
11 62%
12 31%
21 4%
22 3%

RUN/PASS RATIO BY PERSONNEL

Personnel Grouping Run/Pass Ratio
11 36% Run – 64% Pass
12 34% Run – 66% Pass
21 57% Run – 43% Pass
22 58% Run – 42% Pass

UNDER CENTER vs SHOTGUN USAGE

Formation Type Usage Percentage
Shotgun 80%
Under Center 20%

STATISTICS BY PLAY-TYPE

Play Type Plays Yards Yards Per Play Median Gain TDs
Gun DBP 410 3261 7.95 5 34
Gun Run 328 1942 5.92 4 15
UC Run 137 657 4.80 3 7
Gun PAP 94 823 8.76 4 5
UC PAP 59 529 8.97 4 8
UC DBP 10 71 7.1 7 2

Note: Before getting into the next few chapters, there are a few things worth mentioning about the book:

  • Much of what is written throughout the rest of this book is based on film study, so I may be off on a few things, but I do believe this book gives the reader an accurate picture of the Chiefs’ offense.
  • This book includes all of the Chiefs’ base schemes ran in 2018, any schemes that were ran more than a few times, and any miscellaneous plays that were successful (i.e.: if a play was only ran once, but it went for an 80-yard touchdown, it was included in the book. If a play was only ran once and it resulted in a loss of 5, it was not included.)
  • I tried using mostly generic terminology and, for the most part, avoiding the specific terminology when referring to plays that the Chiefs use. You may use different terminology then what is used in this book to identify different concepts, but much of the terminology is just semantics and does not matter much as long as it is consistent.
  • All play diagrams used in this book were created using Microsoft Visio. Microsoft Visio is available through Microsoft.com. Used with permission from Microsoft.
  • The scheme section of this book will be accompanied by film clips that are posted at:

https://rileykolstefootball.com/chiefs-film-clips/

The book is written in a way where it is not necessary for you to view the film clips as you read, but they could be a helpful tool as you go through this book. I would recommend watching these as you may see things that I might have missed and have different takeaways from the film than what is presented in this book. Several of the diagrams will include a video label that will correspond to a film clip on the link listed above. The majority of the clips are of the Chiefs from the 2018 season, however, I also included game clips from previous seasons in addition to clips from other NFL teams to give a more complete picture of some of the concepts.

*** For the purposes of this article, the videos have just been inserted below the diagrams.

CHAPTER 3 (EXCERPT)

RUN GAME

OUTSIDE RUN LOCKED RPO

These were RPOs off of outside run schemes, where the backside of the line would pass-block and leave the backside linebacker as the quarterback’s run-pass read. The Chiefs used 3 primary run-schemes with these RPOs. They would typically employ some type of quick game concept on the backside designed to attack the space left by the backside linebacker if he flowed with the run-action. Because they could mix and match which run and pass schemes they paired together, I will go over the run and pass concepts separately before showing the combinations of these concepts they used in 2018.

The Chiefs used these RPOs off of the following 3 run schemes: mid zone, outside zone, pin & pull. The following charts show their statistics for each of these (the first one showing total stats for every time these schemes were used, the second one showing stats for only when the ball was handed off on these schemes).

Scheme Plays Yards Yards Per Play Median Gain TDs
Mid Zone 47 325 6.91 5 2
Outside Zone 40 305 7.63 4.5 1
Pin-Pull 30 193 6.43 4 2

 

Scheme Carries Rush YDs YPC Median Gain Rush TDs
Mid Zone 31 206 6.65 5 2
Outside Zone 28 115 4.11 3 0
Pin-Pull 19 141 7.42 4 1

 

MID ZONE

MZ Lock - 42 - PS 1T.png

The Chiefs most frequently ran run-scheme on these RPOs was mid zone (could also be referred to as weakside outside zone). I refer to this play as mid zone, not outside zone, because the Chiefs will pass-set with the playside tackle and attempt to block the defensive end out. It appears that the playside tackle will pass set until he has a horizontal relationship with the end. At that point, he will then engage with the defender, playing heavy with his inside hand to try to open up the B-Gap. The ball will only bounce on this play if the defensive end spikes into the B-Gap (Video 1).

When running outside zone towards the open or weakside of the formation, this was an automatic adjustment for the Chiefs. However, I still will refer to this play as mid zone to differentiate between teams who still try to reach the defensive end on weakside outside zone. The Chiefs most frequently ran this scheme against a 4-2 front, primarily running towards the 1-technique. The backside tackle and guard will pass block for the quick game concept, while the center, playside guard and tackle block for the run-scheme. The quarterback will read the backside linebacker. If he flows with the run-action, the quarterback will pull the ball and work through his quick game concept on the backside. If the linebacker drops into coverage or stays in place, the quarterback will hand the ball to the halfback. As I mentioned in the first chapter, the Chiefs have done a good job of protecting the quarterback on their RPOs. Because they pass block on the backside of the run, the quarterback is typically well-protected on these types of RPOs if he pulls the ball to throw. The backside of the line pass-blocking also clouds the read for the linebacker the offense is putting in conflict. Often times, in response to this action, this defender will drop into coverage. This essentially cuts the defense in half and creates a 3-man box for the halfback to run into (the pass-set of the playside tackle often takes the end out of the play as well, leaving just the 1T and playside LB for the halfback to deal with).

MZ Lock - LB Drops

(Video 2)

When running towards the 1-technique, the Chiefs’ line also had the ability to call for a fold block on this defender, where the playside guard would block down on the 1T and the center would fold around for the playside linebacker.

MZ Lock - 42 - PS1T Fold.png

(Video 3)

When running towards the 3-technique, the backside guard will now attempt to over-set the backside 1-technique and force him to the outside. If the 1-technique stays inside, the guard will now essentially become a run blocker and try to cut him off.

MZ Lock - 42 - PS 3T.png

(Video 4)

When running locked Mid Zone RPOs from 4-wide sets, the Chiefs frequently saw 4-1 box looks. This can sometimes cloud the scheme for the offense as, now, there is no easily identifiable backside linebacker to read. It is unclear how this was communicated, but it appeared that if the slot receiver was in a position to be able to block the playside outside linebacker, the line would work to the MIKE and leave the backside outside linebacker as the quarterback’s read (the ball is likely to be handed off in this scenario).

MZ Lock - 41 - No Push.png

(Video 5)

If the playside outside linebacker was too tight to the box for the slot to block him, the offensive line would ‘push’ the blocking scheme to this player, meaning the playside double-team will now work to the outside backer instead of the MIKE. The slot receiver would then work up to the safety, and the QB would read the MIKE for his run/pass read (the ball is likely to be thrown in this scenario).

MZ Lock - 41 - Push.png

(Video 6)

When running these schemes against a 5-1 bear front, all 5 lineman will block for the run scheme leaving the end-man on the line of scrimmage (EMLOS) as the QB’s read-key. If this player freezes on the mesh point, and the quarterback feels as if there is a window for him to throw the ball around this player, he will pull the ball (Video 7). If this player comes upfield at all and is in a position to pressure the quarterback, the ball should be handed off (Video 8).

MZ Lock - 51.png

CHAPTER 4 (EXCERPT)

PASS GAME

SHALLOW CONCEPTS

Shallow (Post-Wheel).png

Hit Chart:

Route Attempts Comps. Yards TDs INTs
Shallow 4 3 67 1 0
Middle Hook 2 1 8 0 0
Wheel 1 0 0 0 0

Shallow.png

Hit Chart:

Route Attempts Comps. Yards TDs INTs
Shallow 3 2 27 0 0
Swing 1 1 1 0 0
Curl 1 0 0 0 0

The Chiefs had two primary versions of the shallow cross concept that they used in 2018. The constant between these two different plays is that there will always be a shallow cross from one side with a middle hook route from the other. The receiver running the shallow cross will read the space in the opposite flat. If there is a defender sitting there, he will sit down. If the space is vacated, he will stay on the move. The receiver running the middle hook route will stem at a low angle, almost like a shallow cross route, before pushing vertically and sitting down in-between 8 to 10 yards. Against man coverage, he will pivot away from the defender.

When ran from 3×1 (the more common version used by the Chiefs in 2018), the boundary #1 receiver will run the shallow and the field #3 receiver will run the middle hook. The field #1 will run a post and the field #2 will run a wheel.

When ran from 2×2, the boundary #2 will run the shallow and the field #2 will run the hook. The field #1 will run a post route over the top of the hook route. The Chiefs will use a curl-flat concept backside of the shallow/hook combination with the #1 receiver running the curl and the back running a swing route.

Based on their usage of these concepts, it appears that the Chiefs preferred their shallow cross concepts against man coverage and cover 3. Versus man coverage, the ball is likely to go to the shallow. The hook route opposite of the formation helps create a rub for the receiver running the shallow.

Shallow (Post-Wheel) vs Man.png

(Video 162)

Shallow vs Man.png

(Video 163)

Versus cover 3, the hook defender to the side of the middle hook route is conflicted by the shallow/hook combination. When running the 3×1 version, the wheel route should clear out the flat defender. If the strongside hook defender matches the inside release of the #3 receiver, the shallow crosser should work into open space with plenty of room for run after the catch.

Shallow (Post-Wheel) Shallow vs C3.png

(Video 164)

If the strongside hook defender takes away the shallow crosser, the #3 receiver should have enough space to work away from the weakside hook defender at the top of his route (the MIKE on the diagram below).

Shallow (Post-Wheel) Hook vs C3.png

(Video 165)

When running their 2×2 version of the shallow cross concept versus cover 3, the shallow cross-runner will likely sit down outside of the opposite tackle so that he does not run into the flat defender. This now allows the offense to still put the hook defender opposite of the shallow in conflict. If he drives on the shallow crosser, the hook route is opened up behind him. (Note: the play diagrammed below is from the Philadelphia Eagles who, although running the same concept, do not have their receiver stem the hook route the same).

Shallow Hook vs C3.png

(Video 166)

On the 2×2 version, the quarterback just has to be aware of the shallow-side hook defender squeezing the middle hook route. If this happens, the backside curl-flat concept should now become available. It is unclear as to what the quarterback’s process is to get through this concept, but both Mahomes in 2018 and Alex Smith in 2017 seemed to have a good feel as to where the ball should go.

Shallow (Curl vs C3).png

(Video 167)

CHAPTER 5 (EXCERPT)

SCREEN GAME

QUADS BUNCH SCREEN

Quads Bunch Screen.png

The Chiefs used this play one time in 2018 with the result being a 2-yard touchdown to Travis Kelce (they also scored on this play in 2016 throwing the ball to defensive tackle, Dontari Poe – Video 268).

This is essentially the ‘shield screen’ that has been gaining popularity around the league since the Patriots used it in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons (Video 269) but ran from a quads formation.

The front 3 receivers in the 4-man bunch will block the 3 most dangerous defenders, usually leaving the corner as the unblocked defender. The quarterback will take the snap and get the ball as quickly as possible to the receiver in the back of the bunch. The receiver will just put his head down and follow his wall of blockers into the end zone after receiving the ball. One key block on this play is the playside tackle. He must be able to block the defensive end to ensure that he cannot get in the throwing lane. If for some reason the quarterback cannot get the ball to the screen, the backside receiver will run a 1-step slant providing the quarterback with an outlet.

Quads Bunch Screen Throw.png

(Video 270)

 

Including what is shown here, the final book will include 300+ pages, 350+ diagrams, and over 250 videos posted to this site. The book will be released within the next week to two weeks and will be available through Amazon for $25. Please contact me at TaylorKolste@gmail.com or @TaylorKolste on Twitter with any questions you have about the book.

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