The Making of a Dominant Offense

I’m going to go out on a limb and project that Zach Collaros will perform magnificently in tomorrow’s game against the Alouettes, and lead the Argos to a convincing victory.

Is this simply blind faith based on my life-long blue-bleeding devotion to the Argos? (Well, to be honest, there is a bit of that). But no, it is based on my observation that there is something very special about the Argos’ offensive system this year that puts them a full notch above the other CFL teams.

So what is so special? Let’s start by acknowledging that this is far and away the most quarterback-centric team in Canadian Football. Head coach Scott Milanovich is a quarterback, as are Offensive Coordinator Marcus Brady, and Receivers Coach Jason Maas. They carry five quarterbacks on their roster – Ray, Harris and Collaros on the active roster when all are healthy, plus Josh Portis and Mitchell Gale on PR and IR. Most teams carry three. Their newest receiver, John Chiles fit into their system in jig time and contributed immediately. He was a quarterback in college.

Their system has been built by quarterbacks, and caters to the way they think. The basics of the system were brought to Canada by Marc Trestman (another quarterback) when he coached the Alouettes. His Offensive Coordinator was Scott Milanovich, who adapted the system to allow for the 12th man, three downs and a 65 yard field width. Their back-up quarterback was Marcus Brady.

So what is it about the “system” that differs from the other teams. Firstly, most teams use a numbers based system to identify responsibilities on any given play. For example, in a play featuring three receivers on one side, the play might be “048.” The first number would refer to the inside receiver, and the “O” might be code for a curl pattern. The “4”might tell the middle receiver to do a down and out, and the “8” might be a post pattern for the wide-out. This is relatively simple and not only easy to learn, but familiar to most players.

The Argos, on the other hand, use a verbage based system which gives the players more specific assignments. A typical play might involve seven or more words, each of which describe a pattern. So there might be different words for a curl at 5 yards versus a curl at 10, or another at 15.

The Argo system is not only more complicated than others, it is more structured. The quarterback has less leeway to exercise his creativity, but has the security of having superior communication with his receivers. At the end of the day, once all the players have learned the system and are comfortable with it, it produces superior results.

It took the Argos the entire first half of last year’s season to get comfortable with it, but once they did, it carried them to the Grey Cup. Some players took longer than others to shed old habits (e.g. Jason Barnes who, after a slow start last year, is re-emerging this year as a star).

So, back to my bold prediction. The offense is now in its second season with this system, as is tomorrow’s quarterback. With a full week to adapt their system to Zack Collaros’ strengths, (e.g. by expanding their “scramble” patterns), they will have an entire offense comfortable with a system configured to allow this QB to execute plays designed to counter the Montreal defensive schemes.

It only seems logical that the Argos offense will once again dominate.



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