Fact Checking and Decoding Greg Knapp's Interview with John Clayton

The follow up question is dead. Long live the fact check. John Clayton didn't clarify much of what Greg Knapp said, so we're left trying to figure out both the implications and veracity of Knapp's statements. The matter at hand, as Mike Sando encapsulates it is:

The Seahawks will favor personnel groups with one running back, two receivers and two tight ends. They will also use three-receiver groupings with one back and one tight end. It all adds up to less playing time for the fullback, one reason the Seahawks didn't make a big play for Leonard Weaver in free agency.

Knapp's 2007 Oakland Raiders and 2006 Atlanta Falcons were both in the bottom third of the league in usage of two+ tight end sets1. They were used on 15% and 24% of all plays respectively. The 2005 Falcons used two+ tight ends on 31% of all plays, eighth in the league. The second tight end was a pure blocking tight end, Dwayne Blakely. John Owens is a pure blocking tight end. The 2005 Falcons were also, not insubstantially, a team quarterbacked by Michael Vick. The team had three wide receivers to speak of and ran on 51% of all plays (fourth in the league) and 51% of all plays in the first half (first in the league). Vick accounted for 85 non-kneel down run plays.

That season, Atlanta was second to last in the league running three+ wide receiver sets. It used three wide receiver sets on just 36% of all plays. In 2006 and for the 2007 Raiders, Knapp used the formation a bit more often, but it was still seldom used. Knapp used 3+ wide receiver sets on 43% of all plays in 2006, 23rd, and 45% of all plays in 2007, 22nd. But as mentioned, those seasons Knapp's use of two tight end sets dropped. A fact-checking aside: It's unlikely Knapp will use more three wide receiver sets than Mike Holmgren who was regularly in the top ten or top five for total plays started out of three wide receivers.

The increased use of two tight end sets and three wide receiver sets indicate this is a new kind of offense for Knapp. Complementing that, in 2005, Knapp used a single back on 36% of all plays, 27th in the league. In 2006, he used a single back on 50% of all plays, jumping to 19th in the league. And in 2007, he used a single back on 47% of all plays, a relative drop to 28th in the league. Holmgren used a single back 40%, 41% and 49% from 2005-2007, in no small part because the transition from Mack Strong to Leonard Weaver. This new offense will pull from three separate seasons and therefore be unlike any of the three.

Three men called plays in 2008 and that adulterates the play-call data, if not probably changing the playbook itself. The fact checking says Weaver wasn't let go because he'll be involved in fewer blocking plays, but that Weaver would have been involved in fewer total plays, specifically out of single back sets and as a rusher and receiver. So, a less diplomatic statement might be that Seattle didn't think Weaver was valuable enough as a blocking back to pay him the $1 million more he received from Philadelphia than Seattle paid Justin Griffith, and of the many ways Knapp has changed his playbook, playing his fullback as a feature back was not going to be one of them. The more interesting story is the changing and hopefully adaptable nature of Knapp's play calling. I may be skeptical as to the importance of coaching*, but I know matching scheme to talent matters, and Knapp must see something in his two tight end and three wide receiver sets that match Seattle's personnel, that maximize Matt Hasselbeck.

1 All formation data courtesy Pro Football Prospectus.

* Would 2-3 wins be an understatement of the importance of coaching? It would make the coaching staff the single most important non-quarterback actor on a team's play.

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