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The Seahawks' No-Huddle Is Not The Hurry-Up!

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Some folks are asking about the "No Huddle" offense and why it is successful. There is one thing that bugs me though and that is, the no-huddle has been confused with a hurry-up. A true hurry-up would mean the Seahawks are snapping the ball at an average of 12 seconds left on the clock every play. The Seahawks this last game snapped the ball at about an average of 5 seconds to go on the clock each play, getting set and making their checks and protection calls at the line at about 25 seconds to go.

The big difference in a no huddle is, it allows the quarterback to identify the defense more clearly and fully rather than trying to key in on one match-up and then when it's not there having to adjust on the fly after the snap. A regular huddle gives you about 9 seconds to look over things as a QB. There are disadvantages to the no-huddle. One is communication, you have to simplify your offensive calls to allow the QB to organize everyone properly without much talk. The opportunity to have miscommunication certainly sky rockets, particularly on the offensive line. Another disadvantage is access to the playbook in terms of multiple formation changes throughout a drive. 

I like this change myself, as someone who came back to the Seahawks in 2002 and saw Holmgren push the pace early in games with a "quick huddle" where Matt got to the line of scrimmage with about 18 seconds to go. It's something I've seen work and it's something that helped develop Matt Hasselbeck's smarts making checks and audibles versus defensive looks he'd seen before.

In 2003, the Seahawks scored on 9 of 16 first drive opportunities and Hasselbeck was the best in the NFL running the Two Minute Offense. Scoring 8 times within the last two minutes of either half. Can these Seahawks be that good? I have no idea, but if the O-line can handle pushing the pace at times, I could see them looking at least consistent here.

There is a significant thing to consider though in the fact that the Seahawks of 2003 were more veteran than this team and their first 15 plays were scripted by a quality play caller in Mike Holmgren. Everyone on that team was better positioned to show that success and consistency for those reasons.

A young team like the Seahawks use a no huddle in a similar way, but rather than using it in the first part of the game to get a read on the defense and adjust, like Holmgren, these Seahawks used the no huddle to eliminate the complex thinking that can happen with younger players; as an example, watch the offensive line play much more aggressively in pass protection and the run game.

It almost looked like guys stopped worrying about the whole picture and started zeroing in on their own jobs.

Said Seahawks Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell on the Hawks' success in no-huddle  "I do know it gives us rhythm. I do know our guys play fast. I do know that our guys have less to think about - I mean, it's moving so fast that their focus is really dialed in. They're running those specific plays quickly. They don't have a lot of time to think and all that kind of stuff."

Tarvaris Jackson, for one, likes the no-huddle, noting, "Defenses can do different things with the no-huddle, but they tend to kind of show what they're doing. You have more time at the line of scrimmage to make your checks and change the play and stuff like that."

Per that Tim Booth article, the Seahawks ran just 13 plays for 65 of the 234 yards gained up in the second half. According to Doug Farrar's charting, the Hawks ran 12 plays out of the no-huddle, Tarvaris going 5 of 8 for 47 yards passing with the runningbacks gaining 18 yards on 4 attempts.

This really says, that outside of one drive, the Seahawks used this style mostly to see if they could oil the machinery, not as a full fundamental change to approach.  At least, not against the Falcons.

Pete Carroll said after that game, "It's about controlling the tempo. You get to call the plays you want to call, the formations you want to call, the way you want to do it and the time and all of that, the time it takes to get to the line of scrimmage and get them called. It's just about being on the attack. I think I've felt us being much more aggressive in the mode, but we're going in and we're not doing anything exclusive. We're not that far along yet."

The numbers for the Giants game are a little more even. According to Farrar's chart here, no-huddle numbers improved in Week Five. Farrar noting that the Seahawks' no-huddle numbers were "just a BIT better this week," with QBs Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst combining to throw 13 of 21 for 156 yards and a touchdown, and running backs carrying 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown. 

A bit better than half their offensive production. It will be interesting to watch if the Seahawks continue to add to the amount of plays called in this style. I actually think as the offense picks it up in the no-huddle, we'll actually see it used less as the year goes on.