Offensive innovator Chris Ault leaves Nevada, could head to NFL


Most NFL fans probably don’t know the name of Chris Ault, the longtime University of Nevada head coach who announced on Friday that he is stepping down. But NFL fans may be hearing more about him soon.

Ault, who has spent almost all of his adult life as a player, coach or administrator at the University of Nevada, made a specific point of stating that he is not retiring, and also that he is not looking to take on a role in the school’s athletic department. That has led to speculation that Ault could be looking to coach in the NFL, and Ault didn’t rule that out when asked by the Reno Gazette-Journal what he’ll do next.

I have a lot left in me,” Ault said. “I’m in my offensive prime. I feel good about where I’m at. My energy level is still very high. Whether I coach again, I don’t know.”

Ault is an innovative offensive mind who created a modified shotgun offense that he calls the “pistol,” and he has a lot of admirers among the NFL coaching ranks. Those admirers include 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who traveled to Nevada to learn from Ault and has started employing a lot of Ault’s concepts in the 49ers’ offense, run by one of Ault’s former quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick.

Whether an NFL team offers Ault a spot on its coaching staff or not remains to be seen. But at a time when Oregon’s spread offense guru Chip Kelly is considered the hottest head-coaching candidate in the league, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Ault get some offers to become an offensive assistant in the NFL. There was a time when people in the NFL turned up their noses at college spread offenses and saw them as mere gimmicks. But that time is coming to an end. Coaches like Ault have already changed college football, and now they could change the NFL.

28 responses to “Offensive innovator Chris Ault leaves Nevada, could head to NFL

  1. So basically Ault will be following his Pistol to the NFL. How about taking over for Roman in San Francisco. Sick of his play calling anyway.

  2. @andrejohnsonforpresident

    I really hope that you are using the word gimmick facetiously. The pistol, the spread to run, the spread to throw, the option, the wing t, the single wing, or any other “system” that you can think of are sound. The notion that certain things will work in college but not in the NFL is, quite frankly, idiotic.

  3. I remember the last time an “offensive innovator” came to the NFL from college. That was Gary Crowton and his gimmick lasted about half a season.

  4. Every team in the NFL wish they had Joe Flacco instead of the total screw-up they have now as their quarterback.

  5. “The notion that certain things will work in college but not in the NFL is, quite frankly, idiotic.”

    Obviously you’re a fan of one of the gimmick teams. But only time will tell.

  6. @andrejohnsonforpresident

    Wider field? Why not longer too? And while we’re at it we can go from 4 downs to 3 and really open up the game for offense. And then maybe start the season earlier so we don;t have to play outside in the cold, snowy weather. Oh wait…we already have that. It’s called the CFL! 🙂

  7. @fuglyflorio

    Actually I am not. What I am a fan of is diversity. This is why I am a much bigger fan of college football than of the NFL. It’s nice to see teams that don’t all play the same style of football. The Redskins and 49ers have really been a breath of fresh air this year. I laugh when I hear about coaches in the NFL bringing in “their system.” For the most part, it’s all the same stuff.

  8. Gimmick offenses don’t work in the NFL, a gimmick play, yes, to base the entire offense on the Zone Read or the option does not and has not worked.

    The 49ers and Skins are able to run some of the read option plays because they have QBs with unique skill sets, the same with the Panthers. But even those guys, as their careers progress, they get older and the hits start to add up, you are going to see them run less and less of that.

    A guy like Chip Kelly has his whole offense built around the zone read. You can’t run that in the NFL on every play. It works in college because a lot of the time the QB is the best athlete on the field. That’s not the case in the pros. You can recruit to your offense in college, not the case in the pros. Best case scenario in college, you have the same QB for 4 years, usually between the ages of 18-22. In the pros you have to take into account an aging QB who can’t and doesn’t want to run and take the hits.

  9. “I really hope that you are using the word gimmick facetiously. The pistol, the spread to run, the spread to throw, the option, the wing t, the single wing, or any other “system” that you can think of are sound. The notion that certain things will work in college but not in the NFL is, quite frankly, idiotic.”


    The single wing is very effective in Pop Warner, especially since Warner was pretty much the last guy to use it.

    The Pistol doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with the Single Wing or Winged-T. The Pistol is adaptive on the fly. Lots of teams are having trouble defending it. Teams that have tried running the Wildcat or other Single Wing variations in the NFL have by and large failed. See “Miami Dolphins” for instance.

    Even what Denver tried with Tebow last year was not a Wildcat or a Single Wing. It was Spread Option and have very limited effectiveness.

  10. @mdac1012

    I generally have a rule of thumb. If a person refers to an offense as a “gimmick offense” or a “college offense,” it just cements the notion in my mind that they know very little of which they speak. The option offense is sound. It hasn’t been an effective offense at the college level for the last 50 years by accident.

    Chip Kelly runs a lot of zone read, but that is hardly his entire offense. If you really want to know what his offense is based on, it’s speed. Schematically, Kelly wants to put speed in space, but more important than that, he want’s to run his offense as fast as humanly possible. The reason Kelly runs the zone read as well as other option plays is because he understands simple arithmetic. An offense playing with a running qb is playing 11 on 11 football. A team without a running qb is playing 10 on 11 football.

    As to your other point, do older runningbacks dislike running the football? If running is a part of a qb’s game, then use it.

    The more important point is that teams really should consider the way the game is currently being played. It is no longer possible in the NFL to win a championship with a good qb. You necessarily must have an elite qb. This is not a function of football itself, but simply the way that the game is played at the professional level. How effective is it to run a system that necessitates having a single elite performer? There are ways to score points without putting all of your eggs in that basket.

  11. ravenmuscle says:

    Every team in the NFL wish they had Joe Flacco instead of the total screw-up they have now as their quarterback.
    Flacco isn’t even the best QB in his division. He’s second behind Roethlisberger, maybe third behind Dalton.

    I’m sure the teams that have Brady, Manning (either one), Brees, Schaub, Rodgers, Ryan, Luck, or Griffin, and others and in no particular order, would rather have their guy than Flacco, too.

    I’m not knocking Flacco here. He’s not bad, and he’s certainly the best the Ravens have had since they moved to Baltimore. However, let’s be realistic here.

  12. @electionconfidential

    You are not understanding the difference between an “offense” and a “series.”

    The Wildcat is not an offense. It is a series of plays. It has lost effectiveness because it has little to no threat of a passing game.

    The Single Wing, Wing T, and the pistol offense that Nevada runs are “offenses.” An offense attacks all areas of the field using multiple skill postion players and takes advantage of weaknesses and adjustments by the defense. The wing t and single wing do this. They have fallen out of favor for a variety of reasons, but not because they don’t work.

    The reason Denver failed in running a spread option offense is two fold. For one, Tebow is just an awful passer. I don’t care who you have at qb, you have to be able to throw the ball moderately well. Two, they did not exactly fully commit to it. This was something thrown together in the middle of the year and mixed in with the regular pro style offense. If a team were to commit to an spread option offense with the right personnel, there is no doubt that it would be successful.

  13. The Texans should sign Norv Turner to be the offensive coordinator and hire Chris Ault as the running game coordinator. The Texans need more aggressive playcalling and formation diversity instead of the same 15 conservative plays Gary Kubiak calls every week.
    The Texans should also draft EJ Manuel from Florida State and sign Colin Klien as an undrafted free agent since they are better suited to run the pistol style change up offense. The Texans offense definitely needs an update.

  14. js20011041 I like what you did there, you prefaced your comment by saying I didn’t know what I was talking about, that’s something that people generally do when they don’t have true coviction in their own thoughts and they want to make their argument seem more valid.

    Your right about the option being a a valid offensive scheme, but thats in college, not the NFL. I was under the impression we were talking about the NFL. Name me the NFL team that has successfully employed the option as a staple of their offense. As you said it’s been around for 50 years, (actually longer), why havn’t NFL teams used it? Maybe it’s because most QBs cant outrun NFL linebackers and the ones who can, their teams don’t want to subject them to hit after hit.

    When a running back gets old and can’t run anymore or take the hits, he gets cut. That’s why teams don’t sign RBs to long term contracts for big money. Why would a team subject their high priced, face of the franchise QB to the punishment that he would have to take running the ball year after year. RGIII and Cam Newton do a lot of it right now, as the years go on, they are going to do less and less of it, especially as the injuries mount up. When they are 32 and can still throw well, why would a team have them run with the ball on a consistant basis?

    Give me a better arguement than you just find it boring that NFL teams all do the same thing as to why the zone read as a base would work in the NFL. You complained about NFL teams puting too much importance in the hands of one guy, that’s exactly what you would be doing trying to run a Chip Kelly offense in the NFL.

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