Tom Cable: Spread offenses in college are “a huge disservice” to players

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The increasing popularity of spread offenses at the college level have made it hard for NFL teams to evaluate the ability of rising quarterbacks to play in the more buttoned-down style seen at the professional level, but Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable says that the issue extends to other positions as well.

Cable said that part of the reason why the team has moved players like J.R. Sweezy and 2015 sixth-rounder Kristjan Sokoli from defense to offense is because he feels like he has to retrain linemen to play outside of a spread system anyway because of their poor fundamentals.

“I’m not wanting to offend anybody, but college football, offensively, has gotten to be really, really bad fundamentally,” Cable said Tuesday on 710 ESPN in Seattle. “Unfortunately, I think we’re doing a huge disservice to offensive football players, other than a receiver, that come out of these spread systems. “The runners aren’t as good. They aren’t taught how to run. The blockers aren’t as good. The quarterbacks aren’t as good. They don’t know how to read coverage and throw progressions. They have no idea.”

There are a broad range of offenses using spread principles at the college level and the teams employing them are making those decisions based on what they think will win them games. That may not match up with what Cable or other coaches are looking for, but we’ve seen teams adapt by installing some of those elements in their own playbooks. Without any developmental or minor league in place, that’s going to have to continue as long as those schemes remain in vogue at schools around the country.

64 responses to “Tom Cable: Spread offenses in college are “a huge disservice” to players

  1. An overwhelming majority of college players will never go pro and college coaches are paid to win games, not groom pro prospects. Spreads may do a disservice to pro position coaches, but don’t blame the college and HS coaches for developing systems that result in wins for them…

  2. Cable is right. Just look at Pryor, how does a QB at a MAJOR school like Ohio State not learn how to throw a football. Its all about the WIN.
    I understand that but…. someone must teach.

  3. As a College Head Coach my paycheck, my livelihood, the way I support my family is dependent on how many wins and championships I bring in; not if this kid transitions well to your system. He is an athlete you’re a coach do your job.

  4. Interesting that he thinks it’s easier to train a defensive player to play o-line rather than re-train an offensive player who has bad habits. Suppose that makes sense.

    Otherwise, I don’t think he’s saying anything that hasn’t been said before about the spread offenses. Those players just don’t transition well to the pro game.

  5. The NCAA is not a developmental league for the NFL. They exist to make money for the member schools.

    That is like saying only playing 35 games with a shorter three point line is a huge disservice to college basketball players.

    That attitude is ridiculous. Form your own developmental system that pays the players, and they will flock to you.

  6. We are not talking about kids here. These are young men who know how to block, tackle, run, and throw. The rest is up to the coaches to coach these players up. I mean, is there really that big of a difference between a spread offense and a shotgun offense in the NFL that the (best of the supposedly) NFL coaches cannot help these players adjust?

  7. So, NCAA now exists solely as a talent pool for the NFL ? I’m not really into college ball and may only see 1 or 2 games a year, but I’m pretty sure its popularity and concurrent revenue stream is at an all-time high, and anyone in the know will tell you that success has little to do with the pro game.

  8. Maybe, it’s time the NFL progressed!!! The pipeline is not changing, so it may be time the finished product changed.

  9. He has a point.

    Offensive line play on a lot of these college teams running the Air Raid or similar spread passing offenses can range from mediocre to flat out terrible.

  10. He’s absolutely right. These kids who come out of these high flying offenses generally have to be broken down and rebuilt to be a great NFL player.

  11. Or put another way…”the minor leagues we don’t have to pay for aren’t training our prospective employees properly.”

  12. I agree to a point. Most division 1 schools should run a pro style offense which would better prepare players for the NFL. That said, many schools aren’t good enough to have pro style so they use a spread offense to compensate for the lack of talent on offense.

  13. He has a point.

    Starting in 2008, how many decent QBs have come out?
    Matt Ryan
    Joe Flacco
    Andrew Luck

    These guys are also ok.
    Matt Stafford
    Russel Wilson
    Ryan Tannehill
    Andy Dalton

    The others like Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick haven’t done enough. And it’s too early to tell for Bortles and Carr.

    Thats 7 QBs in 7 seasons (2008 – 2014)
    At that rate there is going to be a huge drop off in QB quality. Teams may have to run simpler systems. The defenses, should have an edge after a while.

    And decent QBs can demand a lot of money.

    You may not think Russel Wilson or Andy Dalton are so good. But what if the alternative was … Geno Smith. Then all of a sudden it’s worth paying the extra money.

  14. How is this dilemma different from the days when formations like the wishbone ruled much of college football and Florida State was the odd school out because of its pro style offense?

  15. College response: We are sorry our players are not ready to play for the Raiders, because that is our only goal, we could care a less about our boosters and fans and winning games – preparing players for the raiders is all that matters, sorry….

    And in all seriousness, please someone enlighten me as to why the spread wont work in the NFL again?

    Im gonna google it and see what comes up right now.

  16. It’s not the job or responsibility of college coaches to prep players to play in the NFL. Their first responsibility is to win games. If they happen to play a pro-style offense, then, great. But college coaches don’t have the hours to put in teaching fundamentals. Blame the NCAA for that.

  17. Being able to anticipate and accurately deliver balls takes a lifetime of practice and a lot of innate spacial abilities. Tim Tebow could have been coached up by the most NFL like offensive coach in college and he still wouldn’t be an effective thrower. It doesn’t matter that Pryor played for Ohio State.

  18. The NCAA was born to be a disservice to all players:
    The spread offense, The unethical academic routes that are given to athletes and thus failing them, and the lack of payment to them.

    The NFL should just start a minimum wage league and that way the players don’t have to go to college. For them, it’s a waste of time and bad for the pro careers.

  19. College response: We are sorry our players are not ready to play for the Raiders, because that is our only goal, we could care a less about our boosters and fans and winning games – preparing players for the raiders is all that matters, sorry….

    And in all seriousness, please someone enlighten me as to why the spread wont work in the NFL again?

    Im gonna google it and see what comes up right now.
    Maybe while you Google that you can also Google up the fact that Cable works for Seattle…for several seasons.

  20. Tom Cable likely would have another HC gig by now, but for the whole wife beater thing. That would (or at least should) be a tough sell to a fan base.

  21. This widespread shift to Spread Offense will result in one of two long-term changes in football:

    1) The decline of amateurism as more NFL orgs approach a “baseball or hockey approach” to prospects. Rather than draft them after 3 years of forming bad habits at the NCAA level, owners will have the draft age limit lowered to high school graduation. Then, drafted prospects will have the choice to go “pro” in a newly-formed minor league system (or more realistically, a NFL skills academy funded by the organization). Or they could stay amateur and play in the NCAA, while the team that drafted them owns their “pro rights” and has indirect influence over their development. This is exactly how it works in hockey and baseball, and it works out for all parties involved.

    2) The death of Pro-Style playbooks at the NFL level and a league-wide outbreak of Spread Offenses due to the overwhelming amount of personnel from the high school and college level who were developed under the Spread playbook.

    I would personally advocate for the first option.

  22. Of course College teams are in the business to win games and you can’t fault them for running spread offenses, but if potential pro prospects start noticing nfl teams underdrafting players from spread systems, they will eventually follow that trend to play for college teams that run pro style systems to boost their draft stack. Always follow the money. It may not happen right away but players will adapt.

  23. When your O-line is outweighed by an average of 30-60 pounds per man across the line of scrimmage, you do what you can to win games. That means having to spread the field to take advantage of speed or the open field.

    Tom Cable is paid to coach so when he gets a player on his team, he should just concentrate on his job, teach them and shut up.

    There’s a reason he hasn’t landed another head coaching job. His mouth writes checks his brain can’t cash.

  24. Well then maybe you should create your own minor leagues instead of having the NCAA fill that function, at least partly at taxpayers expense?
    You know, give those kids FROM AGE 18, without the aptitude or inclination to be students, an opportunity to play football without forcing them to be students when they’re likely not at all equipped to be one, or interested in being one?
    You know, train them in your system with your coaches?
    You know, allow them to make a living wage, and learn to play football full time?
    And, you know, leave college for those who WANT to be there, and are capable of doing college academic work?
    Just a thought…

  25. For years the NFL has had a free ride as far as college football is concerned to replenish their teams with new and younger talent. Now they have the audacity to complain that the college game doesn’t prepare the players adequately enough to transition to the pro game. I’m surprised no one has yet established some sort of league to compete with college football that would go after the best and better high school players throughout the country, players would be payed and not required to attend classes, just like the minor leagues do for baseball. A full time job devoted to becoming better in order to advance to the “majors”. Maybe that would take some of the corruption out of college football, knock that arrogant turd Mark Emmert and his cronies off of their high horses as well as provide the non-student abled athlete a legitimate road to the pros. We all know that some of the classes and degrees availed to college football players are not only a joke but would never ever contribute to their ability to land a non-football related job once they’re playing days are over. It would also require the filthy rich owners to spend more of their “hard earned cash” rather than hoard it. But then again, the NFL is so powerful, I suppose if that were seriously attempted, the “league” would find some type of wink wink legal reason to prohibit it.

  26. This guy finally said something smart. Spread option will be the death of the NFL because there will be even less QBs who can play the position hitting the league. Imagine 28 Geno Smiths starting at QB for everybody except the handful of teams who can get that rare pro style raised QB every few years. I shutter at the thought.

  27. Maybe I’m not reading as deeply into this as everyone else is, but it seems like he was answering a question about why he switched defensive players to offense. And his answer was well since we have to train all of these offensive rookies from scratch anyway, might as well train somebody who played defense before who we think can play a position in offense. Truth is that most college players that come from a spread system do have a huge learning curve once they come in to the NFL. Not a college coaches responsibility, but the point has to be made that those players come into the NFL behind the learning curve. That’s just the reality of the situation that he was alluding too, in my opinion

  28. What this means to 5 star recruits on the offensive line or quarterback is you better think twice about signing with a school that emphasizes the spread offense if you plan on playing in the nfl.
    To those of you who suggested that Cable begin coaching…the Seahawks coach up their players as well as any team in the nfl, lead by Cable.

  29. Beating your wife unconscious and sucker punching your Raiders offensive assistant Randy Hanson was also a disservice Tom.

    When you coach your Seattle O-linemen to blind side cut block the opposing D-line, it’s also kind of a disservice.

    Can’t stand this fraud of a coach!

  30. Cable is rightly still angry that he got fired in Oak, just as every other coach in the NFL who is saddled with an awful QB will get fired also. Cable never had a chance to win with a stiff like Tyrelle Pryor as QB. I remember watching him at warm-ups before a game and the guy could not even play a simple game of catch on the sideline. From just 12 yds away, he would sail a ball over the WR’s head and the next ball would bounce in the dirt … and then he would hit 2 or 3 on target and then another ball in the dirt. It was incredible that after all these years as a QB, he still didn’t have the muscle memory grooved into his delivery. Just shocking to me because most of us could play catch for an hour as kids and never throw balls straight into the dirt from 12 yards away. I don’t understand how other NFL teams keep signing Pryor to contracts. After the Chiefs cut him last week, I heard the Bungles signed him. Yea, right … you are going to fix his delivery and the way his brain is mis-wired. Good luck with that.

  31. If it’s not a coaches responsibility to prepare his players for the career they want. College players shouldn’t be required to stay in college three years? Let’s see how entertaining division 3 college ball will be on TV

  32. Cable is correct, but only from his perspective as a pro coach. But college teams do not exist merely to supply pro-ready players for the NFL. They want to WIN! I can’t see successful coaches changing their winning formula just to help ol’ Tom out. “Oh yeah, Coach Cable is right. Let’s drop this read option that won the conference last year.” Not gonna happen, goof brain.

  33. Some truth to what he said but quite a bit of BS in there, as well.
    A) Most pro teams have incorporated spread concepts into their playbooks. Quite a few had those in there before people were even using the term “spread.” There are only so many ways to align 11 players, after all.
    B) Technique in the NFL isn’t anything to brag about. If holding were actually called NFL linemen wouldn’t ever get anybody blocked. And tackling in the NFL is atrocious.

  34. Maybe the NFL should stop handling out millions of dollars to college players. Play them when they know how to play the pro game.

  35. How many football fans are so tired of watching the Spread run the same play over & over & over … hike the ball to the QB and he runs for daylight?

    We all ran that play in the backyard as kids. It doesn’t take any coaching or scheme to run it. Just tell the blockers to hit somebody and the QB takes off running. At Texas, Mack Brown reluctantly admitted “the less coaching and practicing we did with Vince Young, the better he played … we basically just let him play street ball and we discarded the play book”. He said they had plays for Vince to “run and everybody else block somebody” and the passing plays were “lineman block somebody and receivers run downfield and get open”. Mack said you don’t need to practice much at all when that’s your offense. They won a National Championship with it!

  36. Tom Cable is an idiot who has never won anything other than a jaw breaking competition. I have a question: who is to say that the NFL offenses are doing things the right way? Things change over time. If anything, NFL offenses are becoming more and more like college offenses. Cable sound like a guy who has had the game passed him by. Imagine what a 1990s era football coach would think of the way tight ends are used in today’s NFL.

    Did I mention how little respect for him I have? This is a guy who was an offensive line coach who somehow became a head coach. He’s the epitome of a dumb jock who can only make a living doing what he’s done since high school.

  37. Kinda sounds like when the forward pass was introduced in football. I believe the “traditionalists” were caught off guard.
    Hey Tom. Time to adapt or get left behind. It sounds like your problem, not the NCAA’s.

  38. Tom Cable needs to shut the hell up and worry about coaching his own players. Guess what, there are more than 100 D1 colleges and not all of them run spread offenses so there are plenty of players to draft from that play in pro style offences in college. If he is so worried about preparing players for the NFL, maybe he should go start coaching in college. Let the college coaches worry about their programs and what they do to win games. When the NFL starts paying colleges to develop players the way that want, then maybe we will give two craps about what Tom Cable says.

  39. Hopefully, most college football teams are well aware that their purpose has absolutely nothing to do with preparing players for the NFL and/or making Cable’s job easier.

    If anything, college players need to spend more time in the classroom, and if the spread offense is an effective means to consolidate practice time AND win games, then there’s no reason to abandon it.

  40. Wow! Some really harsh people on here. Cable is merely stating a fact and starts off by saying he doesn’t want to “offend” anyone. Some of you read a lot more into what these players & coaches say. CHILL OUT!!! No wonder Marshawn Lynch won’t talk & I don’t blame him.

  41. It is easy to understand where Cable is coming from. In the old days, before all of the TV money in the NFL and NCAA, most kids went to college to get a degree and play sports as a secondary activity. Now the NCAA exploits these kids to the max and does a lousy job in preparing them to play pro football, the dream which drives most star kids entering college on a football scholarship today. All of this NCAA greed is covered up by their hypocritical “student athlete” nonsense.

    On the other hand, the NFL has a no-cost minor league system provided to them on a silver platter, and has the audacity to complain that the university factories they exploit are not doing the necessary training so that the draft picks are ready to make the owners more millions immediately. Next they will be complaining about the lack of media training given to the college players, leaving them inadequately prepared to shine at the NFL draft circus or pre-draft fashion parade. This event soon will be a month long extravaganza beamed directly into our brains by implanted chips, with Mel Kiper wake up calls as a special feature.

    All of it is absurd and we should ignore self serving crap coming from these insiders who have figured out how to exploit us too. Hey they got me to read this drivel from Cable…I am quilty.

  42. To all those saying it is not the job of college coaches to groom players for the NFL: you are correct.

    But if I am a top-level prospect, maybe I take that kind of thing into consideration when I am choosing a school. If I am already expected to be drafted I might look for a school that runs a more pro-style offense, to help me get ready for the NFL. Maybe that’s what we’ll see more of, a pro-style offense being a recruitment tool for the top-level players.

  43. It’s on the athletes to not sign with schools that run this kind of offense, assuming they have the option of course. If I was a highly touted recruit at the QB position, I just wouldn’t play at those places.

    Take Alabama for instance. Now, obviously there’s been some busts from there like everywhere else. But that’s about as pro style as it gets.

  44. “Cable sound like a guy who has had the game passed him by.”

    Being an assistant HC on a team that just went to back to back SB’s means he is done?

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