History and Evolution: Power O - Part II - Off Tackle Power Earns the Name "Power"


Part I - The Power Series Origins

Off-Tackle Power O becomes “Power”

While the I-Formation had a scattering of purveyors dating as far back as the turn of the century, it wasn’t really until the early 1960s when a man known as Don Coryell would begin to popularize it within the Air Coryell offense. While at the upper levels of football it remained mostly unknown, by the late 1960s and into the 70s, coaches such as John Madden and Hank Stram started incorporating it within their offenses. By this time, most teams had now gone to 21 personnel, though split backs and near/far formations still held dominance. But, for instance, in the 1968 Chiefs Playbook, we immediately see what we know of today as traditional Power O (though, it should be noted, Power Sweep remained a vital part of the offense).

1968 Chiefs Playbook

Notice here, how the tackle can climb to the second or third level as soon as he confirms the backside DE isn't attacking inside hard. This backside Tackle will be telling for a future shift from a C-gap run to what it becomes today. It is telling, also, that we begin to see the changeups take after Power O rather than the sweep variant (though admittedly, this is years in the making). Teams began realizing it was Power O that they could base out of, and so concepts like Power Trap came into the window.

1968 Chiefs Offensive Playbook

While the name Power was at times used for the above Off-Tackle version of the play, teams began to differentiate it with names such as “Pinch”, which was the name of the combo block between the TE and playside OT.

1974 New England Patriots Playbook

1974 Giants Playbook

In the case of the New England Patriots at the time, "Pinch" was reserved for a TE-PST combo block, whereas Power was used for the PSG-PST combo.

1974 New England Patriots Playbook

Whereas for the 1974 New York Giants, Pinch referenced the block, but Power referenced the play.

1974 New York Giants

But like most football, this term “pinch” or "power" were also not ubiquitous. Indeed, some preferred to refer to any playside combo working to the backside as “Power," as seen in the Rams Offensive Playbook.

1970s Rams Offensive Playbook

By the 1980s, Off tackle Power was now emphatically known in most circles as just “Power.” And this is also where we really start to see different branches of Power and how they fit into the various schemes. Right now, we’ll stick in this 21 Personnel Off-Tackle area before branching into other areas.

A Shift in Aim

While some began to install I-formation rapidly, the overall shift away from split backs was more gradual. And indeed, the teaching of the concept was also slow to change.

In the early 1980s, you still see Power taught similarly from split backs and I-formation. Here we compare the 1982 Bill Walsh playbook to the 1985, and note the split backs still favors an initial aiming point near the midline of the TE. The threat, of course, is the sweep, while the ball carrier cuts it inside the kickout block and stays on the hip of the puller.

1982 San Francisco 49ers Offensive Playbook

1985 San Francisco 49ers Offensive Playbook

Notice, though, that while the plays look nearly identical, the RB's intended hole has moved inside by 1985. But yet with I-Formation teams such as Houston, you see Power actually initiated with a Toss (it should be noted that the Rams primarily used zone between the tackles, and gap schemes to get outside).

1983 Houston Oilers Offensive Playbook

By the 1990s, you see definitive evidence in how I-formation is shaping the direction of Power. Here, the RB's aiming point has moved slightly inside to the outside hip of the PST.

1990 Colorado Offensive Playbook

And you see now, with the backside OT, he is hinging instead of potentially releasing to the second level. The aiming point has begun moving inside, and the RB path must now be protected on the backside. 

By 2000s, teams began setting their aiming point to the inside leg of the OT or even outside foot of the guard.

2001 Dallas Cowboys Offensive Playbook

2000 Tennessee Offensive Playbook

A Counter Step for Timing
Besides the tightening of the aiming point, another development you see is the introduction of the counter step to the play. The aiming point remained relatively unchanged at first, the primary point being a return to the timing of something more similar to the split backs timing, giving proper spacing relationship between the Puller and the ball carrier.

1997 Buffalo Bills Offensive Playbook

1998 Oakland Raiders Playbook

2000 Cleveland Browns Offensive Playbook

But eventually, you see even with the counter step that the aiming point moves inside as well.

2003 Nebraska Playbook

It is, in fact, interesting, that in the mid-1980s, Nebraska had no Off-tackle Power O (we'll get back to this). By the mid-90s they did, as they started favoring more I-Formation offense. And by 2003, under the same offensive scheme (Osborne being Nebraska Head Coach from 1973-1997, and Frank Solich being the RB coach from 1983-1997, where he became head coach from 1998-2003)

1997 Nebraska Offensive Playbook

Interestingly, by the mid-2000s, Power started to lose some favor to Inside Zone. The Miami dynasty, OSU's National Title team, and Ladainian Tomlinson had made a killing with Power, but Inside zone was still finding favor. But when it came time for a changeup, it was no longer Counter that teams turned back to, it was once again Power. And with the Power Read and Stanford/49ers success, Power football found new life.

The A-B-C of Off-Tackle Power
By the late 2000s, the path of the RB became definitively downhill, aiming at the playside A-gap. Reading A to B to C gap, and with the use of a shuffle pull, the puller doing the same (pulling at first evidence of off-color).

2010 Auburn Offensive Playbook

2014 San Francisco Offensive Playbook

Note how David Shaw talks about runningback footwork now changing to draw footwork to ensure he receives the ball deep in the backfield and allows him to really press the A Gap.

Coming Up
But the evolution of Power took other paths as well. In the next post we are going to look at how Power developed through the option offenses, how it took root in the spread revolution, and how teams attempted to maintain Power Sweep and the 3-back elements that originally defined Power.

Part III - The Modern Era of Power Diversity


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