When the Buffalo Bills hired former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone to the same position, there was rampant speculation regarding the coaching staff he would put together. After an impressive hire of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the team then hired Marrone’s offensive coordinator at Syracuse, Nathaniel Hackett.
Hackett, who is just 33 years old and has one season of coordinating experience; at the college level; will be under the microscope throughout the 2013 season.
Hackett is the son of Paul, one of the more intelligent offensive minds in the game, with 41 years of coaching experience under his belt.
Paul Hackett, a former collegiate quarterback himself, coached the position at every level. I came across a transcript of a seminar he delivered in 1980, when he was serving as the USC assistant head coach about quarterback development.
Considering the Bills just selected E.J. Manuel, who has been deemed as a “developmental” quarterback, it was interesting to see just how similar Nathaniel coordinated the Syracuse offense almost exactly as his father did roughly 30 years prior.
The first point that Coach Hackett expressed in his clinic was to establish a consistent balance between the run and pass. He went on to explain that in order for progressive development in a young quarterback there are two keys: “Keep it simple and versatile.” Sound familiar?
Nathaniel Hackett had this to say to BuffaloBills.com regarding the selection of Manuel in the 2013 NFL draft.
“You could tell he was very excited. I think that compared to what he’s done the past five years, which has been very successful for him, I think the way that we do things and the way this whole system is developed around the quarterback and it’s about him becoming successful while still trying to be diverse and multiple.”
The next step in developing a young quarterback that Paul Hackett preached was prioritizing the player’s footwork in drops and hitches.
What has been the theme regarding Manuel throughout the first six days of offseason training activities? Manuel’s footwork.
Another eerie similarity between the elder Hackett and the skill set of the players on the Bills’ offense was that Hackett described the Trojans’ offense as a “perimeter running team,” with an emphasis on play action and roll outs.
According to Stats Inc., 125 of running back C.J. Spiller’s 207 carries last season were to the outside. Furthermore, Manuel’s athleticism and the threat he brings as a runner indicates that Nathaniel Hackett is taking a lot of his fathers’ philosophies into his own game plans.
Hackett explained that since it generally takes younger, more inexperienced quarterbacks a longer period of time to fully digest a full playbook, he explained that there are a variety of plays that can be used my implementing simple concepts.
When describing facing underneath coverage, Hackett diagrammed several plays that were based on a triangular zone that would assist the quarterback in making correct reads.
He stated, “One of the principles that we have used a great deal comes from the old front and back principle. I am going to put a man in front of a linebacker, and I am going to put a man behind the linebacker, and then I am going to have the quarterback make a decision which one to throw the ball to. I call this the ‘triangle’.”
Want a bit of evidence that Nathaniel is using his father’s philosophies? Take a look at this play drawn up by Paul Hackett – in 1980:
Then, watch this play that Syracuse ran in 2012 against Rutgers (nine second mark). It is essentially the same play with the same triangle concept, except the quarterback is in the shotgun instead of under center.
Hackett said that his main goal was to “convince the quarterback that no matter what defense he is facing, he will have the response and instinct to know what to do with the football.” To do this, he says to keep things simple; play terminology and even adding short notes next to specific plays within the playbook.
At USC, Hackett’s passing attack was predicated on high percentage passes in a timing offense, with three-to-five step drops. These are the exact offensive concepts that Coach Marrone and Hackett operated during their tenures at Syracuse.
While the game has obviously evolved tremendously in the 33 years it has been since Paul Hackett delivered his quarterback coaching clinic, Nathaniel has and is clearly using the primary principles that his father implemented in the past.