By Justis Mosqueda
Yesterday, Chris Ault was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs as a "Consultant". The first thing I though was: "Crap, I wish the Packers would have nabbed him." Dubbed as the Pistol Godfather, Ault really did change the game. In 2005 he started using the pistol formation at Nevada, which has since been modified for NFL usage. Last year, the 49ers took the pistol formation and a former Ault quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, to the Super Bowl. In eight years, the pistol went from being used at one FBS school, to used as the primary offense of a Super Bowl team. Much of this is due to the success that Ault had with the system at Nevada.
Kaepernick is burned into the eyes of Packer fans. His 181 rushing yards and 263 yards through the air ended the Packers 2012 season and their championship hopes. The defensive staff responded by traveling south to College Station to talk to Texas A&M's staff about the spread offense and the zone read. Their new head coach, Kevin Sumlin, helped transition A&M to SEC success. The Aggie quarterback by-product was Johnny "Football" Manziel, the first freshman Heisman winner in college football history. While Rodgers is an athletic quarterback, there's no way the Packers are going to make him into an option quarterback, like Manziel is in College Station.
The fact that the Packers went down to talk to offensive college coaches to find out how to stop their system made me instantly react to Ault the same way. I thought that he was going to be a preventative consultant for the Chiefs, trying to aid them into stopping the pistol, not installing it. I was wrong. It was announced today that the Chiefs were going to run the pistol offensively, Ault even noted, "Alex Smith could run the read system."
Along with Kansas City, Green Bay was one of three teams that offered Ault, but couldn't get him (the other two being Baltimore and Minnesota.) There is possibly more teams as Dan Wetzel, a writer for the New York Times, stated in February that Ault was tied to as many as six teams at the combine.
Why did Kansas City get Ault, but Green Bay didn't? Is it because the Chiefs offered him an offensive position and the Packers offered him a defensive position? We'll never know.
That got me thinking. I know the Packers looked very bad vs the zone read against both San Francisco and Minnesota. I know they did go to College Station to study up on how to stop it. I know Ault did turn Green Bay down. I know Rodgers isn't ready to run the ball with a 110 million dollar tag on his head, but maybe, just maybe, they wanted Ault to see if they could integrate the pistol into their offense.
The idea isn't as crazy as you'd think. I'm not saying that Rodgers would tuck it and run twenty times a game. While the pistol is connoted with the zone read, there are benefits that the pistol could give non-read offenses. The simple fact that the running back could run left or right would make the Packers running game more of a threat that it was in 2012, when five different running backs started for Green Bay.
That's really what the pistol is about. Balance. The running back lines up behind the quarterback, instead of on the sides. Say the running back is lined up to the right of the quarterback in the shotgun, he'd have to go left to get the ball, lose momentum, then turn right if he wanted to go right. In the pistol the running back acts the same as he would in a single back formation, but the quarterback gets a cheat by being back a few yards (about 4 yards from the center), not having to make so many steps to drop back. The quarterback is still deeper in his drop back than under-center snaps, and the defense doesn't know which way the running back is going to go.
Defensive football is about two things: cheating and gambling. Defenses weren't balanced against the 2012 Packers. They were allowed to "cheat"due to the poor running game. The poor running game lead to a poor play action game, in which Rodgers had worse stats in than the normal non-action passes. That's a punch to the gut. Play action stats are almost universally better than "normal" passing stats, but the now highest-paid player in the NFL was actually worse in those situations.
I'm not willing to bet anything on this, but it would not shock me to see the Packer running some variation of the pistol in 2013. McCarthy tends to try to stay ahead of the curve on the offensive side of the ball, and Rodgers could produce well in the pistol. I'm not sure if this matter at all, but Eddie Lacy, the 2013 second round pick out of Alabama, ran a lot of single back in college, and Johnathan Franklin, the 2013 forth round pick out of UCLA, ran two years of the pistol system in college. With the potential top two running backs on the depth chart running a similar system in college it would make the transition easier, wouldn't it?
The possibility is very much real, in my opinion. If the Packers ever want to experiment with Rodgers in the pistol, the time is now.
Justis Mosqueda is a Journalism student that writes for DraftFalcons.com, Packers-Backer.blogspot.com, and cuts videos of NFL Draft prospects for DraftBreakdown.com
You can follow Justis on Twitter: Twitter.com/justismosqueda