It’s not often that we get insight into an NFL coach’s philosophy in a ready made package for NFL fans to digest. Yet, we have just that for new 49ers quarterback’s coach Steve Logan.
In 2007 Coaches Choice published two DVDs where Logan outlines his passing game philosophies. One DVD covers the 3, 5, and 7 step passing game while the other covers play action and sprint out passing plays.
Much of the content is based on his 10 years at East Carolina and while we can only assume that some of his thinking has evolved over time, we can also safely assume that much of what he outlines in these DVDs are lessons he carries with him to this day.
Before I dive into the content there is one key caveat to note: We don’t know exactly how much influence Logan will have on the 49ers offense. We might know more about Logan’s thoughts than Geep Chryst but that doesn’t mean he’s inherently more qualified, or would be a better coordinator. This is simply a foray into the thoughts of the man who is now charged with developing the 49ers' 126 million dollar quarterback.
The basic structure of the DVDs is simple. Logan details his philosophy on why an offense needs to have packages with 3, 5, and 7 step drops as well as play action and sprint out passes. Logan then details when he prefers to use each package.
For 49ers fans it’s important to note that this is all based on West Coast passing concepts. Logan referred to himself on his radio show as being "very familiar" with the West Coast Offense and that definitely shined through.
Many of the concepts he detailed on the white board were WCO staples:
- The Shallow Cross or Drive. ("We’ll never get away from this as long as I’m coaching here [at ECU]"
- The Smash. (This is one of Colin Kaepernick’s preferred route combinations.)
- The Molly Block. (This was a block pioneered by Bill Walsh in the 80’s to combat a young Lawrence Taylor.)
Logan easily drew up Bill Walsh staples like Hank (curl-flat), Dragon (slant-flat), and, of course, the good ‘ol Y-Banana. (Drink!). He clearly knows his way around a WCO playbook, something that bodes well as many of these concepts were core components of Jim Harbaugh’s playbook. For a team looking to "reload" continuity in passing concepts might be critical.
The 3-Step Drop: Controlling Coverages
For Logan, the 3-step drop is all about controlling coverages and winning on first down with easy completions. Quite simply if you have a numbers advantage in the box you run, and if not you pass. His first down calls are "check with me" calls, relying heavily on audibles to take what the defense gives you.
Perhaps most interesting is Logan’s "compassion towards the offensive line." The 3-step game allows the lineman to go attack the defender, something they don’t get to do in other pass sets. Logan also strongly advocates the cut-block game as an attacking blocking method.
Logan prefers to run the 3-step game on 1st and 10, when the field becomes compressed vertically. The concept of vertical compression is incredibly important to Logan and he mentions it often.
Approximately 30% of of throws come from the 3-step game in Logan’s offense.
The 5-Step Drop: Possession Passing
Controlling possession via the pass is at the core of Logan’s 5-step passing philosophy. Drawing up a 5-step game means leveraging 10–12 yard routes, and it definitely needs to involve the running back. This is where you pile up first downs.
Logan wants his quarterback to read the field from one side to the other and, given the route depth and timing, attack the linebackers. But perhaps more important than scanning is throwing hot. Logan emphasized throwing hot extensively, requiring the quarterback to draw up protection schemes to identify free rushers, and the resulting free receiver. "We can protect you with 6 players, if you can protect yourself against the 7th" says Logan.
Yards after the catch is a continual theme, but Logan hammers the point home in this section. He even references the "handoff throw." When throwing to a back Logan wants the quarterback to throw 6-inches in front of the number of the back, mimicking a handoff.
The preferred down and distance for a 5-step call is 2nd and 6, or 3rd and 3–7. Once you get to the 35 yard line Logan says you have 45 yards of vertical field to play with, making a 5-step call ideal. As long as the O-Line can to hold up for 2.6–2.7 seconds, the QB should be able to make a 5-step throw.
The 7-Step Drop: The Knockout
The 3-step game causes defenses to move up to protect against quick throws. The 5-step game backs them up a little, but DBs will sit on routes if you continually run 10–12 yard routes. That’s Logan hits them with the 7-step concepts.
7-step plays will keep 7 to 8 defenders in to block, and the quarterback should get 9 and 3/4 yards depth and should get there in 1.9 seconds. Logan wants the QB to get away from the mess that is the line of scrimmage and the extra steps allow routes to develop 15–17 yards downfield.
However, "We don’t run full field packages with a 7-step passing game," says Logan of the passing progression. "But if you get reckless we might release a tight end and get a dump throw."
After watching the DVDs, the impression I got is that Logan is very much a "why" guy. All of his packages had a purpose and he continually reminded the viewer that the purpose of the package dictated its utilization.
The passing packages also worked together. Logan did not just call a passing play because he liked it. The different passing packages worked as an integrated unit; each one setting up the defense to react one way only to use that reaction against them.
In part 2 of this series I’ll look at Logan’s Sprint Out and Play Action passing game philosophy, plus the axioms he thinks every quarterback needs to be successful.