There are a handful of times throughout each week that I notice how much simpler life would be if it weren't for the rapid rate at which technology drives our everyday lives. It's not that I'm necessarily against technology so don't get me wrong, I write on a blog for crying out loud. But I just notice every once in a while that when I step back and look at things from a different perspective that things become much clearer, and that's not always a good thing.
Wednesday's news cycle was dominated with headlines of Tebowmania and Bountygate. Obviously people want to know where the now former Denver Broncos quarterback, Tim Tebow, was going to be playing next season. He was traded to the New York Jets, and then wasn't traded as they argued over $5 million dollars, and then he was actually traded for a couple of mid-round picks. This dominated the headlines for most of the day on Wednesday.
Whenever they wanted to take a break from talking about the new backup quarterback for an 8-8 team in New York, they talked about the New Orleans Saints' punishment for the bounty program under former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and current head coach Sean Payton. I get that these are stories, but as I sit here writing this story at 1:15am on Thursday morning (Wednesday night) the biggest sports website in the world, ESPN, on their football main page doesn't even have a mention of NFL icon, Ron Erhardt's passing away on Wednesday morning at his home in Boca Raton, Florida. It's not even 18 hours after it happened and the fact that it's not even mentioned right now just seems wrong to me. Maybe I'm crazy.
Ron Erhardt is one of the founding fathers' of the offensive system that a good number of NFL teams still run to this day. The Erhardt-Perkins offensive system, also known as E.P., has been adopted and adapted by coaches following the Bill Parcells tree of coaching throughout the NFL since the mid 70's. Erhardt and Ray Perkins both worked together as offensive assistants for the New England Patriots in the mid 70's under then defensive-minded head coach, Chuck Fairbanks.
Erhardt had been quoted as saying "pass to score, run to win", and that's a lot of the basic philosophy of this system that he and Perkins created. It was originally thought-of as smash-mouth football as two of the first teams to employ this system were the Northeastern teams in New York and New England, where Perkins worked for both teams having first joined the NFL ranks as the backfield coach for the New England Patriots in 1973. He held that position for four seasons before being promoted to offensive coordinator and then head coach of the Patriots from 1979-81.
In 1982 Erhardt joined the New York Giants as offensive coordinator for then head coach Ray Perkins, whom he had worked with as an assistant with the Patriots. Towards the end of that season in 1982, Perkins decided to leave the Patriots to become head and athletic director at the University of Alabama, and that created an opportunity for Bill Parcells to be promoted from linebackers coach/defensive coordinator and take over as head coach of the Giants. Parcells had been Erhardt's linebackers coach for the Patriots in 1980 when Erhardt was head coach there, and Parcells returned the favor and kept Erhardt on the staff, which proved to be a wise move.
Erhardt spent 10 seasons with the New York Giants and eight of those seasons were as offensive coordinator under Bill Parcells ('83-'90). Before the 1983 season the New York Giants had just one winning season in the previous 10 years. But the eight seasons that Parcells and Erhardt were together in New York included five playofff berths, three NFC East titles and two Super Bowls.
Some of the NFL coaches that have been linked to this EP offensive philosophy, or Parcells coaching tree, would be Bill Cowher, Bill Belicheck, Sean Payton, Tony Sparano, Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels and Marvin Lewis. These aren't all offensive-minded coaches but the coaching tree extends way beyond these few coaches.
The EP system from a rushing standpoint was to put focus on running between the tackles and having the offensive guards pull and trap frequently. Their running backs were not used to catch the ball out of the backfield when the system was originally devised, although that has been adapted to fit today's pass-happy NFL. Normally you would see the majority of passes as play-action deep passes as it was the run that set up the pass.
This is different from Bill Walsh's West Coast System that was build around short-quick, high-percentage passes and utilizing the backs out of the backfield to catch the ball. It's also different from the "Air Coryell" system that's focus is on down-field passing routes that are built around timing and precision. The language is also different as the EP system is built mainly around numbers to set the formations as the West Coast System uses colors to differentiate the different offensive formations. It's one of the reasons that you'll hear why some quarterbacks will have an easier transition to "so and so's" team because they'll be familiar with the terminology.
It's easy to see how and why Ron Erhardt had made such an impact on the game of football and the way that it's played today. A good portion of the league is still using the basic principles of an offensive system that he devised over 40 years ago. His impact on the game reaches much farther than just the two Super Bowls he won with the New York Giants. This is a man that changed the game forever. It's now up to the generation of football fans that are coming along after he's gone to continue to discuss a man that deserves more than just a ticker at the bottom of an ESPN story on who's feelings are hurt worse? Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez.
This thirst-for-knowledge from fans has built the NFL into the empire it is today and it's helped create some fantastic avenues for finding out more news and information about people's favorite teams. But it's also created a monster in that these avenues are swaying towards the most trafficked stories and what people are most inclined to watch on TV as they decide how to determine their programming that particular day. This leads to missed opportunities for these stations and sites to step-back, gain some perspective, and try and see things a little more clearly. We all owe it to the Ron Erhardt's of the NFL world to share their story because of what they have done for this game. Let's show some damn respect for these guys and share their story with the world.