Recently, the former-Wide Receivers Coach of the Colts (Clyde Christensen) was promoted to Offensive Coordinator, taking over the play-calling duties for longtime OC Tom Moore. Moore is still on the team as a consultant, retaining his "Senior Offensive Coordinator" title and his game-planning duties.
When Christensen was promoted, one of the first bits of news to come out of the promotion was that the offense would be "tweaked." Care to guess what one of those "tweaks" will be? From Adam Shefter, via his ESPN colleague Paul Kuharsky:
"Colts coach Jim Caldwell is thinking about playing some four WR sets with Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garçon, Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez."
Shocking, isn't it? The former-Wide Out Coach wants to use four wide sets in 2010. Kuharsky's blurp immediately following Shefter's news is hilarious:
I automatically started thinking of secondary depth in the division and how it would stack up against that. Nobody in the league has the kind of corner and secondary depth needed to stand up to that personnel grouping with Peyton Manning at the controls.
There are a few reasons for us fans to get excited about four-WR sets. First, they're fun! It's fun to see 4 WRs spread out, running zig-zags all over the field with the QB throwing darts to them. We saw the Saints win a Super Bowl against us using 4 WR sets. We saw the Steelers win one against the Cardinals using 4 WR sets. We saw the Patriots win 18 straight games in the 2007 season using 4 WRs.
People who say you need to run the football to win are stupid people who do not know modern football. You throw to win. If I hear one more dinosaur coach tell me running the ball wins championships, I swear I'm going to scream.
The second reason 4 WR packages makes sense is the Colts have got to think of some way to utilize Anthony Gonzalez. At one point, this guy was the heir apparent to Brandon Stokley. Then, after a few reasonably successful seasons, he was supposed to take over for Marvin Harrison. Now, with Collie and Garçon firmly entrenched at the slot and flanker positions, Gonzo is suddenly the Aaron Morehead of the team. However, unlike Morehead, Gonzo has significant ability, and the Colts cannot just leave him to play special teams or rot on the bench. They either need to use him or trade him. Going to more 4 WR sets is a good start to utilizing him more.
Now, when considering going more 4-wide, this begs the question: What about Dallas Clark?
Clark, for all intent and purposes, is a starting-caliber WR. In fact, he's better than most WRs people consider "premiere." He's better than Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Braylon Edwards, Santana Moss, and Brandon Marshall.
Yes, I said it. Clark > Marshall.
I've never seen Clark dodge or shirk contact, or punk out on his team the way Marshall has done repeatedly with the Broncos. Ask Broncos fans how they feel about Marshall after he seemingly quit on the team following the announcement that he was a Pro Bowl WR. Also, when you stack up their numbers the last three years, Clark has more touchdowns (27) than Marshall (23) and is right there with Marshall in yards-per-reception (11 ypc for Clark, 12 ypc for Masrhall). Clark is better than Marshall, and it's fairly obvious.
So, considering that the Colts tight end is better than the primary wide receiver on a team like the Broncos, why should the Colts go to more 4 WR sets? Those sets suggest that Clark is standing on the sidelines.
Have no fear. I have a remedy:
GO FIVE WIDE, BABY!
Seriously, why not go to a 5 WR set with Clark in there as well? In fact, why not have Dallas standing next to Peyton in shotgun? He can be utilized for protection, run a pattern from the backfield, or throw a kick-out block on a Garçon or Gonzo reverse.
Regardless of what decisions the coaches make on this, it is nice to see that they are not just standing pat with their offense. A staple of Tom Moore is to craft the offense around your talent, not try and make players fit your system. It seems Christensen agrees with this philosophy, and it suggests that the Colts offense will be just fine in 2010.