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How Oxford football is learning from the NFL to maximize a veteran offense in 2019

A high school football coach once said that you’re not doing your job to the best of your ability if you’re not looking at and taking concepts and ideas from other teams. It’s not stealing – it’s all public knowledge – it’s just learning from the best.

For the Oxford Chargers and their coaching staff, they took the 2019 offseason to learn from one NFL team, the Kansas City Chiefs.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has been a head coach in the NFL since 1999. He has one of the largest coaching trees in the NFL, including six current-day head coaches and four others no longer at that spot.

In the 2018 season, the Chiefs led the NFL in total yards gained and points (35.3). They were the most efficient offense in the league, by DVOA, coming in at over 30 percent better than average. If there’s any offense to model a team’s game after – and Oxford head coach Chris Cutcliffe is an offensive-minded man – the Chiefs are a good start.

“It’s been a lot of fun to watch. We’ve spent a lot of time this offseason studying the way they use Travis Kelce, which obviously fits our personnel right now,” Cutcliffe said. “They’re just really creative and use a lot of outside the box things for the NFL. I’ve watched them a good bit this offseason.”

Travis Kelce is the Chiefs’ All-Pro tight end. Kelce finished second in the NFL in yards for a tight end but scored twice as many touchdowns as the man who out-gained him by just 2.6 yards per game.

For Oxford, they have their own game-changing threat at the tight end position with senior J.J. Pegues. Pegues, a 4-star recruit with offers from Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and LSU, among others, can be that Kelce-like threat for the Chargers in 2019. At 280 pounds, Pegues caught just 28 passes as a junior. The Chargers seem to be putting him in line to be a considerably bigger factor this season.

It’s nice that, for high school coaches in 2019, game tape and football content are so readily available. People used to be very guarded about film, but now, college football games are free to re-watch on ESPN. For $100 a year, viewers can get full access to every NFL game that’s been played, including a coach’s film angle. A software called Hudl allows high school players to watch cut-up game film on their computers, iPhones or tablets. It’s almost football malpractice to not take advantage of the bevy of options available to improve the team.

“It’s cool now because there’s so many great recourses. There are so many smart football people out there. You can just open Twitter and it’s a coaching clinic on football anytime you want it,” Cutcliffe said. “You can open NFL Gamepass and for pretty cheap you have every NFL game every year. It’s phenomenal. The recourses out there make learning so much easier.”

As far as learning from Kansas City’s creativity, the Chiefs have a system. Reid has a large white board installed in his office where assistants are encouraged, if not required, to design one or two really unique, off the wall plays a week. The team tries to get at least one of them into the game plan every week. It’s a way to empower assistants, but also refrain from falling into the rigid structure that many football guys fall victim to.

Cutcliffe said he doesn’t have a process in-place similar to that of the Chiefs, but creativity and better ways to do things are always encouraged. The staff certainly has some fun designing plays, be it trick plays or not, they they’ll use or will just ride the back-burner until the appropriate time.

What the team won’t be able to emulate is Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. It’s an added bonus to spending a lot of offseason time watching the Chiefs. In Cutcliffe’s words: “man, is he just fun to watch.”

Oxford can’t realistically ask quarterback John Meagher to instantly mimic Mahomes’ rocket arm and wild no-look passes, but they scheme on offense in an Andy Reid-esque style to use a sort of deception, creating space for easy throws for the second-year starter.

For Chris Cutcliffe and Oxford football, he could just as easily learn from and try to re-create some of the systems employed by his father at Duke. After all, it’s a system that just got a quarterback drafted in the first round. And indeed, Cutcliffe does just that, to an extent. But a focus of this year was looking two levels up, to learn from what was arguably the best offense in the world in 2018.


You can reach Nathanael Gabler at nathanael.gabler@oxfordeagle.com with news tips, suggestions or comments. Follow @ngabler4 on Twitter.