Dan Fouts called back and offered some additional insights into a reader question about whether the offense Mike Martz runs is related to the one Tom Moore installed and used with so much success in Indianapolis. Martz is quick to point out that the offense he is bringing to Chicago isn't "his" but the system he learned from former Chargers coach Don Coryell and later refined.
Fouts, who developed into a Hall of Fame quarterback under Coryell, seemed like the best person to ask.
"I don't know to what extent that the basis of the offense is built on the "Air Coryell" system, as far as the numbering, reads and stuff like that," he said. "But there is the same emphasis on getting the ball down the field instead of throwing it laterally. The biggest difference between what Coryell wanted to do and the West Coast offense is that Coryell always stressed to me look deep first because those opportunities don't come along very often. If you have a shot down the field -- and one guy went deep on every play --- look deep first and then look at your shorter receivers."
I asked him how difficult the system will be for Jay Cutler to learn.
"I don't think it's tough at all. But that's just me. I don't know Jay that well. I've only met him a couple times. But he appears to be an intelligent young man who should be able to pick it up and have success with it. The toughest thing is the discipline necessary to make it work. It's a timing-based offense and you have to be disciplined in your drops and reads and get the ball out quickly."
I told Fouts about how during a recent minicamp Cutler seemed uncomfortable throwing to a spot instead of a man, which the offense requires, and how he looked more comfortable doing that during OTAs.
"That's the adjustment that's tough to make. When you have a real strong arm like Jay has you're not forced to anticipate and throw the ball early. When you have a gun like that you rely on waiting to see them open up and getting it to them and in the NFL that gets you in trouble because the reaction time of defenses is so good. That's the one thing I had to learn is the trust of the system to put the ball in a spot and that just takes time and practice."
As for Moore, his offense is based more closely on run-and-shoot type schemes. Moore won two Super Bowl rings while an assistant for Chuck Noll in Pittsburgh. He later became the offensive coordinator for the Lions, which under his watch led the league in total offense in 1995.
He was an ideal fit for the cerebral Manning and the Colts. Rather than using motion, Moore's no-huddle attack relies on the quarterback reading the defense and adjusting accordingly prior to the snap. Oftentimes, it's as simple as Manning using his cadence to make defenses think he's about to snap the ball when in actuality he's just trying to make the defense commit so he can adjust and exploit the defensive play-call.
While Martz runs his base plays out of dozens of different formations, the Colts run most of their plays out of the same formation.
"I just marvel at Peyton's understanding and what he orchestrates at the line of scrimmage," Fouts said. "Tom just doesn't get enough credit for the success he's gotten everywhere he's gone. It's a mystery to me why his name isn't mentioned with the great offensive coordinators of all time."