Who is Alex Gibbs?

I was pretty excited about the news that the Seahawks had signed Alex Gibbs, but it’s clear that not everyone understGibbs and the Texansood why. That’s totally fair, he is, after all, just an offensive line coach. Ask me to name any offensive line coach in the league whose name is neither Solari or Gibbs, and I might make a name up and sprint out the door. The reason I know Gibbs is that I did a bit of reading up on this new “zone blocking scheme” that Knapp was going to get going in Seattle. Well, it didn’t work out too well with Knapp and Solari, in large part because of injuries and perhaps larger part because of personnel. So, who is this guy?

The Godfather

Alex Gibbs is the Godfather of the Zone Blocking System. No one in the NFL has been as influential on the offensive line as Gibbs. After spending 14 years in the college ranks (Duke, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio State, Auburn, Georgia), Gibbs made the move to the NFL with the Broncos in 1984. He stuck there through ’87 before hopping over to the Raiders, Chargers, Colts and Chiefs before winding up back in Denver in 1995. He stayed there through 2003 and with Mike Shanahan put together some of the best offensive lines in NFL history, creating thousand yard rushers out of nobodies.

Remember Terrell Davis? He’s one of six NFL rushers to ever top 2,000 yards, which he did behind a phenomenal offensive line in Denver. John Elway’s success was driven by the pass protection in many ways. What is most amazing is that these aren’t high draft picks that Gibbs is working with. The earliest a team with Gibbs on the staff has ever drafted a tackle is 26th, which was by the Texans in 2008; prior to that, it was 121st. The average pick since 1995 for Tackles is #137, Guards/Centers is #138 and Running Backs is #144.

Gibbs trusts his system and he implements it. He is a teacher and a hardass. If you’re failing to get it done, you won’t get it done because you’ll be riding a bench. Offensive linemen will cut block, they will do it often, and they will do it effectively. This isn’t Knapp and Mora, you won’t be given a season to “get it.”

What can we expect?

First of all: fewer sacks. In 25 years of coaching, an Alex Gibbs offensive line has rarely allowed more than 35 sacks and from 1995-2000 that did not happen once. In 2009 with the Texans, the O-Line allowed only 25 sacks vs 593 pass attempts, or 4.2% of the time. The Seahawks allowed 41 sacks last year vs 609 attempts or 6.7 sack rate.

Secondly, you can expect a better run game. We heard this last year, but that was more about rushing yards than yards per attempt, a much more important stat. Pete Carroll yesterday laid out that the most important thing for this team is to get the running game going strong, and there is no one better suited to do that than Alex Gibbs. From 2007 to 2008, Gibbs improved the YPC of Texans running backs from 3.7 to 4.3, a franchise record. Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot of yards, but taken over 400 rush attempts that’s an extra 240 yards. It’s also the difference between a first down and a punt on a whole lot of run attempts.

Third, Alex Gibbs’ offenses have been able to be balanced and allow the OC to game plan. If your offense cannot both run and pass the ball effectively, they can be easily gameplanned for and shut down. Everyone knew going into the Cardinals game this past year that the Seahawks were going to pass 100 times and none would be more than about 7 yard passes. They sniffed that out and that was that. We couldn’t run, we were practically paralytic at times. We couldn’t protect Hasselbeck long enough to let a play develop. Alex Gibbs and Jeremy Bates can fix that issue. Gibbs can protect, and Bates can keep it interesting and game plan around defenses rather than around our crappy offense.

Fun Facts

  • I tweeted a couple of these last night, but here those are and some more
  • In 25 years, teams with Alex Gibbs as a coach have drafted precisely 6 offensive tackles, 3 in last 5 years. One of those: Brandon Frye.
  • Since 1995, no team with Alex Gibbs as a coach has drafted a running back in 1st round; Clinton Portis at 51, Jerrious Norwood at 79, Steve Slaton at 89.
  • In 25 years, teams with Alex Gibbs have drafted 33 running backs or 1.3 per year. In recent years, they have often relied on free agency to grab journeyman backs who, under Gibbs, can run for 1,000 yards.
  • Highest picks per position: Tackle – 26 in 2008, Guard/ Center – 47 in 1991 and 61 in 1999, running back – 25 in 1994 and 51 in 2002. I break up pre and post 1994 because that’s about when Free Agency really started kicking.

(Disclaimer: Gibbs has had nothing to do with drafting except when asked for input on what he needs. Still, telling that he’s had so much success with such low picks.)