Ray's Replies: Sid Gillman and two TE set
I loved your piece on the evolving tight end position
. Maybe if Cornelius Ingram had been able to recover (from his knee surgery), the Eagles would have been a step ahead of New England.
Anyway, as I read your column, I was hoping -- though I knew it was far from central to your main point -- that you would give a shout out to Sid Gillman and how he persuaded Dick Vermeil to use more two tight end sets during the 1979-81 period.
Of course, Keith Krepfle and John Spagnola were a far cry from Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But the fundamental principles behind Gillman’s two tight end set seem to be the same now: balance and match-up challenges. Another example of how smart coaches (like Bill Belicheck) reach back for “new” ideas.-- Marc Garber, Marietta, Ga.
Sid Gillman was a great football coach, a Hall of Famer who was highly influential in the evolution of offense. He was 68 and retired when Dick Vermeil convinced him to join the Eagles staff as quarterback coach in 1979. In that role, Gillman greatly expanded the playbook, putting in more motion and new formations, which included greater use of two tight ends.
The advantage of two tight ends, Gillman said, was it made it harder for the defense. If a team played one tight end, it had a strong side (the side with the tight end) and weak side (away from the tight end) and the defense could key on that. If a team had two tight ends, it created a balanced formation which meant the offense could run or throw to either side with the same number of players.
It also helped that Spagnola joined the Eagles in 1979, the same year that Gillman joined the coaching staff, and he was a much better receiver than any second tight end the team had before that. He and Krepfle were a very effective pairing in that offense.
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