Continuing on with the final part of the 2006 Holiday Bowl analysis, we explore the notion that Dunbar’s offense was finesse and not physical.
For the final part of this analysis, I would like to talk about the common misconception that with Dunbar we abandoned our "smash mouth", and "physical" style of play for a finesse offense. Frankly, I hate hearing stuff like that said because it’s about as true as the whole "SEC owns the Pac-10" cattle excrement that we hear all the time.
What really started up this whole "Dunbar=finesse" talk was the Tennessee game. In that game we saw our beloved Bears get mauled to death when they were the ones who were supposed to do the mauling. We saw a lot of shotgun (56% shotgun of the non-special situations snaps, and even more shotgun in the special situation plays), and a lot of failure. What happened there was we Cal fans began associating shotgun with failure. And in all honesty, who wouldn’t? Our Bears were getting worked when Longshore was in the shotgun. But, our Bears were also getting worked when Longshore was under center. We were hustled in general. When the dust settled, all that Bear fans seemed to remember was that our supposed fancy new spread offense of Dunbar’s sucked. All that shotgun sucked. The simple answer that most Cal fans concluded was we needed our old offense back. Our pro-style offense. Our "run first" offense back. Our "smash mouth" and "physical" offense back.
What happened in our train of thought, was that we let ourselves fall into the easy association of shotgun and the spread being a fast and flashy finesse offense. An offense where we would pass first, and run second. This association is just about along those lines of the whole "pass happy Pac-10 offenses" stereotype. This train of thought was not only aided by the fact that we did indeed pass a lot (because we were getting owned and not because Dunbar wanted to), but also aided by the fact that SEC homers were all over our internet chat boards saying that we got owned because SEC defenses are just too physical (not true). We began to think that the answer to our problem was to match physicalness with physicalness. And that physicalness would come by reverting back to our pro-style, smash mouth, run-first offense.
But in fact, I believe Dunbar has always tried to keep the Cal offense a run first offense. The stats from this Holiday Bowl confirm that Dunbar runs a run-first offense (recall that Dunbar ran the ball 60% of the time). I’ll admit that this is only one game out of 13 but it is truly significant because it shows what Dunbar wants to do in ideal situation when the offense is clicking. When the offense isn’t clicking, and things aren’t working, that’s when Dunbar might have to break off from the original game plan (think Tennessee game, think about all the dire situations, and all the times we had to pass). But going back to Dunbar keeping the offense pro-styled and run-first, in my Tennessee analysis I showed that Dunbar was calling pro-style offensive plays where we would usually run rather than pass. He utilized pro personnel sets at least 75% of the time when the situation allowed it. All that shotgun we saw was mostly because of the fact that we were forced into so many passing situations because our players were getting worked.
And in the Holiday Bowl against aTm, Dunbar again followed Tedford’s guidelines and called a pro-style game. He used pro personnel sets quite a bit (seen below) besides running the ball 60% of the time.
Liberty Situations Personnel Packages
As you can see, Dunbar utilized pro-style personnel sets (21 personnel [two backs, one TE, 2 WRs], and 12 personnel [one back, two TEs, 2 WRs]) at least 56% of the time (In fact, many of the personnel sets in the "other" section were also pro-style personnel sets so we can pretty much include the "other" section too). While Dunbar only used spread personnel 27% of the time (since a spread offense is very roughly defined as using 3 WRs or more).
This percentage of spread personnel sets is not all that different from our pre-Dunbar offenses. In case you don’t remember, Tedford HAS used 3 WR packages before. The only significant difference is that pre-Dunbar offenses used 3 WR packages from under center and not from shotgun. Nevertheless, that difference bridged the association between shotgun-spread offense and suckage. And whenever our offense faltered throughout the rest of the season, Dunbar and his shotgun-spread offense was to blame. Naturally, when we pounded the opposition into the ground I think most fans just assumed it was pretty much entirely because of the fact that our players were just better and not really because Dunbar’s offense was… working.
Remember those 5 straight games of 40+ points? Give Dunbar some credit. And the pretty much perfect Holiday Bowl? Gotta give Dunbar some props for that one. I know it’s hard to praise Dunbar when we can only seem to remember the Tennessee, Arizona, and $C games. Games that hurt our national reputation, and games that cost us the Rose Bowl. Games where we were eagerly looking for a scapegoat to explain why "our year to make a run for it" went south in the first game and final three games prior to the bowl. But in all honesty, Dunbar wasn’t that bad. We just let the hype of his arrival - as the shotgun spread genius - in combination with Jeff Tedford’s offensive genius, fire up our imaginations beyond realistic expectations. And we weren’t the only ones. The media jumped on the Ted-Spread - or whatever you want to call it - bandwagon prior to the season without even seeing us play a game. And Dunbar’s unequivocated expertise in the shotgun spread offense made him an even easier scapegoat - that and because we’re all a little homerish and think that Tedford certainly isn’t doing anything wrong so it’s gotta be somebody else’s fault.
Anyways, Dunbar’s okay in my book. And I hope you at least give him a little more consideration before you throw him, his playcalling, and his crappy spread offense back into the fire.