METAIRIE, La. – Joe Brady was happy in New Orleans.
After two seasons as an offensive assistant with the Saints, the 29-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Fla. wasn’t looking for another job. He’s always been the type of person to make sure, in his own words, “my head is always where my butt is.”
“I’m never looking for the next job,” LSU’s first-year passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach said Monday at the TAF Coaches Caravan at the Walk-On’s in Metairie. “What I mean by that is, if you take care of where you’re at, everything else will take care of itself.
“But I saw LSU as an elite opportunity.”
Brady joined Ed Orgeron’s staff in January with a clear motivation. The chance to join a program of LSU’s stature was alluring, and so was the chance to put his fingerprints on an offense ready to take the next step.
“Having an opportunity to put a stamp on the offense, to help take LSU to the next level from an offensive perspective, was an opportunity I didn’t think I could pass up,” he said.
For nearly 20 minutes on Monday, Brady broke down his offensive philosophy, as he works alongside offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger to improve the Tiger attack heading into 2019.
Here are some of the principles he’s aiming to bring to the table, as he gets set for his first season on the job.
Speed in Space
A few weeks ago, Brady made headlines when, in a tweet, he encouraged LSU fans to have their popcorn ready for the new offense.
On Monday, he expanded on that comment, laying out a mission statement for the offense that is as simple as it is exciting.
“You’re going to see an up-tempo offense that’s going to get our speed in space,” Brady said.
The goal of the new offense, which will feature an expansion of run-pass option (RPOs) calls and a no-huddle, quick-tempo style, is to make the other defense defend all 11 Tigers. If Brady, Ensminger, and the rest of the offensive staff can put LSU’s skill players in positions to make plays, they’re confident that the talent will take over.
“If we can get our speed in space and allow our guys to win their one-on-ones, the rest is going to take care of itself,” Brady said. “We believe that we have the athletes in our building that, if we get them in a one-on-one situation, they’re going to make us look good and they’re going to make themselves look good. The more opportunities we get can people in one-on-one matchups, the better.”
Brady doesn’t like to talk about his receivers individually. Asked about Justin Jefferson, who is the team’s leading returning receiver after catching 54 passes for 875 yards and six touchdowns, Brady preferred to speak about the wide receiver room as a whole, which he feels is as competitive and confident a unit as he’s been around.
“We don’t ever speak on our guys individually,” Brady said. “I love how Justin’s working. But as a group, these guys work each other. We’re understanding this offense. Everybody’s going to have their opportunities. We say everyone’s going to eat.”
Not just the receivers, either. Ideally, Brady would like to see the passing game use the running backs and tight ends even more.
“As an offense we want to get the running backs out in routes,” Brady said. “Running backs, at the end of the day, they’re here to run the ball and catch passes. They’re not signed to play at LSU because they’re dynamic blockers. That’s what offensive linemen are for. Are they going to have to do it? Yes. But the more we can get them in routes, the more defenses will be limited in what they can do because they have to take that into consideration.”
At receiver, LSU is no longer teaching players how to play specific positions. Terminology like X, Y, Z, and F are all still in the lingo, but Brady’s preference is to be able to move every skill player around, depending on the matchup and defensive formation.
“We don’t want any of our guys learning a position,” he said. “They’re learning concepts. We can move everybody around the field.”
Brady believes that defenses who know where certain players are going to line up can dictate and take away aspects of an offense. His preference is to do the dictating.
“We have the ability to move a guy from the boundary to the slot, from the slot to the field. So at the end of the day, his job doesn’t change. He just knows the scheme.
“If we can move guys around, if we can get guys into positions that they want to get into to attack the people in the coverages in areas, now we’re at the advantage.”
That versatility extends to the entire offense. One thing he picked up during his time with the Saints was how dangerous an offense can be when every personnel group can line up in every formation. That means splitting fullbacks out wide or bringing wide receivers into the backfield – every player knowing every spot, as much as possible.
“If you watch New Orleans from a historic standpoint, the thing they do better than anyone in the league: you can go in any given set with any personnel group,” he said. “The more personnel groups we can run to keep defenses off guard, whether its rotating on the field from spread formations, putting the fullback in-line formations with the quarterback, it limits what the defense can do.”
A big part of Brady’s philosophy is to attack pressure. It ties in with making the defense defend with all 11 players. When the blitz comes, Brady believes it’s best to go right at it.
“Statistically it shows that when you’re in five-man protection, five-man protections give up less sacks,” he said. “A lot of people think when you get a lot of pressure you need to bring the box in and bring in max protections, seven-man protections. But I think when you actually go five-man protection, you actually get the ball out faster. You limit what defenses can do.”
The screen game is an area he sees as ripe for improvement. LSU had an NFL quarterback rating of just 81.9 on halfback screens last season, 17.9 points below the NCAA average of 99.8, according to data from Pro Football Focus.
“You can’t allow teams to continue to send pressure,” Brady said. “You have to keep them on edge. We’re going to be able to, as an offense, apply pressure. If we can do that, if we can get the ball to the running back and keep them off base by throwing in screens, then we’re doing our job, as opposed to waiting for a defense to apply pressure to us.”
Brady’s biggest point of emphasis was the collaborative nature of the offense. It starts and ends with Ensminger, but Brady feels empowered by Ensminger and Orgeron to have a big say in the offense.
“There’s one thing about Steve Ensminger: he loves LSU,” Brady said. “He’s humble. He makes the final decision, but he’ll listen to everybody’s thoughts. All he wants is for LSU to have success. When you work for a guy who doesn’t feel like my way is the only way, you enjoy working with that, you enjoy that interaction every day.”
The plan is for both coaches to be in the booth. Ensminger will call the plays, and Brady will have the next one ready. Brady admires Ensminger, saying he hopes he “can be Steve when I’m...however many years older he is than me.” They’ve collaborated with the rest of the offensive staff to craft the attack, and on game day, they’ll collaborate to make sure the game is called to LSU’s best advantage.
“It’s my job to have ideas, especially in the passing game,” he said. “I’m seeing a certain coverage, I’m seeing a certain look in the run game, throw some advice at Steve. But at the end of the day, Steve’s obviously the one calling the games, and every coach should be ready for that. Steve wants that give and take. He trusts us.”