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Air Raid Q&A with an Air Raid Coach

Getting to know the system with Coach Ron McKie

NFL: Arizona Cardinals-OTA Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWO

We’ve all got questions about what the new offense will look like in Arizona. And I thought I’d try to get some answers by going straight to the source - a coach running the air raid. I’m a self proclaimed fanboy of the system, and one of my favorite resources on the internet is Coach Ron Mckie Jr.

Mr. Mckie is the Offensive Coordinator and QB Coach at Crestwood High School. He also runs, the Talking Football Podcast (a must listen) and has a very informative youtube channel.

He was very gracious with his time and answered some questions regarding the air raid. So let’s get into it.

Robert: Given the many staple concepts that feature the slot receiver, (Y-Cross, Y-Stick, Y-Corner, etc.) How pivotal would you say the slot wideout is in the air raid?*

Coach Mckie: The Slots make the offense go. They’re the guys you want the ball going to all the time. So if you don’t have those guys then it can be hard for the Air Raid to work. BUT, the great thing about the system is how it makes sure all the play makers touch the ball. That’s why the offense always has success. The ball always seems to find it’s way into the play makers hands - no matter where that play maker lines up. (On the outside, in the backfield, in the slots.)

*Writer’s Note: Confused? I’ll be breaking down some staple air raid concepts in the following weeks.

In what ways do you consider Kingsbury’s offense unique relative to other air raid coaches?

Coach Kingsbury tries different things more so than other air raid coaches. Coach Leach never changes up his plays and will stick with the tried and true concepts (95, 94, 92, 618, 6, etc.)* but Coach Kingsbury will tweak those concepts to fit his offense. I mean, say what you want about the his defense while at Texas Tech, but their offense put up HUGE numbers every single year.

*Writer’s Note: See above note.

NFL offenses have been using air raid concepts more and more these days. But this is the first time the pure air raid experience makes the jump. What adjustments do you see being made in that transition?

Honestly, I don’t know. I imagine the offense will allow the players a little more freedom in adjusting their routes during the play - the find grass, take grass mentality that a lot of Air Raid Coaches preach. But I think the biggest thing might be the practice structure. I don’t know how NFL practices are ran, but the Air Raid Philosophy of coaching focuses you on practicing a certain way EVERY DAY.

You have to ‘embrace the boredom’ to be a successful Air Raid team. Meaning, you have to be willing to work on the little things every single day - Pat n Go, Settle Up and Noose, Routes on Air, Team Pass, Screens, same individual drills during Indy - and not get bored.

Will Coach Kingsbury change that practice structure - installing the entire offense in 3 days and then repping it over and over again - because he is in the NFL? I don’t know. But it’s the thing I’m most curious about.

They’re different systems of course, but some doubters will point to Chip Kelly’s failures in the pros as a bad omen for Kingsbury. Where did Kelly fail and what lessons (if any) can we learn from his time in Philly?

I think Coach Kelly gets a horrible rap when it comes to his time in the NFL. If you look at how the Eagles won the Super Bowl - it was with his roster he put together and his offense. The only difference was the Eagles weren’t playing as fast as Coach Kelly.

I think ultimately, Coach Kelly failed because he butted heads with the wrong people. The front office and him weren’t on the same page and you need to be in order to be successful. Same thing happens at the high school level. If the administrators and the head coach aren’t on the same page then the program fails.

The Cardinals placed a huge value on taking in Kyler Murray despite having drafted Josh Rosen with a first round pick a year prior. As a playcaller and a QB coach yourself, just how high a value do you place on a QB being able to pick up yards when a play breaks down on top of opening more of the playbook on the ground?

Having a mobile quarterback is every defensive coordinators worst nightmare. Especially one who can throw AND run. Because now defenses don’t have a man advantage because defense MUST account for the quarterback.

Also, having a mobile quarterback just opens the playbook up more. You can now go empty and still have a running game because your QB is a threat to run the ball. That opens up the other play makers in the offense because defenses now have to pick their poison.

We’ve seen what Kliff can do with Jace Amaro. How do you see tight ends being utilized in this offense? Or do you think they take a backseat unless talent at the position demands the attention?

Everyone forgets that the original Air Raid offense started as a 21 personnel offense - two running backs and one tight end. And the offense was originally designed to run through the tight end - the Y in the Air Raid. So when you have a tight end in the offense who can catch and block while also having a quarterback who can run...well you’ve got a recipe for an explosive offense.

Speaking of tight ends, the 53 man roster limits are a big difference from life in college. Do you see more receivers being carried on this roster relative to other teams even at the expense of tight ends/running backs that play a role in special teams?

I have no idea. Haha. That’s way above my pay grade.

Many are optimistic that the quick passing nature of the air raid can help cover the flaws of an offensive line that leaves much to be desired. Just how far can the air raid go with offensive line limitations?

The sky’s the limit. The Air Raid was originally designed for lesser talented teams to compete with the big boys. That’s why you see the Air Raid teams with the massive line splits and deep alignments off the ball. This is by design so that the defense has more ground to cover - giving the QB and the OL more time to make their decisions.

Huge thank you to Coach Mckie for lending us his time and expertise. I hope this article has answered some of your most burning questions, and if I missed any - check out the links I provided above to learn more. Or do yourself a favor and follow/subscribe anyway, you won’t regret it.