We first published this Magic Three article in 2010 as a novelty. However, in 2016 Georgia’s tight end room now seems well equipped to introduce some variation of this to the SEC.
Five offensive linemen, a quarterback, one running back, one wide receiver on the weak side, and three tight ends to the strong side. For years this formation has been discussed over drinks by coaches as the “dream” or “magic” second coming of classical football. The day when football comes full circle and returns to the 1930s and 1940s. The day when an offense is run the way it was always meant to run, but with the modern twist of the forward pass and advanced theories learned for the last century. Many coaches believe this formation will be the future of football, and revolutionize the way the game is played. Defensive coordinators, like me, consider it a nightmare. It will throw most defensive theory out of the window until a counter can be developed.
Why is the formation considered by football theorists to be magic?
The formation looks like a goal line formation. The only way to stop the run is to, likewise, set up a goal line defense. But what happens when those three tight ends, all a half step back from the line of scrimmage, are eligible to catch the ball? The subtle tricks are just as dangerous. Let’s say an opposing team lines up at least one cornerback to cover one of the tight ends. In a run play, that cornerback probably gets knocked on his butt. Not impressed yet?
Further, in the formation there is still room for motion. There is also room for one or more of the tight ends to line up wide. How about one wide, one slot, one back with the RB, then a motion brings the wide in against the line? All of a sudden a pass defense with multiple defensive backs faces a “jumbo” run play.
The new formations and the new approach would revolutionize many aspects of football. For example, most teams might have one very good cornerback in a formation (to go against the wide receiver), but place more emphasis on a cornerback/linebacker hybrid player to match with tight ends on the line. The safety position would likewise probably drop to only one on the field. The fullback would vanish all together. Tight ends who further specialize might become “wings” instead of “tight ends”. The tight ends and running back become the emphasis in the offense, not the quarterback or wide receiver. “Wings” would not only catch and block like modern tight ends, but run and block, further leading to confusion.
Another drastic change would be a shift from the “run vs. pass” paradigm to a paradigm of “power vs. finesse”. The new system could be run as a powerful smash mouth tool, or it could rely on deception and timing.