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The Lessons of the Playoffs Are All About Offense

Defense might not win championships anymore

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Kaepernick is leading the 49ers; He should be inspiring the Jets.

    In the Post on Monday, Bart Hubbuch makes a plea for the Jets to make a play for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith this offseason. 

    Smith is probably an upgrade from Mark Sanchez, which doesn't say all that much since not having a quarterback might be an upgrade on Sanchez, but the suggestion pretty much misses the point that this year's NFL playoff teams have been making over and over again. 

    Offense wins championships in the NFL these days and playing game managers like Smith (or trading up to take them in the draft, as the Jets did with Sanchez) is not the way to generate that offense. The 49ers made the NFC Championship Game last year thanks to a power running game, a ferocious defense and a quarterback in Smith who was asked to simply avoid mistakes. 

    It should sound familiar, it is the same blueprint that the Jets followed to make it to two AFC Championship Games in a row, even while it also sounds archaic. The 49ers' season took off this year when then dumped Smith and handed the reins of the offense over to Colin Kaepernick, who played one of the best quarterback games ever in Saturday's victory over the Packers. 

    Had Russell Wilson's Seahawks been able to hold on in Atlanta Sunday, we might be hearing more about the thrilling work he did in bringing them back from 20 points down at the start of the fourth quarter. He threw two touchdowns, ran for another and generated more than 400 yards to lead a comeback that faltered when the defense couldn't stop Matt Ryan on two passes with 30 seconds left. 

    Kaepernick and Wilson mix NFL arms with the feet of guys who normally play other positions, a combination that has been slowly growing in the league thanks to those two guys, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton. Even Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers, who don't play the read-option that has launched that quartet, make more plays with their feet than the previous generation of pocket passers.

    With more and more college football teams playing a similar style and the NFL doing everything they can to favor offenses rules-wise, it's pretty clear where the game is going. And even clearer that the Jets would be barking up the wrong tree to go for a variation on what they already have under center. 

    Not that they need to force things to bring in a Kaepernick/Wilson-type because there are more innovations than just a running quarterback. There's New England's fastbreak offense, something that the Giants should be studying as a way to press their advantage on that side of the ball, and the versatility of running backs and tight ends beyond the limited box they've occupied for much of football history. 

    And if you're not going to innovate, you better be able to dominate. The Falcons and Ravens are the conventional offenses in the final four, but they throw deep and spread the field in ways that the Jets and Giants could never do this season. 

    The Giants have reason for confidence in what they do offensively, but it wouldn't hurt them to find a couple of offensive pieces that can force defenses to think about less vanilla modes of attack than we're used to seeing from Kevin Gilbride. The Jets have nothing to work with so there's no reason for them not to innovate in hopes of finding their footing on that side of the ball. 

    If they are having a hard time thinking of ideas, they should just fire up the tapes from this weekend because it was a clinic on the future of offensive football. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.

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