Bill Belichick has done a great job utilizing two TEs, but it's a bit of a myth that he invented the two TE offense. Indianapolis was well-known for employing it for years. This article from 2000 shows how a number of teams were employing it way back then.
Sunday, October 08, 2000
Two tight ends better than one
Bengals may have found key to jumpstarting offense
By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The Bengals' offense had gone 34 consecutive possessions without scoring a point entering last Sunday's game with Miami.
They opened in a two-tight end set, starting backup Marco Battaglia and regular Tony McGee.
Voila! The Bengals went 80 yards on 13 plays for only their second touchdown of the season. The running game got untracked for a season-high 191 yards. Second-year quarterback Akili Smith, playing his best game since his first start as a rookie connected over the middle with McGee on the touchdown drive.
The two-tight end offense — all the rage in Tennessee, Indianapolis and other NFL cities — made a smashing debut in Cincinnati. The Bengals scored the first three times they had the ball. The tight ends had eight receptions for 93 yards.
Bengals coaches aren't saying how much they'll use the two-tight end formation today against the Tennessee Titans at Paul Brown Stadium. But it's certain the Titans will use it a lot.
Tennessee uses two tight ends an estimated 80 percent of the time. The Titans employ one of the league's best tight ends, Frank Wycheck, and one of the biggest, 272-pound Erron Kinney, as integral pieces of their offense.
In Baltimore, coach Brian Billick went after free agent veteran tight ends Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coats in the offseason to help develop quarterback Tony Banks' intermediate passing game and improve the team's red zone production.
In Indianapolis last season, Ken Dilger had 15 starts and 40 catches and Marcus Pollard had 10 starts and 34 receptions for the 13-3 Colts. Both players are tight ends.
“The tight end is utilized the least of any player on offense,” ESPN pro football analyst Merril Hoge said Friday. “Two tight ends are an advantage in the running game because they force the defense to have a balanced look. That allows the offense to run at the defense's soft spot.”
The second tight end is taking the place of the traditional blocking fullback, just as a third wide receiver does.
Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Marc Trestman says a second tight end is a much more viable pass receiver than a fullback, but unlike a wide receiver, defenses must account for the second tight end in the passing game and the running game.
Trestman is among offensive coordinators who think the old-fashioned blocking fullback gives defenses clues as to the direction of running plays.
In Cincinnati, in addition to springing the running game, the double tight end could take pressure off the Bengals' pair of rookie wide receivers, Peter Warrick and Ron Dugans.
“We have the personnel to do it,” Bengals tight ends coach Frank Verducci said of the set. “It alleviates teams from just pressing up on the young wide receivers. It gives us some options. It creates mismatches.”
The mismatch for the tight ends comes when they are covered by safeties or linebackers in pass coverage.
Titans coach Steve Fisher said the formation gives quarterbacks “a quicker threat in the underneath passing game because you're lined up on the line of scrimmage. It also gives the quarterback the opportunity to check up and run away from the strength of the defense.”
The Bengals' John Jackson, a veteran who plays offensive tackle, the position that gets blocking help from the second tight end, said the formation “allows (the offense) to dictate what you're going to do as opposed to the other way around. It's ball-control oriented.”
Against the Dolphins, using two tight ends much of the time, Cincinnati saw five of its 10 drives go for 10 or more plays.
McGee, the Bengals starting tight end, who's both a good blocker and pass receiver, liked the set because it helped the running game.
“It's usually a run formation,” said McGee, who had six receptions Sunday for 74 yards. “If you can get some positive things from it in the passing game, that's an added bonus.
“It all goes back to the run. If you get that going, you can mix it up across the board.”
And no one was happier than Battaglia, who played an estimated 35 of the Bengals' 79 offensive plays in the loss to the Dolphins and had two receptions for 19 yards.
“It felt great to be out there, to contribute,” said Bataglia, who had a career-high 14 receptions last season. “That's the most plays I've gotten in in give years.”
Battaglia, the team's special team's captain, calls it a new lease on life. He was Cincinnati's second-round draft pick in 1996 from Rutgers, where he finished his college career with 171 receptions for 2,221 yards.
At 6-foot-3, 252 pounds, Battaglia is known as a big wide receiver who can block.
“I think a big wide receiver should catch the ball,” he said. “I like running with the ball after the catch.”