How Atlanta Falcons WR Drake London is poised to breakout with a route from the 1930s

Jon Gruden, Sean McVay, and Art Monk. A lot was gathered from one sentence provided by Kyle Pitts during OTA’s. And a lot of connections you may not have known about prior.
London hasn't been the focus on the off-season, but he'll definitely be a major piece of the Falcons offense in 2024. Previous history shows that the #1 receiver in McVay style offenses get a massive workload.
London hasn't been the focus on the off-season, but he'll definitely be a major piece of the Falcons offense in 2024. Previous history shows that the #1 receiver in McVay style offenses get a massive workload. / Alex Slitz/GettyImages

There was a simple statement made by Kyle Pitts, that led down the proverbial rabbit hole. This went back to 1930’s High School football, Joe Gibbs Washington Redskins tenure, the 2007 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and 1980’s-90’s playbooks. Drake London, Kyle Pitts, Darnell Mooney, and Kirk Cousins visited Jon Gruden before OTA’s, and what seemed to be an inconsequential visit, actually gives a deeper meaning to where the Falcons offense will trend in 2024 and beyond.

“I didn’t know who the father of the choice route was until then.” Kyle Pitts told the media after visiting Gruden. The 'father of the choice route' mentioned, Art Monk, was a hall-of-fame receiver who won three Super Bowls with the then-Washington Redskins. More interesting, the choice route, which originated in the 1930s by Glenn “Tiger” Ellison, has been a staple in the McVay offense. Today's NFL commentary offensively is shaped around the 'McVay', or 'Shanahan' offenses, but McVay he got his first NFL shot from... Jon Gruden. 

The Jon 'Chucky' Gruden tree, and it's deep ties to the 2024 Atlanta Falcons

Before his controversial resignation as Head Coach of the Raiders in 2021, Jon Gruden was a decorated Head Coach in the NFL. With the Oakland Raiders from 1998-2001, he made two playoff appearances, one being an AFC Championship appearance. He would go on to Tampa Bay in 2002, winning a Super Bowl in his inaugural year at the helm. Throughout his Head Coaching tenure, he would spark the careers of numerous current Head, or assistant coaches. The aforementioned Sean McVay, Raheem Morris (Falcons Head Coach), Kyle Shanahan, Mike Tomlin, Brian Callahan, Nathaniel Hackett, Ike Hillard (Falcons WR Coach), and Jimmy Lake (Falcons Defensive Coordinator), are just a few of the gems from Gruden’s tree. It was a genius move for Kirk to take the guys there — maybe we should all invest in the myndlift apparatus he wore in ‘Quarterback’.

Jon Gruden, being the godfather of what is now commonly referred to as the McVay offense, can give intimate knowledge of what to expect in the foundation of Zac Robinson's offense. Kirk himself is also pretty familiar, due to his time in Washington with Jon’s brother Jay, and McVay himself. The choice route mentioned has been a fundamental concept in both the Rams and Minnesota Vikings offenses during McVay and O’Connell’s tenures, as well as Gruden’s. What excites me about it is the person who will be running the route the majority of the time, Drake London.

The choice route was critical to Cooper Kupp becoming the triple crown winner in 2021, and Justin Jefferson’s record-setting 1,809 receiving yards in 2022. The choice route gives you a three way go against the defense. If the defender takes away the inside, break out. If they take away the outside, break in. And if they stay in off coverage, sit the route down and take what the defense gives you.

You would see Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford running this combination almost non-stop during their Super Bowl run in 2021. Defenders would find themselves frustrated and fuming, because they were always wrong.

A route that doesn't require a lot of speed or quickness, it's something that fits Drake's playing style well. What it does require, however, is pinpoint chemistry with your Quarterback, something London has been working to develop with Cousins. “To have a guy who knows the ins and outs of it to make this a little bit easier, then I’m gonna listen.” Drake London said regarding Kirk Cousins. 

London has shown lots of flashes since being the 8th overall pick in 2022, in which Cousins has recognized himself. “[He’s] just a very natural receiver. A really friendly target,” Cousins said. “ he just kind of looks open to your eye as a quarterback, because of his size, the way he runs routes, his catch radius, his fluidity. He can run the whole route tree, so you can ask him to do a lot. and he’s tough. He’s a competitor.”

After two years with up and down Quarterback play, London is more than ready to prove himself. “Let’s just say I have a bad taste in my mouth.” London had to say about his previous seasons. “I wanna go out there and make a stand for myself as well. I know what I can do, I know what type of player I am.”

There's no question that London is the #1 receiver on the team, accompanied by the uber-talented Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson. These two will get their cracks at winning on the choice route as well, but 2024 and beyond will be our opportunity to thrive in a Kupp/Jefferson-style role.