Monday, March 28, 2011

Play Calling in Football- WAS THAT A GOOD CALL?

I wanted to take a few minutes and comment on observations I have made about play calling over the years. What is a 'questionable play call'?

I have been watching a lot of football film over the last few weeks and it is always refreshing to get away from the game and come back after the computer has had time to shut down a re-boot.

When a coach is planing for a game- he is putting into his mental rehearsal a lot of information. First, he knows his team and players. He has watched them live and on film and he knows both strengths and weaknesses. He knows how healthy they are. He knows who is likely to perform under pressure and who is likely to choke. He has certain plays and players he trusts and he has certain others he does not.

Secondly, a coach tries to guess what the other team knows. As an opposing coach breaks down his team, what does he see? Who is he impressed with? Where does he see weaknesses?

Both coaches see schemes- and almost any coach knows the strong and weak match-ups of scheme. Behind the scheme are philosophical beliefs that have strengths and weaknesses as well. Some teams are very good against your philosophy and scheme- and other teams create real issues.

Thirdly, there is the plan and practice of the plan. What was new this week? How did it look? Was it repped enough to a point where the players can execute it in the game?

Finally, there is the game condition itself. How is the game going? What is the weather, field conditions, momentum?

There are many different styles and ways to call a game. I see it being very similar to playing a par 5 in golf. The drive is the field position- are we in the fairway? Then there is the risk and reward- do we lay up or go for the green in two? And you can always out think yourself a little- what is the other guy going to do? Is he coming with the blitz or will he back off in a zone?

Now- let me add one other factor- PLAY CLOCK. A good play caller has to immediately call out personnel, formation, and play- you really get no time to weigh pro and cons. That is why the excellent ones have experience and mental rehearsal to quickly pull the trigger.

This coming season will be the first time in almost 15 years that I have not been calling the game- it is a fun thing to do- but I am very OK with not doing it as well. My job will be helping the play caller with info and coaching my position with great energy- having fun! I know the guy calling the plays is very talented.

The bottom line is this: it is kind of stupid to ever say "That was a dumb play call" unless you are privy to all the conditions I have described above. That is why it is very, very rare for me to even entertain the idea of questioning a play call. I will be a very supportive coach in that area.

To the common observer -  A GOOD PLAY CALL WORKS AND BAD ONE DOESN'T.

I have had coaches tell me that I called a good game- it feels good- but the bottom line is this- only I know when I botched a call- which means I put the formation to the wrong side of the field- or I messed up the personnel- or I called something that I knew the players struggled with- or mis-spoke.

Next time you are at a game- don't fall into the temptation of saying 'that was a dumb call'- it might have been a brilliant call, but it just didn't happen. I have had dumb calls go for TD's and great ones lose the game..... it is that crazy of a sport!

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