to exhibit for display all my philosophies of what it takes to win at the
sport of football has proved a daunting task indeed. Although I prefer
a multidimensional power offense capable of the quick strike and an overly
physical, overly aggressive, dominating style of defense, these styles
may not suit a particular group of athletes. It is the meshing of
what a coach wants and what he or she has to work with that is the formula
for success. This is the main reason so many coaches fail at one
school and succeed at another. This is also the reason a coach "needs"
several season to install his offense or defense successfully; the coach
needs to recruit players that fit within the schemes he or she is attempting
to install. This meshing dilemma is also the reason so many great
coaches have been able to be so successful for so long. It is considerably
easier for a coach to modify (if only for part of a season) his or her
individual traits than to modify the entire squad's. An example would
be for say an Acorn State to attempt to pound the ball down a Notre Dame's
throat with the power running game. Regardless of possible previous
successes in running the football, such a strategy in the mythical game
suggested above can only lead to one, inevitable conclusion--failure.
Coaches that can at least temporarily adjust to the talent available, or
the talent faced, are always going to be the more successful coaches.
Such adaptation has been a benchmark of great coaches like Dean Smith,
Bobby Knight, and Eddie Robinson, to name but a few.
Here I will break down my basic philosophies for the offense,
and special teams.
(offensive running and passing
plays listed in the playbook)
Most Coaches have a set of "Golden Rules" when it comes
to what a "good" offense should or should not do. The fact is there
is no unified list. Which is better, a ball control offense?
Control the ball with the short passing game or the power running game?
Is defense more crucial then offense. While it may be true that "if
they don't score, they can't beat you," it is conversely true that if you
don't score, you can't win either. So balance is the answer then?
Well, not if your ineptness is balanced. Surprise? While the
element of surprise is always cherished, a team would surely find minimal
success if it ran the ball on a majority of third and tens, and passed
deep down field on every third and one. A well coached team is one
that reflects the head coach's philosophies and tendencies during game
situations. If a head coach believes strongly that his defense should
"carry" his team, then care to guess where the majority of his "special"
athletes are assigned starting positions? The coach thereby scripts
that his defense will be the strong point of his team. The amount
of success his team has validates or devaluates his reasoning among his
employers. I stress Ten Golden Rules a good offense should practice.
Rules of Offense
1. Force the defense to defend the entire field.
NEVER allow a defense to crowd the line of scrimmage, stacking eight or
ten men "in the box" because you are predictable in calling the run.
NEVER allow the defense to flood the zones with extra defenders because
you pass eight downs out of ten. The offense should attack ALL areas
of the field and force the defenders to "stay at home" thus allowing the
offensive coaches to create the basic two-on-one mismatches that lead to
success for the offense.
2. Establish the Running Game: Force the defense to respect
the running game, taking the teeth out of the pass rush, and you open up
the passing attack.
3. Create a Mismatch at the point of attack:
Design and run plays to outnumber the defense at the point of attack. Traps,
Power Plays, Isolations, Leads, Options, Pick Passes, and a host of other
plays can be used to create a situation where numerical or size mismatches
can be exploited.
4. Minimize Mistakes: Turnovers and penalties
are avoidable through sound practices and preparation. Few things
in the game of football are as demoralizing as giving up a score while
your offense is on the field. This momentum shift often changes the course
of a game.
5. Physically Dominate the Defense: Being strong and physical
on offense is not as important as it is on defense - it is MORE important.
A dominant offense can break the other team down physically and mentally
and control the ball AND the game.
6. Script the opening plays. The number of
plays predetermined is not important, only that there is a set offensive
game plan in place. These plays are usually a combination of
the plays a particular offense has had success with and ones that are expected
to produce results against a specific opponent. Using a script can
also keep a team from getting "rattled" if the opening moments do not go
7. Improve the Offensive Line: The Offensive
line is the heart of a good offense. Without a sound offensive line
all other aspects of the offense collapse. An offensive lineman needs
a combination of size, speed, strength, and, most importantly, intelligence.
Regardless of how good the line play is, there is always room for improvement,
and strengthening the offensive line play during the course of the season
is key for post season success.
8. Take Chances: No guts, no glory! All teams
find themselves behind at times, and in
need of a quick score. It is necessary to practice the quick strike
if a team wants to be capable of scoring quickly when the need is present.
Throwing the Play Action Pass on first down 30-40% of the time is a good
start (at least during the running of the script).
9. Be Disciplined. Know what it takes to be successful
and prepare beforehand. Know specific responsibilities and duties
and be sure to carry them out--especially when things are not going well,
as this is when it is most important. Very rarely does an undisciplined,
unconfident team have what it takes to overcome adverse conditions in an
hostile environment. Players learn the necessary traits to overcome
adversity in practice. Disciple can be rehearsed through substitution
drills and special teams drills. Confidence can be gained through
rigorous scrimmages and positive reinforcement.
10. Be Prepared. Staff and players should prepare
for a specific opponent with a specific game plan. The coaching staff
needs to scout the next opponent via proxy, video tape, or in person.
Preparation for the next game begins at the final whistle of the previous
one. There is no such animal as "game preparation." Game preparation
is merely a reflection of the week's practice preparation.
Basically, as I see it, a good offense is capable
of both running and passing the football. The key is balance.
I believe a good team should run the ball 60 plus percent of the time,
yet gain 60 plus percent of its yardage via the passing game. This
is possible only if the passing attack is aggressive in throwing the ball
down field. When the ball is put in the air, three things can happen,
and two of them are bad. Completions therefore must outweigh incompletions
and interceptions. The goal of each and every offensive pass play
should be at the minimum a first down. In other words, I do not support
a short passing, ball control offense featuring 3 or 4 yard passes.
The defense should be stretched and forced to defend the entire field at
all times. This can only be accomplished if the offense is a perpetual
threat all over the field. The running game should attack between
the tackles with quick hitting plays designed to minimize defensive pursuit.
In general, a good offense should seek to run the ball against a pass defense,
and pass the ball against a run defense. This is an important concept
designed to limit the linebackers' and defensive backs' effectiveness.
When the run sets up the pass, and the pass sets up the run, and the defense
is kept on its heels and spread out defending the entire field, an offense
should be able to move the football. I do not support the philosophy
of "taking what the defense gives you," rather I believe in taking what
I want. My offense will not wildly fluctuate each week to fit my
opponent's defense. Instead, my offense will only slightly modify
each week in an effort to expose weaknesses in the opposing defense.
Only by maintaining both the running and passing games can either be expected
to individually carry a team if need be in a particular situation.
listed on the formations page)
There are many varying philosophies
of defense. Basically, two dominate contemporary thought. The
first I refer to as "The Fortress." This defense acts on one premise
alone: Stop the Offense from scoring. The bend but don't
break defense is a good example of this philosophy. This is not
the approach preferred by this author. Fortresses are designed to
weather the storm and this strategy is a defensive approach to Defense
(pardon the play on words).
I prefer to utilize the "Divide
and Conquer" strategy instead. I favor the offensive approach
to Defense. The Defense needs to attack the Offense. The Divide
and Conquer defense places the defense's responsibilities on a higher plane.
Goals for this defense are to deny every yard, every pass, every play.
In this strategy it is the responsibility of the defense to return the
ball to the offense and to keep the opposing offense from dictating the
pace of the game. Defense should emphasize creation of turnovers
and forcing the offense into long yardage situations. An offense
kept under constant pressure is more likely to make mistakes. When
a mistake is made, the defense must be skilled at taking advantage of the
mistake. It serves little purpose to make great efforts to cause
a fumble by stripping the ball if the defenders are not skilled (through
practice drills) at recovering fumbles.
Keys for Great Defensive
Aggression is a key element of defensive
play. There are two predominate rules for a defensive player.
First, sprint to the ball. Second, be hostile when you get there.
Hank Gathers put it best when he said a football player needs to be three
things in order to be a good football player. He must be agile, mobile,
and hostile. Truer words of wisdom have seldom been expressed. I
support an excessively aggressive, physical defense of multiple formations
designed to be unpredictable to the opposing offense.
Defensive players always chase the play to its conclusion.
At the whistle ending the play all eleven defenders are either at the tackle
or on their way to it. This concept should be learned and implemented
at practice until it becomes routine.
A wide variety of defensive techniques, drills, and tendencies
are available in the defensive section.
teams formations listed in the formations
Special Teams are not merely key to a team's success,
they are crucial. As George
Allen noted, the kicking game is a full one third of your team's season.
The kicking game can reverse the outcome of a game often on a single play.
Great special teams begin with great special teams players. These
players often distinguish themselves in practice. They are the ones
who leave their feet in order to make a play. They are the ones that
other less energetic players often complain about as being over zealous.
They love contact. They chase every play. They need not have
exception speed, size, or quickness. What they already have far outweighs
any shortcomings in those areas. Here is a picture of artist David
Alan Brown's ideal special teams player according to both George Allen
The more prominent special teams play, the more an opponent
must take up valuable practice time to counter act it. In an effort
to maximize special teams performance, I will incorporate special teams
preparation with conditioning. In this manner special teams can be
practiced each and every day of practice.
Many teams are lax in their
devotion to the kicking game and special teams play in general. This
despite a contemporary trend recognizing the valuable contribution special
teams play can make to a game, often even breaking open and/or deciding
a close game. Without surprise, those teams willing to spend valuable
practice time devoted to special teams play are the very ones who most
often benefit from it. One way to more fully incorporate special
teams play into practice is to combine it with conditioning. Rather
than have players run a high repetition of laps (where many linemen tend
to be less than enthusiastic or energetic) a coach could run a high number
of kick offs, kick off returns, punts, and punt returns. The same
conditioning results and the time is spent more productively "killing two
birds with one stone."
Special teams are addressed each and every day of
practice. Punts, punt returns, kick offs, kick off returns, field
goals, and extra points are all incorporated into the daily conditioning
rituals. This exercise comes immediately after team warm ups.
The day before a game, special teams are given extensive coverage in full
pads with zero contact.
When a team is trailing by two points and declines
to attempt a 40 yard field goal opting instead to go for a fourth and eight
situation from an opponent's 23 yard line, the message is clear.
The kicking game is inadequate. There is a chink in the armor.
This deficiency is always self inflicted. There is always at least
one player on a squad capable of place kicking the football. The
team's inability to kick the go ahead field goal in the scenario above
reveals the coaching staff's ineffectiveness in finding, training, and
utilizing this player(s). A team so uncommitted to the basic necessities
such as a simple field goal is likely to be deficient in other special
teams areas as well. It is against just such a team that I will feel
confident to try my team's highly practiced and prepared special plays.
In other words, such a scenario is ideal for going for the fake kick or
blocked kick attempt. The reasoning is simple. If my opponent
has prepared so little for their own field goal team, how much have they
prepared for my multi-threat special teams play. I like my chances.
In the words of Bob Reade, one of
the most successful coaches ever, "You can't make a player do anything,
you can only make him want to do it." One way to motivate a player
is to provide a tiered system of goals that are achievable and that lead
to the quest of further goals. Seemingly unattainable goals seem
to lack purpose to players and undermine team unity and collective effort.
For example, telling a player with limited skills who has only a slim chance
at reaching the next level that he will "make it to the Pros" in an effort
to extract greater player output is nothing short of dishonest as someone
is bound to inform him of later. Bob Reade
reports (p.58) that only 6.2 percent of the more than one million high
school football players each year will ever play at the college level.
Of these elite, only 2.4 percent will ever play Pro ball.
Far, far less than one percent of high school players ever make it to the
professional level. Although these numbers seem discouraging, it
is still true that football will provide a free or partially free college
education for thousands of these players. Thus setting the goal of
using football as a tool to gain an affordable education is more honest
The quickest way for a coach to win over his players
is to "wear his heart on his sleeve", in the words of Coach Geddes Self,
Jr. In other words, if a coach really cares for his players he will
show it. He will show it by the way that he talks to, and of, them.
The team concept starts at the top and trickles down to the water boy.