The discussion came up with a coach in which a coach voiced his staunch belief that he would not have 5 man protections in the Scoring Zone. The reasoning given was pressure. While this aligns with "traditional" football thinking, it does not maximize the potential of the offense. The argument can be made that one must have these facets (5 man protection and empty sets vs pressure) in order to truly dictate to the defense.
One of the keys for us is the pictures we create and keys we coach for the QB. The route stems we put around our advantage routes provide consistent pictures, and we give directions on every play that allow for quick decisions.
How one plans is, of course, critical, but the point must be made that matchups cannot be ignored. Here, the supposed "vertical space" lost as one approaches the end zone is gained by attacking a slower player with more lateral space:
Also, "ALERT" packages are built in to give the most advantageous situations:
Alerts are neither tie consuming nor difficult. In fact, they save time, because one can practice vs. very specific looks. Because of ACTS and our system of play calling, my 6th grader literally has it as part of his plan (Plays 82 and 100):
Additional protectors DO NOT necessarily assure the passer more time, because a well-coached defense can always get 1on1 pass rush matchups. Here, the illustration is made of the 6th protector having little effect, but the QB anticipating and defeating the rush, despite not being the Advantage Route in his progression:
The result: more space in more situations for your players. Ever watch a player being asked to cover or tackle a player they know they don't physically match up with? Here is how a pressure defense responds, when there is no longer the certainty of how they will be attacked:
As high schools are making the last push towards summer break, football coaches are often drawn back from the mindset of the off-season to the serious planning stages for the season. One of the major benefits of the method we use is that we keep the number of "active" calls to what is practicable. It does, however, require discipline, as additions must be accompanied by taking something off of the active list and back into the ready list.
Moreover, even the same ideas (in this instance, a pass pattern) will be presented differently in the fall than in the spring. Below, notes for the fall are seen highlighted in purple. We can see that the first note reminds the coach that a play action element will be included, while the second note clarifies the desire for a 7 man protection. Being a 3-Level structure necessitates this answer for zone blitzes that might be prevalent on long-yardage situations.
The last notation in the above image refers to what I call an "ALERT" - predetermined packages that allow for very specialized concepts. If the look we get isn't what we want, we simply call "Alert" to change the entire call.
Further, each pass call is evaluated, based on effectiveness vs. basic coverage categories (below). A coach can then glean the worth of a given play in relation to its versatility. For example, a pass that is effective vs only man coverages might have a very specific situational need, or not at all. The staff must then decide
Understanding value is not only a key principle in the business world; it is critical in football as well. Below is a partial picture of a report done on one of our clients in 2016. Studying data is essential in not only saying "this is what we are good at" -- it also allows to guide teaching, installation, and the subsequent direction of the offense -- despite continuity of the system as a whole. In the example below, it was derived that diversification in the schemes taught was not an issue; rather, the teaching in what many consider to be "ZONE" schemes could be adapted to mimic the "GAP" teaching. Variations could be acquired by simple tags, rather than new ideas.
Systems are to have answers to all problems that opponents can present; it is critical not to have only sound play concepts, but have teaching emphasis that aligns with game time distribution as well. Below is an example of a play distribution model we began in 2012 (and published in Recoded and Reloaded in 2013), based on an average of 66 plays per game:
Though the flow of each game cannot be predicted, the situations of each can be practiced and packaged. And while the rest of the world begins to relax for the summer, football coaches are studying themselves harder than ever.
Something I have familiarity with is MAN TO MAN COVERAGE (and how to beat it). On a State Championship team in Texas (Shameless plug: Go Cats!), our coverage schemes were almost purely man coverage. Then, I graduated and played at Texas, where DBs actually had black t-shirts emblazoned with the motto “Real men play man-to-man” – every day in practice was a grueling, 2 hour challenge on beating press against a defensive backs room was littered with All Conference and All American players. But – this all made me a better player. And, it made me realize that pressure was many times brought on THE OFFENSE. After the Seahawks destroyed the Broncos in Super Bowl 48, this point was made HERE.
Many people will incorrectly associate man coverage with pressure. While it is true that teams can blitz out of man coverage, recent study has revealed a higher percentage of zone blitzes at many levels. A man coverage call will not cause a pass rusher to “rush harder”; what happens many times is that the offense, because it has not effectively prepared itself to deal with (and dispose of) man coverage, will resort to tactics that take the onus off the play caller, but add to the burden of the player. One example, and a personal pet peeve of mine, is calling exclusively quick routes in this situation. As someone who has been asked to run a slant vs. an inside leverage corner over and over again, I can attest that it is not an easy task! Neither is expecting a completion on fade after fade. What the QB needs is to see separation; what the receiver needs is the opportunity to make the defender indecisive, to turn his hips, and the chance to separate.
As with many cases, the New England Patriots teach us a great deal about football common sense. I went back into the last few drives in their epic comeback against the Falcons, in which the point is made demonstrated – one must maintain a diverse attack vs. man coverage, and feature route stems that allow people to separate.
Score: 28-3, Falcons; 7:51 left in the 3rd; 2nd & 7
To the casual observer, this looks like a simple check-down off of smash, but the brilliance is in the details. The receiver (a RB no less) doesn’t just run a 5-yard in; he creates separation with a fake “sluggo” move – “the stair step” backs the defender off and allows an easy completion.
In the same drive, the Patriots faced a 4th and 3. Once again, the pattern gave Brady 2 options that fit our criteria. The pattern also gives quick rhythm throws vs zone; we refer to these as advantage routes.
The first touchdown of the comeback is scored on a pretty typical pattern in this situation; of possible interest is the propensity of the Atlanta defense to play zone in the scoring zone, despite majoring in man coverage elsewhere. Of note to this basic pattern structure is that the Patriots seem to have an entire series of adjustments; the one run on this play features a “shake” route to feature vs. match coverage.
Score: 28-9; 14:51, 4th Quarter; -12 yard Line
The ability to max protect in addition to free releasing 5 receivers is illustrated. The Patriots use the TE and RB to check for blitzers, then “chip” before releasing, and throw a deep comeback off of a stutter-go stem. The route stem puts the defender in doubt, and once again attacks based on the premise that man defenders need to be made to cover; man defenders’ abilities are enhanced with solely quick throws. The drive results in a field goal, bringing the score to 28-12.
The pattern used in which the Falcons got a “pick six” has been widely analyzed. New England’s adjustments within play focus, however, are given much less attention. From 3x1 sets moving forward from the interception, the Patriots attacked the single receiver side vs. 1 high, and the multiple receiver side vs 2 high. We’ve simplified this reading process with our “9er” Advantage Principle. A critical 3rd & 11 is converted with just over 7 minutes in the game…
In the scoring zone on the same drive, Brady & Co. encounter 2 Read once again at the 6. Using a combination New England uses frequently down here, the inside receiver runs a “read” route (basically an 8-yard option route), while the outside receiver has the option of getting open on the back line, or running a fade vs Cover 2, which opens up space for the read route to break out.
Now 28-20 with 3:17 left in the game, the Patriots face 3rd and 10 on the -9. Deftly picking up the blitz from the slot defender, they are able to defeat a zone blitz scheme with a “SAIL” (our term for “7 After Inside Leverage) route. Why is this discussed in a man coverage article? Because the man techniques are often applied within a zone; the Falcons even bring over #32 to match with the Pats’ Hogan. There is not only the theme of sound protection principles (avoiding “hot” throws when possible in long yardage situations), but the principle of the offense not succumbing to the defense’s desire to allow the quick, easy throw and rally downhill on the ball.
With 2:34 left in the game, the New England offense again goes with a 3x1 set, and again attacks the single receiver, as another comeback route is thrown and caught as a defender must open his hips on deeper stems.
Right after Edelman's circus catch that will forever be on future highlight videos, the Pats get right back down to the common sense approach to offense, this time with what we call a "Bengal."
In overtime, the onslaught continues, as the offense breaks down the ability to react of the defenders. It needs to be emphasized that the calls we are highlighting ALLOW for even more soft, easy completions. It is the ability to make defenders play on their heels that allows for prolonged success and possessions, which also affects the pass rush.
As mentioned in the clip, it seems as people get caught up in RPOs and utlra-fast tempo, there is a problem when that IS ALL a team does. There are fundamental principles to attacking defenses that are forgotten many times. We are then reminded to look at models of simplicity and common sense to put us back on track.
The point of evolution is to give rise to diversity, and ensure the survival of a given species. A good offensive system is a living thing, and likewise, must evolve. Homer Smith, perhaps the most intellectual football coach of all time, taught me that great pass patterns generated more of themselves.
Many of the lessons Coach Smith shared with me still live on in our QB manual:
In order to have the ability to evolve, a truly complete system must be able to adapt to the personnel available in a given season, in addition to giving the coach the ability to truly turn the players loose behind the full firepower of the offense.
Some key points to consider:
In 2 of the next 3 Super Bowls, the Patriots encountered the same defensive structure and philosophy (the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49, and the Falcons in Super Bowl 51), and threw 37 and 43 completions, respectively. While it is easy to point to the skill of the quarterback, few would argue that Brady plays with receivers who are on the lower end of the NFL’s skill spectrum. How did they do this? By making man coverage players ACTUALLY have to cover, and by attacking interior defenders who found themselves in peculiar positions, the Patriots were able to possess the ball when others could not. Simply, they made man defenders turn their hips.
On a high school or college field, offenses can get some very similar match ups, as zone teams will rely on man techniques in match-up zone coverages. In the following teaching clips, it is easy to see how the principles explained can be valuable.
In surveying the landscape of many offensive systems, there is a feeling that points are being left on the field in many instances. Though many teams have similar basic structures, features are not put in place that assure the maximization of the tools at hand. Most of us coach in situations where the traditional talent is not overwhelming to the opposition; it is thus the responsibility of the coach to make the difference and maximize potential.
My original association with Coach Kontsis was after using the terminology in CONCEPT PASSING; however, I convinced him of the value of our current format. This is what he had to say:
We contacted Coach Gonzalez during the spring of 2010. We brought him in for a full scale installation clinic. He installed his entire passing game. Within two years, after taking over a program that was 0-36, we had the best season in school history, going 8-2 making the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
This year we took over another program and immediately installed Dan’s entire Pass Offense. Our starting point was Dan’s New Book, “Reloaded and Recoded” as well as latest release, “Developing an Offensive System – Part 3: Teaching.” We decided to invest and once again become a client. The amount of information is extensive, but covers every facet of an offensive system. Some of the materials include, but are not limited to: film teaching clips, cutups, protections, PowerPoint route concepts, summer install, game management, QB Manual, attacking coverage’s, etc.
Although his system is very broad, the terminology is very easy to learn. There is virtually no memorization whatsoever. Wide Receivers’ are able to play in the slot or outside because the system tells everyone what to do as opposed to learning route concepts through memorization. This year, our first at the school, using Dan’s Pass Offense, we led our conference in Total Offense. We averaged over 400 yds. per game going into the last game of the season. Our QB threw for 2,500 yds. and led the conference in passing. Our tailback had 27 catches, and 1003 yds. rushing for over 1,400 multipurpose yds. Our WR had a conference leading 80 catches for over 1,100 yds. while our other WR had nearly 700 yds. finishing 2nd in the conference.
Needless to say, Dan’s system produces great results. Dan is always assessable and will answer any and all questions. For the most part, I have been working with Dan for 7 yrs. and couldn’t be happier. I highly recommend the Dan Gonzalez Passing System
Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach
Oak Hills High School
So thankful for the chance to speak at the Dallas GLAZIER CLINICS this weekend, and to all the coaches who came out to see me. Here is a copy of my presentation, along with the video that went along with it:
The big process for me during the winter is to collect data from the past season, make any updates where needed, and then to look at cutups (not just myself, but my clients, and the rest of the football world in general). I look at defensive trends across college football, knowing it will be something my clients will need to be ready for. As my clients know, I am constantly sending updates. Ultimately, I look to see if our HIT LISTS need updating, then clean up our playbook and ready lists, and then go about creating our spring wristband so that the things done in the spring lead to execution in the fall.
To illustrate, here is a screen shot for a clinic presentation I am doing for Glazier in Dallas:
In the process of creating Ready Lists, one can also closely examine the nuance in which certain teams will play their coverage variations. In other words, many teams have Cover 4, but the adjustments within the coverage are more multiple than ever before. The ability to create brackets is more complex than ever, and so we must be able to emphasize certain elements in the offense, and include that in our strategic thinking (our wristband flows into our game plan and practice scripts, further saving time. Keith Grabowski has an excellent tool for this).
For example, the "Cover 4" on 3rd Down we get might be different than in the Scoring Zone (my other Glazier clinic topic). Thus, it is SO important to be able to vary the offense, not necessarily from a pattern perspective, but from how the coach uses Navigation Tags to give the QB direction. (By the way, the Navigation Tags and certain structures might have evolved as well, as a system is a living, evolving thing).
As an illustration, one thing that evolved for us last spring was how we employed the TRAIL route. In order to better take advantage of the brackets defenses were trying to build, we sped up the rhythm of the pattern, combining it with a SLANT to get open or clear, followed by the trail:
As noted, these advancements come about as soon as the season is over, and are repped in the spring. This is where I depart from the thinking of many coaches that Spring is the time for "vanilla". If you play this way in the Fall, then this is fine. However, especially when you are trying to build the identity of your squad, it is my opinion that you need to challenge young players to show how they can process information.
We've all heard it before: "Think PLAYERS, not plays." However, many get over-involved in the schematics of attacking scheme that some very rudimentary things get left out. As a result, things become more complicated than they need to be. If you have a complete passing system that features ways to attack (described here), you don't need a ridiculous looking call sheet:
All kidding aside, I'm sure there's a method to the madness; I just know I could not function with that much "stuff" to look at. While every offseason is spent on the "tweaks" in the system, nothing is as time-consuming as the way I'd like my call sheet to be organized.
We all have the basic listing by play type, situation, and field position; one thing that has become very helpful is a more specfic, organized way to think through the problems (and opportunities) the defense is confronting us with. Below is a snippet of one section of our call sheet, featuring some scenarios vs our basic RT/LT (3x1) sets:
In the top left corner of the section, for example, we have some base calls to go to when we anticipate our single receiver can defeat his single defender. The numbers (76 and 61) represent the wristband numbers to call on the left and right hash marks respectively. Here, we anticipate a strong roll vs bunch, combined with the frontside safety (F) cross-keying #3 on his vertical route. Thus, if the Z can cross the corner's face, there is a potential for an explosive play; if he doesn't, the drag route has plenty of room to work the W.
Conversely, we also prepare for when the matchup favors the defense. Under the heading "SHUTDOWN ON SINGLE", we have base plays prepared to counter this. Below, with the corner over X being the shutdown corner, the defense plays a popular matchup concept: the backside safety (B), middle linebacker (M), and strong linebacker (S) play a triangle over Y and A, with the frontside safety (from the QB read perspective) pushing to the 3 receiver side. We can therefore gain an edge with the W manned up on our B-back, with Y coming in behind:
The above represents just a small sample of basic plays in this system that can be categorized in several different strategic or tactical situations. Many of us have come away from a game having left a "must call" from preparation on the call sheet; the important thing is having the informatio organized in such a way that the play caller can access what he needs under the duress of a close ballgame.
A few nights ago, news came out that the head coaching job at Oregon is now open. It got me thinking - look how quickly things have changed!
Five years ago, offenses operating at "warp speed" were all the rage; the success at places like the University of Oregon and Baylor led to a tremendous movement towards a world of one-word play calls and quick snaps. Offensive numbers ballooned, and many were assimilating the same traits in their own offenses. And while I certainly see a need for being able to run plays very, very quickly, I think there needs to be roots in a sound foundation; almost a year ago, I expressed my thoughts here.
Oregon and Baylor, though maintaining the same systems, stuggled this season offensively; in addition, Chip Kelly was the hottest name in coaching back then, and his teams' struggles have been documented. Ultimately, I think the downfall of playing SUPER fast is that these types of offenses is that they lose soundness to a degree. In closely watching a whole season of the Sterlin Gilbert offense (a descendant of the Baylor system), despite the solid gap-oriented runnning game, the passing game lacked the ability to attack multiple levels of the field. Though overall numbers are still impressive, efficiency has decreasd dramatically for these systems, while some more traditional passing offenses (Washington, Washington State, USC) have gotten better as the year has gone on. So, what things are missing from a lot of up-tempo attacks?
ATTACKING ALL THE LEVELS OF A DEFENSE
Some of the formations I see are SO spread out, that the offense can't possibly get the ball to all receivers. I truly see the benefit of the super-wide Baylor system splits, but also see the value in contracting the formation. Something I will never forget is my HS position coach reminding me that NO ONE has 4 guys that can cover (we were a state championship team when I played for him, and he was at the time coaching at a HS rolling out D1 prospects left and right). So, make people pay for playing "man within zone":
MAKE THE DEFENSE PLAY "ON THE MOVE"
I love fast motion; most of the time, however, it is used solely as a means of lateral displacement in many offenses; if added to the core of concepts many teams already use, this can help gain even better leverage on a defense because of the vertical component. Below, we take our basic "stick" combination, and with "bunch" followed by quick motion, stress the defense past its breaking point:
MAKE THE DEFENSE COVER THE WHOLE PATTERN
I have made my opinion on mirrored routes clear; I simply think they allow half the defense to get off the hook because there is no chance they will get the ball. I can attest first hand that getting to the Third Fix in a progression is something that can be taught to ANY AGE. When it does happen, it can break the back of a defense. Just imagine a big drive, and the defense does a great job covering the combination called, only to be thwarted by the design of the whole pattern:
Along the same lines as the above, one can take advantage of unfamiliar looks (yet familiar progressions for the defense). Here is a quick glimpse of the vertical lanes that can be created into the boundary:
Obviously, I have nothing against going fast; it's just that many times when I see teams use this approach, I see nothing different than the probing FB runs of the old Wing-T offense (something to call that really isn't attacking the weakness of the defense). I think this approach goes the OTHER way on the pendulum, as teaching still must occur.
Living in Allen, TX and using this outlet to not only stay close to the game I love, but to help pass on what I have learned from some of the game's great coaching minds.