To illustrate, we will look at a few clips involving the drag route.
First, the basic DRIVE:
As Part 3 of Developing an Offensive System nears its release date, I wanted to write about some adjustments in the way we package that have proven to be very beneficial in the past year. Late last fall, I began to adjust game plan forms in order to make it easier to recall options in the heat of battle. This spring, six primary "structures" were labeled on the coach's sheet:
We derived this terminology to make the teaching for all players easier; it also allows the offense to move around star players with no additional learning burden. The Read/ Navigation tags allow the coach to guide the passer to the easiest lane of completion. By classifying game sheets, the playbook, and cut ups by route structure, one can be extremely efficient - with an offense can now teach minimal techniques and assignments, but apply in several different ways to attack a defense. Most of all, the QB and coach can benefit from the ability to hit all eligible receivers in a pattern.
To illustrate, we will look at a few clips involving the drag route.
First, the basic DRIVE:
Next, the 9 route in front of DRIVE:
Lastly, using the 9er (Numbers) advantage principle:
Homer Smith taught us all that nothing can become more entangled than patterns, protections, and formations. To this, we must add read types, as merely having one way to read a pass defense severely limits the ability of an offense to attack. This system, as it is constructed, meets all those needs, though the number of combinations can seem overwhelming. By simply grouping structures as a means to help coaches process and assimilate the weapons at their disposal, we are able to keep the offense in manageable pieces, maximizing learning and execution.
Things are hectic, as Part 3 of the iBook Series is days away from being available. I have gotten a ton of email and messages with questions, and wanted to take the time to address. I really do try to reply in a timely manner, but sometimes schedules and deadlines prevent me from doing so. So - here are a few teaching clips that will help answer some questions. Most of them are directly from our QB Manual...
As you can tell from the clips, these ideas have been in place for a while. The important thing is that the coaching points and techniques remain the same, despite different play terminology.
"Scanning into IN routes":
Because of the proliferation of quick crossing routes in this pass offense, there must naturally be some "counters" to prevent defenders from sitting on these stems. Also, 3x1 sets tend to get the defense "tilted" to the 3 receiver side.
Here is a quick video describing one of my favorite Scoring Zone patterns, called "BUC", which stands for Backside Under and Cross. A frontside receiver is called to run a Deep 6 (BUC tells him to alter his technique), and we use the NINER Advantage Principle to guide the passer to the thinnest part of the pass defense.
After numerous technical challenges, I am happy to announce that my new ibook, Coaching Concepts: Developing an Offensive System is now available. It was a long road, but it will be worth it. The content is dynamic, with over an hour of video embedded. Most of all, information such as "Navigation Tags" will help your offensive system RIGHT NOW, without changing the system you are installing.
What is the beauty to be found in great systems? To me, it is not just the ability put up huge numbers. Rather, it is the ability to teach - it is the ability to take the complex and turn it into something very easy for players to execute. My consulting clients know that they can get a flood of updated information from me throughout the year. To be clear, these updates don't necessarily mean something new; instead, they are often "tweaks" to the existing.
One such update (without necessitating a change in structure) is the revival of "Mesh" in this passing game. I learned the principle from Norm Chow when he was at BYU. Though the success of the pattern cannot be debated, few can argue the time commitment required to make it work the way Chow's BYU teams or the way Mummy/ Leach deployed their versions of the attack. Proving the flexibility of the system, we have found a very inexpensive alternative teaching method.
In the route tree we used, we simply augmented the definition and technique of the "6" route:
Even for younger players, the technique explanation is simple: run a 4 (hook), then run a 2 (short in). After all, 4+2=6. Running the "mesh drag" in this manner has several advantages:
- The initial stem provides an additional quick throw vs. pressure
- It is more effective vs. match up zone, as the hook stem is something a LB will drive on, and redirect to on the re-start
- This vacates the area for the backside drag better than the traditional mesh
- It is obviously less expensive than traditional mesh
- The timing provides a Third Fix outlet on the backside
From this simple adjustment, along with the stair step technique that is taught with standard drag routes vs. man coverage, one is able to assemble an exciting array of possibilities. This pattern has been extremely successful in 7 on 7 this summer, as it not only compliments the "471" pattern (seen here), but the weak side B wheel pattern as well.
Another variation inspired by the checkdown techniques of Steve Spurrier's teams, combined with DRIVE, is shown here:
How inexpensive is this tweak in teaching technique? My son's 7 on 7 team has been able to throw and catch both of these passes (along with Stick/Levels with RAM, 471, 220, and 09 A Badge) for scores in the last 2 weeks.
PS - days away from having my iBook available for purchase.
Thought I'd try this once, and see how it came out. Hopefully the volume came out OK, so you can get the coaching points as I run the video.
Hindsight is 20/20. We know this, but we also know that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. As I look back on the past Super Bowl, I am reminded of things I learned in a pro-style offense decades ago, yet can be forgotten with the preponderance of today's spread thinking. Going into the game, much of the talk of the Denver Offense vs. Seattle Defense conversation was the high percentage of "Cover 1" the Seahawks' defense would play. Many agreed that Peyton Manning's penchant for getting the ball out quickly would help negate Seattle's defensive prowess. Looking back, however, one wonders if this thinking helped play into Seattle's hands.
In the diagram above, we have a vanilla interpretation of the Cover 1, which is defines as man to man with 1 free safety deep (also called "Man Free" in football vernacular). The corners can play press, off, or "bail" in order to disguise their intentions. There is always an extra underneath defender (the M in the diagram) who can blitz, wall off crossing routes, or simply be a pest the QB must throw around. More on that in a bit.
Initial examination will call for getting the ball out quickly, on flat or drag routes -- often in some "mesh" configuration. Some forms of offensive thinking will depend solely on quick routes versus this defensive structure. Superior match-ups may allow for this, but the defense can counter vs. a limited arsenal, and pounce when they see a familiar pattern. The big hit on Demarius Thomas was proof of this:
Cam Chancellor, the frontside safety (F), rolled down in a version of 1 Robber. His depth allowed to track the shallow and make a big hit. Further examination, however, shows Eric Decker WIDE OPEN on his in cut. Had the progression called for scanning INTO the in route, as we teach, he would have seen the open route, as well as seeing Chancellor because his eyes would start in front on the flag by A (Wes Welker) and swing into the route. Homer Smith introduced this idea to me years ago, and it still resonates today -- our eyes jump (or "saccade") from one spot to the other; carefully planned progression passing should take the passer to these routes not only so he can see the "danger" out in front. Navigation Tags, as described here, are primarily for helping with zone completions (a coach needs the ability to direct his player on every snap based on game and coverage situations); defeating man coverage necessitates maintaining all possible options on a pass play.
As a collegian, the defense I saw every day in practice played press man on a majority of the snaps; here is what I know about beating man to man -- while rub/ mesh routes are great, there is no substitute for attacking with depth. The FLAG route might be the best of all routes vs. this coverage. However, a limited set of routes once again gives the defense an advantage. In another example, the Broncos are in the Scoring Zone. They have a Post/ Wheel combination to the left, with spacing/ comeback to the right. The defense shows Cover 1, then actually bails to a combo coverage, playing zone on the post/wheel side and man to man against Welker on the right side of the formation. Below, you can see the ball is already coming out -- and the potential danger awaiting. This is an example of why the ball coming out in the same rhythm (even quick rhythm) all the time is a potentially bad thing.
If the only objective of the offense is to get rid of the ball quickly, this actually plays into the hands of the defense, as cover men are not stretched to the limits of their abilities. It simply takes less talent to cover for a short period of time. For this reason, deep ins/ outs are a MUST when defeating man coverage. Depth makes a man defender, no matter how talented, turn their hips and run. Even in this one-sided Super Bowl, the Bronco's positive plays came on deep crossing routes and ins/ and outs. Below, on the same play as above, look at the comeback route at the top of the screen. The ball being gone is irrelevant; the corner covering has no idea the ball has been thrown.
Make no mistake - the game was, as they say in my hometown of Paris, TX -- "a whoopin''". The Seahawks were a more physical team, and the nature of the Denver running game didn't help, as it was too dependent on box counts rather than calling and running plays, regardless of the defensive look. Protection was a major issue, but the defense had as many pressures when in zone as they did in man; the coverage does not add time on a given play, just as adding a check-releaser (from 6-man to 7-man, for example) has no effect. Protection time can be gained with carefully programmed scan and help calls. The paradox was the plan of quick completions vs. what actually disturbs man coverage.
The premise remains: in attacking man coverage, explosive plays are a must, and are not always available when solely releasing the ball in quick rhythm.
I have a few projects in the works, so my time has been divided. I have, however, received a lot of questions in regard to how the traditional QUICK game fits into the verbiage described in Recoded and Reloaded. So, here is a short write-up.
First, in regard to how we CALL these pattern sides, they are NAMED routes that fit into the backside of the numbered frontside pattern. For those who are unfamiliar with our play calling system.....go buy the book. Just kidding. Below, you can see a diagram giving a brief explanation:
The patterns are described just as in many systems: HITCH, OUT, or FIST (Flat Inside a SlanT):
We tag these patterns with the NUMBERS (9ER) Advantage Principle, in which we have a pattern to attack single high or soft corners, and a default Cover 2 pattern to the frontside. We will plan our quick side to defeat single high, while the 220 pattern offers a solid choice vs. Two Deep. One benefit to the high school or college hash marks is the ease with which true two deep can be surmised: with the ball on the hash, as in the diagram above, the BACKSIDE safety (B) must play on or outside the hash in in order to be a half field player. Regardless of where F (front side safety) aligns, if B plays inside the hash, we will treat the alignment as single high.
As a result, the QB's decision is simple and decisive: if the safety is inside the hash, he can count on single high principles to the tagged quick route; if he is on or outside the hash, he works the "220" pattern. The accountability falls to the coach to carefully plan boundary and field formational looks, but the work for the QB is clearly defined with an Advantage Principle that not only facilitates the quick game, but this offense's version of the Run N Shoot "Choice" route as well.
This represents the most basic presentation for quick routes. Hope this helps!
For many coaches, there is no "OFF SEASON" -- conditioning and strength programs are in full swing, and many programs will implement QB School before team-wide football activities will take place. Along those lines, I thought I would list a few bullet points:
Feeding a great player - having a specialized section in the game plan is nothing new; one thing I feel is important is that these methods should blend with the regular flow of the offense. In other words, re structuring an entire system just to feature a single player is not the most efficient way to teach for the program's sake. Obviously, if one were lucky enough to have a once-in-a-lifetime talent, one would want to take advantage of that. However, a player can be GREAT for your level without being an NFL prospect. Below, a simple variation to free up a great run after the catch RB is shown with a complete pattern that is a staple of the offense.
Taking the same example of passing game match-ups with the back, we can augment the backside of STICK, taking advantage of W on an island:
Formationing to create stress on the defense - this is potentially the least expensive way to maximize your offensive attack. Two things that need to be addressed are:
- The method for calling plays. If the method for play calling calls for players to know their place in the formation relative to the ball (ex. inside, middle, outside), and there is NOT a descriptive way to call them, this can create chaos. If the plan to take advantage of a great player is to move him around within the formation, the coach must consider the learning burden not only to the star player, but to the players that will be displaced as a result. The ability to move people within a given formation with minimal learning burden is yet another example of the benefits of our terminology structure.
The above example isn't the only way to skin a cat; a client approached me this year of incorporating A.C.T.S. into their passing game. We were able to do so without changing ANY existing terminology for them. Whether using word or numbers -- how the core pieces of the passing game are taught remain the same, and kids are able to execute a multi-dimensional attack.
- Creating new terminology to build new formations. I have always felt that streamlining the terms used can be of a great benefit. We have a terrific system of calling formations, that minimizes the memorization required at the same time. Keith Grabowsky has also shared some great ideas here. For now, here are the very simple alignment rules we use:
The chart above carries across all personnel groupings, and really cuts down the verbiage used in calling formations, allowing for more description in other parts of the call, and allowing for the next bullet point...
The use of TEMPO - much has been said on this topic, but I feel the need to clarify a few things. We're all aware of the flashy, video game number-producing, throw it all over the park offense that gets all the media attention. But the reality is that upper level college football is pretty much the only place where teams can play full throttle the entire game and NOT hurt the rest of the team. Either that, or a program like the one I see every Friday night (Allen High School has an enrollment of 6,000+). Even Chip Kelly adjusted last season as his numbers dictated that he do so. That being said, I think analysts often miss the purest advantages of being up tempo from a coach's perspective:
- Accelerated player development. Being "up tempo" means devoting a practice philosophy to it (or at least - it should). Working at a faster pace in practice means developing younger players at a faster pace, as backups would get as many repetitions as the starter. In a high school setting, the ability to give the backup QB as many reps as the starter will pay dividends in both the immediate and long term future.
- Allows for balance. Contrary to popular belief, I really am a proponent of balance. Even more important - I think an offense has to be able to dictate to the defense. The box count theory of running the ball is great, but the thing I have noticed is this: there is NO answer when you can run the ball right at a defense. The one problem with running it 30-40 times a game? It shortens the game too much, and can potentially let a team that is inferior STAY IN THE GAME. Being up tempo and wide open does not have to be synonymous with soft; below, we see that of the top 25 offenses in Division 1 last year, only 2 huddled on a regular basis. Furthermore, only 3 averaged less than 150 yards rushing per game. The ability to speed up and slow down the game help strike the critical balance between attacking mismatches and physically deconstructing a defense.
- Allows for "Navigation Tags." Being able to guide the QB with specialized instruction is made possible when tempo is used as a weapon. I wrote a post about these tags here.
- Shifting and Motion. Having played in a college offense that shifted and moved on every snap, I saw very early on in my career the potential for stressing a defense. If there was ever an opportunity to take advantage of shifting and motioning, a no huddle offense that varied its pace could take advantage.
Being multiple, in addition to having the capacity to being up tempo, is invaluable in terms of creating stressors for the defense. In business terms, these methods can be thought of as the "delivery" side of the offense. Just as important is the production aspect -- the overall design.
Prioritizing your passing game - not only is this pass offense built on its "bedrock" concepts, but it is based on universal individual routes as well. By teaching the primary components of the passing game to all position groups, there is an enormous amount of flexibility. One such route is a DRAG, with the drill illustration below:
With every skill group able to execute these fundamental building blocks, we are able to use the DRAG in an array of presentations, giving the defense different problems to consider:
Practicing what you preach - too often, we get away from developing a kid's strength, instead focusing on his weaknesses. At most levels of football, coaches cannot afford to do this. The best coaches I've known have maximized the potential of their players. For example, much is made of the pass-catching TE at the NFL level; while a kid may not be a Jimmy Graham, he could be and effective possession receiver, or even a solid seam threat vs. 3 deep. It becomes incumbent on the coach to dial up these match-ups, not as a means of appeasing the player, but as a means of accountability to the program -- the coach must be committed to what is best for the team. Sadly, I often see coaches who are not willing to be unselfish, yet ask players to do the very same.
Taking this a step further, from a team perspective, it is imperative to commit to the development of players. Development involves strategic planning on all levels of program and player development. My last two posts, here and here, address these processes.
There is no doubt -- stability is the key to long term success; it is for this reason that a "system" needs to have all the answers, with as few "add-ons" as possible. The ability to adjust, while minimizing learning burden, can only be achieved with a methodical, well-planned apparatus for teaching.
As a young coach, I was lucky enough to get exposure to Todd Dodge. It is no stretch to say that his teaching methods influenced an entire generation of coaches here in Texas. While football outsiders think of Dodge's innovations being the spread, no huddle offense in Texas high schools, the innovation that comes to my mind is Quarterback School.
The offseason is about player development; before Dodge popularized QB School, very few people were spending the spring making quarterbacks better quarterbacks. I started having QB school in 2000, and while terminology may have changed, the effort in refining my teaching has not.
Some quick points:
- We were going to develop ALL the QBs in our system
- We were going to isolate every aspect of the QB role, from Leadership Competencies to Reading Pass Defenses
- We would challenge the QBs; they need to understand the demands of the job
- We would empower the QBs. They would be allowed to test their limits on the practice field, so long as it was within the framework of their coaching.
In preparation, some key things must be in place:
- A complete system. When I speak of a system, I imply a method of teaching and communicating fundamentals and coordination of run and pass games. While different skill sets lead lead to highlighting different play calls, fundamentals should not change.
- A glossary of terms. Communication is essential; if all coaches and and QBs are to be on the same page, they must be using the same words, not general ideas. Leave no room for interpretation.
- An overall plan. We recently broke QB school into 40 sessions to be held throughout the spring. This allows for fundamentals, scheme definition, and installation before team installation for 7 on 7 or spring practice.
Like practice, ever session should be organized. Here is an actual lesson plan from 2001:
When we speak of ACCOUNTABILITY, this is a two way street. The coach is accountable to the player. As Coverage Categories, Protection Basics, and Pattern Mechanics are taught, they are done so within the context of giving the players the tools to be successful. As coaches, we must hold up our end of the deal. There is nothing worse than the player making the commitment to learn and get better, only to have the coach give up on the plan come crunch time. While the Spring is the time to experiment, these additions should be made within the context of the overall plan.
There should also be an element of pressure involved. Playing the position is difficult, and there is a very real pressure to perform each and every game. Explain this. Be demanding because you care. Lastly, there should be an opportunity for self evaluation on the part of the player. Identify both strengths and weaknesses. Clarify what it will take to win in this league, and what the player is prepared to do in order to achieve this.
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.