Earlier this year I was speaking at a clinic in Greenwich, Connecticut, when a coach asked me what the biggest issue is with ineffective game planning. The answer was easy. Numerous times I have tried to put too much into the game plan. I tried to run too many concepts from too many formations. We would often have over 100 different calls in our game plan. The problem with this is that we couldn't practice everything we were going to run in the game. We wasted a lot of time practicing concepts we wouldn't end up running. Many of you are probably nodding your head because you have done the same thing!
I decided to take an analytical approach. We had approximately 50 team reps each day, 25 inside run reps, 25 team on air reps, and 25 7-on-7 reps each day. If we had four days of practice, we would get 500 reps a week. These 500 reps were sacred. We had to make sure we used them wisely so we were prepared each week.
The first thing we did was cut down on the number of calls we had in our game plan. In a typical game we are going to run between 70 and 85 plays. We aren't going to run 85 different plays. We are going to repeat plays throughout the game. And often, we are going to find a call that works and repeat it over and over. Once we find a formation and concept that works, we often will call that concept several times.
As we began to build our game plan we started with a menu. Our menu consisted of 24 things we felt would be best on Friday night. When I talk about a menu, I am talking about the entire call. This is how we built our menu. As we watched film of our opponents, we answered a worksheet with 63 questions on it. The answers to these questions helped us to get a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the defense. Below is a screen shot of the first 12 questions of this worksheet.
We examined four areas of the defense. First, we wanted to know how they were going to align. We looked at their alignments to find what formations would give us leverage, numbers, and green grass. Where could we find an alignment advantage?
Second, we examined their personnel. Who were their best players? Who were their worst players? Where could we find a matchup we could win? This is a vital part of game planning that helped us win several games. One season we were playing a team with a great defense. They shut our offense down in the first quarter. However, there was one matchup we knew we could win. Our X receiver was better than their corner. To stop the run they were putting their corner on an island. We scored three times in the first half, all on vertical routes to our X. We ran 35 plays in the first half for 220 yards. 170 of those yards came on 3 long touchdown passes to our X.
Third, we wanted to know when they blitzed. When did they call 5 and 6 man pressures? This helped us to determine when we would call our screens. If a team blitzed 75% of the time we were 2nd and medium, we were going to call our screens on those downs.
Fourth, we wanted to know how they handled tempo. Did they huddle? How did they get their call in? What was their answer to offenses playing fast? A few years back we played a team that was much better than us physically. They were huge up front. The one weakness was that they couldn't adjust to tempo. They couldn't get lined up right if the offense played fast. We had no business beating them, but our tempo overwhelmed them.
Once we analyze these four areas, we begin to build our menu. We want to major in 24 things each week. We then would have 12 things we would minor in. This gave us a total of 36 calls for a game. If we did a great job preparing, we would not have to deviate from this list. Below are two screenshots of showing our weekly menu. This is a simple excel worksheet we could adjust each week.
Once we have our menu built, we begin to fill in our call sheet. Our call sheet is very unique in that it gives us specific call scripts based on situations we will face each game. What we did each season was analyzed how many times we faced each down and distance situation. We then built a script for each situation with a column for left hash, right hash, and middle hash. For each situation, we would enter the defense we were most likely going to face. This helped us to have a specific set of plays we felt would take advantage of the defense for each situation. The plays on the call sheet came directly from our menu. Many of these plays would be repeated throughout this call sheet. Below is a screen shot of our call sheet with situational scripts.
The number of plays we had scripted for each situation was based on the number of times we would face that situation each game. We had would have more 2nd and medium calls than we would 2nd and short. By putting together these scripts on our call sheet, we were able to call plays faster on Friday Night. We were able to call better plays based on what the defense was doing against us. Each time we called a play I would make a red mark or a green mark during the game. The red mark meant the play was not positive. A green mark meant it was good. This gave us a point of reference as we went through the game. Typically I would go right down the script each time we faced that specific situation.
On the other side of our call sheet we had sections designed to for additional important areas of our game plan. We had a section with calls designed to get our best athletes the ball in open space. We wanted to make sure we got our best athletes enough quality touches. We had calls based on each formation. This was similar to our play menu. We had another section with specific coverage beaters. We also had a script built for our last play based on field position. There were several other sections as well designed to help us make better calls in the heat of battle.
Once our call sheet was built, we began to build our scripts for the week. We scripted everything we did. If a team we played brought a 5 man pressure 75% of the time on third and long, we made sure we ran a 5 man pressure during that situation in our team period of practice. Everything we did was tied to our preparation worksheet and the reports we ran on our opponents. I am not smart enough to call things from the hip, so our preparation was vital to our success on offense.
If you want to improve your preparation, I have made each of our game planning documents available for download. You can click the link here: Offensive Game Planning Documents. There are 9 documents included in this download. Each document is completely editable and customizable to your program. You can order them today and download them immediately. Here are the documents that are included:
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I also have a packet for the defense available for download! These documents helped us post 6 shutouts in 10 games! Everything you need as a defensive coordinator is here for you to prepare to dominate your opponents! Defensive Game Planning Packet
As you build your gameplay, start with a 24 play menu. Remember, you want to be able to give everything you are going to run in the game enough quality reps in practice. You don't want to run a bunch of stuff in practice you may not run in a game! I hope you have gotten something from this article you can use!