This is the second installment on my series on How Much is Too Much? Today I want to talk to you about what it means to "fully install" a concept. One of the biggest issues we have as offensive coordinators is that we install a bunch of concepts, but we don't "fully" install them. We end up with a lot of play calls that are what we would say are good calls, but due to a lack of execution, they become bad calls. They aren't going to work against a particular defensive look, and we have limited answers in place. Bad play calls stall drives and lead to multiple three and outs. I have had plenty of these in my career, and many stem from trying to do too much.
A fully installed concept has the following 7 components
1. The concept base install
2. Blocking rules installed against each front you will see
3. Perimeter Blocking Rules and adjustments
4 Complementary Plays to take advantage of defensive answers
5. Play Action Component to take advantage of secondary support on runs
6. Route adjustments that can be made to attack coverage on passes
7. Reverse or trick play using the action of the original play
A full install is far beyond knowing the rules of a play, and your assignment. A full install of a play means that you can install that play, run it versus any front or coverage, and you have answers to the different adjustments defenses will make. When you have a concept fully installed, your players know how to adjust on the fly. They can change their path, their route, or their footwork. The back can adjust his path. The QB can adjust his read. Your players can make sight adjustments, and the coaches have complementary concepts that take advantage of defensive answers. You have to have answers for the answers of the defense.
Let's look at midline option when installed fully. When midline is full installed, we could run it against any front and any blitz. We had built in answers to the adjustments defenses made. We had if/thens built into the play. We had easy in-game adjustments that allowed us to handle different things the defense might do. Our kids could sight adjust based on how the defense lined up. We were able to successfully run the play anywhere on the field, against every opponent we faced, and we were able to have consistency. It wasn't a feast or famine concept. We had complementary tags that helped provide us answers to defensive answers.
If they lined up in two high safeties, our receivers did one thing with their blocking. If we got 1 high safety, our receivers made an adjustment. Our playside guard changed his path based on the alignment of the read key and the defensive front. Our tackle and tight end would adjust their blocking based on whether there was a down guy in the C gap.
From the box, I could see what the defense was doing to try to stop midline. We typically saw three things defenses would do. First, they would scrape exchange with the 3 technique and the Mike backer. Second, they would have the Sam fall-in on the quarterback. Third, they would have the backside inside linebacker playing fast over the top to take the dive. We needed answers to those three adjustments. If they reduced their front, then we had ways to answer that as well.
We had complementary tags to take advantage of their adjustments. If they scrape exchanged, we would run our give scheme. If the Sam fell in on the QB, we would run mid triple which we tagged Mid Pitch. If the Will was fast over the top, we would run follow opposite. If the 3 tech was fast upfield, we would trap him. Below is an example of midline with complements.
We also had four play action concepts we ran off midline option to take advantage of secondary adjustments. If the Mike was playing triggering fast, we would throw a pop to the TE. If the safety was screaming downhill, we would run a post. If the corner was playing pitch, we ran verticals. We also ran the TE on an arrow off midline action if the Sam was squatting.
From there, we added window dressing. We used formations and motions to change the structure of the defense. We wanted to put them in situations where we changed their assignments. We used motion to add a blocker, improve our angle, remove a defender, or to cause eye discipline issues within the defense.
Everything we did was systematic. We had a systematic approach to installing midline, as well as each concept within our offense. This gave our players a certain comfort in knowing they could make adjustments, and confidence in knowing we would always put them in a position to be successful. They could play fast and with confidence.
As we evolved away from traditional option concepts, we moved our identity run to the inside zone concept. When we installed inside zone, we also installed complements. Our first install was inside zone read with built in quick game concepts. This gave us three plays in one. We had rules for our receivers that were simple. Our QB could throw the quick game concept based on alignment. This gave us quick, high percentage throws to the perimeter. If we didn't like the throw, we executed the run. In the figure below we would throw the fast screen to the twins side because we had numbers.
To change the presentation on our split zone, we had a tag that put the Y on the read side inside backer. The tackle would now gap step and hinge on the end, and the Y would block the inside backer. We wanted this to be an inside out block if possible.
We had a total of 5 tags off inside zone, and then had 3 post snap RPO's we would run. This gave us the ability to always have an answer. We felt like we always had an answer to what the defense wanted to do. We could change personnel, and keep the structure of the play identical regardless of personnel group.
Because we fully installed each concept, we didn't have to install as many concepts. We had answers built-in, eliminating the need to have a bunch of additional additional plays. Our playbook was condensed because we because we didn't need a different play to attack different defensive looks. We had our base concepts and complements.
This went hand in hand with our pass game. We loved to run the curl flat concept. The curl-flat concept is a great cover 3 beater, but it isn't as good against Cover 2. What we did was sight adjusted the curl route when we faced a cover 2 look. Instead of running a post curl, our #1 receiver pushed vertical attacking the outside shoulder of the corner, and worked a 14 to 12 hole route. When we ran the curl concept, the hook player kept getting into the window of the curl. Since we are reading the flat defender, it simplified things for our QB to read the corner, who is flat defender in cover 2.
Instead of installing a new concept, you can install simple route adjustments based on coverage. This allowed us to keep things simple for our quarterback and our receivers. We didn't have to add a bunch of new concepts that we weren't going to be good at running.
With the pass game, I like to install in families. Installing concepts in families helps your QB and receivers to be on the same page with reads, and each concept in a particular family can relate to each other. Your quarterback and receivers will process faster, and be able to better handle in game adjustments.
What happened over the years, is that I got away from answers and installed more concepts to be the answers. This is something we all need to consider. Do I want to install more concepts and be less detailed with each one, or do I want to install less concepts, and be more detailed with each one? When you have a concept that remains consistent, but you change the presentation for the defense, you get the benefit of installing a new concept without the investment a new concept requires.
As I write this, I look back at how many times I allowed our playbook to grow too large. I let it get to a point where kids were not able to play fast, and coaches were going to struggle to make adjustments. I sometimes struggled as a play caller because our menu was too big. When your menu gets too big, you aren't going to be as decisive. Perhaps the most important key to being an effective play caller is decisiveness.
How much better can you play if your players know what to do, and how to adjust? How much better will you be as a a play caller if you know exactly what to call based on how the defense is defending certain concepts? I am not telling you to be a minimalist, but I believe to be effective you have to keep your offense from expanding to the point where you can't fully install each concept.
As you build your offense for the upcoming season, I would suggest listing each run concept and pass concept you plan on running. For each concept, list the problems you will face from defenses. Then list your tags and complements to solve those problems. For each run, you should have complements to solve front adjustments, and play action passes to take advantage of aggressive secondary play. Finally, what trick plays will you run? You don't necessarily need a trick or gadget play off every concept, but you should have a trick play off your identity concept, and one other concept you run frequently.
When you list your pass game, draw up your concept versus split safety coverage, middle closed coverage, and man coverage. Then draw your route adjustments to each coverage. List what answers the defense will have. Then, come up with your tags for each concept that will take advantage of that defensive adjustment.
Installing too much can be a huge hindrance to offensive success. I would argue that having too much installed is worse than having too little installed.
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