What’s Your System?
During the first, six years of my coaching career I was on the defensive side of the football. Still to this day as an Offensive Coordinator I develop my offense with a defensive frame of mind. What I mean by that is my offense is viewed as a system, and not a collection of plays as I feel so many coaches do these days. Imagine if a defense called plays like most offenses do. A different front every snap, different stunt or blitz every snap. Sometimes a different defensive base from week to week. There is a term used for this kind of defense, “Dial-A-D”, it is not a complimentary term.
You see this from time to time on the defensive side and usually the defensive coordinator is looking for work in the spring. But on the offensive side it seams this is a regular occurrence. Teams will bounce around from scheme to scheme within a series and its acceptable, but more often than not, it is not effective. The offense relies on big plays that are inconsistent and they can not drive the field and score. I personally find this type of offensive play calling the result of a general lack of knowledge and copy cat syndrome. What I propose is installing your offense like a defense does. Install it as system that has an answer for whatever the defense is doing.
STEP 1: SYSTEM SELECTION
It can be any offense. Zone based, Gap based, WingT, Spread, Option, Multiple I, or any combination. The idea is to avoid scheme hopping and attack the defense with a systematic approach. Have an answer for everything the defense does no matter what the play call is. I suggest selecting what you know and sticking with your guns. Run it till the coaches and players know it in their sleep. Once you have established your offense then you can trim which I feel may be the most important step.
STEP 2: TRIMMING
Whatever you choose as your offensive route be it spread tempo or the receiver-less single wing set, every offense benefits from trimming the playbook. Almost universally, when the offense trims the playbook you see an increase in offensive production. Why does this happen? Your players have to remember less, you get more reps against more fronts due to more time being spent on fewer plays, players become confident in knowing what to do because of more reps. When players know what to do they play faster, that is a well proven fact.
Ill use my team as an example, we have 4 plays. We will throw some change ups in sometimes if we want to show something new and shiny on film, but we base out of 4, that’s it. Sometimes I feel this is too much and think about going to 2 or 3 plays. My number one play is the widezone, I have my reasons for this but for purpose of the article I’ll avoid getting into that. I mention it to bring up the point that every play needs to have a companion play that places the defense in a bind, if they overplay widezone we hit them with powerO. My number 2 play is the blast (a modified toss) the companion for this one is bellyG. The plays you select are up to you, just make sure you have a companion for each. Sometimes, like I said, 4 can be a little much. Lots of teams in NCAA and NFL football use 1 and 2! A team out of Orlando, FL has routinely pummeled everyone they play with only these 3: jet sweep, bellyG and counterGT. All 3 companion off each other! A great system. The point is by running a limited number of plays to perfection, the offense can incorporate all 11 players to handle the defense no matter how they line up.
STEP 3: ESTABLISHING WHAT YOU WANT TO DO
What are you trying to do to the defense? This question needs to have a clear answer before you take the field Friday night. Are you going to tempo them to keep them on their heels? Are you going to formation them? What are you going to do with your formations? Having lots of formations is pointless unless you have a system or purpose for them. Are you getting in spread to run the ball in the middle? Just because you line up in 4 wide doesn’t mean the defense will empty the box. Your system better have an answer for this. While I’m not a huge fan of the spread, the guys you run it have come with lots of ingenious ways to combine base play and companion play into one package. One example is inside zone and bubble screen.
As I said previously we have over 100 formations. The purpose is to outflank the defense. Get more numbers than they have where we can get easy yards. The secondary purpose is to place the secondary in to assignment binds by forcing them to play run gaps. Now they have to worry about fitting on run and covering for pass. If the defense can manage to line up to our formations our system can still handle the front because our players know exactly what to do.
WHAT TO AVOID
- Becoming too scheme heavy.
- This makes you fundamentally unsound
- Illogical progressions
- Switching from scheme to scheme cuts down on practice time
- Having too many concepts causes linemen to become tentative
- They start thinking
- Doubting their assignment (paralysis by analysis)
WHAT TO ESTABLISH
- A “base”
- Use a base offense each week
- Control the tempo of the game
- Can go fast or go slow. I suggest what I call strategic tempo
- Only tempo when you know you have the defense on heels or in a misalignment
- Going fast for the sake of fast leads to 3-N-Out in 7 seconds
- Most importantly keep the other offense off the field
- Expand & Contract
- Compress and spread the defense with tight, open and unbalanced sets to cause misalignments
- Place stress on the defense with shifts, motions and trades
- Adjust with formations, tempo or window dressings, not countless new schemes and plays
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