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Which Plays Actually Work

As a coach you should always be evaluating your playbook and your team to figure out what actually works and why. We started a discussion the other day on our staff about the effectiveness of our dropback pass protection. So what do I do? I instantly started looking for real answers and not trying to guess based on the random situations I remember where we got sacked in a critical situation.

Looking Back At Plays

In a pre or post season situation I am going to look at 2 years worth of play calls. I feel this gives a large enough sample size. If you are using hudl, at the end of each year I save all offensive plays into a playlist and then I can select the previous two years and then create another playlist for a particular play. 

If I am evaluating the plays during our season (August-November), then I am going to pull a much smaller sample size of only a few games. This will be more efficient and likely tell me more about the current players and their ability to accomplish the task. 

Once I have access to the plays I want, I begin to indicate if the play worked or not. I prefer to make a custom column on hudl where I can indicate and sort later in this process. 

For our dropback pass protection I pulled up each of the plays and then gave them a + in the column if the QB had time to throw. If there was a sack, scramble or hurry on the play in a reasonable time, then I gave the play a -. I will also have a column to indicate why the negative play existed. There are 3 general reasons why a play fails to work: 1. Scheme 2. Techniques 3. Personnel.

Further Evaluating Plays

Once that process is completed I look at the overall percentage. If the play is working for us at a rate of 75% or better then I feel great about it. If the number dips below that, then it is time to further evaluate. 

As I begin to look through all the plays I will see if there is a trend in why it is failing. Let’s be completely honest, each of us has faced an opponent that has just overwhelmed our personnel at times and there is not much you or your player can do except call a different play or re-design/adjust the play. There are simply times when a DE is going to beat your tackle off the edge. So if that personnel is a major issue on the play, then begin to evaluate if you have the right player in that position. If the personnel is detrimental to a concept, then you may need to substitute or re-arrange line-ups.

Evaluating Technique

Techniques are another major issue. Sometimes you are not overmatched, but instead their technique is hindering the ability for them to be successful. This can be a very difficult thing for coaches, because sometimes the technique you are teaching is ineffective. Coaches must be able to honestly look at the film and see if they are teaching what is best for their players. At the high school level it is easy to take NFL and NCAA ideas and try to apply them to our level, and the truth of the matter is that few high school kids are actually capable of performing it. For instance, we talk all the time about how to teach hand placement in our pass protection. We are very deliberate in our teaching, language, and drill work to make sure we are seeing what we want. The other issue can be players not using the technique you have taught them. If this is a consistent trend, then maybe you need to find a new approach to teaching it or give another player the opportunity to prove themselves.

Evaluating Your Own Scheme

Finally the area that coaches can control the most is scheme. If your X’s and O’s are failing you, then find a better way. For instance our pass protection has 5 players working. If we are not able to identify the times we need 6 and adjust or find houte routes, then we need to figure out a better way. As defenses adjust and adapt, so must the offense and their ability to accomplish the task.

In our most recent study of pass protection, we found that we had no sacks based on the scheme. Instead, they were primarily based on missed assignments or players simply being beat. In a situation like this, we look for trends and patterns. As a coach you can look at these trends and see if they are linked to certain personnel’s ability or potentially a coaching issue.

This process of evaluating your offensive concepts can be valuable in figuring out which plays/concepts ultimately work for you. If a base run or pass concept is not getting the yardage you expect, then figure out why. 


This article was originally published in Headsets: Volume 1, Issue 8.

Brent Morrison is a proud husband and father of two that has been the Head Football Coach at Westerville Central High School since 2018. The school was coming off two losing seasons when he took the position and in each of his first three seasons his team qualified for the Division 1(Largest) Playoffs in Ohio. During the course of each season the teams ranked in the top 10 according to the associated press and in 2020 made it to the Elite 8. In addition to being the head coach, he also serves as the offensive coordinator and a social studies teacher at the high school. Prior to taking the position he had been an assistant at Westerville Central since 2005. In his time as an assistant he served as the Offensive Coordinator and was recognized as Assistant Coach of the Year by the Central District.

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Which Plays Actually Work

As a coach you should always be evaluating your playbook and your team to figure out what actually works and why. We started a discussion

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