Developing an Offensive Game Plan
Ron Guagenti, Offensive Coordinator - Marian Catholic H.S., Chicago Heights, IL

Situations                            Number of Plays/Situation
"Openers" [1st + 10]                  10 per Half (20 per game)
2nd + Short [1-3 yds.]                 2
2nd + Medium [4-6 yds.]                3
2nd + Long [7+ yds.]                   5
3rd + Short [1-3 yds.]                 4
3rd + Medium [4-6 yds.]                6
3rd + Long [7+ yds.]                   8
4th + Short [1-3 yds.]                 4
4th + Medium [4-6 yds.]                2
4th + Long [7+ yds.]                   3
@ Goal Line [+5 YD.LN. to G L]         7
"Green" Zone * [+20 YD.LN. to +5]      8
"Red" Zone ** [GL to -10 YD.LN.]       4
2-min. [No Huddle]                    10
4 min. Offense [Clock Control]         7
Overtime [OT] Script                   8 ["Scripted by DWN + DIS]
Last two plays [end of half or game]   2
"Go-4-Its" or "Big Mo's"               2 ["Momentum Changers"]
Two (2) Point [Extra Points]           5
"Specials" [Gimmick plays]             2
* In our system, Green means "Go," and "Go" means "Score!"
** Red means "Caution" or "Danger"

The coaching cliche, "Keep it Simple, Stupid," also known as the KISS Principle, is a complete non-factor in the development of an offensive game plan for the high school level.

The reason is simple. Offensive game planning has now reached a level of sophistication that forbids the acceptance of simplicity as a precursor for success.

Our high school offenses and defenses have evolved as fast as the popularity of computer and video technology in scouting, game-plan design, and teaching.

From an offensive coordinator's perspective, seven non X and O related entities contribute significantly to the success of the game plan. The preparer must have:

    1. A willingness and commitment to devote many hours to the task at hand--a comprehensive finished product that will work.

    2. Above average organizational skills, work ethic, and computer literacy.

    3. The commitment to devote many hours to the breakdown and analysis of your opponent's defenses through a multitude of video graphic media; i.e. VHS tapes, CD's, and/or DVD's.

    4. A strategy or plan.

    5. The ability to attend coaching clinics regularly, paying special attention to attending sessions presented by defensive coordinators.

    6. The desire to continually learn and improve knowledge and understanding of offensive strategies, philosophies, techniques, etc. This learning upgrade is accomplished by reading books and/or journal articles, watching professionally produced VHS tapes, etc., and by attending coaching clinics.

    7. Luck! Finding an opponent's defensive game plan in their locker room after a game.

Accepting the inherent complexities necessary in today's game plan design, the game planner must consider a number of basic strategies, philosophies, and "X and O" issues.

First, and perhaps foremost, is the dual recognition of the intellectual capabilities of your players, and the teaching methods that will maximize learning.

Brian Billick, Baltimore Ravens Head Coach, in his book, Developing An Offensive Game Plan, states ...

  "The actual teaching methods that we use are the one true area in which the most innovations are taking place.  It is this area where youcan gain the 'edge' all coaches are 
constantly looking for to enhance their chances of winning."

With respect to high school football players, the best teaching tool available to coaches today is the computer. Dallas Cowboys Head Coach, Bill Parcells, made this statement in his book, Finding a Way to Win.

  "If the competition has laptop computers and you're still using yellow legal pads, it won't matter how long and hard you work; they're going to pass you by."

Most high school students are already computer literate. This gives offensive coordinators the technological option to take advantage of this learning style and collate, summarize, and even interface the opponents' defensive tendencies with some form of video to create cut-up tapes, CD's, or DVD's that can be used for analysis and teaching.

The technological options, levels of sophistication, and application options are virtually unlimited.

Secondly, the size of the actual game plan itself must be based on the actual number of plays that will be required in a typical high school game (typically 60-65 plays).

This number will vary from program to program, and should be determined by computing the average number of offensive plays that your team has run per game over the previous four or five years.

As important as total number of plays per game is the number of situational plays that occur in a game. A minimum of 20 offensive situations must be addressed in every game plan, and the number of plays per situation must be based on the statistical occurrence of those situations in all of our games.

The accompanying table on Situational Game Planning pinpoints these 20 specific situations, and includes the total number of plays I incorporate into each game plan to address each. The number of plays per situation is based solely on the known percentages these situations have occurred in games over the previous five seasons (58 games).

By design, I highly recommend the inclusion of eight non-situational categories into a game plan template:

    * First Plays [scripted].

    * Draws [RB and QB] [a list].

    * Screens [a list].

    * Run "Checks" [Audibles; 1 per game].

    * Pass "Checks" [Audibles; 1 per game].

    * Base Runs [a list].

    * Base Passes [a list].

    * Second half adjustments [Notes].

Furthermore, as dictated by each specific situation, I also recommend listing the play menu per "situation" in the following five categories: Runs, Play-Action passes, Drop-Back, Sprint, or Shotgun passes, Draws, and Screens.

Each of these five categories should be somehow color-coded on the game-plan template to allow for instant recognition and identification.

With respect to the actual construction process of this opponent-specific game plan, vital defensive information on each opponent must be obtained from exchanged game films, previous years game films, and formal scouting. The game planner must account for a multitude of defensive structural and non-structural information on the opponent:

    * Base defense(s).

    * "Changeup" defense(s).

    * Short yardage and/or goal line defense(s).

    * "Red" and "Green" Zone defense(s).

    * "Prevent" defense(s).

    * Blitz package(s).

    * Base secondary coverages and disguises.

    * Line stunts or movement (i.e. slants and twists).

Additionally, knowledge of Who? What? Where? When? and How? tendencies by down and distance, defensive personnel groupings or families, defensive signals or verbal calls, and identification of the strongest and weakest player by position is critical in determining play selection per situation.

Based on all of the above, each DWN + DIS situation on the game-plan template must identify the expected front, secondary coverage, line stunt, and blitz tendencies of your opponent based on the known statistical percentages calculated from video breakdown and personal scouting.

The game plan run-pass menu per situation should be designed to attack:

    1. Structural run "Bubbles" created by the front(s).

    2. The weakest defensive lineman.

    3. The weakest inside and outside LB's.

    4. The weakest defensive back.

    5. "Soft" structural secondary coverages [windows or seams].

    6. Take advantage of "mismatches" created by defensive structural adjustments to formations and/or motion.

The layout of the comprehensive game plan should be completely dependent upon the teaching style of the end user (the offensive coordinator and/or head coach) and should be subjectively based on his personal preferences and creativity.

In order to maximize immediate access, the game plan should consist of only two pages--front and back. With respect to positioning, the following game-plan elements should appear on the front and back pages respectively:


    * Base Runs

    * Base Passes [DropBack; Sprint; & Gun]

    * Play-action Passes

    * "Script" [1st 6 plays]

    * "Openers"

    * 2nd, 3rd, 4th + short /medium / long

    * Goal line plays

    * Goal line / short yardage plays

    * Two-point Plays [Extra Points]


    * Base Blitz's [Blitz Package]

    * 2-min. Offense

    * 4-min. Offense

    * Overtime "Script"

    * Last two plays [half/game]

    * Go-4-Its; Big "Mo's"

    * Specials / Gimmicks

    * Screens

    * Draws

    * Extra Point "Cheater" chart

The front and back page format template listed above can be designed and formatted to fit onto conventional 8 1/2"x 11" paper stock. Although cumbersome, the legal or ledger-size paper is much more practical, and easier on the eyes, especially for night games.

Taking into account the probability of inclement weather, the game plans should always be laminated to insure readability in the event of rain and/or snow.

The legendary Bill Walsh said it best in his book, Finding the Winning Edge: "Putting together a game plan requires intensive pre-game planning and a resolute commitment to follow the plan. The plan must be inclusive and comprehensive in its attention to detail. An unwavering belief in developing, implementing, and adhering to a well-thought plan for game day situations is a prerequisite for a first-class organization."

The game planning process is no longer simple, but the rewards and success in terms of victories and being competitive are well-worth the time investment, commitment, and dedication to your student athletes.

Ron Guagenti, Offensive Coordinator - Marian Catholic H.S., Chicago Heights, IL