PRACTICE PLANNING AND GAME PLANNING

Walsh was a planning mastermind. He planned his training camps down to the minute. Each year Walsh would revise and refine the schedule with his assistants to fit the needs of his teams. Walsh had four basic strategies of team development:
 

For example, the 49ers practice goal line offense, short yardage, 2 minute offense, etc.  The players learned to appreciate this regime because they could be confident that what they learned on the practice field, they could apply in a game. Every logical situation that might occur in a game was isolated and the strategy and tactics were accordingly devised. These situations were given practice priorities with a specified number of minutes.

It's vitally important that players take the field to learn something each session rather than have only their courage tested. This approach should be reflective all the way down to the YOUTH football level ( Pop Warner ). There are only so many times when a coach should test a players courage or willingness to totally sacrifice. The player should be taking the field to learn, and usually to practice something specific that has been discussed beforehand.

There are at least 4 major benefits from precisely scheduling training camp and practices during the regular season:
 

There is NOT a reason a coach can't become more effective each year, if he can retain enthusiasm for his work!!

Teams which attempt to adopt the 'West Coast Offense' and duplicate its success solely by copying the play schematics and blocking schemes are taking a fragmented approach to installing such a system. In order to fully understand the West Coast Offense, a number of factors concerning the parameters of the system must be considered, including:

A TEAM MUST KNOW WHAT TO DO IN ANY GIVEN SITUATION.
 

IDENTIFYING AND IMPLEMENTING ESSENTIAL SKILLS

A critical part of the game planning process is to identify the skills each player needs to perform the tasks involved in a particular play. After identifying the skills needed by the player, a team must have a process in place for ensuring that their players develop these skills so that each play is productive. Taking steps to develop these skills in every player occurs in two stages: isolating the skills and teaching the skills.

Success on the field does not occur by accident. Simply put, PREPARATION PRECEDES PERFORMANCE. The most brilliantly designed scheme and game plan is virtually worthless unless a well orchestrated method is presenting, installing and practicing that scheme and plan exists.

GAME PLANNING

One of the most difficult tasks as a head coach is making judgments and decisions under severely stressful situations. The better prepared the head coach is, the more capable he will be of acting under pressure.
Because preparation is based on probability rather than certainty, as head coach, you must account for every situation and contingency that can reasonably be anticipated. Anticipating the factors which may cause you to experience severe stress during a game can be helpful in several ways, including:

Practicing for every reasonable situation and contingency means that you are upholding your primary responsibility to the team - REDUCING THE LEVEL OF UNCERTAINLY BY THOROUGHLY PREPARING THE TEAM.

Situational Offense

The term situational offense refers to the specific situations which have to be addressed, in varying degrees, during a game. Each of these involves very specific conditions (e.g. down, distance, field position, etc.) At least 9 different categories of situational offense exist:

1. Normal down and distance in the open field.

    Getting a first down on first and second down is a hallmark of a good offense. On 1st and 10 the offense should be focused on positioning themselves in a favorable ( convertible ) down and distance situation.


Stats demonstrate that ONLY 25-35% of 1ST downs are generated on 3RD down conversions. The remaining 65-75% of 1ST downs are generated on 1ST and 2ND down. THEREFORE, a team's 3RD down conversion ratio is typically NOT a primary factor in winning games. To ensure a favorable 3RD down situation, your play selection should emphasize calls with a high probability of at least 4+ yards on both 1ST and 2ND down.


     A teams third objective in normal down and distance in the open field should be to strike with an explosive play ( i.e. a play which results in a gain of 20 yards or more ). 1ST and 2ND down are normally the best downs for calling for an explosive play because of the multiple concerns that the defense must prepare for on these downs.

2. Backed-up.

3.  Third down. 4.  Forth down. 5.  Red Zone. 6.  First and Goal. 7.  Goal Line. 8.  2 Point Play. 9.  Blitz.

  Contingency Offense

The contingency component of a team's offense is designed to deal with those situations which are TIME related. Contingency offensive situations may not even arise in a game. There are 2 basic contingency offensive situations: Four Minute and Two Minute offense.

1. Four Minute offense.

 
Considerations when building a four minute offensive package include:  
1. Two Minute offense.

Reactive Offense

Defenses often develop plans to counter a team's offensive tendencies. Accordingly, a team should include plays in its offensive attack that offset its own tendencies or to take advantage of a defense's probable predisposition to act a certain way in particular situation.

Collectively, these special plays are commonly referred as a team's ' reactive offense '. As the head coach, you should ensure that your team is properly prepared to react in all conventional reactive situations including:

Establishing Openers ( or Scripting )

An integral part of many team's offensive game plan is to script 'OPENERS'. Openers are a prepared list of plays ( i.e. 10 - 15 plays ) that a team plans to use to start ( open ) the game.

Players tend to like the use of openers because the procedure enables them to know ahead of time what they will be doing on their first one or two series. Scripting openers offers several advantages, including:

Coach Billick has stated, "60 minutes is not enough time for the best team to always win - it is just long enough for the team that plays best to win." This underlines the physical parameters of time and preparation that may offset physical limitations.

You must ask yourself the question, How much offense should I have? You should consider three levels:

The more you overlap the amount of total offense you can carry vs. the amount that can be effectively practiced, the more effective the offense you can actually run on game day.

Of course, it is impossible to predict the exact amount of offense you will use in any given game. You must carry a selective amount of overage that has to be built in for 'what if's'. You should try to keep your overage to about 25-30% of the total snaps that you can predict.

From your base offense in the open field package, you can build (script) your openers. The key elements in establishing your base offense are:

Table 1 reflects a 6 year breakdown of the Minnesota Vikings in the OPEN FIELD. 1ST down in the open field requires about 45% of your total calls. 2ND down requires 35%, and 3RD and 4TH downs take up the remaining 20%.

Table 1 also reflects that the 1ST down in the open field package will consist of about 20-25 calls a game. 2ND and Long (7+ yds) in the open field constitutes about 11-12 calls a game. And 2ND and Medium (2-6 yds) in the open field has only about 5-6 calls per game. 2ND and 1 in the open field usually only comes up once a game. Third down in the open field occurs about 10 times a game.


TABLE 2

You will notice that we have identified very specific parameters in Table 1 and we have isolated how much offense is required in each situational offensive category. Now we can think in terms of focusing our needs by run/pass ratio.

Table 2 diagrams a run/pass ratio by situation. For example, we know we face about 20 1ST downs in the OPEN FIELD in a whole game. We can cut that number in half to start with 10 opening, 1ST down open field, first half calls.


Table 2 shows a team who likes a 50/50 run/pass ratio on 1ST down. With this in mind, you should break your 1ST down OPENERS into 5 runs and 5 passes.

Table 2 also demonstrates a team who likes a 30/70 run/pass ratio on 2ND and Long. With this in mind, you should script 5 plays of the first half with 3 passes and 2 runs.

Table 2 also shows a team that would like to keep a 2/1 run/pass ratio on 2ND and Medium, so we script 3 plays for the first half: 2 runs and 1 pass.

This team has decided that we want our opening passes to be 2 dropbacks, 1 quick, and 2 play actions. As we carry  this thinking out over all the OPEN FIELD situations, we end up with our total opening play ratio:

As an example of our opening 12 runs, two of them will be short yardage situations and may in fact be the same play. Likewise, the run we have scheduled for 3RD and Long may be the same run we intended for 3RD and Medium. That being the case, you are left with 10 opening runs.

Those 10 runs do not have to be 10 different plays. They are more likely to be 3 or 4 different runs out of 2 or 3 formations.

It would stand to reason that we would want to build the 5 play action passes off those runs and formations.

Of the 3 quicks we choose to throw, we may want to link them to 2 of the formations from which we are throwing our 8 dropback passes, or 1 or 2 of the run formations, and so on...

How much carryover you wish to have from your 1ST down and 2ND down plays to your 3RD down calls is certainly up to you. You may want to draw from your base passes and just simply change the formations, or you may want to have a complete new set of plays.

Once you have established the priority of your opening plays, you can expand on that package to the point of even doubling those initial 30 plays to have a base OPEN FIELD package of 60 plays, with your average 50 open field calls coming from that package. This certainly fits within the limits of about 20% overage in your preparation.


This same approach can be applied to your RED ZONE package where the 25% of your remaining plays will be called. Examine Table 3. This area has the same predictable parameters as does its open field counterparts. So you can see how you can determine your Red Zone package and so on...


TABLE 3

Installing the Offense:

Table 4 summarizes the amount of offense we have determined we need by situation.

 


TABLE 4

The column labeled SCRIPT represents the upper limit of plays needed for a particular situation, keeping our 25 - 30% overage factor in mind. The column labeled REPEAT represents plays that will come from other parts of the game plan. As such, these plays don't necessarily have to be separately scripted plays. You MUST, however, MAKE SURE THAT THESE SITUATIONS ARE COVERED and everyone is aware of what is going to be run.

We are by NO means suggesting you have to have 90 different play combinations. Much of what you will call will be repeated or changed subtly by formation and/or personnel. These 91 Total Plays fall within the 20 - 30% overage outlined earlier.

As large as this number may seem, many teams will unknowingly carry a much higher percentage of overage, thus making the practice ratio of game plan to actual plays called even higher.

The size and complexity of any game plan and the way you install it is NOT the issue. What IS at issue is if you as a coach have taken the time to be as detailed and specific in your game plan preparation as is needed to give your players the best chance to succeed.

Warren Moon stated in Brian Billick's , Developing an Offensive Game Plan, "The more detailed and specific a game plan can be laid out for a player, the more he can perform with confidence and efficiency." This long discussion of game planning and preparation and teaching is truly the heart and soul of Bill Walsh's 'WEST COAST OFFENSE'.

For more information concerning the West Coast Offense, please refer to the Reference page.

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