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Football: Creating An Offensive Game Plan

Updated on January 21, 2015

Developing an offensive game plan and seeing it work on game day is one of the most rewarding experiences you will get in coaching football. There really is nothing quite like pouring over hours of film to find your opponents weakness then finding creative ways to put your players in position to exploit those weaknesses. There is always a sense of confidence when you know you have done your homework and you have a great plan. But what makes a great plan ? Where do you start ? What should it look like ? How do you implement it ? By showing you the answers to those questions this book can serve as a tool for you and your coaching staff to use as you put together your offensive game plans this season and beyond.

What makes a great plan?

The answer to this question is simple. You must be prepared for and have the answers to any foreseeable situation that may happen on game day. You need to know what plays you like in the red zone. You need to have a good plan versus the blitz. What do you plan on doing if your backed up on your own goal line? What's your plan on 3rd and long and protecting your QB from their great defensive end? What are you going to open up with? These are all scenarios you need to think about and prepare for. Clearly, some of your priorities may change from week to week, but every situation should be accounted for. I'll give you an example of a time when I did not cover every situation and it cost my team the game. In my first season as a head coach we opened our season on the road against a team in Jacksonville. It was a very tight game that was back and forth. In the fourth quarter we found ourselves down by 6 with 5 seconds left. We were on our opponents 10 yard line. The clock had stopped and we had time left for one more play. What I needed was a column on my play call sheet called “last play of the game”. But I didn't. It had not crossed my mind that this game may go down to the last play with us needing a touchdown to win. Needless to say, I panicked. I did not know which play to call. I got the play in too late and we got a delay of game penalty which pushed us back to the 15 yard line. The next play my Quarterback was intercepted and the the game was over. It was a heartbreaking defeat, and more humiliating was that it should not have happened. Had I been more prepared for that situation, I would have had the play I wanted, got it in on time and we would have won the game. I vowed to never let it happen again. That was 6 years ago. From that day on I have always had a “last play of the game” column on my play call sheet.

If you are ready for every situation, then you have a great plan. You may find out that a play you really like against a certain look may fail. But it won't fail because you didn't do your home work. Your team may fail to execute your plan, but don't ever fail to give your team a great plan. It starts with you, the coach, the play caller. It's your responsibility to get in the film room, break down your opponent in every way possible, and give your offense and your team a chance for success.

Where do you start?

Let's be honest about something. If you are a High School football coach, you don't have the time a professional or college coach has to work on your game plan. You are probably a teacher or have a job that does not allow you to examine film all day. Also realize that your opponents are in the same boat. Most High School defensive coordinators are not going to put in a ridiculous amount of fronts, stunts, and blitzes.

So the key is for you to prioritize and ask yourself the right questions. I have broken down the beginning of effective offensive game planning for High School coaches down to 3 simple starting points:

  1. What is your opponents base defense?

    Everyone has a base defense. You need to know what your opponents bread and butter defense is. Is it a 4-4? 3-4? 5-2? 4-3? Find out what it is. This should go without saying, but ask yourself some simple questions as well. How do they run it? Do they change their Defensive line techniques? Do they flip based on strength? How many other fronts do they use? How often? What do they use in short yardage? By just answering these questions, you will know a lot about your opponents defense and how they run it. With this information, you will already begin to get an idea of what plays in your play book will be best to use.

  2. Evaluate your opponents personnel

    This is critical. Always start with the defensive line . Take your time evaluating each player up front. Ask yourself some questions. What are their basic alignments? Who is their best defensive lineman? Who is their worst? Do any of them play both ways? Is there any player that we must double team?

  • After you evaluate their DL, you know who you need to run at, and who you need to be careful with. This is vital information to any game plan. Take your time here.

Evaluate the line backers . Ask yourself some basic questions. What are their basic alignments? Who can tackle? Who can't? What are their pass drops like? Which player blitzes the most? Who do we need to attack? Who do we need to be careful with?

  • Again, like your evaluating of the DL, you are gathering critical information you need to develop your game plan. Take your time with the process.

Evaluate the defensive backs . Ask yourself some basic questions. What are their basic alignments? What is their main coverage? Who is their best cover guy? Who is the worst? Do they bring their safeties into the box for run support? How often?

  • Like your other evaluations, you are gathering critical information that will help you prepare your team and call the best plays possible.

3.What are the stunts and blitzes?

You need to go through all the game film you have of your opponent and diagram every stunt and blitz your opponent is going to use. Nothing can destroy an offensive play more that having an offensive line that does not know what to do against a certain blitz or stunt. This can simply kill your game plan. Take your time and make sure you have them diagrammed correctly. Be sure to take note of how many times they use the stunt or blitz and in what situations. Failure to do this can result in a catastrophe for your offense. Involve your staff. This is a great job for your offensive line coach.

By covering these 3 starting points you have a great foundation on information you will need to put together your offensive game plan. The next step will be to effectively use this information to beat your opponent.

What should it look like?

The physical game plan you carry on game day should hold all the information you need to call the best game possible. With all of the homework you will do, you cannot possibly remember every single detail of your opponent. Further more, you cannot remember every play you want to run in every situation. Therefore you need a clean, detailed, easy to use, game day call sheet. Every coach across America has their own version of a game day call sheet. Some coaches develop their own, some borrow or steel templates from other coaches. However you choose to put your call sheet together, there are items that I consider critical for an effective game plan call sheet.

  1. You need to list every play in your game plan. For the runs I like to list the runs in a hole chart (See call sheet ). For the passes I like to break up the passes based on base passing game and play-action passing game (See call sheet) .

  2. I think it's important to have plays you like for every situation you may encounter during a game. Most situations are guaranteed (1st down, second and long, third and short etc.), some are predictable (Backed up on your own goal line), and some are rare (Last play of the game). Like a mentioned earlier, don't ever fail to give your team a great plan. That's means being prepared for any situation.

  3. Provide yourself with a place on you call sheet for the red zone. This is a critical spot on the field. If your going to spend time scouting your opponents red zone defense, you need to have a column for red zone plays.

  4. Have a place on your game plan for your opening sequence of plays. This concept was made famous by the legendary Bill Walsh. He would script the first fifteen plays he would call in a game. Each play would be selected with the intent of gathering more information that he could use later in the game. You spend all this time watching film and studying your opponent, but you never know for sure what they will do until the game begins. Have an opening sequence that will provide you with valuable information you can use later in the game.

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