Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Developing an Offensive Game Plan"

In developing my basis for a game plan I tried to structure it in a sequence a coach would follow while breaking down an opponent's game film. This plan of attack is geared for a team using the Delaware Wing-T offense, but can be modified for just about any offense. This method is by no means the only way or best way to develop a game plan, but used to provide a structured plan while preparing to defeat your opponent. In this article I will not be discussing ways to defeat a certain defense or concept but rather an organized plan of steps I follow when developing my offense game plan.

Get a feel for the team you are playing:
Before you can get in to the details of your opponent you must recognize what they are doing defensively. The best way I feel to accomplish is to watch the entire game all the way through, taking mental notes along the way. Get a feel for the team. What kind of team are they? Do they play with emotion? Are they flying to the ball? Are they aggressive, do they gang tackle? Etc. By doing this you can acquire a better understanding of what they are doing and how you can attack them.

What kind of defense are they running?:
The first aspect you must recognize of your opponent is what kind of defense are they running? This may seem like an obvious question but not all teams run the textbook version of the defense they employ. For example a team may run the 4-3 defense, but does this really tell you what a team does defensively? There are several versions of the 4-3 defense, for example: the Miami 4-3, the under front, Pro 4-3 or do they line up and stunt all game long, etc. For every defense there are a number of different variations. As a coach you have to recognize what each team does differently.

What are the teams strengths?:
Next you want to find out what your opponent's strengths are. Are they huge up front, do they have great team speed, are they well coached and disciplined, are they a blitzing team, do they like to stunt, are they athletic, etc. You also want to locate their best player. What position does he play? Is he a impact on every play? What can you do to make him less of a factor? After you have come up with their strengths you have to ask yourself a question, do the things that we do best match up against their strengths? Are we good enough to go against their strength vs. our strength or do we have to add aspects to our game plan that will try and neutralize their strengths.

What are the teams weaknesses?:
After you have recognized all of their strengths find their weaknesses! Find ways to exploit their weaknesses to your advantage. Can you isolate your best blocker on their weakest linebacker? Are any of their down linemen too aggressive leaving them vulnerable to being trapped? Do they lose contain to the outside? Do they over pursue to the ball where reverses and counters would be effective? Does their secondary over commit to the run? Do they stay in a base defense? Etc. Realizing their weaknesses and weaker players can put you at a distinct advantage to win by exploiting what a team is trying to hide. As the old adage states a team is only as strong as their weakest link, this might still be an effective starting point on the plan of attack.

As a Wing-T team what do we want to do?:
One of the advantage points of running the Delaware Wing-T offense is the presence of the wing back. By having the wing at the end of the line of scrimmage you force the defense to adjust or become vulnerable to being out flanked. By having the wing you force defenders to commit to their responsibilities and assignments. Have a plan of attack to adjust when they "meet strength with strength." 1 As Woody Hayes once said, "Do not attack walled cities."
Another important aspect of Wing -T teams is the use of motion, shifting, and unbalanced formations. As a Wing-T coach it is imperative to have an idea on how they will react to these adjustments made by you. To help you answer these questions find out if they have played any team similar to you in the past or if you have even played them before. Were they successful against the Wing-T before? If they were, chances are they will stick with the same defense scheme. As I stated before, do they react to your wing or do they let themselves be out flanked? How do they react to an unbalanced formation? Do they shift over or do they even notice it at all?  As long time Wing-T coach Denny Creehan recommends in his book The Wing-T: A-Z unless you have game film of the team you are facing playing against a Wing-T team the film might be useless in terms of how they are going to play you.

The use of motion in the Wing-T is an integral part of the offense. The Wing-T has basically three forms of motion; three step, one step, and jet. (Authors note:  there have been more motions used recently by WIng-T teams including Rocket and Canadian.) Some teams try to react and adjust their defensive fronts, secondary, or both depending on the different types of motion. When developing your game plan try and come up with several ways of attacking the adjustments that can be made against you. What do they do when you motion, are they in man, do they rotate the secondary, do they slant to motion, shift over, change coverages, etc. Do they react differently to different types of motion?

Another concept that you can use to work on a teams weaknesses is shifting and stemming your backs and receivers. Do teams try and over play your wing flank or try and match up their best players over your formation strengths? If so shifting and stemming can often force the defense to play you straight up because of the uncertainty of where your strengths will line up. Many times you can use shifting to exploit their weaknesses or get them out of what they are trying to do? As a Wing -T coach, it is very important to ask yourself these questions when developing your game plan.

Find What Number 3 and Number 4 are doing!!
The most important numbers in developing a Wing-T game plan are 3 and 4.  When identifying defensive personnel the Wing-T numbers the defenders.  The defense is numbered inside out, starting from the gap outside the center.  It does not matter what defense your opponent is playing, you still use the same numbering system.  In a straight 4-4 Cover 3 defense for example, the defensive tackle playing in a 1 technique would be number 1, the inside line backer playing in a 30 technique would be number 2, the defensive end in a 5 technique to the split side or the a seven technique to the tight end would be number 3, the outside linebacker would be number 4, and the cornerback would be number 5.  Obviously, any or all of these could change at the snap of the ball with blitzes, stunts, and coverage changes.   The reason numbers 3 and 4 are important is because that is where you are going to start your base of attack.  Number 3 has the difficult job of trying to contain the off tackle hole while also maintaining additional responsibilities.  It is your job as the Wing-T coach to put this player in conflict.  If number 3 closes down with the offensive tackle to stop the Down play he is leaving himself open to the log in the Down Option or down block by the halfback in the Buck Sweep.  Number four most likely would be their force player.  Find out who these players are and how they react to certain plays.  This will make it easier for you call the offense during the game.  

What goes into the game plan?
What you want to do next is decide what plays you want to use in the game. The best view point I have found is if you add a new play into the game plan you must take a play out. You only have so much time during the week to practice your plays and each play must get reparations to be successful. You want your offense to look complicated, but in reality be very simplified to teach and for your players to learn. When planning your plays, attack what the defense gives you. If it is not there, attack someplace else. Do not add plays in your game plan you are not going to use. Practice the plays you have confidence in and are willing to use. Why waste time practicing a play you might use once a game? Develop your game plan with a small number of plays you can run out of any formation. This is the key to having an effective offense, not having a textbook full of plays you have only practiced once or twice during the week. Run plays your players know and have confidence in running. You as the coach should know before the game what play you want run in certain situations before the game is even played.  This is not to say that you are locked into your game plan but you are more likely to make better decisions the night before a game than during the game.

Gimmick or Trick Plays:
Gimmick or trick plays must also be develop as part of your game plan. These plays cannot only break open a game but also put the final nail in the coffin to your opponent. These plays should be used early before your opponent has a chance to use his. A coach I used to work with had a plan when he was a head coach.  He would add a new trick play every week.  This way he said he could possibly have 8 to 10 trick plays by the end of the year.

Short yardage and Two Minute Offense:
The last two important aspect of your game plan you must develop are your goal line offense and your two minute offenses. If you practice and have a good goal line and short yardage scheme it will make you a better football team. In your short yardage scheme you should really narrow your game plan to a few select plays. Choose your best plays with the ball going to your best players. If I am going to lose a game it is with my best players getting the ball. 

You should also develop a two minute offense. This part of your game plan should consist of the plays in the sequence you want to call in this situation. You do not want to be calling these plays off the top of your head during a tight game when the game is on the line. 

Other Questions to Ask:
Along with the above it might be necessary to ask your self some of the questions below when developing your game plan.
  1. Do they over play the wide side of the field?
  2. What is their goal line/short yardage defense?
  3. When do they blitz?
  4. Do they take chances and gamble? If so when and where?
  5. Do they use substitution?
  6. How do they cover the option?
  7. What coverage's do they use? Third and long, short yardage, goal line, etc.
  8. Who is their best player?
  9. How deep are their linebackers?
Developing a game plan can be done in many ways. It can be as complicated as having every play broken down from the opponents last ten games to the starting line-up from their previous game. The above information is given to try and add some of the ideas that I have learned and borrowed along the way. I am always adding new ideas to the way I develop a game plan. I believe this the cornerstone of the coaching profession, always trying to develop yourself to be the best you can be professionally and socially.

Bryan L. Schaumloffel
" - The Original Wing-T Web Page Since 1997"
  • Kraft, George C. (1992). The Fundamentals of Coaching Football, 2nd ed. Dubuque, IA: Brown.
  • Pacelli, Joseph G. (1987). Building Your High School Football Program In Pursuit of Excellence. Champaign, Illinois: Leisure Press.
  • Raymond, H.R., and Ted Kempski. (1986). The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football. West Nyack, NY: Parker.
  • Walsh, Bill, and Glenn Dickey. (1990). Building a Champion: On Football and the Making of the 49ers. New York: St. Martins
[Authors Note: Slight changes have been made form the original article]

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