Attack Every Inch of the Field

I was introduced to this fundamental philosophy, when I started my career as the assistant of Coach Rick Rhoades back in the late 2000s. We revamped the offense in each of the 5 years he spent in Austria. One thing stayed constant: every package we installed had to be able to attack every inch of the football field. This was one of Coach Rhoades’ most important commandments.

2010 Nationalteam Playbook Meeting Johansen, Albano, Rhoades, Sommer

By the time I was in position to build my own offense for the Austrian Junior Nationalteam in 2013, this commandment provided a much appreciated checklist.

The “Are you attacking every inch of the field” checklist:

  1. How do we threaten the defense vertically?
  2. How do we stretch the defense horizontally?
  3. How do we attack the defense inside the tackles?
  4. How do we take advantage of man coverage?
  5. What is our ‘something else’ to keep the defense on their heels?

Still today, when sketching plays in my notebook, I always have these questions in mind. Leading me to thinking in sequences, which lead to coherent play packages, which lead to a ‘complete’ playbook. May sound complicated, don’t worry it’s not.

Let’s give ‘thinking in sequences’ a try:

initial thought
We will attack the defense inside the tackles with an Inside Zone Lock scheme.

followed by thought #2
If they take this away by loading the box -> we will will take advantage by attacking them horizontally with a 5-In Pass Concept.

followed by thought #3
If they try to take that away, while keeping the box loaded -> it’s the perfect time to attack with a 4- vertical passing concept.

followed by thought #4
If their next answer is to pressure us and play man to man coverage -> we will protect with full slide protection and call a double slant concept get the ball out quick while getting our target open in space.

followed by thought #5
Every once in a while we throw a curve ball and change the tempo of our offense from look back to super fast so they can’t execute their fancy pressure and coverage disguise packages.

Thinking in Play Sequences while Reacting to Defensive Adjustments

This would be one iteration of a thought process which forces you to think in sequences while building up your packages. A major side effect of this approach is that you are simulating the game and your play calls a thousand times before gameday arrives. Just start with a different ‘initial thought’ and change the defensive reaction – boom – you got a completely new sequence.

As coaches, we teach this exercise to players all the time: “Guys, you have to play the game in your mind as often as possible, so when game time comes, you are prepared for anything”. Same is absolutely true for us coaches.

Calling a game is like a chess match against the Defensive Coordinator on the other side. Let’s make sure, that we start the match with all pieces on the board. Talking football, this means preparing play packages which enable you to attack every inch of the field…

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