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My Sunday column....

Discussion in 'PatsFans.com - Patriots Fan Forum' started by patfanken, Apr 1, 2007.

  1. patfanken

    patfanken On the Roster

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    ....I now can appreciate what the real columnists go through. It is difficult to come up with long columns even though there are some weeks you really don't have anything interesting to say. I was saved today by a poster and computer glitch. In the a thread (Is PFW a good paper) fgsand asked me this question after I spoke about what we as fans know as opposed to what the coaches know. I replied with a really long post, but it somehow got lost somewhere in cyberspace when I hit the submit button. I was too busy, tired, & pissed off to re-write the response, BUT today is a new day and I thought it might be a question that could spark a good general column.

    I thought that was a very good question, assuming he was being serious. Keep in mind that there a bookshelves full of BOOKS that try to answer this question and my trying to give a snap shot in this format is probably too ambitious. What I will do is try and give some insight into what goes into making ONE single decision during a game, so in that way you can get an idea of the complexity of what goes into making a single decision.

    HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION: You are the OC having to call the next play after 2 runs net you 5 yds

    Down & Distance: 3rd and 5
    Field Position: Own 25
    Time: 2:36 in the second quarter
    Momentum: Last 2 drives were 3 and outs, defense holding its own
    Score: 10-10

    Now to understand the prossess that goes into this decision you have to go back to the previous Monday. By that time the "quality control" staff would have broken down all the appropriate film on this weeks opponent. The QC guys will break it down in 2 manners. Looking at individual personel to see if there are people you want to exploit, or conversely avoid. Second, breaking them down by defensive scheme. In other words, trying to determine if you can determine their keys vrs specific formations. See how they will react to different motions, how they like to blitz, etc

    To do this the QC guys will go over all the tape of this team in previous years, and all the tape of the recent games we have played against this team, or if the coaching staff is new, they'd go back to game the Pats played against this DC or HC. Usually the QC staff will have started this process during training camp believe it or not. Of course the most important info will be found in THIS year's tape. That tape broken down starting around the previous Wed.

    The end result of all this work will be specific DVD's that will give individual players a look at the player they play against, and key schemes that they are likely to confront. As far as the coaches: They will take the information on Monday and Tuesday, and try to predict what the opposing defense will do against certain formations, motions, and routes the Pats have run in the past.

    The staff will try and determine if there is any predictability in the opponents defense. They will look to find things like, if we motion the TE across the formation, will the SS go with them. Or, if we motion the Slot receiver, and someone goes with them, is that going to be an indication that they are in man coverage, what do they like to do in certain situations. What changes in their personel will they make against 4 wide, etc, etc

    Based on that information the OC and his staff will come up with about a half dozen plays they would run in each situation block. A situation block is a down/distance/field position/time/score situation. So given each situation (D&D, FP, Time, etc) the OC will have those 6 plays that he thinks will work. (Note that a 3rd and 5 on your own 24 might be different than a 35 on your opponents 35.) The OC's job is further complicated by the fact that not only does he have to figure in what schemes he expects to see, it also has to include specific match ups. How to exploit an individual, or avoid him in certain situations. As the week goes by, the OC will start to whittle down the number of plays based on what he sees in practice, so by Friday, he might have only 3-4 plays per situation.

    So on Sunday morning the Pats will go into the game prepared for everything that the team they face has done in the past. HOWEVER, unfortunately, the other team's coaching staff is getting paid as well. So the Pats offensive staff has to be prepared for the UNEXPECTED as well. For that they will have looked at all the tape of what the DC has done, and see if he has used stuff that he hasn't shown this year against certain situations.

    Now, while its difficult to prepare in practice for the unexpected, you CAN do 2 things. You can constantly make your team aware that they might confront something different, AND you can perfect your procedure of how you deal with a surprise move by your opponent. For example, if the opponent's offense comes out in something new and drives down the field for a TD, you want your staff to have identified what they are doing, and come up with a scheme fix that is the least disruptive to what the team has practiced, and coming up with the method of teaching the fix, BEFORE the defense goes out on the field again. That might mean changing the personel in certain packages, or changing keys against the new formation, or both, etc. BTW - the staff has an average 3-5 minutes to make this happen. Believe me, a staff will practice these what ifs during the off season, so when it happens, the players on the field KNOW that there will be a near immediate response to this unexpected set of circumstances. That way you avoid any chance of panic.

    Now after all that preparation, the OC now has LESS than 10 seconds to make a decision after factoring in ALL the information described above, (and probably more) factoring in D&D, field position, time, score, matchups, what the defensive scheme you expect, how your team is responding THIS day, and how the momentum is flowing etc

    Now the point of all this is the OC is making this decision using a ton of information that WE DON'T KNOW. For example, one of my personal complaints last season was that on a lot of 3rd and 3-4yds we often eschewed using play action passes. I felt that was nuts, especially since we had 2 good RB threats. Why take that THREAT of running the ball away from the defense by lining up in a shot gun, or dropping straight back from center.

    So while the fan in me might throw soft objects at my TV on Sunday when I saw this, the ex-coach in me HAS to take on faith that the staff is thorough enough to have asked the Question, should I play action pass in this situation, or go to a play where there is no play action. So when they come out in shot gun, for example, on a 3rd and 3, I believe that the staff has determined that they get SOME benefit from going that route, that is GREATER than the benefit of having a play action pass.

    For example, going empty backfield the staff felt that had a better chance of completing the pass than from a run formation, based on all they know about the oppenent. Maybe the LB THIS week is very good at not biting on run fakes. Maybe Brady is more comfortable NOT having to make the fake. Maybe the running game isn't working well this game.

    The BOTTOM LINE here is, I have to ASSUME that my complaint was addressed prior to this game, and for reasons I won't know, because I'm not privy to all the information, they decided to go a different way.

    I know a lot about football, but one of the reasons I love the game, is Football is a game where coaching has the greatest impact on the outcome of a game. Coaches at this level are CONSTANTLY looking to upgrade their own knowledge, BB included. I'll give you an example that happens to be one of the highlights of MY coaching career.

    Penn State often holds coaching clinics during its spring practices. It is a chance to see how one of the best college programs ran its practices, coached techniques, etc. It was also a great place to pick the minds, not only of the coaches at the college, but of the coaches that came in from HS program from several states. In he evenings there would be chalk talks where we would exchange ideas. One evening I was at the board explaining our base cover 3. We had broken it down to the point where in every situation, the DB would have only one of 2 responsibilities depending on their read. I was just finishing up when I noticed that Joe Paterno had slipped in and was writting some notes on what I said.

    No of course, he might have be reminding himself to pick up eggs and bread at the store, ;) but I'd like to think SOMETHING I said struck a cord that he wanted to remember. He left before we had broken up, so I never got to speak to him personally The point of this little story is that football is a game you can never stop learning. Even great coaches are not above picking up new, or different things they can incorporate within their own system. Believe me, when BB goes down to Florida to meet with Urban Meyers, its with the idea to GET as well as give information.

    I'm not sure I've answered the question. Hopefully now some fans will understand better all the factors that go into any of the hundreds of decisions a coach makes during a single game. Most probably already knew much of what I presented. Given this format, and the broad scope of the question, I hope it helped. At any rate, one thind I DO KNOW that it is a LONG column :D
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2007
  2. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    The person who could give you a definitive* answer to any OC question no longer posts here.



    * Note the choice of words. I did not say 'correct' answer.
  3. Box_O_Rocks

    Box_O_Rocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Good story and explanation Ken, thanks.
  4. fgssand

    fgssand PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Ken -

    Thank you so much -- what an awesome read, I just rushed through it trying to quench my thirst as I drank it all in gulps. I will go back and slowly re-read later. You told me nothing that I was not aware of that goes on, yet at the same time, you told me everything about how incredibly complex this game is.

    Everything you described happened in 10 seconds. All the preparation, all the repetition, all the studying - game planning - evaluating, action and reaction is incredible. Then of course, the mind wants to outsmart itself and second guess and see things that may not really be there in the first place.

    No wonder Clive Rush had to be carried out one day, or coaches just "burn out" or lose it - it's a miracle more coaches don't don't drop on the spot.

    I really appreciate your time and greatly anticipate more contributions from you and challenge folks like Michigan Dave and the other people around here that have been in position to see this great game from an "insiders" perspective to contribute to helping the fanatic such as myself gain more knowledge.

    Thanks again and don't stop now - please!!
  5. Mainefan

    Mainefan Rookie

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    Now THIS is the right way to spend the so-called "off" season.
  6. psychoPat

    psychoPat Role Player PatsFans.com Supporter

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    pfken, thanks so much for taking the trouble to compose that TWICE.
    Quite informative.

    Each player gets a personalized DVD of his antagonist ... every week! Wow.
  7. PatsWickedPissah

    PatsWickedPissah PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    All kidding aside about Dante's video talented son going over to the Dark Side, but the Pats have pioneered hi-tech networked video with custom DVDs being made for many players and coaches. Add me to the list of those fascinated to notice how complex the game of football can become and the enormous amout of work required to prepare for a game. Pepper Johnson's book gives you a feel for the huge effort.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2007
  8. MoLewisrocks

    MoLewisrocks PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    :agree:

    Kudos to Ken. This is one of the reasons I became a regular member of this board as opposed to some of the many others. There tend to be more genuinely knowledgeable serious football fans here, when they can cut through the flotsum and jetsum (and passion) that sometimes overtakes this place, as opposed to the other boards where I still lurk on occasion searching for an intelligent football thread to read. And what guys like Ken and Dave and Box and others (including Miguel in all matters cap) thoughtfully bring to this place is better than anything you can find in the local media (no offense to Reiss who does the best of the rest where team news is concerned).
  9. PatsSteve1

    PatsSteve1 Rookie

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    In every year, sometimes every game, there are plays we've all likely said, "what the h*** was that?" when it was called and failed. But like the thread say, we don't have the info and pregame planniong discusions the coaches have deciding what plays to use when. One of the reasons when the play calling complaints come, mine included, I realize I'm the amateur and thier the pro's.
    FWIW, in that situation, I'd go 3 wide a TE and Faulk and try to hit Faulk on a delay to teh side I'd have the TE clear running across the middle. NBo play action because I wouldn't want to try and hold the LB's in.

    My amateur guess -:)
  10. fgssand

    fgssand PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Bumped to challenge additional contributions from "those in the know", step up guys, inquiring minds need you.....
  11. Clonamery

    Clonamery PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Thanks, Ken. A thoughtful post at the very least.


    (After a long diatribe I always stop and copy it. Then I stew awhile and decide whether I want to post it or not. Usually not, I save my ignorance and emotions for thems that really knows me.)
  12. spacecrime

    spacecrime Rookie

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    He's gone and therefore not reading this, so we can quit giving him cheap shots any time now.
  13. PatsWickedPissah

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    Gotta luv the royal we
  14. captain stone

    captain stone Rookie

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    Down & Distance: 3rd and 5
    Field Position: Own 25
    Time: 2:36 in the second quarter
    Momentum: Last 2 drives were 3 and outs, defense holding its own
    Score: 10-10

    My call would be: a quick-hitter to a WR, similar to what TB attempted with Branch and Givens during the 3rd quarter vs. Denver in January'06. Have him in a 1-on-1 matchup with a DB, and hope that he can elude him before help arrives. This way, the clock keeps running if the pass is complete, and if the 1st-down isn't reached, then either the opponent will use a timeout, or you punt with 2:00 left.

    Plan B: 3 WRs, TE, RB, shotgun - halfback screen. Also keeps the clock running.

    "For example, one of my personal complaints last season was that on a lot of 3rd and 3-4yds we often eschewed using play action passes. I felt that was nuts, especially since we had 2 good RB threats. Why take that THREAT of running the ball away from the defense by lining up in a shot gun, or dropping straight back from center."

    My personal complaint: when it's 3rd and < 4, Never Use an Empty Backfield. Otherwise, the defense can disregard half of your playbook. Line up in a shotgun, eschew the play-action, but at least have a RB standing there with you; you can always run a draw from those formations.

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