Smart Football - Understanding coverages and attacking them with passing game

Submitted by jlcoleman71 on September 18th, 2009 at 8:04 AM

I find myself more and more interested in understanding the X's and O's of football strategy and the play-by-play articles posted on MGoBlog, but have had a hard time understanding all of the terminology.....this is a great article by Chris Brown at that helps a great deal.


steve sharik

September 18th, 2009 at 9:27 AM ^

I found myself thinking, "not necessarily," many times during my initial reading.

Example: when describing man-free, Bill said (b/c the article is really by Bill Mountjoy--pornstar name if ever there was one) the corners will play outside leverage b/c they have "help" from the free safety. Some coaches play it this way, but most good coaches know that a corner in man can only expect help from a middle deep safety on a regular post route (i.e., not a "skinny" post). Since it is man coverage, the corner should align to take away the easiest throw, which is the slant or shallow cross. The corner will align inside.

There are many things that good coaches will do that make their coverages look like the ones Chris described but really be something else. Therefore, I have a problem with this b/c it implies if you learn his descriptions, you will be able to recognize coverages while the defense lines up. This is simply not true unless you are watching a high school JV team or a poorly coaches high school varsity team.


September 18th, 2009 at 9:34 AM ^

Chris suggests he didn't write it; so much of this stuff these days is marketing material written by boutique coaches who are selling a kid (and his dad) on being the next Todd Marinovich/Jimmah. I wonder what these personal QB coaches get? My coaching colleagues in CA have had these guys come to their high school practice with the kid and effectively interfere with the head coach's staff. Fortunately for us Michigan fans, you can't teach moxie, you can only recruit it, and RR did.


September 18th, 2009 at 11:50 AM ^

I just heard from a coach who just got email from another coach. His QB is blaming bad passes on the center, complaining that the center snap doesn't get the laces on his hands to his comfort.

That's exactly what I won't allow in my quarterback. Somebody's been watching too much Ace Ventura. What a frickin' primma donna.

This week in practice we also had to shut up a kid telling the QB "I'm wide open!" on every play. He didn't have an answer when I asked him "since your back was to the defense, how did you know you were open?"


September 18th, 2009 at 9:10 AM ^

That article has some pretty interesting info and will bring you up to speed on what high-level high school and all college coaches think over when they design and call a passing offense.

Due to Chris' italics at the top, I'm not sure if he wrote this or someone else did, but I only had a quibble with the opening sentence:

"There are many qualities that a quarterback must possess. However, the most obvious is the QB’s ability to throw the football."

It is a base requirement for me that the quarterback have the ability and desire to lead. Really lead, not just be an alpha-male jerk and shout down the rest of the players.

On teams I am coaching, "left of boom" (pre-snap) characteristics are way more important than arm strength and how pretty the pass looks. I want a good athlete, but also the ability to keep order in the huddle, earn the respect of the team, get the other ten guys to play together, how you present the play to the team, the tone of voice when you call the cadence. History is full of failed cannon arms who couldn't read, or couldn't lead or both, whose inability to motivate their teammates cancelled out any physical skills they might have contributed.

And some guys wilt under pressure. Exhibit A is Chris Simms, who had better physical tools than his alter ego Major Applewhite - yet flopped in every big game he ever played in, while Major was able to get peak performance out of his team.

Now, it's possible the phrase "ability to throw the football" means "ability to work the passing game" in a high-level sort of way, in which case I don't disagree with it as much.


September 18th, 2009 at 9:37 AM ^

I'll split the difference...I agree with you there are some boofs in it. I'm no Bill Walsh but I've been reading football stuff for long enough that I have a good eye for extracting which parts are for real and what is bunk in a document, and I always look for something I can learn rather than the flaws. I guess I shouldn't assume everyone else has that kind of eye yet.

BTW, your analyses are great, keep it up!


September 18th, 2009 at 10:38 AM ^

Yeah, some of the info can easily be debunked by a defense that shows blitz and drops to zone or show a cover 2 and roll to cover 3.

We won a minor league football championship last year by doing a lot of "roll" coverages. It confuses qb's and causes a lot of mistakes. Our defense was similar to Michigan's with hybrid OLB that brought plenty of heat


September 18th, 2009 at 11:12 AM ^

I have always had a question on defensives disguising coverages that maybe someone can answer. When the defensive is moving around pre snap, Is that called by the DC? I assume they have multiple looks that they show pre snap, is the disguise a part of the play call or up to the players on the field?


September 18th, 2009 at 11:52 AM ^

-Some defenses or weekly gameplans have "instant adjustments" to certain formations or personnel, like "if they line up with two backs and a wing shift into a 5-down front" (I'm just pulling an example out of my Ohio here.)

-Variant: sometimes you call a defense expecting a certain package, and they come out in a different package and the D has to shift around.

-The DC could be calling for a "stem" (stemming means adjusting the front before the snap) to mess with the QB's pre-snap read, or screw with the linemen's assignments. You might not know it from watching Peyton Manning, but it's REALLY difficult to call an audible or adjust to a defensive stem and expect everyone to realize their new assignment, mentally adjust to it and execute it within five seconds.

-Sometimes they are just confused and it's the leader's job, usually the MLB, to get everyone in the proper position. In a scrimmage I once lined up as a LB to the weak side because I miscounted the number of linemen on each side of the center. I shifted over pre-snap and the coach said in the film room "are you going in motion or something?" to great mirth. EDIT: One might be surprised at how many players, even up to the NFL, have no idea what they are doing schematically and have to have a teammate tell them every play. Gotta have battle buddies.