Thursday, January 14, 2010

General Football Philosophy Part I

I am often confronted about football philosophy, specifically between different schools of thoughts that surround offense, defense, and the whole team philosophy in general. I will discuss the extremes of the philosophies and try to avoid the standard "create a balance of both" position. On the offensive side, the debate centers on ball control vs passing. And on defense the battle is on Safe/read and react defense focused on not giving up the big play vs aggressive defenses can be at time greedy about giving up anything, not worried as much about big plays.

As a coach what side of the debates do you lean more towards? No one is 50/50. We all have a preference. Why do some coaches lean one way more than the other. Lets talk offense first.


The ball control school, wants to establish the run and control the clock. Shortening the game, keeps scores low, and creating chances to compete against more opponents. UT last two opponents are examples of this. Nebraska tried to play behind a good defense with ball control offense, and eventually lost on a last minute field goal in a 13-12 game. Many people thought Nebraska had no chance. The strong defense coupled with an offense that shortened the game gave Nebraska a chance many argue. The National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide ran for 205 yards and passed for a measly 58 yards, and won the national championship by 37-21. They stuck to this run first conservative philosophy that put the game in each team's defense's hands. Alabama was the better team going in, this philosophy seems to have allowed an over-matched team (Nebraska) and a favored-team (Alabama) to use a run-first offense as an optimal strategy vs Texas. Optimal vs Texas whom had the #1 Run Defense in FBS.

On the other hand you have passing teams like SMU that destroyed the #1 running team in football with a heavy passing game. Even Bill Walsh has been quoted saying that establishing the run (in my view) is overrated. The best passing down for him, are 1st down. Gus M. From Auburn made a living breaking the mold as well.

What is the best system? Its hard to tell. I equate it to poker. In poker you can play tight-Aggressive or Loose-Aggressive. Some people like to control the game of poker so the cards can do their work, and some like to play so their card reading can do their work. The difference of the preference in poker is skills. As a coach, if you can call great and anticipate the offense you can call more agressively. On the other hand, if you are behind in this respect you can play more base and rely on your players and your "technique coaching" to get you through the game.

More will come on this subject, I am not advocating one method or the other, just starting thought on this philisophical debate.


  1. Coaching in high school, I think you have to change your philosophy based on your players since we can't recruit. Not abandoning the entire idea of a philosophy, just that if you are an I formation guy you should be ready to be a single back I guy if you get 3 solid targets with a weak TE...that's why I always wonder how option coaches ALWAYS make the option their staple. You need 2 SOLID runners, one being the QB (who should be able to throw)..thoughts?

  2. Option guys make a living off of thier execution, and the misexecution of their opponents. I agree philosophy may need to change depending on your athletes. However, if you put together a great system, you can get away with forming your athletes to the system. I have seen teams with mediorce talent produce excellent numbers from spread offenses. Also, I have seen really poorly talented teams run 4-2-5 defenses and have great success. To me the challenge is getting players and assistant coaches to buy into the system you believe in.