How I Watch Football Film


I often get asked what my “process” is for breaking down film. My initial response is usually to say that I don’t have one, and I’m not sure that I do anything complex that couldn’t be done after a long time of watching and analyzing film.

Since I’m out of coaching these days and am now writing books instead, I use different techniques than you might, but that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

I don’t have an original and fool-proof way of breaking down film that I developed on my own. Almost everything I do I learned and borrowed from someone else, and found a way to add to what I do.

Hopefully you’re able to do the same, to take one or two things from what I’m writing about today and make yourself better.

I should add that if you’re a young coach who is looking to learn more about the game, you won’t be able to do that by doing your weekly breakdowns of each opponent during the season and then never watching video again until it’s time to prepare for week one the next fall. Good coaches are always looking to get better, and that means spending extra time in the offseason to learn about the newest trends in football, and especially what your opponent is doing.

You may say, “I just don’t want to put that much time in.”

That’s fine, just don’t complain when you’re not rewarded with more responsibility in your coaching career.

If you’re someone who doesn’t want to put all that time in, just stop reading right now, because this isn’t for you. » Read more

Seth Price on the Tennessee Dual Read Play

Seth Price has been writing for a while at his site, and he’s always got great stuff for X’s and O’s guys to read, especially if you’re a Tennessee Volunteers fan.

I wanted to point his latest post to the readers of this site, since it’s very similar to a play many people saw Chip Kelly run against Atlanta in the first game of the year, where the offense pulls linemen in both directions and lets the quarterback decide where to go with the football.

Seth goes into detail and even includes video of the play in question, breaking down every player’s job.

He summarizes it very well near the beginning of the post.

The design of this play is simple. Both offensive tackles block down on the defensive ends, sealing them inside. Both offensive guards pull outside to block the outside linebackers. The center’s job is to control the nose tackle and not let him impact either the running back or the quarterback. On the strong side, the tight end has to get to the second level and block the middle linebacker. The point of this blocking scheme is to seal the edge on both sides. With the tackles blocking down and the guards pulling around, there should be room around the edge for a runner on either side.


You can read the whole thing here.

Make sure to follow Seth on Twitter here.

PS – I’ve got a new book out on the X’s and O’s of The Greatest Show on Turf.

You can get it here.

The Best Book On Football Game Breakdowns You’ve Never Read

A couple years back at the AFCA Convention in Nashville I had the pleasure of listening to Mike Stoeber, the Associate Director of Football Technology for the Jacksonville Jaguars, speak on the topic of game breakdowns.

Since I was sitting in the crowd, I was lucky enough to get a copy of his excellent book “Football Game Analysis” in paperback.

It is simply the best book I’ve ever read on the topic of football breakdowns.

This book gave me a ton of great ideas about how to approach game breakdowns, but more than that, it’s a complete guide on how to structure your breakdowns through HUDL or whatever program you use, so that you have a comprehensive system of terminology in place instead of a bunch of words that you may have always used but may not make sense to too many other people on staff.

It’s important to have a real “system” approach to the way you look at the game, as well as how you tag what you enter into your breakdown program so that you get accurate results that are easy to understand.

Unfortunately, you couldn’t find the book anywhere, until now.

I recently contacted Stoeber and he gave me permission to give the book away free of charge to anyone who wants it.

Click on the link directly below to get the PDF.

Football Game Analysis 2012

I’ll be writing more about this book and giving it a more in-depth look, but for now I wanted to get it out there as quickly as possible.

PS – I’ve got a brand new book out on the X’s and O’s of the Greatest Show on Turf.

You can get it here.

Breaking Down SMU’s Offense vs Baylor



Note: This is an excerpt from Breaking Down a Drive: SMU vs Baylor now available on Kindle here.

If you don’t own a Kindle, click here to download the FREE Kindle App on to practically any device (Yes, even an iPad).

Play #7 | 2nd & 9 | +26 Yard Line | 10:20 1Q



QB scramble for 13 yards and a first down.


If you want an example of how precise this offense is, look no further. Once again on 2nd and long, the offense calls a passing play (that leads to the QB using his legs), but the assignment of one of the receivers gives great insight into how Chad Morris coaches up his guys, and how much timing plays a role.

At first glance this play looks like your standard boot play. A play fake with a receiver underneath and another one dragging behind as the QB rolls to one side or the other.

In that respect, there’s not much different about this play. The interesting wrinkle comes from the X receiver’s assignment, and the timing involved.

You see, Morris has coached up his QB to make a decision, and make it quickly. In fact, the timing is so precise that the outside receiver to the side of the boot knows exactly how far down the field, and how long into the play he should start actively blocking the DB across from him.

If the corner is rolled up, it’s not an issue, because against press coverage he’ll just go vertical and take the corner with him and out of the picture.

What happens in a situation like this, though, when the corner is playing off?

You can’t just tell the receiver to go block him, at least not right away. That’s going to be a penalty, even if you know the ball will likely be thrown and caught in that area. So if you’re Chad Morris, you time up the play so that by the time the ball is thrown and caught, or the quarterback takes off with it, you know where the outside receiver will be, and you coach him up not to go after the defensive back until that point.

As the quarterback is rolling out to this left, he sees everyone covered, while at the same time, a big patch of green grass appears in front of him (with no defenders in it). So he takes what’s there, and uses his legs to pick up the first down.

So far on this drive, SMU has done a great job not putting themselves in difficult positions, where they have to make amazing plays to stay alive. As long as they can continue to gain consistent yardage on first down, they’ll be able to keep things simple because of the manageable down and distances.

You can read the whole thing here.

The Easy Way To Break Down The Odd-Stack Defense

Last Sunday night I was on Twitter talking about a strategy I’ve used in the past to help simplify the odd stack blitzes that can confuse coaches and especially the guys up front on the offensive line.
I’ve embedded the tweets below for the sake of context.

So here’s the basic idea we’re going to talk about in this article:

Instead of drawing up every single blitz and putting them all in a scouting report for your kids that they won’t remember and will only confuse them, start analyzing where those guys end up. » Read more

The Trent Richardson Play Is Why I Hate Talking About Football In Public

I hate talking about football in public.

There is literally nothing worse.

Every armchair quarterback who won a Super Bowl on Madden loves to talk about the play they would’ve called in any given situation, why the Colts should’ve held onto Peyton Manning for another three years, and why, if they were defensive coordinator, they would blitz everybody all the time.

Matt Brophy likes to call it the Buffalo Wild Wings demographic, also known as the reason Matt Millen is still allowed to call football games. » Read more

Want To Get Better? Start Looking For Shortcuts


I remember when I was to be a whole lot smarter than I am now. I already had a good idea of what the opponent defense had in store for us that Friday night, and (this is how good I was) I didn’t even have to watch more than five minutes of film to be able to do it.

I already knew everything I needed to know having already completed my football education after playing hours and hours of Madden football during my teenage years (and leading the Raiders to seven Super Bowls)

Only, that’s not how it really works, and I wasted a lot of time thinking I already had it all figured it out.

As much as I loved football (and I did, I really, really did), I absolutely hated sitting down for extended periods of time and putting in the effort necessary to really learn about the game.

So the end result was that I didn’t learn nearly as much as I should have, and I knew it. I spent so much time avoiding the necessary work that I put myself at a disadvantage when it came time to reach out for more responsibility. I didn’t have the knowledge or the habits in place that might have allowed me to go even further than I already was.

There’s a great quote from John Wooden that sums up this point nice and succinctly:

“If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?”

In other words, by looking for new and creative ways to avoid doing your job, you’re just giving yourself an extra job, costing yourself extra time, and at the end of the day those items on your to-do list still won’t get done.

The sooner you memorize and internalize this mindset the better. After all, if you were really interested in minimizing the amount of time spent working on repetitive tasks or any other kind work, you’d find a way to get them done swiftly but properly the first time around.

So if all this is true, then why am I telling you to go against everything we just talked about and look for “shortcuts” or other ways to do less work?

Well, the natural inclination of a lot of people is to be lazy and want to do as little as possible, even when they’ve got a huge to-do list staring them in the face. In the same way a lot of people need to touch that bench with the “Wet Paint” sign on it just to be sure, you might never understand how much time you’re wasting by looking for shortcuts until you make it your business to do just that.

Set aside a specific period of time looking for as many shortcuts as possible, because you’ll soon find out that doing so will cost you a lot more time and energy in the long run than putting in time and doing things right the first time.

One of two things can happen when you take this approach.

Either you’ll discover that you’re a lazy person who enjoys putting off work until the last possible moment (in which case you should do the head coach and everyone else a favor and resign immediately), or you’ll have proven to yourself that being lazy actually costs you more stress, energy, and time in the long run.

Hopefully, the next time the word “shortcut” pops into your head, you’ll associate it with the unpleasant experience of stress, wasted time, and getting nothing done.

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Be the First to Get Notified About My New NFL Strategy Site

I’ve been working behind the scenes for a while now on my latest project, a site devoted exclusively to NFL X’s and O’s called

I’ll be posting on the new site much more often than on this one, so be sure to sign up to get notified as soon as the site goes live on Monday, August 3rd.

More information will be coming soon, but if you’ve enjoyed the writing on X’s and O’s I’ve done so far, you’re going to want to sign up to stay in touch with this site.


Five Reasons Why an NFL Spring League is a Great Idea

Locomotives Tuskers Football

SB Nation ran an intriguing article earlier today about the prospect of having an NFL spring league that would serve as a way to evaluate unproven talent.

They pointed to a radio interview with Jim Fassel, who said there is a possibility that we could see “a very good spring league opening next year in the NFL”

My immediate thoughts on the subject basically come down to: why not?

Every other major sport in this country has some kind of minor league feeder system, and in the case of the NBA, a Summer League that attracts a lot of attention from hardcore fans of the sport, and serves as another event on the league’s calendar to promote and sell to advertisers.

There are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered and logistical challenges to be overcome before something like this becomes a reality, but if there’s one thing Roger Goodell is good at, it’s finding a way to make money and create extra revenue for the league.

Without getting into too complex of a discussion on all the challenges that stand in the way of something like this, here are all the reasons I think it would be a great idea.

1. Allow veterans to showcase their talents

The league is always looking for new content to sell, and one of the ideas which has been floated recently was a Veteran Combine, similar to the one held every year in Indianapolis. It’s a win-win, with teams getting to evaluate experienced NFL players in a vacuum, and the league being able to sell several hours of fresh, extra content to advertisers.

After all, if people will tune into the combine, they’ll tune into just about anything football-related.

What if that idea was taken to the next level, where veterans and younger players were put on teams and evaluated based on their performance against players of similar talent? Think the Senior Bowl or other all-star games but with multiple games instead of one.

What you gave a receiver a chance to work with a different quarterback or scheme instead of the one he’s been playing with unsuccessfully the past few seasons? What about a similar situation on the defensive side of the ball? Such a league would be a great way to introduce some different variables into the equation, and experiment with what works best for each player.

The only real roadblock would seem to be the league schedule, since in order to create a period of evaluation where players in the spring league would be able to sign with any NFL team, there would have to be enough time for a reasonably-lengthy minor league schedule, say eight games for example, as well as presumably a championship game of some kind.

We’ve seen the league make adjustments to the calendar before, for example when they moved the draft back several weeks this year to a more favorable date, so this doesn’t necessarily seem like a huge hurdle, but there would definitely need to be a few dates moved around.

2. Allow young and undrafted prospects time to be evaluated in a professional setting

One of the toughest parts of evaluating a potential prospect is watching him play in a “college” system, at least that’s what they tell me. Picking up a receiver in the fifth-round draft and placing him in a developmental league where he’d be acclimated to the expectations and the schedule of a professional team would give teams a better idea of how he would respond to such an atmosphere, to say nothing of having to learn a professional playbook and how the game is played on the next level.

A large part of the evaluation process is spent trying to figure out if the player you’re interested in has the psychological fortitude and emotional intelligence to succeed at the professional level, as well as whether or not they would make a positive contribution to the kind of locker room culture you’re trying to create. Having professional coaches, whether they’re affiliated with a particular team or not, working up close and personal with the players would be a huge advantage for teams when it comes to determining whether they’re ready for the big stage on Sundays.

3. Find and develop coaching talent

A lot of this would depend on the team affiliations for the minor league squads, for example whether the Patriots would have a minor league affiliate that they could send players to, just like baseball, but either way, if you’ve got a whole league full of players, they’re going to need coaches, and I just don’t see Bill Belichick roaming the sidelines in March coaching a bunch of second-tier players.

Sure, you’d have the Jim Fassels and Dennis Greens of the football world getting hired in some spots, but a league like this would also create more opportunity for up and coming coaches who would like to break into the professional ranks, or would like experience anywhere. Who knows where the next great coaches will come from, but one thing is certain, the more opportunities you create for such people to succeed, the more talent you’ll find and cultivate.

Which brings me to my next point…

4. Allow for more innovation in the game

This might be the most underrated but consistent part of setting up a second professional football league in this country. It’s an almost ironclad rule that when you open up another major professional league, even if that league dies out, it will still have made an impact on the world of football that will live on for some time.

  • In 1946 the “All American Football Conference” (AAFC) gave previously successful high school and college coach Paul Brown an opportunity to make an impact on the pro level. It goes without saying that a man like Brown was crucial to the development of many of the things we take for granted in today’s NFL.
  • In 1960, another large-scale effort to offer an alternative to the NFL was put together by Lamar Hunt, the son of an oilman who, when he was unable to buy an existing professional team, decided that he’d call a few of his friends and put together a league of his own. The American Football League gave innovators like Sid Gillman, Al Davis, and Hank Stram a platform to work with, and between the three of them, and through the contributions of many more, they helped change the modern game forever.
  • In the 1980’s, the USFL emerged as a spring league at first, before Donald Trump, owner of the New Jersey Generals, pushed for the league to move to a fall schedule to compete directly with the NFL. Besides giving us big names like Herschel Walker and Jim Kelly, the USFL gave teams like the Houston Gamblers a chance to develop their aggressive run-and-shoot passing attack at the professional level. (Noted Run and Shoot advocate June Jones got his first professional coaching job with the Gamblers, and his influence can be felt across the professional and college landscape as well)

Putting aside the schematic innovations that have come about from competing leagues, a minor league would also give the NFL a chance to test out different rule changes and study their effects, such as what to do about the point after touchdown, and how best to incentivize teams to go for two, which is where the league is heading anyway.

5. Break the stranglehold the NCAA has on Young Talent

This one is, I admit, a bit far fetched, but in a perfect world, there would be a real alternative to going to school for four years and being forbidden to make any real money off of your talents as an athlete. At the very least, the threat of losing major talent to a competing professional league would force the NCAA and their member institutions to bring about real reforms when it comes to the rights of college athletes, how they’re compensated, and what their time commitment would be.

The argument from the establishment of college football has always been, if you don’t like it, play football somewhere else. Providing young players with more options can only be a good thing.

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Check Out My Conversation With Chris Brooks of


Chris Brooks runs a great site over at and is very active on Twitter as well.

As you know, I’m a big fan of studying as many schemes as possible, even if you never have any intention of running the scheme with your own team, so it’s great to have an expert talking about the Wing-T on a regular basis.

When I was coaching at the high school level, one of our most dangerous opponents every year ran the Wing-T to near perfection, and it was always a huge challenge to prepare for them, so I’ve seen firsthand what this scheme could do.

(I also subscribe to his newsletter, which you can do here)

Coach Brooks and I had a conversation about my latest book Every Play Revealed Volume II: New England vs Seattle, as well as the process I went through to study both teams and put together the final product.

Read the whole thing here.

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