Paul Johnson is the best play caller in America, and that’s something I’ve been saying for a while now. While it’s true that Georgia Tech makes their living in the run game, it’s impossible to ignore the success they’ve had in the pass game, especially using play action.
This offense of his has been fine-tuned through decades of tough, brutal competition at several different levels of college football. There’s not a lot you can show him that he hasn’t seen already.
Defenses have tried all sorts of creative ways to disguise their intentions. Everything from loading the box, to rotating an extra defender down low just before the snap, and all kinds of other trickery. Still, Johnson and this Georgia Tech offense usually find a way to keep them honest, through some kind of misdirection, or even more dangerous, through the play action pass game that he’s designed.
People often forget how successful Johnson’s teams have been throwing the football. Though a lot of it has to do with the talent he’s been able to acquire, Johnson himself deserves a good amount of credit as well. He’s managed to come up with a scheme that manages to put his athletes at receiver in positions to be successful against the secondary.
The Paul Johnson Play Action Rules
In the picture below, we see his play action pass rules that he describes in his clinic video (link).
There are a lot of things about his approach I really like, but let’s go through three of them.
In one example in the video below, Johnson talks about his terminology that he uses during games to call play action passes that are tied in with their base run plays.
For example, this offense is built around plays like the basic triple option, which they call “12.” To call a play action pass off of that backfield action, all he has to do is plug in ‘3’ at the beginning of ’12’.
You can tag whatever pass scheme you want to the end of the play call, but the ‘3’ tells the offensive line to aggressively protect for the pass instead of getting too far downfield on the run play.
As a result, the players spend less time memorizing jargon and more time getting good at the fundamentals of their position and their assignments.
Speaking of play action passes…
Have A Play Action Concept Off Of Every Run Play
It’s extremely important that you’re able to threaten the defense and keep them guessing until the last possibly moment. Johnson is a big fan of having play action passes off of every run play in the game plan for this exact reason.
The end result is that while the quarterback and the other men in the backfield are going through all their assignments and following the paths they’ve been coached up on, and for the first few seconds of the play, the defense may have no idea whether it’s a run or a pass, or even who has the football.
This is exactly the point behind making all your run plays and play action concepts look identical, at least in the backfield, and it’s also why, even though Johnson doesn’t do it here, a lot of offenses love to pull a lineman (or two) to really sell the fake.
Cut The Field In Half And Make Things Easy For Your Quarterback
You can create a bunch of complicated rules for what your quarterback is supposed to look at, or you can limit the size of the field and what the amount of decisions he has to make before throwing the football.
Johnson prefers to do the latter. The quick and easy reads this offense is built around means that it’s a lot easier to coach your quarterback up on everything you need from him, and the ball ends up coming out a lot quicker.
The Paul Johnson play action is all about simplifying the reads, and he does a great job of teaching in the simplest terms.
In the video below, Johnson talks about the reads for the passing game and how he can call certain pass plays to make it easier on the passer, giving him a simple decision to make. When you’re playing a tough opponent, finding ways to manufacture enough high-confidence opportunities is key, especially when you may be overmatched talent-wise.
Of all the videos I’ve ever bought, this is one of my favorites. The Paul Johnson play action is a seemingly complex topic that, like the triple option, is reduced to a few basic principles that anyone can understand.
I can’t recommend this enough.