Taking notes on film (and some zone read cutups)

I believe strongly, some might even say religiously, in drawing up what you see on video, in addition to whatever notes you take, because of all the benefits it brings.

I have a lot of reasons for this, including the fact that it forces you to watch the film over and over again, focus on the little things, and I’ve always believed that the physical act of using your hands to draw something creates a bigger impression in your mind, and lets you retain a lot more.

It just so happens, I was right about that last part.

As it turns out, according to a recent study, students who take notes by hand have been shown to retain more information than those who take notes in class on their laptops.

There really is something to the idea that the physical act of writing (or drawing) that creates a stronger and more complete impression in your brain.

Trust me, it can be very mentally exhausting to take detailed notes, but if you’re really interested in learning more about football, I don’t know of any better way (Though if you happen to have a better way, I’d love to hear about it).

So with all that in mind, here’s something else to draw up (and maybe steal a few ideas from).

Since so many people loved the power read clinic video from yesterday’s email, I thought I’d share some more offensive cutups I found on YouTube, this time from Appalachian State’s zone read scheme.

PS – I just put the finishing touches on the breakdown of Denver’s Super Bowl defense against Carolina, and can’t wait to share it with you on Friday.

-Alex Kirby

The Minnesota Power Read Play

Jerry Kill is one of those guys who just never got the credit he deserved for being a rock-solid football coach, and a great teacher of the game.

No matter where he went, he won, and was always great about incorporating new ideas into the way he did things.

This video is a perfect example of just that.

Someone was kind enough to put the clinic presentation on YouTube, complete with diagrams and film, so obviously I needed to share it with you guys.

Enjoy!

PS – You wanted more play-by-play style breakdowns, and I listened.

Guess what?

Now they’ll be coming each month.

Instead of breaking down an entire game, I’ll be breaking down one team’s offense against the opponent defense so that I can bring you a different scheme each month.

I’m releasing the first issue of my “Every Play Revealed” newsletter beginning this Friday.

In this issue, I’ve broken down exactly how the Denver Defense shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers in the Super Bowl, breaking down every play of Carolina’s Offense vs Denver’s Defense.

I’m really excited to share what I’ve put together.

Stay tuned!

– Alex Kirby

I loved this book on college football X’s and O’s (And you will too)

Let’s be honest, most of the stuff being passed off as football “analysis” by the mainstream sports media is complete crap.

And that’s the nicest thing I can say about it.

This is just one of the reasons why I’m convinced giant media companies like ESPN will become less and less important over the next decade

Well that, and the fact that their subscriber numbers are in a complete nosedive right now (but I digress).

Compare the kind of mediocre and uninteresting commentary you’ll get on TV with the guys over at Inside the Pylon, who if you haven’t been paying attention, are putting out some of the best X’s and O’s analysis anywhere online.

A couple months back, they decided to release their first book, written by Mark Schofield, called 17 Drives.

I gotta tell you, I absolutely loved it.

Schofield put together a breakdown of 17 of the most interesting and significant drives of the 2015 college football season, including:

  • The exciting drive that Oklahoma put together in Week 2 to tie up the game late against Tennessee
  • Michigan State’s drive in the final moments of the Big Ten Championship to hand Iowa their first loss of the year.
  • Alabama’s drive to seal the game against Clemson in the National Championship

Football season is still months away, and for those of us (like myself) who aren’t interested in watching NFL Draft coverage, this book is the perfect way to hold you over until the fall.

There are over 300 pages of diagrams and notes on football strategy, and it’s the kind of thing you can re-read over and over again to pick up new details.

As I told Mark after reading it, this book will force me to step my game up in my own football writing.

(Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition after all)

If you’re an X’s and O’s fanatic, 17 Drives is a must-read.

Get your copy now.

-Alex Kirby

Always Be Advertising

Want to move up in the football business?

Let Nick Saban explain how he made his decision to hire a new assistant coach.

Saban was talking the other day about how found his new assistant offensive line coach Brent Key.

What stood out to me was that Saban interviewed the guy three years ago, but didn’t hire him because he didn’t feel like it would’ve been a great fit for the staff. Still, he was very impressed with Key and kept his name on a list for the next time a position was available.

The end result?

Saban didn’t hire him until THREE YEARS after the first interview!

In other words, Key made such an impression on Saban that the next time he was looking for an offensive line coach, one of the first names to pop into his head was Brent Key.

That’s what advertising is all about, folks.

Executives at Coca-Cola aren’t expecting you to bolt out the door and buy a Coke the moment you see an ad on TV.

Nope, they want to make such an impression on you that the next time you’re thirsty, the first name you think of is “Coke.”

ALWAYS BE ADVERTISING

In the old days if you were just breaking into the business, you had to hope that the head coach knew enough people who might need someone like you.

Now, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than every to get your name out there.

You’re really only limited by your imagination, but here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • Start a blog and talk about what you know
  • Write a book on a football topic and self-publish it.
  • Contribute valuable information to a message board regularly and become a trusted name
  • Start a Twitter account and post video clips of you breaking down a play
  • Start a podcast and talk about football-related topics

Once again, ALWAYS BE ADVERTISING.

The next time someone is looking to hire a new coach, you want your name to be the first one that pops into their head.

There are plenty of ways to do it, but if you’re looking to stand out, get online and get your name out there.

Speaking of advertising…

I’ve got a newsletter coming out soon, where each month I break down an offense against a defense in college or the NFL, “Every Play Revealed” style.

How did Wade Phillips put the clamps on Cam Newton and the Panthers offense?

Find out when the first issue of the Every Play Revealed newsletter comes out on April 1st.

(The anticipation is killing me)

– Alex Kirby

The “Aim small, miss small” approach to watching film

I used to hear it over and over again when I first started out in coaching.

“Aim small, miss small!”

I was working closely with the quarterbacks, and every day during drills I’d hear our offensive coordinator say it loud and clear.

It’s short, to the point, and most importantly, it was good advice. But why does it work?

By narrowing your vision toward an extremely specific goal, it means you can focus everything on getting the football to exactly where you want it to go. You’re free of distractions, and you can stand in the pocket, see your receiver come open, and deliver the football right to his numbers on the front of his jersey.

So what’s the point?

Approach film study the same way.

A big mistake I see a lot of guys make when first starting out is trying to watch everything on the field all at once.

That’s absolutely the dumbest thing you can do, because if you try to watch everybody, you’ll end up watching nobody.

You’ve got 22 guys on the field on each play, then you’ve got all the different pass routes, blocking schemes, coverages, formations, defensive alignments, etc. Depending on how deep you wanna go with it, there are literally HUNDREDS of different variables to keep track of on each play.

You really think you’re gonna be able to watch a brand new team with their own unique scheme and get the point of what they’re trying to do?

Try this instead:

The next time you want to study a scheme and understand it, focus on the “movement” guys on the field. You know, the guys who have to do most of the adjustment and flip sides depending on the formations and motions that an offense will use.

These are usually the outside linebackers and the safeties, especially the teams who love to put a safety down low to add an extra body against the run.

I recommend this for few reasons:

  • The core of the defense usually won’t move around that much, and won’t give you much to go off of, since the Mike linebacker sits in the box in about the same place no matter what the formation is, and the same for most of the D-Line.
  • Pay attention to the alignments of specific players and you’ll be forced to focus on the little things going on during each play.
  • Track the alignments of the edge defenders and the strong safety, and how they work with one another, and you’ll get a great handle on how the secondary is designed to work with the front.

Football is a player’s game first. People tend to forget that. Once you’ve got an idea of how a defense likes to move their players around, you’ve got a window into how the coach thinks.

Now instead of just having an explanation for what a guy has done in the past, you’ve got a way to anticipate what he’ll do in the future.

This is one of the strategies I use to put together my Every Play Revealed series.

In the past, I’ve broken down every single play of the Super Bowl and the National Championship Game, and
on the first day of April, I’m debuting a monthly newsletter that follows the same format.

Each month, I’ll be breaking down one team’s offense taking on another team’s defense, and I’m starting with the Denver’s defense taking on Carolina’s offense in the Super Bowl.

I’ll have more information available in the next few days, so stay tuned.

– Alex Kirby

Are you a “George Costanza” coach?

Well, are you?

I sure hope not. It’s not a compliment.

Let me explain…

There was a great Seinfeld episode where George figured out that if he just looked stressed out and annoyed at work, people would think he was busy and leave him alone.

I’ve worked with a few George Costanzas in my life. You know the type.

Guys who aren’t great at a whole lot, except for looking busy without actually doing anything at all.

It’s not the sort of thing you want to be known for if you ever want to move up in this business and maybe even get a job at a big time program like Michigan.

Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines just had their annual coaches clinic, and Jim Harbaugh came up with that clever term to describe the kind of guy he doesn’t want around the program.

Jim, John, and their father Jack held a “Harbaugh Family Panel” where they got up on stage and talked about all things football.

Coach, blogger, and all around great American James Light was there in person to take it all in.

You can read his notes from the clinic here.

– Alex Kirby

Sunday Morning Links – December 13, 2015

It’s time for another NFL Sunday, so instead of watching another cookie-cutter pregame show, be entertained and get educated at the same time by reading some of the best football stuff online below.

Inside the Pylon

The guys over at Inside the Pylon are working very hard to put together a site that raises the level of football discourse, while still educating the fan who may be just starting out on their football journey.

They’ve got a ton of great stuff on the site, and it’s constantly being updated, but one of my favorite things I’ve read in a long time on football was this discussion between the editors of the site on strategy, play design, and other stuff.

It’s far better than anything you’re gonna watch/listen to on any of the pregame shows this morning, so do yourself a favor and read it now.

Dan Hatman’s “10 Scouting Rules” Series

Dan Hatman, Director of The Scouting Academy, has partnered with the guys over at Inside the Pylon to put out a series of posts on his “10 Scouting Rules.”

We’re right in the middle of this series, but he’s putting out a new one each day, and here are the first five below.

Click the links and get educated.

James Light Football

If you’re not aware of James Light’s site, get your head out of the sand and get over there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no one online is better at breaking down the intricacies of different coverages than James.

I wanted to point out a couple of his latest posts that particularly interested me.

The whole site is great, and there are lots more resources there for anyone who wants to learn more about the game.

Ted Nguyen

Coach Nguyen is a Raiders fan (like myself) who has posted some great stuff recently on the Raiders schemes used each Sunday.

Check out what he wrote about the Raiders-Chiefs game here.

Breaking Down “The Greatest Show on Turf”

I’ve got a new book out on the X’s and O’s of the Greatest Show on Turf, the offense that featured Kurt Warner’s and one of the greatest offensive weapons of all time, Marshall Faulk.

Talent wins games, but it’s up to the coach to put your most talented players in a position where they can be most effective, and that’s just what Mike Martz did.

Get your copy here.

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 FootballConcepts.Wordpress.com, 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.

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