14 Coaches give their best plays for 4th and Goal at the 1

Each week, I ask my subscribers, most of them coaches, a football-related question.

This past Monday, I wanted to know what play they would call if they were facing 4th and goal at the 1 yard line. One play left, one yard away from a score. In that situation coaches usually go back to what they know best, or at least that’s what I thought. I was surprised by how many coaches had a special call up their sleeve for just such a situation.

As always, I picked my favorite response to feature here on the blog, and the winner receives their choice of my latest book Every Play Revealed: Breaking Down Oregon and Ohio State in College Football’s Biggest Game or my next one coming soon, a similar book that breaks down the Super Bowl.

This week’s winner was Everett Adams, offensive coordinator at St. Thomas Moore in Canada. He shared two of his favorite plays for just this situation, both built off of the jet sweep package.

You can get all of the best responses to the question by scrolling down and signing up at the form at the bottom of the page.

Jet Spacing Zone Cut

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Why Paul Johnson Refuses To Change

I’ve never made any secret of my opinion that Paul Johnson is the best play caller in America, and that his offense is much more complex than people realize or give him credit for. Georgia Tech took it to the defending champs in the ACC Championship Game, nearly pulling off the upset, and proceeded to demolish heavily-favored Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl using an offense that most people believe belongs in a museum.

The next time you watch a Tech game, take a close look at the sideline shots the camera shows of Coach Johnson. Do you see any call sheet in his hand? Not likely, since he calls the game off the top of his head.


If anyone can do it, Johnson can. He’s been running this offense for the past three decades, and during that time has seen just about every possible wrinkle defensive coordinators can throw at him. It’s a big reason why I was really eager to dive into the DVD that you can get here titled simply “Paul Johnson: Triple Option Offense.”

I’ve never coached in Johnson’s system or any similar offense, and have no plans to return to coaching anytime soon, so it was pure curiosity which got me to purchase the DVD. Here are a couple of things that stood out to me. » Read more

Seven Ways to Run Your Favorite Play Over and Over

One of the benefits of the West Coast Offense was the many ways in which play callers could line up an offense and run the same scheme 50 times without ever doing the exact same thing with regards to formation and alignment. It’s a facet of the offense that is often under appreciated or misunderstood, but the good news is that you don’t have to have a 300-page playbook in order to have the same ability to keep your opponent on edge while consistently putting your players in comfortable situations.

For demonstration’s sake, we’re going to take a look at two of the most common plays in football, the power play, and the flanker drive concept. Almost every team in professional and college football runs some form of these two plays, and using a pass and a run play allows us to explore both sides of the coin and use specific, tangible examples.

Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady are masters of creating deception using a recurring series of plays in the Patriots offense.

Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady are masters of creating deception using a recurring series of plays in the Patriots offense.

Of course, the more specific you get with your examples and the more specialized your offensive scheme is, the more ways you could come up with to add to this list. This is neither a comprehensive list, nor is anything on the list considered ‘groundbreaking,’ but it’s always good to have a starting point for discussion when it comes to keeping things simple.

The emphasis isn’t on the details of the individual plays themselves, but instead how they fit together. It should also go without saying that sometimes all seven of these may not fit your game plan. It can sometimes be advantageous to avoid certain formations and motions, and if you’re fortunate enough to be overwhelmingly more talented than your opponent, you probably don’t need more than one way to run the ball up the middle.

1. Run The Play

The first and most obvious way to run any given play on the call sheet is to, well, call it. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. In this first section we’ll go through some of the specifics of the play, then follow that up in each subsequent section with ways to complement the original play. » Read more

How Oregon Uses Packaged Plays

“Stretching the field” is a phrase offensive coordinators everywhere are fond of using, but few teams commit to it like Oregon. If there’s one thing we know about Oregon’s offense, it’s that the Ducks never seem to run out of ways to move the football around and utilize all 53 1/3 yards of the width of the field. Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost and this Oregon staff may not have invented the idea of the packaged play, sometimes referred to as a run-pass option, but they definitely make good use out of it on a regular basis, and today we’re going to take a closer look at one way to use it.

In this article, we’re going to go in-depth in one particular concept, an inverted zone read packaged with a pass play, and take a look at two different examples, one run to the perimeter, and one pass to the opposite side of the formation. » Read more

Download A Free Chapter from My New Book

Have you ever wondered what exactly coaches mean when they talk about halftime adjustments? What kinds of things do offensive and defensive coaches look for during a game to get an idea of what the opponent is doing? What is the strategy behind an offense’s opening drive, and where do you go from there?

Questions like these are why I put in the time to create this new book. What I wanted to do was give people a window into the thought processes of a coach on the sidelines and in the box over the course of a single football game, and I believe I’ve done that.

The book is written in chronological order, with each play diagrammed and a summary of the strategies used at the end of each drive. With almost 250 pages of diagrams and analysis of every play, this is a football fan’s dream come true, and you won’t find this level of detail anywhere else.

To give you an idea of  what to expect, here are just a few of the topics covered in this book:

  • How Urban Meyer structured his passing game to keep things simple for an inexperienced quarterback in Cardale Jones.
  • How both defenses adjusted to offenses that were designed to create easy throws, especially to the short side of the field.
  • Why Oregon struggled to run the ball consistently.
  • Why the Oregon defensive line actually played a good game
  • The progression of play calls and adjustments that led to Ohio State gashing Oregon with the counter play in the 2nd half.
  • And more!

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Here’s Bill Belichick Talking about the Play-Action Pass

What makes a play-action pass successful and deadly? Is it the success of the offense up to that point in the game to run the football, or is a successful play-action pass more of a singular event? Does its effectiveness or lack thereof depend entirely on what happens during the play itself?

No doubt both factors influence a defensive player, but Bill Belichick had some interesting thoughts on this topic at the beginning of January. Talking about the design of the play itself, Belichick believes that the success of a play-action pass is largely dependent on the play design and the execution by not just the men in the backfield, but also by the big guys up front:

“I would say that most defensive players get their keys from the offensive line and the tight end. Now, unless there’s no fake at all, which sometimes you see a quarterback fake this way and the (running) back go the other way and you’re like, ‘What’s the point?’ But if there’s any kind of legitimate mesh at all, I would say that the bigger key to the play is the action of the offensive line and the tight end more so than the quarterback and the back.

“Although the quarterback and the back can certainly help the play — I’m not saying that — but no matter what they do, if it’s not tied in with the line of scrimmage: the pad level of the offensive linemen, the aggressive nature like it would be in a running play then I think that the two just don’t mesh and a good defensive player will be able to recognize that. It’s a combination of all those things.”

You can read the whole thing here.

(Credit @NFLosophy on Twitter for tweeting this out earlier.)

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Now on FishDuck.com: More than Window Dressing: Why Oregon uses Motion

In my latest post for FishDuck.com, I’ve broken down a couple of plays in the Rose Bowl, and tried to tie them together with the philosophy behind using motion and shifting in football.

This post was actually put up on FishDuck Tuesday, but I almost forgot to link to it from my own site as well.

The impetus behind this article was repeatedly hearing Kirk Herbstreit use the phrase window dressing when speaking about the different motions that Oregon uses in their offense. As I say in the post, I’m not picking on him, since there’s really not a lot of time in between plays to go into detail. All that said, generalizations bother me more than they should, so I wanted to use a couple of examples from the game to explain why Oregon uses motion they way they do, as well as talk about why all offenses do it.

I’ve drawn up the first play of the game using DrawFootballPlays.com for the diagrams like the one below, and try to go into a little more detail about the thought process at the beginning of the game compared to the end of the game


It’s the first play in the game, so right now, the only thing the Ducks know about Florida State’s defense is what they’ve seen on film. Both teams have had nearly a month to prepare and add new things to the game plan, so while it’s unlikely that they’ll see something completely different from the Seminole defense, it’s very possible that Charles Kelly, the FSU defensive coordinator, has thrown in a few new wrinkles in the practices leading up to this game.


Here is the first play of the game. In the post, I go into why Scott Frost and Mark Helfrich use the motion they do, and what they learn from it.

So we’ve established that one reason the offense will put a man in motion is to gain information, another more immediate reason is to force the defense to move with the man in motion, and hopefully show some weak spots. In the next few shots from the game we’ll go through exactly what happens from a defensive perspective that allows the TE to get so wide open.

You can read the whole thing here.

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Examining the Mississippi State Run Game

Much has been made of the similarities between the offense Dan Mullen ran at Florida and the one he uses now, and there are a lot of them.

The wide-open, spread running attack that won Tim Tebow a Heisman Trophy in Gainesville has paid huge dividends in Starkville, even before this historic season. If Dak Prescott can keep winning, there’s a good chance he’ll be the next Dan Mullen pupil to be accepting that historic trophy in New York.

Then again the Heisman ceremony is still a long way off, and so is any talk of a playoff appearance, especially if you ask Dan Mullen.

To the outside observer, though, the Bulldogs appear to be playing with house money. In a season where no one predicted they’d be anything other than a footnote in what was already considered to be the toughest division in college football, they’ve beaten three-straight top ten teams, and made it to the top of the polls faster than anyone in history.

» Read more

Ten Ideas For Putting Together Your Opening Script

Bill Walsh was a famous proponent of planning as much of the game as possible in the office during the week in order to reduce the number of decisions and potential headaches come game day. This post is full of ideas that I took from other coaches, including Walsh himself. A couple of the points I talk about here were inspired by things I read in clinic notes from the innovator during the 1980’s. You can read those here. ((I highly recommend checking out WestCoastOffense.com. When I was first starting out in football, I was able to learn all the verbiage of the offense and understand the coaches mic’d up on the sidelines when they were talking to their players, and it was all thanks to resources on that site.))

1. Vary your formations. Changing up your formations may not seem like a new idea (mostly because it’s not), but it’s even more important to do so early on in the game.

This is especially useful if you run a different offense than the rest of your conference, or conversely, if the film you watched features a defense playing against an offense that bears no resemblance to yours. If you’re a spread team, you probably won’t get too much out of film that has the opponent defense facing off against a Wing-T.

Don’t just think about the formations themselves, but also where you’re lining up your passing and running strength. If you’re facing a defense that likes to set their extra adjuster to the field, make them adjust right away. » Read more

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