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

Peyton Manning on Preparation and Playing QB

In an interview conducted before the season started, but just posted on Thursday, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King had a great conversation with future Hall-of-Famer and pizza baron Peyton Manning. 

The interview goes all over the map, including Manning’s take on the new laws out in Colorado that have directly affected pizza sales in the state (Hint: He’s doing very well).


Of course, my favorite part was reading what he had to say about playing the position that’s made him a very wealthy man. Manning was asked what advice he would give to rookie QB’s just starting in the league, and he had a great answer: » Read more