In this installment of our Offense Playbook Series, we will be looking at the play calling procedures you will use with your team. This is the part of building your playbook that determines your huddle and how you will get your information into your players.

Offense Playbook Series

Volume 1: Offensive Philosophy
Volume 2: Football Goals

Where to Begin?

At this point of our playbook series, you have determined your philosophy and have set some goals for your team. This means you should already know if you are going to be a no huddle offense or a team that huddles in between plays. This is where the Play Call Process will split into two very different paths. Teams that huddle have much different things to plan for than teams that will be a no huddle offense all the time. If you do plan on being in a huddle, it is also important to make a plan for your Two Minute Offense. That means looking at the No Huddle Play Call Procedures and making a plan for your offense is very beneficial as well!

Time to Huddle

One of the first things you need to do is to design your huddle. This is a very important part of an offense as teaching the huddle is really the first step to stressing the importance of details to your team. I’d bet all of us, at one time or another, have seen badly structured huddles during games or practices. As a coach, it is important to teach this part of your offense with details your team must follow. It sets the tone for what you expect as far as formation alignments, steps on plays and more.

Here are some of the parts of the huddle that you should have a plan for:

  • Where do your players stand? OL closest to the ball? OL facing the ball?
  • Where do your skill players align?
  • How far behind the ball? Always in the middle of the field? Always behind the ball?
  • Who sets your huddle?
  • How do your players stand? Hands on Knees? Holding Hands? Hands on Hips?
  • What is the process for the play call in the huddle?
  • How do you break the huddle?
  • Do your receivers break the huddle before your lineman?

As you can see, there is quite a lot of information that is important to plan when you are designing how your huddle will work. These two images show the huddle procedure taken directly out of two playbooks on our site.

Arizona Wildcats 2003 Offensive Huddle

The first example is from the Arizona Wildcats in their 2003 playbook. As you can see, there is tremendous detail from where everyone stands to how they stand to how they break the huddle.

West Coast Offense Huddle

This next example is from one of the West Coast Offense playbooks on our site. The West Coast is known for the detail the offense gives with everything they do. As you can see here, their huddle and play call procedures are no different.

Both are good examples of what a well designed play call procedure should look like in your playbook. Your playbook may require some additional information added as well based on how you run your offense.

One thing that neither of these playbooks address is how they get the play call into the QB. There is still some form of communication that must occur. Do you send the play in with a sub? Is there a way you signal it to the QB? Does the QB come to the sideline?

While it is the easiest thing to do, PLEASE DO NOT have your QB run to the sideline to get the play call each time. There have been studies done about the distance that players travel in the course of a game. Chip Kelly has been on the cutting edge of monitoring his players with on field technology and we are learning more about it everyday. In a 2011 article on the Coach and Athletic Director website, Chris Metcalf broke down the distance traveled by quarterbacks. I think the results speak for themselves. If you have your QB run to the sideline on every play to get the next play call, he will run more than one mile in the typical game!

QB Sideline Running

Whatever you choose to do with your team’s huddle, make sure you are detailed in what you expect. Everything in your offense starts in the huddle!

No Huddle Offense

The No Huddle Offense coaches have a different set of procedures to design. The no huddle communication system that the coach chooses will be the biggest factor in how the play call procedures will work. I am currently writing an eBook about No Huddle Offense Communication Systems and will post links when it is completed.

The main communication systems you can use in your no huddle offense are wristbands, hand signals, verbal (shouting), boards, or some combination of all of them. Keith Grabowski has a very advanced system that he covers in detail in his great Enhanced iBook. See his article about it HERE.

A very important part of your communication system is how you tell the OL what the play is. There are different ways you can get this done:

  • Give them the same rules as the rest of your team
  • Have the QB communicate the play just to them
  • Short huddle with just the QB and OL

There are positives and negatives to each of these ways, but it is up to you to decide what best fits your team and your system.

You also need to determine what you will do with your skill players. Will they flip sides (takes longer)? Do they always meet in the middle of the field? How do they get the call from the sideline?

Our System of Play Call

Our goal was to play as fast as possible. We accomplished this when we played simple, but too many times we were complex with motions and tags on plays. That is something that I would change for next year. We will play faster and simpler next year with a renewed focus on execution.

We used a system that combined verbal communication from the sideline with hand signals. The only thing we communicated verbally was the Tempo. If we were in the same tempo from one play to the next, then we did not say anything. Everything else we did was hand signals. Our QB uses code words to tell the OL the play and the direction. Here is a look at our procedure

Offense Play Call Procedures

Offense Play Call Procedure

Offense Code Words

It is important to understand how our play calls work to understand the system. Our run plays are named after NFL cities and teams. For example, GT Counter or Counter Trey is called Chicago Bears. When we teach it, we do not give a direction to it, but we use the city to the left and the nickname to the right, just like it would be read. Counter Left would be CHICAGO while Counter Right would be BEAR. So, if we signaled in Counter Right to our QB, he would tell the OL “Bear, Green, Bear, Green”. We had the ability to make the first or second word live before series or games. Colors were used for pass protection so it became difficult for the defense to pick up on.

We also have multiple ways to call the same play to further confuse the defense. For Counter, we use all Chicago based teams and players. We will typically go into a game carrying only 2 of these sets of calls.

LEFT RIGHT
Chicago Bear
Bulls Hawks
Cubs Sox
Payton Jordan

Conclusion

As you can see, we have developed a very flexible system that is difficult for the defense to crack. We teach it in detail from the very first day of camp and focus on making sure it is right every time. Your offense starts with the play call, it is imperative you teach it the right way. Get it done!