Football Coaching Resources

Below is a collection of some of my favorite football coaching resources, broken down by topic. Rather than list everything I’ve ever read or watched, I’ve tried to streamline it to my favorites. Make sure to check frequently — I’ve got a link to this page at the top — as I will be adding new resources over time, and feel free to email me with further suggestions. Enjoy!

A good start

A good start

General Offense

  • Finding the Winning Edge, by Bill Walsh. The bible. The book’s strength — literally everything is in there — is also its weakness, as every page is a relentless surge of information. I include it here under offense as that is where it has influenced me most, but it covers almost every aspect of football. This is a great article on this brilliant, flawed, mercurial book, and its brilliant, flawed and mercurial author.
  • Developing an Offensive Gameplan, by Brian Billick. Exactly as the title implies, this slender book is an efficient, no-nonsense primer on how to prepare a gameplan for an upcoming opponent. It focuses not only on scheme but also on personnel and other, broader strategic elements as well, including red zone strategy and generating explosive plays.

Passing Offense

  • The Bunch Attack: Using Compressed Formations in the Passing Game, by Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson. Although nominally about “bunch” formations, this is my favorite resource just about the passing game. It presents a comprehensive system — which can be run from bunch or non-bunch formations — and presents countless variations and, most importantly, responses to various coverages and techniques. Also great are Coverdale and Robinson’s three-volume set on the quick passing game. e here for volume one, volume two, and volume three, and as a DVD package.
  • Concept Passing: Teaching the Modern Passing Game, by Dan Gonzalez. Drawing on west coast, pro-style, run and shoot and other influences, Gonzalez weaves together a “conceptual” approach to the passing game in a way that quarterbacks can execute and can be adapted to almost any offensive system.

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Musical Chairs: Packaged Plays and the Evolution of “Option” Football

This article was written by Keith Grabowski, offensive coordinator at Baldwin Wallace University. You can follow him on twitter at @CoachKGrabowski, and see his monthly columns at American Football Monthly, where he posts new articles on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

pistol-cropThe option play has gained a resurgence in football with the popularity of the spread offense. Relying heavily on the run, option football forces a defense to be disciplined and play their responsibilities. It’s still a very sound way to attack defenses, but requires a commitment to running those base plays over and over. The spread has allowed teams that attack with option and to carry an effective passing attack that utilizes the spread to get the ball to players in space. The zone read and bubble have become a staple for spread option teams as well.

Option is no longer limited to teams who utilize the traditional dive back, pitch back type of runs. Two-in one plays or packaged plays are the new trend in offense that has the stick-draw concept at the forefront of this trend. What teams are finding ways to do is to isolate a defender in space and make him be in two places at once which makes one of those spaces a clean void to attack.

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Smart Links – Woody Hayes on the Triple Option, Lighter Linebackers, Hugh Freeze’s Recruiting, Cam Cameron, Snickers – 2/14/2013

Share Valentine’s day the right way: with Woody Hayes serenading you with his explanations of the triple option (“The NFL doesn’t even try it.”). Go to about the 18 minute mark.

Also make sure to go to the 9:30 mark to check out the fashions. (I have some Woody Hayes related shirts in the Smart Football shop.)

Some thoughts on Cam Cameron as LSU’s new offensive coordinator.

Bruce Feldman on Ole Miss and Hugh Freeze’s recruiting.

Ronald Dworkin has passed away.

– Tragedy: Maker’s Mark is watering down its bourbon.

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Urban Meyer at the Ohio Coaches Convention 2013

Always good stuff here:

Super Bowl Special Offer: The Essential Smart Football for 99 Cents

As a limited time Super Bowl offer, I’ve made my book, the bestselling The Essential Smart Football, available in ebook for Kindle for 99 cents. Get it here. (And if you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read it using the free Kindle app for iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.)

This offer will expire and the price will go back up after the Super Bowl this weekend — make sure to act quickly. You can read more about the book here.

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Limited time offer

Smart Football’s Super Bowl Round-Up

Doesn’t get any better than this:

Below is a round-up of some pieces I’ve done relevant to the Super Bowl, as I’ve written about both the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens over the past couple of years:

Jim Harbaugh on coaching quarterbacks:

My final link is not about the Ravens or 49ers directly, as it covers some of the tactics Stanford used to defend Oregon this past season, but it contained some good wisdom from former Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker that I think applies to the challenge Baltimore has in facing San Francisco’s multiple attack:

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New Grantland: How the Ravens Will Try to Contain Colin Kaepernick and the Diversity of the 49ers’ Offense

It’s now up over at Grantland:

Making whichever choice this unblocked defender makes the wrong one is read option 101. It’s an idea that’s been around for more than a decade. When fully realized, San Francisco’s read option goes far beyond those basics, to places college teams haven’t even been. “We’ve gone down our own road and we do what we do, not just traditional things other teams have done,” remarked Roman this week. “We’ve taken it and are going down our own path.”

Most significantly, on many of the 49ers’ read plays, it’s not just the quarterback who is reading the defender. A lead blocker is often doing the same.

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Fullback Bruce Miller isn’t given every option on every play, but generally, there are three possibilities as the lead blocker on these plays: (1) If the end crashes down for the running back, Miller’s job is to feign blocking him and arc around to seal any linebacker scraping for the quarterback; (2) if the end stays home but slides inside, Miller can block him, opening a crease for Gore to slip through; or (3) if the end goes for the quarterback, then Miller slips inside of him and blocks the nearest linebacker.

Read the whole thing. Also, as a bonus, I had originally intended to describe the 49ers’ use of the Inverted Veer in the NFC Championship game but didn’t end up having a chance. Below the jump are some bonus diagrams.

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New Grantland: How Joe Flacco’s Big Arm Can Exploit the 49ers’ Secondary

It’s now up at Grantland:

The key to the 49ers’ success in that game, as well as for much of the past two years, is rooted in a common misconception about their defense. It’s often noted that the 49ers play almost entirely with two safeties deep, splitting the field into halves while the remaining defenders play man-to-man coverage. This tactic, which also relies heavily on the front seven to stop the run, is known as “Cover 2 Man” defense. The notion that the 49ers use this coverage almost exclusively is, like most misconceptions, rooted in some fact. The 49ers do use this coverage a great deal, but if they used it on every down, San Francisco’s defense would be much easier to attack than it actually is.

What Fangio and the 49ers actually do is mix and match their two-deep, Cover 2 Man coverage with a variety of “pattern match” zones — zone defenses that transform into a kind of man coverage after the snap. The 49ers use a variety of these pattern-match schemes (each of which is differentiated by a subtle change in a defender’s rules), but one I’ve seen them use with success all season is known to many coaches as “Two Read.

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Read the whole thing.

New Products and Designs in the Smart Football Shop

I’ve added new products and designs to the Smart Football shop — make sure to check them all out.

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As always, let me know if you have any feedback as well. I hope everyone enjoys these.

Smart Links – Chris Ault’s Pistol, Chip Kelly’s Non-Pistol, 3-4 vs 4-3, Chappelle Show, Next Wave of Dual-Threat QBs – 1/23/2013

Former Nevada coach and Pistol Offense auteur Chris Ault has been on a bit of a media blitz recently; check out interesting interviews he’s done with the New York Times and the NFL Network. And in his interview with Mercury-News’ Jerry McDonald, Ault highlighted the fact that it’s myopic to think of this stuff as just the read and specifically the quarterback keep. Instead, what makes it all work — and potentially viable for the future in the NFL — is it’s just one piece of the puzzle but it actually bolsters the rest of what you do.

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Where it always begins

Q: Seems like common sense to take advantage of the athletic skills these quarterbacks have . . .

Ault: Absolutely. I’m not here to tell you that the 49ers should run the read 16, 17 times a game. You can’t do that in the NFL. But I think by running the read play, it’s in your offensive system and you’re going to run it five times, nine times a game, it’s one more thing you’ve got to defend. And then when you throw the play-action pass off it, that’s another thing. So it’s not just one dimension that you’ve got to look at, it’s a couple of things. You see Kaep run that 56-yard touchdown, and you say, great, that’s the read option. And it is great. But I think one of the things that set that up was a couple of the play-action passes out of the pistol.

Q: Atlanta saw to it that Russell Wilson did not carry the ball on the read option based on how they deployed their linebackers . . . Kapernick’s running on the read option can be taken away, correct? And in so doing, do you relinquish the middle?

Ault: That’s exactly right and that’s what happened in college. They would load the outside and take Kaep away, and that’s why it’s the read. You give the ball off. We really designed our pistol offense, where we want the running back to carry the football. That is first and foremost in our thinking. But all of a sudden, you just fall asleep, just like Green Bay, you’re handing it, and handing it and handing it, and he might’ve been able to pull it a couple of other times, but he waited until the right time. No question, they might just say, ‘We’re not going to let this Kaepernick run the ball.’ And we had that in college. Then, it gives you an opportunity to run the read and the play-action pass.

This was fairly prophetic by Ault, as Atlanta ended up trying to take away Kaepernick and in the process gave up over 125 yards and 3 touchdowns to Frank Gore and LaMichael James, as well as some big play-action passes. (Though not all of this was from the Pistol; LaMichael James’s touchdown came on the inverted veer.)

One of the persistent myths repeated in the otherwise very good New York Times piece mentioned above is that Chip Kelly ran the pistol at Oregon. This is, as I’ve mentioned before, incorrect, as Chip himself has explained:

Q. One of the recent trends in the NFL is more pistol formation. People are tracing that back to you. Your thoughts on what seems to be a melding of the NFL and college games.

COACH KELLY: Don’t know. Haven’t been there. Don’t run the pistol offense. That’s not what we do.

Chris Ault at Nevada invented the pistol offense. Just retired. Great football coach out there. There’s a lot of ways to play football. Pistol, don’t know that very well. We’re more of a spread run team.

Trends go one way and the other. I said this a long time ago, if you weren’t in the room with Amos Alonzo Stagg and Knute Rockne when they invented this game, you stole it from somebody else. Any coach is going to learn from other people and see how they can implement it in their system. Anything you do has to be personnel driven. You have to adapt to the personnel you have. There’s a lot of great offenses out there, but does it fit with the personnel you have? The key is making sure what you’re doing is giving your people a chance to be successful.

As Chip observes, whether or not these kinds of schemes will be sustainable in the NFL will depend in a large degree on personnel — the supply of multi-talented quarterbacks. As Matt Hinton points out, while this year’s NFL draft class has few true dual threat candidates (and few quarterback candidates to get very excited about at all, though there are some potential sleepers), there is another wave of dual threat guys working their way up through the college ranks right now.

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