Coach’s Opinion: “How BIG should the PLAYBOOK be?”

Coach Tony DeMeo Advice for the Coaches, Coach's Opinion

My friends, legendary coach Tony DeMeo offers wisdom about planning your team’s plays for coaches, allowing fans to observe what coaches should be striving for. This is part of our ongoing football education, and it is fun to ponder these morsels of football truth.  Charles Fischer

The single greatest lesson that I have learned in coaching is not how many plays you run, but how well you run those plays. The secret to execution lies in teaching the details of a play. Details plus reps equals execution.

Coach Tony DeMeo

The more plays you have in the playbook, the less detailed you can be, and the less time you have to teach how to execute them perfectly. So keep your play list lean! Make sure to choose plays that provide the most answers for the offense.

But remember, one good answer executed well is more effective than many answers executed poorly. This why I am so high on the gun triple offense — it’s a running game by itself, which allows the team to focus on details and the passing game. This leads to offensive balance. Excellence lies in more details and more reps, not the size of the playbook.


Tips about plays and planning from my 40 years of coaching:

  • “Greatness lies in the details.”
  • The more detailed a play is practiced, the better the execution.
  • The better the execution, the more poise and confidence in clutch situations.
  • Coaches that truly know their system don’t have excess plays. Too many answers to problems doesn’t solve the problem.
  • Billick 20 percent rule — if you don’t use more than 20 percent of your game plan, you have too much game plan. Instead, have specific answer plays, practice checks. Choose answer plays only versus the defenses that are in the plan to exploit.
  • Practice your plan — use packs and checks to limit your plays.
  • The more plays you have, the less detailed you can be, causing execution to suffer. Reps are the key to detailed execution.
  • The fewer plays you have, the more detailed you can be, Then, execution will improve. Fewer plays means more reps per play and execution improves.

    A real playbook…

  • Limit the number of techniques for each position. The fewer the  techniques, the more individual time for each, causing execution to improve. Use the same techniques in as many plays as possible (cross-over techniques). Never add a new play that adds new techniques, and which must be drilled during the season.
  • A good system has “Cure-all plays” — those that are good versus all defenses — this is the core of the plan. Your system must have complementary plays to protect your core. Also, you need specific “answer plays to take advantage of defense, or have them for certain situations” (like a QB sneak in short yardage). Have few plays but run them in many ways: disguise them. Limit the techniques, a critical criterion for adding a play to your core. When in doubt, throw it out. Game plans are usually too big anyway.
  • Never put in a play or plays that your star player(s) struggle with. Better to have your playmakers comfortable than a coach being clever.
  • Prepare in detail — Detailed preparation leads to detailed execution and a poised and confident performance.

Coach Tony DeMeo
Charleston, West Virginia

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