Over at the Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King is putting together a wonderful series this week on how a team puts in its gameplan. King spent some time with the Arizona Cardinals. While this is not Jets-centric, it provides details seldom seen or understood by fans. The first part was published yesterday. I wanted to draw your attention to it and provide some of the highlights.
Multiply that times 171. That’s how many plays Arians will have in the offensive game plan for Cleveland. For each, there is a formation to learn, a personnel combination to learn, defensive tendencies to study—this with a virtual-reality headset that Palmer dons, making him look like a spaceman—plus details about what would cause Palmer to change the play at the line, and what to change into. And if the call is a pass play, Palmer must know his progression. Which receiver is his first option? Second? Third? Fourth?
Just think about that. In the span of a few days, an NFL team is installing that many plays. The players need to understand all of the details on that many plays. These plays vary from week to week depending on the opponent.
Then there’s the set-up factor. When the Browns watch Shipley enter the game as a blocker in the backfield, they’ll note that he’s done so eight times in the previous four games (most teams study an opponent’s previous four games), and the Cardinals ran the ball on seven of those eight snaps.
King talks about 1 of the 171 in particular. And this is the type of thing that goes into it. Arizona has put a tendency on film for its opponent. Now they are trying to bait the opponent into thinking they are going to keep it up. Really they are going to break it.
The Cards will practice it twice during the week. It’s often surprising to hear NFL players talk about a huge play that won a game. They might say, "Yeah, we ran that once is practice, and it didn’t work that well; I didn’t think we’d run it today." Or they could say, "That was in a game plan five weeks ago, and during a timeout, Coach said, ‘Hey, let’s try it now.’ " There are too many plays, with too many tributaries to each, for a team to practice every play eight or 10 times.
This is why you always hear about how important practice reps are. A quarterback might only get one chance to work on a given play and see how a receiver runs a route. You have to remember the difference between a play's success and failure is frequently less than one second. Understanding the timing a player makes a certain cut or the angle it comes at can make all the difference in the world.
In any event, I highly encourage you to give this article a look. It explains a lot about the NFL that is hidden from the regular fan.