How to Script Offensive Football Plays (Free Game Call Sheet!)

QUESTION: “CoachXO, I have tried to script my first fifteen plays in the past, but I always hit the same problem. Let’s say I call my first play and it is a run. I gain two yards. My second play was a play action pass because I figured I would get at least five yards on first down. So my second play won’t work because it is the wrong play in that situation! Or say I get a first down and my next play is a long pass? I run it, incomplete, now I’m behind the sticks!  Am I doing something wrong? I always hear coaches say ‘We script our plays’ but how can they do that when they don’t know what situations they will be in?” Aaron, OH.


Scripting plays is one of the most powerful things any coordinator can do (offense or defense) to increase the chance of a successful football play.  Many offensive football coaches will script plays to test the waters…see how the opponent is lining up to certain formation, overloading points of attack, defending the pass, etc. Those are all GREAT reasons to script your football plays. In this case, you may script your FORMATIONS but not necessarily your plays (so you can see how they line up, but call the right play at the time).

Offensive Football Call Sheet

Using an Offensive Call Sheet can greatly increase your chance of winning football games!

 

However, the primary reason you should script your offensive plays is to take the stress and pressure out of play-calling.

A good offensive script is a road map for beating your opponent in ANY situation (and I assure you, you are not guessing when you script!).  Scripting allows you to make good decisions based on facts and data about your opponent gathered from film/scouting. Then it gives you that information in real time, to make sure you make a calm good decision in the heat of battle. – In the article below, I’m going to show you how to create a good offensive play call script that will give you the right call, at the right time and increase your chance of gaining yards and scoring points! There are three keys to scripting plays on offense:

1) Preparation (Know Your Opponent) 2) Plan your attack (It is easier to call plays in the film room than on the field!) 3) Trust the script (but don’t be afraid to deviate from it!)

 


Key #1: Preparation

Before you can ever decide what YOU are going to do, you have to know what your opponent DOES. You have to scout your opponent either in person or on film and gather data. For offensive play we are looking at the opponent’s defense.

Football Coach Watching Film

Scouting comes with the territory! Put on the Tape!

I could write an entire book on how to breakdown an opponent’s defense, but for the sake of this article we are going to look at a few basic things to look for.

First, what does the opponent do in certain areas of the field – Field Zones

Your opponents will not call the same blitzes and coverages on the 10-yard-line that they will on the 50-yard-line. You need to know what kind of defensive calls the opponent’s coach will call in specific areas of the field.

I recognize six Field Zones when breaking down film:

• Backed up: -G to the -15-yard-line • Coming Out: -16 to -30-yard-line • Attack: -31 to -49-yard-line • Score: 50 to 25-yard-line

*Many coaches just combine the Attack and Score zones. I do not for a simple reason: I believe there is a psychological difference in play calling when an opponent crosses the 50. He is more likely to go for it on fourth down, he may have a powerful field goal kicker, he can taste points. That is why I split “the middle of the field” into two separate zones.

• Red Zone: 25 to 10-yard-line • Goal Line: 10 to G

*A negative or minus number above means their side of the field, a positive number means our side of the field. So if it is the “-20” the opponent is 80 yards from the goalline. If it is the “20” then he is 20 yards from the goalline.

Down & Distance

Once you have identified the field zones, you need to know what the opponent does on each DOWN & DISTANCE within each field zone.

Down Marker Football Chains

Down and Distance is critical for scripting offensive football plays!

Overall down & distance tendencies can give you a good feel for what the opponent’s philosophy is, but you need to know what he does on each down & distance in each field zone to choose what play you run! Remember: 1st and 10 on the 50-yard-line is NOT the same as 1st and 10 on the 20-yard-line. Your opponent WILL run different calls in each situation. –

Here are the downs and distances I chart when breaking down an opponent:

• 1st & 10 • 1st & 5 (After penalty on them) • 1st & 15 (After penalty on us) • 2nd & Short (1-3 yards) • 2nd & Medium (4-7 Yards) • 2nd & Long (8-10 Yards) • 2nd & Forever (11+) • 3rd & Short • 3rd & Medium • 3rd & Long • 3rd & Forever • 4th & Short • 4th & Medium • 4th & Long • 4th & Forever • Special: 4th AND 1 (Will they go for it, or won’t they?)

– So now, you watch film and you chart each play. What field zone? What Down and Distance? What did they do? For the “what did they do,” I like to keep it simple when charting a Defense:

• Front (4-3, 3-4, etc.) – This can be a front as well like “3519” if you number techniques. • Coverage PRESNAP • Blitz: How many blitzers? Gaps? Inside or Outside? • Line stunt or twist? • Coverage POSTSNAP

– This information will give you a great idea what your opponents are going to do in each situation.

EXAMPLE:

• Field Zone – Score • D&D – 3rd & Medium (4-7) • In Four of five plays charted for this field zone, the opponent ran a 5-2 Defense, played Cover 2 Pre and Post Snap and BLITZED the inside linebacker (thus sending six people).


#2 Plan Your Attack

So now you know what they are going to do on this down and distance and can make a good educated guess as to what you are going to call on your play script. (I’d get in Gun, Twins Right and run Smash to the Twins side tagging the QB to throw the flag with both backs in for protection, but I digress)

Smash Route

Smash Route…great football play.

So now you are probably saying to yourself “OK, that is great, now I can predict their likely defense…but I still don’t know what situation I’m going to be in! Nope…that’s why you plan for EVERY situation! –

How do I make a script that has the right play for the right situation at the right time?

First, we don’t just write down 15 plays and call them in order. That is crazy and is no better than guessing. What we do is script our plays for EACH SITUATION. We plan maybe…3 alternatives…for each possible situation. Each play alternative builds for the next. Let’s take our example above. Take my smash call as our 1st alternative for that down and distance. Call the play. Scratch it off the call sheet to remember you called it. Now my second alternative could be a Slip Screen to the twin side.

Slip Screen vs. Cover 2

Oh, you thought I was throwing the deep flag again…nope.

In the first play the defense got burnt on the flag in the smash route.  The Corner may feel like he has to help a little deeper the next time we are in that situation (or more likely, the Defensive Coordinator may call Quarters / Cover 4 anticipating another deep route…remembering his Corner got burnt the first time). Now we throw the quick slip screen throw under the deeper coverage and have a receiver in open grass. Sweet!  We planned for that situation based on 1st) What we have seen the Defense do on film 2nd) based on a logical reaction to our first play! –

The key to scripting is to have a plan for each down and distance situation written on a play call sheet. Now you have “scripted” your football plays and are ready for any situation!

As I said before, many teams “script” their first fifteen plays. But this is often little more than a list of FORMATIONS to run…with a PLAY that is planned for on the Call Sheet! For example: You can run that smash out of anything with two receivers to a side, spread, pro, twins…it doesn’t matter. So you can have a formation listed for that situation, but then a PLAY that beats what you think the defense is about to do! –

#3 Trust the Script (But don’t be afraid to deviate from it!)

Why would you put all that work into making a play script and not use it? I see this mistake all the time. Football Coaches watch ours of film, make an amazing play script off a great game plan…and then it stays in their pocket or hangs off their belt the entire game…while they call the game off the top of their head. That is crazy! You might as well draw stuff up in the dirt!

Old School Football Play

“Um…coach…we didn’t practice that…pretty sure it won’t work.”

You have to trust what you see on film. If that guy ran 4-3 Cover 2 with no blitz or stunt on 2nd and Long 80% of the time in the Attack Zone the three games before he played you…he is going to do it again AGAINST you! Defensive tendencies are especially strong. You can’t just change your defense every game, and when the going gets tough…a Defensive Coordinator is calling his base defense…plain and simple. Whatever you write down for the call trust it. HOWEVER! If you find something that the offense can’t stop…milk it. If you run off-tackle two times in a row and gain 30 yards…call it again coach! If you find a void in their undercoverage and they do not adjust…hit it again! Most of your game calls should come off the script to give your team the best chance to win. But you can’t be a slave to the script. Sometimes they adjust to what you are doing. Sometimes things work a little different than you planned. And SOMETIMES…you just “Feel” a play in your gut and now it is going to be wide open. Go for it! The script is a guideline. It is your plan to “Win the game Sunday through Thursday…just call it on Friday Night.” When things get stressful, the script makes sure you ALWAYS have the right call and you are not trying to remember the best thing to do in that situation! Sorry bro…none of us are Vince Lombardi (but I bet he even carried around some notes on an index cards)! –

What if I don’t have any data for a Field Zone / Down & Distance?

Call whatever you want!  You will not always have data on a specific area / situation.  However you can make educated guesses.  No data on 1st and 10 from the Coming Out field zone?  Check 1st and 10 from the Attack and go with that!  The zones are close and similar, so maybe your opponent will do the same thing. Also, rely on you own play calling.  No data on 2nd and 5 in the Score zone?  Call what YOU want to call! However, do NOT leave it blank.  Game night is too chaotic to wing it.  You need to write SOMETHING down on each situation…and at least two plays for that matter that compliment each other.  You will get in many situations more than once (especially in the Attack / Score zones) so its good to have a play ready for any situation  you may find yourself in! –

What does an Offensive Play Script look like?

I’ve included an Offensive Play Script below.

Call Sheet

Free Call Sheet…click the image or link below to download

You can open this up, print it out and write in all your play calls for an entire game. It is two sheets long. Half the field on one side, half on the other. Simply print out both sides, fill in your script and either laminate them back-to-back or put them in a plastic sheet protector and tape the open side shut. This will keep your game plan dry in case of rain (or nervous sweaty hands)! I also always tie a shoe string to the call sheet and attach it to my belt loop. This keeps me from dropping it during a game. You can use the holes in the plastic sheet protector used to put them in 3-ring binders, or just hole punch your call sheet when you laminate it in a corner. *Use the BOTTOM corner, this makes it easier to hold and read.

CLICK THIS LINK TO GET THE OFFENSIVE CALL SHEET:

Offensive Call Sheet Football Coaching_ CoachXO dot Com

That’s how I do it, but there is more than one way to skin a cat! How do you script your plays?

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  1. Profile photo of coachxo says

    Coaches, if you have any problems downloading the Call Sheet please send me a private message here on the site or just leave a comment on this post!

      • Profile photo of coachxo says

        Coach, check your email inbox and see if you were sent a confirmation link. Then come back here and type in your name and email again. I just tweeked the form and it should send you straight to the call sheet download page.

  2. Profile photo of coachp says

    I like the play call sheet. it gives you 3 options for every down and distance scenario you’ll encounter. thanks for sharing coach. this will definitely make my team less predictable on film. no one in my league scouts to the the extent they break the field up like this. not at the weighted levels anyway.

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    • Profile photo of coachxo says

      It can also used to simply PLAN your attack. You don’t HAVE to scout it. At the youth levels, I would use it to plan out my attack…maybe on all the first 2nd and mediums call a run and the second (or third) times call play actions. See what I mean? Like you said, the call sheet can guide you into being less predictable. And you can even set up games in advance and plan your call sheets over multiple weeks.

      • Profile photo of coachp says

        I like to show as many personnel packages as possible in my first ten plays. then I stick with the 2-3 the gave me the best result. I picked that up from the Pat Kirwan book Take Your Eyes Off The Ball. It scares the crap out of other coaches.

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  3. Profile photo of wrcoach says

    I love to Script my first 15-20 plays. Sometime I don’t make it pass 15 but by this time I know what’s going to work and what’s not. We script on Sunday after we get the game plan together and us the offensive staff will play the game with ourselves. 6 of the 12 games we played last year we scored on the opening drive off the script, and five times the next drive. For us it would look like this: Not going to put the formation down but hopefully you can understand it

    1)Iso
    2)Toss
    *3)Slant/Bubble
    4)Zone
    *5)Flood
    6)Trap
    7)Toss
    *8)Zone
    *9)Comeback/Corner
    10)Iso
    11)Trap
    12)Fade

    We will always take a shot down field on the last play. (*) let us know we should have a first down off that play. But you have to practice it on Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs and before you head out on game day. It’s in the players scouting report so it shouldn’t be any problems when we are calling the plays.

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  4. Jeff Winkers says

    CoachXO,

    What is the Short (1-3), Medium (4-7), Long (8-10), etc. for? The short (1-3) is above the a column with the down and to go yards in it.

    • Profile photo of coachxo says

      Thanks for the great question Coach Winkers! Sorry I wasn’t clear. That is the yardage of the current down. So 2nd Down and Medium means it is either 2nd and 4, 2nd and 5, 2nd and 6 or 2nd and 7….or for short 2nd and 4-7. Make sense? We group yardage like that to gain better tendencies. Those situations are all very similar in terms of gaining a first down and require similar play calls. It also speeds up breakdowns. We do not have to break down every single yard line, we can focus on similar situations to identify trends. Thanks again man, I hope that helps!

  5. says

    Hi Coach, I have tried to download this offensive script play call sheet but it keeps saying page not found. Can I please have a copy of this sheet and thanks for your work and tutelage.

    Rod

  6. Joseph Taylor says

    Coach,
    If it is possible could I please get the offensive script playcall sheet via e-mail. I attempted to download it to no avail. Thank you very much.

    • Profile photo of coachxo says

      Check your email brother! I just sent it to you. Sorry, not sure what the glitch was. Seems to be working on my end!
      Why can’t 1s and 0s be as easy as Xs and Os!! haha

  7. freddie martinez says

    I am a coach of a DII fullcontact team and I really need a play call sheet. I cant get it to download. any help??

  8. freddie martinez says

    I am a coach of a DII fullcontact team and I really need a play call sheet. I cant get it to download. any help?? if I can get it via email I would really appreciate it coach..

  9. freddie martinez says

    coach im still unable to download the script is there any other way to get it? I love this format. I cant find another like it

  10. says

    just started a new program in a small town, low income place i passed out flyers , low an behold as of aug 10 125 kids. 6u 8u 10u 12u 15u. man i need help with everything my practice is like a cirrcus . can u help me frow ato z!! an i cannot load play sheet . i also want to use arm bands, do u no anything about singlewing?
    please help if u can darnell