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Crunching NumbersCollecting, evaluating, and using your end of the season statistics
by: Jeff Shutter
Quarterbacks Coach, Franklin & Marshall College
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Now that the season is over and the dust has settled, it’s time to look back and evaluate your season. As offensive coaches, we all accumulate a huge amount of statistical data over the course of the season. We also know that statistics can be deceiving. Using all the data we collect can help us understand our own offense as well as determine those areas which need improvement. In this article I will discuss how to collect data, evaluate your statistics, and implement the necessary changes to improve your offensive production.
Good offensive coaches keep a tracking sheet on game day to chart the plays being run. Over the years, I have had my third team quarterback stand next to me on the sideline and chart the plays. At half time we consult the play chart to reinforce what we believe is happening on the field. The chart helps validate the success or failure of our play calling to that point (See Diagram 1). This chart is a fairly standard tool for most coaches. It can be used not only on game day to check the results of your play calling, but it becomes a valuable tool after the game in a number of ways.
At Franklin and Marshall, as we break down our game film, we add defensive data to the play chart. This includes the front, cover, and blitzes or stunts we faced for each play. We note the result of the play and include any comments that may be helpful to remember. (i.e., penalties, defensive personnel, etc.) We can determine if our checks and audibles worked against specific defensive looks. We also confirm that we got the defensive looks we were anticipating. This not only helps us self scout, but also provides information we can use about this opponent in the future.
Self scouting your offense helps the play caller not to be predictable in his play calling. It’s important you know what you are calling situationally because the defenses you play will know your tendencies. We enter our own offensive information into our computer and have it generate a report just like our opponent’s defensive staff will do. This takes time, but the extra work is well worth seeing your own tendencies and planning to break obvious down and distance repetitiveness in play calling. Self scouting also allows the offensive staff to see if they used all the formations they planned on using and if they were efficient in practicing the actual plays called. With the limited practice time we all deal with we must not waste time practicing large blocks of offense we don’t actually run in a game.
Next, I take the data for each play and put together a consistency chart for each game (See Diagram 2). I also keep a running total consistency chart for the season. By consulting this chart the offensive staff can evaluate how each play worked in each of the down and distance situations in which it was run. This chart also makes apparent what your best plays are in each situation. These findings should be used to develop your weekly down and distance game plan game calls. For example, if I know Power to the Tight End is my best second and two to three yard play, it’s the number one play on the game plan in that situation. The consistency chart gives the play caller confidence in his making the best call for the situation. These decisions can be made in the office during the week rather than during the game with the pressures of the game situation and the twenty-five-second clock creating added stress.
The offensive staff also keeps track of how many possessions we get during a game. On average, over the last two years we have had fourteen possessions per game and this has translated into about 71 plays per game (See Diagram 3)
Tracking possessions also allows position coaches to develop a plan to substitute players. Knowing the number of possessions and plays permits the offensive staff to develop a personnel grouping plan as well as a formation use plan. The more the coaches can plan ahead of time, the better they can avoid repeating tendencies or forget to use proper personnel. As a staff we feel that the number of possessions the offense has is a better statistic to track rather than the time of possession. We had many big plays and the time of possession certainly did not reflect our offensive output.
The consistency chart now helps us understand how many plays we must prepare to run in each of the down and distance situations. The down and distance situations we track at Franklin and Marshall are: 1st - 10+, 2nd - 10+, 2nd - 4-6, 2nd - 3, 2nd - 1-2, 3rd - 7-10+, 3rd - 4-6, 3rd - 1-3, 3rd and less than 1, 4th down, and 2nd & 3rd 15+. I know that over the last three years (31 games) we average 29.3 first down plays, 2.6 second and short plays, 5.3 second and medium plays, 15.3 second and long plays, 2.1 third and short plays, 2.8 third and medium plays, 11.1 third and long plays and 2.9 fourth down plays per game (See Diagram 4). As an offensive staff we can now start to prepare a game plan that we will be able to practice efficiently. We know how many plays in any given situation we may use. As a staff we plan for some overage and put together our down and distance plan. It is helpful if you can have a large Down and Distance game plan chart posted each week so the staff can add or remove plays from the game plan throughout the week of practice.
By Thursday’s practice the Down and Distance plan should be solidified. One important fact that every offensive coach should realize is that first down, second and long, and third and long are the situations in which 75% of their plays will be called. Coaches will obviously need to prepare more plays for these specific situations. Practice time should also reflect the percentage and importance of the situation in which each play is called. All teams have a finite period of time to practice and they need to use the time as efficiently as possible. By putting players into the various down and distance situations they will face, and by using the plays that will be called at those times, players have the ability to execute in a familiar situation.
At Franklin and Marshall we try to create the competitive atmosphere of these situations facing our opponent’s defense provided by our scout team. This helps the players understand the plays we will call in these situations and what needs to be accomplished with each call. We stress staying on schedule or gaining four yards per play. We tell our players that if we move the chains big plays will come. Getting ourselves into second and short situations allow us to take a shot at a big play. Being in third and long situations makes converting the first down and continuing the drive difficult. The quarterback and the skill players must understand this concept. Getting yards after the catch and running north and south mean something when players are aware of down and distance situations.
If you want to know how your offense is performing, compare yourself to the other teams in your conference. Most high school and college conferences post their statistics on line or publish them in the newspaper each week. This comparison should help you determine how you stack up against the competition. It also becomes a great motivational tool to use with the players. Challenge them to be the best in various offensive categories and track their progress. Post the team’s statistics along with the conference’s results. At Franklin and Marshall our offensive improvement in 2004 was dramatic!
We went from being first in one offensive category in 2003, to being first in seven offensive categories in 2004 (We were second in two other categories). This year the entire conference was down in offensive production, but we certainly did not repeat the offensive success we expected. Evaluating and sharing these statistics with our players will help to point out where we need to strive for improvement.
Don’t underestimate the motivational value of statistics. Competitive players will rise to the challenge and work hard to see the team’s improvement.
Compiling and analyzing statistical data can be a time consuming and seemingly endless task. Each week the mountain of numbers and percentages increases. However, if you know what to do with those reams of statistics, tracking your offense will be both educational and motivational. The old adage “Know Thyself” may never apply more appropriately than an offensive staff knowing and understanding its own offensive production.
Jeff Shutter just completed his third season at Franklin & Marshall. A 1979 graduate of Millersville University, Shutter joined the Diplomats’ staff in 2003 following eight seasons as head football coach at Eastern York High School (PA).
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