This is an excerpt from Offensive Football Strategies by American Football Coaches Association.
We have an offensive concept, an overall season plan, and strong beliefs about techniques and strategy. But we also copy what others have done successfully and adjust our plan from week to week. If we see something that looks good, something we have trouble defending, we probably will incorporate this into our attack.
What follows may stimulate a new approach to your overall program. Or maybe it will force you to reevaluate your own offensive concepts. There are lots of ways to skin a cat, and I believe the minute we think we have the absolute best way to do something and close our minds to anything else, we are on our way down.
Your whole coaching approach to offense must be different from your defensive strategy. Defensively, you lose games by your mistakes. You wait and react, you stymie the unexpected, you rely on static environs such as the width of the field and hash marks. Yes, defense does have some ability to force the issue and certainly must be combative, but in essence, defense is a "watch and ward" type of action. Defense is the art of preparing for any eventuality.
Conversely, offense is all about attack, assault, and surprise - striking the first blow. Offense must have the ability to force the defense into mistakes and then exploit these errors. You should and at times must take chances if you are to surprise the defense. With this general definition in mind, let’s get into more specific thoughts about effective offensive football.
Mobility with adaptability is almost unstoppable. It follows from this that speed (which includes quickness) is the single most important aspect of football. In evaluating our personnel and our offensive designs, speed is the first consideration.
To be mobile and adaptable, your formations and tactics must be flexible. For this reason we believe in a broad-based operational scheme. We want an offensive system that will get us in and out of as many formations as we could possibly want - broad but simple. Likewise, we want a numbering system that allows us to add plays without confusion. We want a plan to put the ball in play that will help us keep the defense off balance and allow us to exploit defensive weaknesses on the LOS.
"Opportunity in war is more often to be depended upon than courage" is an old military saying. How true this is in football. Striking when the opponent is confused or demoralized is one of the truly classical offensive tactics. That’s why we have what we call "Bingo" plays - low-consistency plays that give the offense the ability to exploit opportunity when it’s presented.
We divide our offense into low-consistency and high-consistency plays. Unless our play selection is dictated by a specific situation, the only important facet of our offense we have to have organized is what we can count on from each offensive play. You can’t want too many low-consistency plays or you’ll be spending too much time on junk. On the other hand, your high-consistency plays won’t stay that way very long if you don’t keep the defense respectful of what can happen to them if they overplay these "bread and butter" plays.
Element of Surprise
You have to have a flair for attack based upon surprise and speed. Surprise, the unexpected, helps you tactically and psychologically. Under two-platoon football, defenses are too knowledgeable and too well trained to be beaten with the same methods every week. We like to change the game early in the contest and we believe especially in surprise in key situations.
An old military stratagem is "Try to select the terrain on which you want to do battle." Don’t play their game, make them play yours. Don’t be defeated because you are weak where they are strong. (I suppose this comes under being adaptable.) This is why comparative scores are so misleading. Exploit your strength against their weakness. Again, the nature of good offense is initiative. The offense has the initiative; use it to make the other team play your game.
Offense means mobility with adaptability, it means to shatter with surprise, and it means being able to take advantage of key opportunities. It then must necessarily demand balance - balance between run and pass, power and finesse, inside and outside plays. Without that balance, it becomes relatively easy for the defense to cut off areas where you may strike, and also the means by which you strike. Without offensive balance, the defense can concentrate on fewer than all the aspects of offense and consequently reduce its projected mistake potentials.
To move the football today, you must be able to pass well. Even successful running teams know when and why to pass, and intelligently use passing to supplement their strong running games. More and more, the passing game is the determining factor. I don’t believe you can consistently move the ball (even with overpowering personnel) without a superior passing game.
Practicing Third and Fourth Down Plays
The best way to teach offense is to practice game situations. We can isolate percentages and defensive weaknesses easiest by simulating situations. We practice what we will do in certain situations: the third and eight, our goal line offense, our coming out offense, the four down area, the three down area, long yardage plays, quick switch plays, waste down plays, two-point plays. This is the easiest way to identify mistake-prone areas where defensive emotion rather than discipline emerges. We do very little with first and second down calls except in certain areas of the field because in almost every instance we can never sufficiently reduce the defense probability.
Execution and Morale
High morale is chiefly a result of good practice and eventual execution. If you can’t execute, I doubt you can have good morale. If you don’t have real morale, then you can’t instill the necessary confidence in your offense to surprise, seize opportunity, be mobile, and adapt. Regardless of your offensive philosophy, scheme, and ingenuity, your team must have confidence that they can execute. All of your thinking eventually has to be tempered by the realistic appraisal of what your people are capable of doing well. This, then, has got to be the first tenet of any offensive philosophy: do what your people can do well.
This is an excerpt from Offensive Football Strategies.