7 Steps to Designing a Game Plan Efficiently

By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Managing Editor

When Boston College High (Mass.) athletic director Jon Bartlett hired his replacement as head coach of the football team last spring, he stressed the importance of finding someone with a strong work ethic. He believes he found the perfect fit in first-year coach Jonathan Brillo.

Jonathan Brillo worked just about every job on the BC High staff before getting the call to be the head coach last summer. He started in 2008 as an assistant on the freshman team, and worked his way up to quarterbacks coach for the varsity the following year. A few years later, Brillo was helping form game plans as the assistant offensive coordinator, and in 2017, he ran the defensive meetings as the head defensive coordinator.

What did he show in those 10 years as an assistant? An ability to outwork everyone around him.

“He has without a doubt been one of our hardest-working coaches, with the hours and preparation he puts in on the field and off,” said BC High athletic director Jon Bartlett. “This work ethic and his ability to relate to our student-athletes will make him a successful head coach.”

With the limited hours a coach has at his disposal to game plan each week, it is important to work smart – not just hard. Brillo has a plan for doing just that, and shared his 10 steps to game planning with FNF Coaches.

Cut up the game film.

Brillo actually starts this process on Friday nights – immediately following his team’s game. He uses HUDL on an iPad and gets views from cameras from the sideline and the end zone. He identifies a few positives and a few areas of improvement to share with the team.

Share the film with the players.

Brillo has the players come in on Saturday morning for an hour-long film session. BC High will start with a team-wide film session, then split into positional groups for more specialized analysis.

Scout the opposing team.

In the interest of time, Brillo does the majority of his scouting of opponents on HUDL. “We put their scheme into our terminology, print out all of the reports on play types and tendencies in certain situations.”

Meet with coordinators to discuss a game plan.

Brillo and his coordinators talk throughout the weekend to discuss how they want to attack the opposing team. When watching film, they look for weaknesses, but generally assume that the opposing coaches will work to address those in the coming week.

Design the game plan.

Brillo says each game plan is a balance of playing to his own team’s strength and exposing the opponent’s weaknesses. “We assume that if a team had trouble with something the previous week, they’ll spend that entire week trying to correct it. We’ll see if they have, and if they have, we’ll move on.”

Organize practices using analytics.

“Once we break down the formations and percentages, we generate practice cards and scripts so we can have a nice flow. When we’re running our First Team, we have  scout team coach with cards and scripts that the other team runs.”

Share the game plan with the team.

“We do our installs in the classroom and then walk through it with helmets. We want to make it crisp on the field.”


A Scientific Take on Game-Planning

Brillo has a science background so he can’t get enough of the X&O Labs Football Trends Report supplied by HUDL.

“I look at it like a science chart,” Brillo said. “I look at all of the percentages and try to find patterns. How do they set their front? What coverages do they use? Do they slant toward the backs? What are the blitz rules? It’s a pretty powerful tool.”

The BC High staff breaks down formations and trends, and then designs a practice schedule for the week that will harp on preventing explosive plays. Brillo is quick to note that – regardless of how much he prepares – there often comes a time when his staff will see a play call it hasn’t seen before.

“Sometimes, you don’t always have to use a play or formation in a game before, and you can call it for the first time,” Brillo said.

Do you have a thought about this article that you would like to share? If you do, email managing editor Dan Guttenplan at dguttenplan@ae-engine.com. Tweet us @fnfcoaches.