FNF Coaches for Thursday, Jan. 10

Good afternoon, Coaches. Check out some of the stories we dug up today.

1. Can NFL Coaches Overuse Play-Action? They Haven’t Yet. (FiveThirtyEight)

We’ve all heard the theory that establishing the run sets up play action. We’ve always wondered if a team really NEEDS to establish the run for play action to work. After all, doesn’t the defense need to account for the possibility of a run play even if the run hasn’t been established?

The answer appears to be “no” based on this Next Gen data.

After summing up the total distance traveled for each of the plays, I calculated that on the average play-action pass play, the middle linebacker covers 7.5 yards of wasted ground. In seven instances in our sample, teams ran 15 or more play-action plays in a single game. Those games would have offered the middle linebacker the most opportunities to figure out the play-action, but the average distance traveled was 8.2 yards — even higher than the overall average.

The stats show that — regardless of what’s been established so far in the game — the linebackers will continue to bite on the play fake. It’s like a dog chasing a laser pen, they can’t help themselves.

There’s one other piece of information that can be taken from this story. If you’re running play-action, consider running deeper routes down the field because the linebackers will be closer to the line of scrimmage.

Those smart NFL teams should also pay attention to exactly how they use the play-action. According to the Sports Info Solutions data, passes thrown 7 yards deep or less are caught less frequently on play-action than on other passes. This could be because defenders have moved toward the line of scrimmage and are in better position to make a play on the ball. Play-action is only more effective than other passes when the ball travels at least 8 yards in the air — over the head of the linebackers who’ve been fooled.

Coaches — What would prompt you to start calling more play-action passes in games?

2. What will Rich Rodriguez’s offense look like at Ole Miss? (Red Cup Rebellion)

For those who run the spread offense or RPOs, this is an interesting article. Recently hired Ole Miss offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s innovative zone read offense is essentially the foundation for almost every college offense today and has even made its way to the NFL the past couple years.

If you have an athletic quarterback, it’s a great offense to run because it gets one of your play-makers in space like this:


During Rich Rod’s last season in Tuscon, he turned Khalil Tate into arguably the most exciting player not only inthe Pac-12 Conference, but across the country as well. While Tate was feared most by defensive coordinators for his ability to run the ball, that threat helped open up the offense for plays like this:

What aspects of the zone read offense have you added to your playbook?

3. Inside one of sports’ most abhorrent trends: The unearthing of old tweets (Yahoo! Sports)

This is a good story for high school coaches to show their players. With the rise of social media over the last decade, more and more athletes are getting in trouble for things they tweeted before they became widely recognized and acclaimed.

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray also had to issue an apology for his language in old tweets exposed moments after he won college football’s most prominent award just over a week ago. Screenshots of the tweets spread in minutes on social media and hit the news cycle soon afterward even though Murray was just 14 and 15 when he used an anti-gay slur a handful of times to poke fun at friends.

We know most coaches would prefer to simply ban their players from posting to social media, but that’s not realistic in this day and age. One option for coaches is to use a consulting agency that helps keep tab on athletes.

More colleges are enlisting the help of Varsity Monitor, a company that uses a computer program to keep tabs on athletes’ activity on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. The program automatically red-flags any post that includes one of roughly 400 negative keywords. Varsity Monitor employees then examine those posts and decide which need to be sent to university officials for further evaluation.

What rules or restrictions do you put on your players’ social media use?

What’s driving the conversation in your locker room? Email Managing Editor Dan Guttenplan or Tweet us @fnfcoaches. Don’t forget to use that hashtag #FNFCoachesTalk!