Breaking Down Football Film


I’ve been coaching since 2005. I’ve broken down film most of those years. I used to be one of the proponents of breaking down every statistical category and looking for any nook and cranny tendency that I could get. I, however, have changed my philosophy over time.

Breaking Down Football Film: Philosophy

We typically have anywhere between 2-5 games on any particular opponent. I usually like to take a look at the most recent film for personnel purposes and hopefully 1 or 2 films on teams that use similar offensive formations. When I coached more on the defensive side of the ball, I obviously looked at teams that ran a similar defense to us, if possible. That’s where I like to start on the weekends after the game.

Breaking Down Football Film: Time

Our time is obviously limited when breaking down film. We’ve only got so many hours in a day (partly why I use the philosophy I stated above). However, I can be satisfied looking only at 2-3 game films during the weekend. This is because I strongly believe that after watching so much film, coaches can get worn down, just like players. After 3 hours of watching the same clips over and over again, we simply aren’t as effective at analyzing it. Quite personally, I think this analysis is way more important than simply watching film. That analysis is what determines the strategy going into the week. It determines what clips will be useful for the kids to watch. Because let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter what I know really, it matters what the kids know.

Breaking Down Football Film: Important Stats

I am a marketing analyst by day job. I’m comfortable looking for tendencies in just about anything. Quite frankly, most coaches breakdown film and even with 2-3 games, a lot of their statistical data is not statistically significant. Think about all the categories you break things into. You may have 5 plays in the 2nd and 1 column. You can’t really base much off that.

I think it’s much more relevant to break down stats into large categories. These may be simple, but I feel they are more honest then saying, “they run power to the weakside when on the right hashmark 29% of the time”. Run/Pass by down/distance. Plays into the field, plays into the boundrary. Plays to the weakside, plays to the strong side. Fronts/coverages versus formations. If I have a lot of film I may categorize items into “tight flow” versus “fast flow” if I’m on defense.

Breaking Down Film: The Players

This is something I learned two years ago that has stuck with me from the Chicago Bears defense. The players should not be told tendencies, they should only use their reads. While that’s extreme, it makes a lot of sense. Tendencies can be inaccurate based off a number of variables. A kid’s reads are almost always correct if they are well coached. Some coaches really harp telling their kids tendencies, and when the kids follow them but their read is wrong, they get mad. Coach, sorry to inform you, but you gave the kid two answers to one problem. One of two things will happen. The kid will guess (so he may be right or wrong), or the kid will freeze, not knowing which answer to use. I’d rather have the kid follow his keys and be right everytime.

So my opinion is that while telling the team that we’re going to run the Under against an offense when they’re in the I because they run 70% of the time is fine, I wouldn’t go much further than that unless the tendencies are so painfully obvious and very strong statistically. Half the time kids don’t understand fractions or percentages (check their math grades). The other half the time they’ll listen too well and they won’t play football. They’ll guess or freeze. Let them use the coaching you’ve taught them.

Breaking Down Film: The Coaches

Okay, so who uses all those stats we broke down? WE DO AS COACHES. We build our gameplan around them. I don’t want my kid thinking that the defense blitzes 60% of the time on 3rd and long. I want my coaches to know that and I want them to put the kids in a position to be successful. Run a screen or something. That’s much more efficient then my quarterback guessing a blitz is coming, only to throw the ball directly into a safeties hand’s who was supposed to be in a fire zone blitz but is instead in the flat. If they don’t blitz, the screen will still be effective if the kids execute it properly, but quite frankly, if they’re doing math on the field, they won’t be executing at full speed.

Conclusions on Breaking Down Film

My opinion has changed on this over time, even as I have wrote this blog. I just believe breaking down film can be a lot less painful. It can be more efficient. We should spend less time data mining (gathering all that information from 5+ game films) and focus on only the most relevant data and information, aka recent and similar film to what your team runs.

I do know some people will STRONGLY disagree with me on this topic, and that’s fine. I’ve been on teams that breakdown film for 12+ hours on a weekend do well, and I’ve been on ones that fail. I have, however, never been on a team that is more “efficient” with the process, kind of like I describe, and had a losing record. Breaking down film is very important. Let’s just be smarter about it. Now, please note, if you have time to put stuff together (aka your a pro coach who loves Strong Football… haha yeah… or a college coach with GA’s, that’s great. This is meant more for HS coaches).

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One thought on “Breaking Down Football Film

  1. Josh

    Hey Coach,

    Good Article and great timing. I am an OC and as a staff we just had a conversation on this exact topic. We want to be more efficient in our weekend film study. We use HUDL for our film breakdown. What fields do you use to breakdown a teams defense. You didn’t really go into detail about which ones you used!

    D&D, YL, Hash, O-Formation, O-Play, D-Front, Stunt, Blitz, Cov, Gain/Loss!

    This is what we use right now and then HUDL spits out all the different tendencies for us.

    What do you use, and what do you suggest looking for in depth?


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