A lot of football coaches like to analyze data, identify trends, and research their opponent statistically. In my opinion though, the most important football analysis you should do is on yourself! So here are 3 key aspects to self scouting that can really help your players and your play calls excel on the football field.
1 — Your Football Players or Personnel
How you use your football players within your scheme is probably the most dreaded self-scout aspect, but the most important. The most important factor about winning football games is the Jimmie’s and Joe’s, not coaching the X’s and O’s. It sucks because you move kids around and you always want to highlight your best athletes.
You need to ask yourself, do you run behind your best offensive linemen? Do you blitz your best pass rushers? Break it down. You need to be careful doing this, especially if someone has changed positions mid year. If your scouting software can’t handle a new field, you may have to do this in Excel (it’s not that hard!). If my best offensive linemen is my left tackle and I know I’m running the ball to the right, I’ve got a problem. Either I need to move the player, or I need to adjust my play calling. Personally, I believe I would need to change my play calling style and hold myself accountable. If moving my linemen to the other side puts him in a better spot to be successful and help the team, then that is a legitimate move.
On defense, personnel tendencies are VERY important. A lot of coaches don’t self-scout on defense because their results are dependent on what they are trying to do to stop the opponent and the down and distance. That combination and that level of analysis is deep, especially at the high school level, and some would feel it is too excessive. However, understanding what schemes you run with your players is very important. For example, that stunt that you keep running with your worst defensive linemen is a bad tendency. Run it with your best player! Let that defensive linemen get the one on one matchup, especially if he’s getting double teammed all day.
Self scouting doesn’t have to be hard with personnel. Sometimes, you know your best player gets the ball 80% of the time, and you know the defense knows that too. In the video below, the Bears special teams obviously realized this. They combined the scout of the opponent (they knew the Packers would be completely focused on Devin Hester) with a very easy self-scout (aka Devin Hester returns the vast majority of punts). The Bears ran a terrific “trick” play where Devin Hester went to field a punt, and the defensive sprinted to his location, ignoring the ball (I mean, who wants to watch the ball when Devin Hester may return it, even if your the punting team!). Two players, Johnny Knox and a blocker, peeled back and actually fielded the punt on the other side of the field. They returned it for a touchdown. It got called back due to a bogus holding call. See the video below.
Okay, I’ll be honest, I’ve just wanted to sneak that play in for a long time because the Bears got screwed out of the best play call of the year.
2 — Scouting Down and Distance
On defense, one of two philosophies exist on 3rd and long. Sit back and make the tackle infront of the first down marker or rush the passer and force him to check down to a short route. Ask yourself what coverage you play when do do this. If you do a zone blitz on 3rd and long, maybe they’re hitting you with 4 verticals a lot. An obvious answer would be either to sit back, or if you really wanted to bring pressure, play cover 1 or 0. That way, you maintain your philosophy, but slightly adjust your play call. Because you knew your tendency and your opponents tendency to beat your tendency, you’ll have the advantage.
Down and distance gives away a lot about your play calling or your team’s strengths. If you feel this tendency is beginning to hurt you, you could call complimentary plays. Maybe you throw the bubble screen instead on first down when you would typically run. The bubble screen is essentially an outside hand off, and will force the linebackers to play honest (and not in the box versus a slot look) on first down. It’s simple, safe adjustments like this that can make a big difference in your bread and butter’s play efficiency on certain down and distances, and offer you a big play when you run it!
3 — Formations
Formations, I believe, give away the most about a team. I promise you, if we’re in a 4 wide receiver shotgun spread set, we’re looking to pass. If we’re in a heavy formation, don’t expect a 5 step drop. However, we could make these formations a lot more efficient for us if we made some minor adjustments. Maybe we run draw out of 4 receiver sets. Then, we can easily use the draw action and throw as well.
Defenses tend to have a lot of formation tendencies too… whether it’s their front seven look or if it’s based on the offenses look. So many teams, especially at non-varsity levels, only have 1 or 2 coverages or fronts when an offense comes out in trips. Maybe instead of always rotating to cover 3, you play man and blitz. I know a few years ago, when I self scouted our defense, whenever we walked our Sam linebacker up in 9 technique (to give the offense an under look), we blitzed in some way.
A lot of coaches respond to things like this and say, “Well, the purpose of X formation is to run the ball (or blitz on defense), so why wouldn’t we do that?”. Doing the unexpected usually weilds unexpected results, big plays, which forces your opponenets to play honest when they scout you, and awards your team the benefits when you do it.
A lot of coaches look at analysis and self-scouting and says it’s too much, not worth while, ect… That is a lot of crap. Even some basic analysis can tell you a whole lot. This level of analysis can help you 1) put your kids in a position to be successful 2) make your bread and butter plays more efficient 3) catch the opponent off guard!. You don’t need to find the coefficient or anything like that to do it. It comes from organizing the information and analyzing it.