The offense has moved the ball down inside the 15 yard line. Now it’s time for the coach to send in the FIELD GOAL TEAM for what clearly is a “chip shot FG”……
Come on Man! There is no such thing as a “chip shot FG”. Extra points and field goals of any distance are complicated orchestrations of eleven players doing their job with an extreme amount of precision. The idea of a “chip shot” has been propagated by sports writers, radio and TV analysts and others that don’t appreciate the intricacies of this play. Perhaps one reason for this false perception is the fact that the percentage of field goals made has improved over the years through the hard work and effort of players and coaches.
I will attempt over the next series of articles to share some thoughts on several components of this play involving the coach, snapper, holder and the kicker.
Some coaching principles that might increase the likelihood of success for the play include the following:
1. Train your specialist – Ensure that they are fundamentally sound in their techniques and that they know their job (topic for another article).
*Snapper-make a perfect snap.
*Holder-execute the perfect hold.
*Kicker-make the kick.
The snapper, holder and kicker operation is truly a three-part operation that needs to be executed in a smooth, fluid and precise manner. For the kick to be successful, all parts of the operation must be properly executed. Each year, regardless of the player’s experience in the NFL, I would spend time ensuring that each player understood his role in the play. Each player was held accountable for his part of the play. The bottom line, however, is that it was the kicker’s job to make the kick. If the kick was missed, it was my responsibility to find out why and correct it. There are reasons for a miss, but never an excuse.
2. Ensure protection – Make sure your team has players that are capable of doing their job. This is not a play to try and letter the superintendant’s son. This is a scoring play and needs to be respected as such. Have back-up players that are equally as competent as your starters. Don’t be holding tryouts on the sideline when you have that unexpected injury to one of your starters.
3. Game condition practice -This is a hard play to practice. Ideally, the best way to practice any football is full speed with intense competition. Realistically, that’s not the way we practice our game, but we can simulate game conditions in a structured and progressive format to maximize our practice time. I would always start out in an unpadded practice to teach stance, alignment and steps. Still without pads, I would add pressure by having teammates with their hands on the lineman’s shoulders push on the snap of the ball. This begins the process of teaching the protectors to stay low and “meet force with force” – don’t fire out! Continue this progression with pads going half speed. Intensify the drill by having one man at a time go with increasing pressure. This progressive teaching should take place in a dedicated field goal period within your practice schedule. To practice the different situations that you might encounter in a game, develop a check list to use either in your special teams period or an offensive period. This list might include, but not limited to:
· Running the FG team on the field.
· Timeout (by opponents) before field goal attempt.
· FG/PAT to win.
· No huddle FG (clock running out with no time outs).
· Covering a long FG that falls short.
· FG after a penalty (either offensive or by FG team).
4. Know your kicker’s ability – You’ll have a general feel for your kicker’s range, but it is important to access how he is kicking that day. The pre-game warm-up will show you his effectiveness at both ends of the field. If there is any wind, your kicker’s range will be affected. Know after the pregame warm-up the direction of the wind and your kicker’s effective range goingeach way. Kickers like to tell you how long of a FG they can make, even though I minored in math I hated when they would tell me “I can kick a 47-yard FG.” I never wanted to know how far they could kick, I wanted to know what yard line we needed to get to so I could give that information to the head coach. In the heat of the game I didn’t want to do a math problem. Another factor could be fatigue especially if your kicker is playing another position or gets tired from trying to stay warm all game.
5.Closer is better – How many times on Sundays have you seen a team move the ball down the field late in the game for the winning points only to go conservative when they get within the kicker’s range. The tactic generally works because of the efficiency of the NFL kickers, but when it doesn’t, it can change a season. Coaches know that to win you have to score touchdowns and not settle for field goals every time you go down the field. But when you need that field goal—CLOSE IS BETTER.
Part II will share thoughts on the snapper