Post Season Analysis: Factors Affecting The Passing Game

The off season gives a coaching staff the opportunity to go back and evaluate their work from the previous season.  Done in detail, the process can serve to identify the effectiveness of passing concepts.  By charting key data on each play, the coaching staff can pin point correct assignment and technique, as well as developing coaching points and drills to improve the effectiveness of the play.  Just looking at the statistical data only tells part of the story.  For example, our “Takeoff Change” concept on 3rd down and long (6+ yards to go) had a 72% conversion rate.  In general, that statistic tells us we should be calling that play more on third and long.  This might be true, but we have the opportunity to learn much more about that 72% and why it worked as well as why it didn’t.

Analyzing some factors can help us replicate or improve the success of this concept in the next season, as well as anticipate what the defense may do to adjust it.  We know the opponent will be studying our film as well, and seeing what stopped the play should be something we have a clear understanding of as well.   This process also works for concepts that were not successful.  Again, just seeing the completion rate or yards per attempt may not tell the whole story.  A few adjustments may make that concept effective.  The point is, quality control work must be done to get the whole picture.

Protection – this is something we will analyze in detail separately, but, we do want to identify any possible issues with protection and both the timing of the play as well as the ability to get our running back into the route.  We want to ensure that the protection call doesn’t have an effect on the back’s check release.  For example, we may want the back checking to the flat to the right, but the protection is called to put him to the left.  He won’t be able to get to his assigned spot efficiently.  This is a consideration we will want to chart and understand.  Obviously, protection is the priority, but the integrity of the route must be considered as well.  If the back is constantly put away from the flat to the right, we may want to consider how we call the protection, or what route  we are giving the back after he checks and releases.

Route Spacing – this involves the horizontal and vertical distribution of routes.  Each individual route should have enough room to work and attack defender techniques.  Passing concepts rely on stretching the defense horizontally or vertically to open up voids in the coverage.  Every coverage has a weakness.  Understanding route spacing and what our receivers are doing to maintain spacing, or errors that are made in spacing will help improve a concept.

To determine the success in route spacing within each route, add up the total number of routes. So,  if it was 10 passes and 4 receivers in the route, the total number is 40.  Now add up the routes spaced correctly.  Let’s say 30 were correct, then the route spacing score was 75%.  This gives you a base line number on each concept to use to try to uncover some issues in execution and technique.  Maybe the spacing suffered when the route was run from a particular formation.  Maybe a certain defensive technique caused issues in rerouting the receiver and ruining the spacing.  Now you have hard data as well as corresponding video to refine and develop your techniques and spacing for the next season.

Route Depth and Receiver Break Techniques – breaking a route correctly involves both timing and technique, especially in terms of body position.  A receiver breaking too early or giving indicators of his break is a factor that can affect completions. – the depth at which routes are run affect both timing and spacing.  A route run too short or too long is in danger of causing a broken up pass or interception.  The percentage for this category is calculated by taking all routes that have some kind of break (straight vertical routes or swings or flats may not fit in this category), and getting a total number of routes that break within a concept.  Again, if you are analyzing 10 passes of one concept, and those contain two routes that break, you have a total of 20.  Likewise, you use that to as the divisor for the total number breaking at the correct depth and footwork.  Let’s say it was only 10, then the percentage is 50%.  Now you have a number to analyze and investigate.  What caused the incorrect break?  Can you modify technique or how you teach the route?  The data and film study will help you improve the quality of that concept and develop drills and coaching points to improve the effectiveness of that concept.

Quarterback Timing – the quarterback should be working through his progression with both his eyes and his feet. A proper progression by the quarterback will having him looking at a route for the correct amount of time before throwing to that route or progressing to the next route. If your concepts are set up correctly and the quarterback is disciplined in how he moves through his progression, the timing of routes can be calibrated so that the quarterback is moving his eyes and feet through the progression and releasing the ball within a consistent timing route  for each route.  A route thrown too quickly may be broken up because the receiver hasn’t had time to gain separation out of his cut.  A route held on too long may also be broken up or worse, intercepted.  Putting the play on a stop watch from the snap to the release will show a lot about the routes and when they should be thrown.  Having this data can help provide better feedback for your quarterbacks in their off season work as well as a tool for feedback during the season.

Quarterback Accuracy – the quarterback should be throwing the ball to certain spots.  Accuracy is a reflection of correct mechanics.  While this may not have a lot to do with a certain concept, it can have a relationship to how his drop and footwork are affecting the throw.  An accurate throw is one that is within the framework of where the receiver can legitimately reach his hands.  We count incredible diving or jumping catches out of the receiver’s range as inaccurate for the most part.  Often this can be closely related to timing.  This may also uncover some mechanics issues for each quarterback.  Now you can give them drills to improve whatever mechanics problems are identified that are causing inaccuracy on certain routes or in general.

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Routes Thrown Within Each Concept – analyzing how the ball is distributed within each concept will tell you something about the plays you are designing and calling in general.  Being able to track which routes are thrown and even which routes are thrown against certain coverages can provide valuable information in adjusting or finding better answers for your passing game, and developing answers for how you will attack certain defenses in the future.  If the analysis shows that in four verticals versus quarters coverage 90% of the passes completed were check downs, you may want to dig deeper and consider how to improve the ball getting down the field to an intermediate route.  Maybe a route needs to be adjusted against quarters coverage so that the quarterback has an intermediate option that breaks into a void.

After the fields have been filled out in a spread sheet, the coach can draw conclusions about the pass concept.  This has been a useful analysis in helping us make dead routes come alive by making simple adjustments or using checks when we see a certain coverage.  For example, in the plays analyzed within our 3rd down and 6+ calls, we see that against odd number coverages, we favor throwing the boundary seam.  This would hold true with how we structure the progression with the quarterback scanning from the field seam to the boundary.  We also see that we hit dig and comeback conversions against 2 safety coverages.  In addition, any technique break errors we had were on the dig or seam conversions.  We may use this data to think about coaching points or drills to ensure those errors are not happening.  Lastly, we can start to calibrate throws.  We see the boundary seam being thrown from 2.0-2.3 seconds.  The dig is thrown 2.6-2.7 seconds.  We can carry that data over to  the next season knowing that we should get those routes out within those ranges, or possibly, we may want to make tweaks to change the timing.  Regardless, we now have a place to start making improvements.

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