Saturday, March 24, 2012

READ: Simplified Combination Coverage

As a grad assistant in the late 90s, I was introduced to a form of pattern reading out of a 4-4 at the IAA level. Later I was at a few places where we tried to run Quarters coverage. In both situations it never seemed to click with our players. Sure, it seemed simple to our coaching staff, but we never seemed to get the production from it in proportion to the practice time used installing it. As my career progressed, I began to embrace the 3-3 package and the Cover 3 / Man-Free concepts that fit so well with this front. But as the offenses we faced became more & more advanced and proficient in throwing the ball, I began to see the need for a change-up. What we eventually came up with is our version of READ Coverage.
Originally I wanted a way that I could turn my 2 inverts (We call them Spurs) loose to play 100 % run vs 2 RBs without telegraphing the fact that we were in Cover Zero. What we came up with is this:

The READ Technique
This technique is used by 2 defenders against 2 receivers. The way that we teach it to the players is by telling them that this is going to turn into Man coverage within the first 5 yards; we are just letting the receivers determine who has who. Once the defenders have identified their responsibility, they attack the receiver as if they are Out of Phase (using the Saban terminology). They drive at the proper angle (more on that later) and try to get in a hip to hip relationship with the WR.
The CB aligns at 7-10 yds deep over the #1 receiver. The interior defender (FS or Spur) aligns 10-12 yds deep over the #2 receiver. Both players will “Read”
the #2 receiever.
We tell our players that #2 can do 3 things in the first 5 yards. He can go inside, he can go outside, or he can go vertical.
  • If # 2 goes inside or vertical, both players yell “Stay,Stay” and the FS takes #2 man to man and the CB takes #1 man to man. The FS may have to get on his horse and chase the Drag route but the LBs are looking to wall off anything coming across.
  • If #2 goes outside, both players yell “Switch, Switch” and the CB jumps the route of #2. The FS has #1 but he will take a cut-off angle to defend the go route by #1 first. (Since that can beat us the fastest).

That is it. That is our READ technique. Now this is how we play READ Coverage.
READ vs 2RBs
  • When the Spurs see 2 RBs, they will know that they are Run first / Force players all the way. If it turns to pass, they continue with the rush unless a back crosses their face. (Pitch/Peel Rule)
  • The CB to the single receiver side is on an island , Man to Man with no help.
  • To the two receiver side, the FS and CB are executing a READ technique.
  • Note: if the #1 receiver is excessively far away from the #2, then the DBs can make an early “Stay” call before the snap and play loose man.

After we installed this, we needed a one back adjustment other than checking out of the coverage. Through much trial and error, we came up with some rules to play vs one back that we actually began to use as our Base coverage.
READ vs 1RB in a 2×2 set
  • One RB tells the Spurs that they are now involved in the coverage.
  • The CB and Spur will align over the 2 receivers to each side and play a READ Technique.
  • The FS is free to the ball in the middle of the field

When we align like this the QB sees MOF closed and thinks Cover 3 or Man Free, but we are too far off to be in Man. Many coordinators like 4 verticals vs MOF closed (We are fine against this) or they like the curl / flat combo (The CB will take the Flats head off and the Spur robs the curl). Either way we have created confusion.

READ vs 1 RB in a 3 x 1 set
  • To the three receiver side, the Spur rolls up & plays press man on #3
  • To the three receiver side, the FS & CB play READ technique on #1 and #2
  • The backside CB is locked tight man on #1
  • The backside Spur aligns on the backside hash and is a free to the ball player. We tell him to check the single receiver to see if the CB needs help, then look for crossers from the Trips side.

Once again, this is confusing for the QB. He has a MOF Open look which should tell him some kind of Cover 2 or Quarters. Many coordinators like to look for the Smash route vs 2 (We are ok) or they like the bubble screen vs Quarters (Once again the CB should blow it up).
Once the players learn the rules, the adjustments are built in. Motion from Trips to Doubles is a simple move back to READ tech for the Spurs and the FS is free in the middle. Motion from Doubles to Trips send the Spur rolling up into Man, the FS moves into READ tech and the other Spur, sinks back.
If the players can count to 3, they can play this coverage. To phrase the rules in a simple way:
  • 1 receiver = Press Man
  • More than 1 receiver = Read #2
  • 1 receiver = Free on the Hash
  • 2 receivers = READ tech
  • 3 receivers = Man on #3
Using these rules, the coverage also adjusts well to empty.

Communication is key in this coverage. We tell our players that we don’t care whether they make a “Stay” or “Switch” call, as long as they both play the same thing. If one guys stays and the other one switches, the opposing receiver is going to be celebrating in the end zone.
We have been very happy with this coverage as almost a catch-all vs Spread teams. It has simple adjustments yet looks complicated to the opposing QB, which fits our overall philosophy on Defense.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Coaching Knowledge Project #10 John Madden & Joe Gibbs

Over the last few summers, I have started taking notes on some of the coaching biographies and books that I have read. One problem that I have had over the years is that I read so much and look at so much different info that I don't ever retain the knowledge for future use. I will read about a drill or a philosophy and I will think "Hey, that fits pretty good with my guys. I wanna use that this year." Then I will lay the book or the info to the side and forget all about it.
Earlier this year, I began to compile & organize these notes & axioms into a single document. Ideally I would like to eventually have a notebook that I could add to each offseason and look at again each pre-season as I reevaluate my program. I thought that as part of this blog and my compilation efforts, I would share some of the things that I've found.
These are quotes about coaches, quotes from coaches about their influences, and outside observations on coaches and their programs. Some of these are Hall of Fame coaches, some have losing records, and some are career assistants; all have good things to offer.
How about some nuggets from Joe Gibbs & John Madden:


·         From Don Coryell: Successful coaches are able to take everything they must teach and grind it down to a common denominator where it is understood by the most intelligent and the least intelligent.

·         In preparing for a class, a teacher has to be organized. Once in the classroom, a teacher has to get the students to settle down, to pay attention, to understand. After you teach, you discuss and then you test. Coaching football is basically the same thing. You teach in the meetings. You discuss on the practice field. You test in the game.

·         I learned that one of the most important tenets of teaching is repetition. Tell the class over and over what you want it to learn. As a coach, I applied that same principle. Show the players the play on paper. Show it to them on film. And show it to them on the field.

·         No matter how quick a cornerback was, I never wanted him to line up more than 7 yards off the wide receiver. In training camp, I never let them line up more than 5 yards off their man. That way, it forced them to cover tight & short. When a corner was more than 7 yards off his man, I always felt that he tended to sit back and wait for something to happen, rather than reacting to something that was happening.

·         If it’s something that they don’t know, they can’t teach it. If it’s something that’s been stuffed down their throats, they really can’t teach it either.

·         If you throw on the break or before the break, you get interceptions. We throw after the break, two steps after the receiver has made his cut. That receiver usually has an option between 12 and 18 yards on the cut and we want to make sure he has somebody beat before our quarterbacks release that ball.

·         You’ve got to start by being able to do things the hard way. That means being able to cover man to man, to take on blocks and defeat them. Then you move on to the more sophisticated movements – the stunts, zones, multiplicity of pass coverage, situation substitution and so on. But all of those are no good unless you can whip someone one on one.


·         I believe that picking the right people is the single most important thing a coach can do. If you pick sharp, highly motivated people, you’re going to be successful.

·         We run the same play from 30 different formations, because I believe that repetition is the key to success, and because I am convinced that defense is based on recognition of formations.

·         A winning effort begins with preparation. The game may be played on Sunday, but it’s won on the practice field during the week, in the meeting rooms (where the coaches and players prepare the game plan) and in the weight room, where the best players do a few extra repetitions.

·         To be a good coach, you must be a good teacher. You not only have to possess the knowledge, but you must also be able to get it across. You give it to the players visually, on film, written on the board, and on the field.