When it comes to flag football play calling, learning how to make the proper adjustments is one of the hardest things to learn but also one of the most beneficial. The key is being one step ahead of the defense, and the tips below will help you learn how to master the art of flag football play calling adjustments.
Part 2: Adjustments
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
One of the most effective philosophies an offense can have regardless of the flag football plays you use, players you have available or scheme your up against, is to force the defense out of their comfort zone and straight into the palm of your hand. While there is a lot of merit to trying to keep the defense off-balance by continually mixing up the play calls, far too often I see an offense outsmart itself by getting away from what is working for them. If you run a successful play and the defense clearly did not immediately adjust to fix whatever the issue was that caused it to work, then there is absolutely no reason why you can’t continue to run the same play or small variations off of it until they do.
Now a good flag football defense will eventually catch on, and can switch zones on you or some other adjustment to try and catch you running the same play, so the better the team is the more likely it is that you will need to add in more variations to your offense and play calling. But if they’re going to give you 8 yard curls all the way down the field, take it every time. Some teams simply decide to allow you to catch 8-10 yard passes and try and stop you on 3rd or 4th and short, but in the long run this is a favorable situation for you and patience in taking exactly what they’re giving you will usually pay off.
Exploit Favorable Individual Match Ups
This can go hand in hand with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy above, but if you have a mismatch at a position that you have the ability to abuse all the way down the field, take it. Obviously you have to be careful to monitor the temperament of your team and if you have players who’ll quit on you because they never get the ball then you may have to figure out a way to involve them as well, but if the game is on the line don’t be afraid to go to the well over and over again. The best teams understand that this game is all about mismatches, especially at the 4on4 level where there is very little help for someone who can’t hold your receiver down. But if you want to compete at the highest levels you’re team should understand that you’re goal is to put them in the best situation possible to win, and sometimes an individual match up is the best option your team may have.
Always Be One Step Ahead
In the NFL, offenses play a continuous chess match throughout the game to keep the defense off balance by using multitudes of plays, different formations, similar plays out of different formations, hand-offs, options, play-action, reverses, trick plays, short routes, deep routes, flooding zones and crossing routes. Each play is used to set up a future play, as the two sides fight to guess what the other will do next. Flag football is no different, and even the best plays will be less effective if not used at the right time. If you can stay one step ahead of the defense the entire game you’ll put yourself in much better position to succeed by creating confusion and not giving them an opportunity to catch you off guard.
Learning which flag football play can compliment others in your flag football playbook takes time and experience, but in general, once you get in a rhythm with a set of plays, and keep slowly adjusting or tweaking them just as the defense feels they know what’s coming next, you can catch them being overly aggressive or completely out of position which can lead to a big play if executed properly. Knowing ahead of time what the defenses tendencies are will help you keep one step ahead. For instance, in 5man, most defenses will tend to switch to a zone defense if you use a bunch formation because it can be harder to keep up with his man on crossing and rub routes. If you can predict that they’ll switch to a 2-2 zone when you use a bunch formation, you should be able to plan accordingly and flood the zone giving you an easy read and easy throw for easy yards.
The same can be said for goal line situations where most every team runs a form of zone, especially out of bunch formations. Then once you run a successful play or two and anticipate the defense will adjust as they see you coming out in a similar formation, flip the play to the opposite direction or tweak the routes in a way that will keep them off balance. There’s no better feeling than running a series of plays while the defense scrambles to adjust unsuccessfully that ends in a touchdown and causes the entire defense to bark and point fingers as they try to figure out who’s at fault.
The more you learn to balance the ability to run your most effective plays and use your most effective players while making small changes to keep the defense off-balance and one step behind your play calling, the easier it will be to get into a good offensive rhythm and score points regardless of the plays and athletes you have on your team. You don’t have to have 100 plays for every situation to be able to succeed, and in many cases, a single play or two could be used 90% of the time with minor changes as you adjust to the defense and cause them to continually try to keep up. However the more options you have at your fingertips and the more intimately you understand how and when to use them the harder you’ll be to stop.