Friday, September 18, 2015

Deconstructing A Playbook

The good old playbook. The book of secrets. It's been the subject of books movies and TV shows. Marcia Brady git duped by a rival high schools quaterback over a playbook in The Brady Bunch. An assistant coach left behind his playbook in a diner a night before the national championship game on Coach. How many times have you seen a movie with football players studying their playbooks?
So the question is, why are these books so secretive? (Kinda like my uncles Playboy's as a kid, but I'm getting off the subject).
Well, I got my hands on a playbook. One of my cousins played for UNLV. He was a medical red-shirt, but he still had to study a playbook.
I got to look into a playbook preparing for a game against Arizona in 2013. No playbook scandals here, the coaching staff from UNLV's 2013 season have been dismissed and a new staff is put into place. Thats why the book wasn't returned. (I hope they lose every game until coach Sanchez is fired!) I was hoping to see a secret, hidden world of football.
I just saw things I didn't understand.
To someone such as myself who didn't get to play football (thanks Mom!), the diagrams and schemes made no sense. Lots of diagrams.  In George Plimpton's book, Paper Lion, he said to the outsider, a football playbook would disappoint someone looking for inside information of the game. He went on to say a professional playbook was no different than a college or high school playbook. Just the terminology will be different. The terminology is different from team to team.
A college playbook is far more advanced than a high school book, not that I'd know, I never saw one in high school (thanks Mom!), but that's what I'd assume. You have to be at every team practice and every meeting to understand the terminology, your assignment and your teammates assignment.
So to interpret the playbook, I took a few pictures and sent them to a friend of mine, Cameron, who played Jr high, high school and college ball at Mesa College.
Right away he deciphered the plays. He told me which play the play should be run, if it was a run or pass play. This was a defense book, so the play were to defend against Arizona's offense.
What I found interesting of the playbook was the section on some of Arizona offensive players tendencies. It went on to describe what a player might do in a given situation. How he's reacted in the past. Is he easy to upset? Does he keep a cool head? Does he tip off what the offense might do? It's all there in the tendencies. (Reminds me of the movie North Dallas Forty, when the North Dallas Bulls lost a big game, an assistant coach yells at his defensive players for not studying the other teams tendencies).
A playbook has a lot of information to absorb. As I just said, not only does a player have to know his own assignment, he also must learn the assignments of his teammates.
So much for the dumb jock stigma  football players are supposed to have.
Lots of meetings take place so a team can learn as one how a play works.
After the play is learned, it's practiced on the field over and over again until it's executed just right.
Then game day comes. The result on the scoreboard dictates who executed their playbook as flawlessly as possible.
Then mistakes are shown on film during film meetings.
Then it's back to the old drawing board and make up new plays, or slightly change existing ones.
It's creativity, imagination and innovation in those playbooks.
It takes intelligence to understand it. I'm  smart, but not football smart.

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