Book Review: The Essential Smart Football

I picked up The Essential Smart Football as a quick read before the start of the NFL season. While not as technical / general football strategy as I would have liked, there were some interesting notes. I’ll also follow Chris B. Brown’s blog even though it doesn’t seem to have been recently updated.

Some notes:

  • The spread offense is all about creating numbers advantages
    • If the defense plays with two safeties back, and the secondary is honest, the offense has a numbers advantage running the ball
    • If the defense plays with a single deep defender, receivers should be in one-on-one situations and there are enough numbers to protect the quarterback
    • If the defense plays Cover 0 (no deep defenders), expect the defense to blitz
  • Spread option, the quarterback is reading the backside defender to choose whether to give to the running back or keep it
  • Beating the spread involves using a safety-type player who can play the quarterback and race back deep on pass plays
  • The spread gives the offense leverage
  • Zone blitzing requires zone defenders not to stand in a spot but play close as a receiver enters their zone, and to hand them off
  • The traditional 3-4 is a two-gap defense - players are responsible for two gaps, and thus must occupy and control a blocker
    • One gap defenders attack gaps, two-gap defenders attack people
  • Outside zone runs are about stretching the defense; run laterally until a single cut can spring the defender upfield. This is taxing on the defense as it defies all of their instincts as they cannot over-pursue. This allows undersized lineman with good technique the leverage to control their defender
  • Robber technique, employed by Nick Saban, is a free safety that reads the QB’s eyes - he can break on intermediate routes and help on the run
  • Zone blitzing from the 3-4 is often very conservation - you can bring 5 rushers and still cover the intermediate zones. Long balls are covered by the deep safeties
  • Tony Dungy created the Tampa Two, which is Cover-2 with a middle linebacker covering the middle and dropping. The counterpunched spread offense
  • The West Coast offense’s key element is timing. It’s an offense built around quick, ball-control throws to receivers, tight ends and running backs. The QB is not allowed to drop back and shuffle around, and must read through his progressions in an exact sequence.
  • 4-3 is a one-gap scheme. The 4-3 under employs a middle linebacker on the defensive line facing the tight end