Tony DeMeo

Cure-Alls and Answer Plays

Questions that always come up at Clinics are how many plays are too many?  How do I know if I have enough? What if they change defenses and there is a better play against that defense? How can I cover all possibilities and still be simple? Do I deviate from my base to exploit a particular defense?

The first thing you must always remember is execution is everything and the only way to be able to execute is through quality repetitions. You must rep plays and techniques to be able to execute them during intense competition. The more you rep plays and techniques the better you become at them.

The next thing to remember is to pick core plays to be the hub of your offense that are good against everything – I call these plays “cure-alls”. These are your bread and butter plays that you can run vs. any defense in any situation. The best cure-all plays are those that are “reactive” in other words they react to the defense after the snap. So you don’t have to worry about the defense stuffing that play and your answer coming in a new play. A cure-all play will react to the defense and have a built in answer for whatever the defense does. The Gun Triple is a cure-all play – we can run it vs. any defense and to any shade. The under center triple was a check to the one technique but was close to a cure-all. The Lombardi Sweep was a cure- all play because the ball carrier would read the blocks of his blockers and “run to daylight”. The Hal Mumme/ Mike Leach “mesh route” is a cure-all pass pattern because it is good vs. any coverage or blitz.

An “answer play” is only effective if the defense does a specific thing. For example our Half Reverse Play is only good if the defense over-pursues to stop the Gun Triple. If the defense stays home then Half Reverse is a dead play but if they are not over-pursuing then there is no reason to call Half Reverse. We only practice answer plays against the reaction we expect.

Cure-All plays take lots of reps and lots of teaching so you have to limit the number of Cure –All plays in your playbook. You simply will run out of practice time if you try to install too many cure-all plays. The Gun Triple was our Cure All run and got the bulk of our practice time.

Limit the number of new techniques you must teach for your answer plays. Your answer plays can’t involve a lot of new techniques because you won’t have time to get enough reps to make them effective. Half Reverse involves one new technique in the whole play, so it is very cost efficient. The more you can use the same techniques for multiple plays the more efficient your practice will be and the more effective your plays will be. For example we use basically Gun Triple Blocking on our Double Options but either block the Hand Off Key or pitch off the Hand Off Key. The only new technique is blocking the HOK.

Maximize the ways you run your Cure-All plays. Use multiple formations to gain numbers advantages and mismatches. Remember you don’t have to execute a formation. Use a variety of motion to get a jump on the defense. Use counter or whirley motion to exploit a defense trying to move on your motion. Motion doesn’t add to the techniques you have to rep but it gives you another way of maximizing your cure-all plays.

Use the same cure-all philosophy in the passing game. The fewer routes your Quarterback must be able to throw the more effective he will be. We have a handful of cure-all patterns that we use against all defenses. We always include an answer for blitz and an escape. So the pass reacts after the ball is snapped. The success of the Run and Shoot was based on the patterns changing after the snap. We have a few different ways our passes change after the snap: our quick game can convert to a sprint out or our dropback pass can turn into a QB draw. These concepts make our passing game very reactive.

To maximize our effectiveness, we use the same patterns and concepts in our dropback game as well as our play action passes. These passes are good vs. anything but they must be repped vs. everything. The number concepts must be limited to have effective execution.

By making your Offense Reactive, you remove the pressure of being able to predict what defense your opponent is going to play against your team. You don’t have to rely on scouting reports. I always felt scouting reports were only good for evaluating personnel. Because your opponent played a certain front vs. a Wing T or Flexbone team doesn’t mean they will play that defense against your team. So your offense must be able to react to all defenses. Having a Reactive Offense also eliminates the need for you to be a great play caller because the plays that you call are going to be effective against whatever the defense does. You don’t have to predict what a defense is going to do, you eliminate the guessing game. If you see the defense is being unsound then you pull out one of your answer plays to exploit that very specific weakness. For example if the MLB is racing to the perimeter on every play a simple Zone Dive will go for big yardage, or it the Hand Off Key is trying to sit and read then blocking him on Double Option or QB ISO will be very effective (Hard to read; easy to block and easy to read; hard to block).

So in conclusion, regardless of what offensive system you run, make sure you have cure-all plays as the hub of your offense and then add an answer play to exploit a defensive adjustment to stop the cure-all. One answer is enough,” too many answers to a problem equals no answer and one problem”. You must be able to execute your answer play to exploit the defensive weakness.