The issue with the play calling | Syracusefan.com

The issue with the play calling

OttoinGrotto

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Last night a poster sent me a message to have me explain why I think the play calling is so bad. I spent some time on the response and decided to post my reply (with some revisions to add context where needed) here:

People like to use the simplified argument that if a play works then the play calling was good, but if a play doesn't work then the play calling is bad. That's not my argument. I'll start by saying that I disagree that we can't spread the field. In fact, I believe that if we spread it out more we would be much more successful using it.

My argument is that there's more to play calling than just calling the play itself. Consideration should also be given to the formations selected, when they are selected, and the pace at which the offense receives the play, lines up, and executes it. I feel we're terrible at all of those things. Let's just put aside whether the plays that get called are good - we play at a pace that does us absolutely no favors whatsoever. Our offense is supposed to be multiple, which should permit us to exploit weakness in the defense, but we break huddle and line up so slowly that the defense has so much time to reasonably guess what we will do. Since the play calling itself is pretty bland, we get so many three and outs. I live out west, and I can tell you, teams on the west have prolific offenses in large part because they keep the defense on their heels. They don't just have fast players, the mentality of the offense is to be fast in all aspects of the game. It's just much harder to defend. I think if we played faster we would get more out of our offense. Maybe it doesn't give the defense more to think about, but it does give them less time to think, and that should be a net good thing.

So that deals with pace. Let's take a look at the formations. Part of the reason why the spread is so imposing is because it forces the defense to defend sideline to sideline. That doesn't just help the passing game, it also means wider running lanes all over the field for rushing plays. More field to cover is not a good situation for the defense - we make it easy for the defense, because I see us bunched up far too often. This makes us easy to defend against the run, especially since we so often try to force the ball up the middle behind our smallest lineman, and the rusher is basically heading right into the meat of the defense. They don't even have to move more than a step to make a play. This formation is even worse to pass out of. The best we can hope for is a quick hitter like Lemon's first TD, but that requires snap recognition and a tiny window to throw in. Otherwise, all of our routes are bunched up more or less along the middle of the field, meaning the safeties can stay home and the corners can cheat inside. It would be one thing if this was a formation we rarely use, but we get it a ton. It's the worst of both worlds. Difficult to run out of, and even harder to pass out of. It was also a problem our first drive against Louisville - we lined up to pass on 3rd in that abomination of a formation, got a delay of game that picked us up, and we still came out in it even though we needed more yardage! We completed the pass, didn't pick up the first, and punted. Let's at least line up in something that gives us a chance.

So that deals with one easily identifiable issue with the formations and when they are employed at bad times. Let's look at the actual play calling itself. I don't believe that you can often point to a single play in isolation and say that it's bad. It's the sequencing that disturbs me. The staff makes it known that they want to pound the ball. So, they come out and call run plays up the gut on our first possession, and get a three and out. Do you realize that in the first three drives of our last three games we've gone run, run, pass (after a penalty), punt, run, run (fumble lost), run, run, run, punt? Not surprisingly we had two three and outs and a fumble. Also, we completed the pass, but guess what, it came out of that awful bunch formation. Anyway, see, it's the sequencing. As for the deep ball (the poster noted that I thought it was a bad idea to have Nassib's first pass attempt be a bomb), I'm not suggesting that Nassib shouldn't be throwing them. But it probably shouldn't be his very first pass attempt. I think he's a rhythm passer. Let's let him find a rhythm first. It's hard for him to do that if we start every drive of every game only going with the run unless we have no choice to pass.

I do not believe that the offense needs to spend time pounding the ball in order to get the defense to respect the play action. That would be true if we were churning out first downs with the run, but we don't really succeed at that. They can let the play action go, because nobody is going to hurt them. We need to find ways to hurt them. Our play calling, in totality, is not built to hurt the defense. It's built on the hope that if we waste enough time maybe at the end we'll miraculously make a play. I say, let's do everything we can to make plays early in the game, in the middle of the game, whatever, and the end will take care of itself.
 
Players that are talented and execute properly make good play calls.

Our problem is not play calling.
 
Players that are talented and execute properly make good play calls.

Our problem is not play calling.

No our probelm is that the people calling plays cant recruit the people to execute them. Either way its marrone's fault.
 
Players that are talented and execute properly make good play calls.

Our problem is not play calling.
I'm really glad that after I spent time carefully explaining some of the issues with our play calling citing relevant examples that you felt that your talent argument was sufficient to dismiss everything I posted.
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Players that are talented and execute properly make good play calls.

Our problem is not play calling.

No, good coaching knows how to enable players who are lesser athletes to use technique, skills and teamwork to use angles, traps, counters, roll-outs, etc., to permit inferior athletes to effectively block better ones, thus providing time for plays to take place.

Even at the end, DeLeone was a good enough offensive line coach that he could put 5 tomato cans out there and give you a 1,000 yard rusher at the end of the season. Their problem was they were also too conservative in their play calling and didn't coach well during the actual game itself, in terms of time and clock management, making adjustments to what the other team was doing, etc. They were in perpetual brain freeze. But in terms of teaching players plays and how to execute them in practice, they did a better job than both of the coaches that followed them, at least from what we've seen so far from Marrone.
 
play calling does not mean a thing when we run for 8 yds and then fail twice losing a yd on the first series.. exactly the plays you should be running. same reason from the 5 we seldom can run the simple plays and score.. the oline cant beat guys 1-on-1 so you have to confuse the d to win the battles..
 
run the simple plays and score.. the oline cant beat guys 1-on-1 so you have to confuse the d to win the battles..
Confusing the D could be accomplished with better play calling as it relates to improving the pace at which our offense works and being more inventive and spread out in our formations.
 
Running a reverse to a TE is a problem with play calling. Running the same handoff up the gut to Bailey on the first play of every game is a problem with play calling. Having your fastest player never run a route longer than 5 yards is a problem with play calling.
 
I'm really glad that after I spent time carefully explaining some of the issues with our play calling citing relevant examples that you felt that your talent argument was sufficient to dismiss everything I posted.
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When guys drop passes in the end zone and break off routes it's an easy post to make. It's why I like Boeheim, he'd say the same thing.
 
When guys drop passes in the end zone and break off routes it's an easy post to make.
You're absolutely right. I must have just lost my head for a second there. Dropping passes in the end zone and breaking off routes 100% explains the overall abysmal performance on offense we've seen over the last 35 games.
 
You're absolutely right. I must have just lost my head for a second there. Dropping passes in the end zone and breaking off routes 100% explains the overall abysmal performance on offense we've seen over the last 35 games.

As far as yesterday's game, yes.

We've won about half of those games, that is a huge step in the right direction.
 

Add 21 points and your argument is diluted. There will be plays called by every team that bomb. The other team has a say in that. We dropped 3 td passes and a couple of 3rd down passes that would have kept drives alive. 21 points just flat out dropped... especially when the game is on the line!! It isn't that difficult. What play would you have called? Pass and catch instead of pass and drop?? If we snapped the ball faster do we catch it better? Seems the "D" had nothing to do with those drops so I could care less if they were confused or just plain beaten.

Your personal feelings would matter more if passes weren't being dropped. Thats fine but the problem last night was dropped passes. Everyone has a right to wanting a particular type of offense and they are many and varied. However any offense that drops the passes we did last night will fail. I don't care how long of an argument is presented, what speed we snap the ball or any of the other variables. Catch the damn ball and we have a great chance at the victory.

I do love your passion (since it is for SU) even though I don't agree (at present) with your analysis.
 
Add 21 points and your argument is diluted. There will be plays called by every team that bomb. The other team has a say in that. We dropped 3 td passes and a couple of 3rd down passes that would have kept drives alive. 21 points just flat out dropped... especially when the game is on the line!! It isn't that difficult. What play would you have called? Pass and catch instead of pass and drop?? If we snapped the ball faster do we catch it better? Seems the "D" had nothing to do with those drops so I could care less if they were confused or just plain beaten.

Your personal feelings would matter more if passes weren't being dropped. Thats fine but the problem last night was dropped passes. Everyone has a right to wanting a particular type of offense and they are many and varied. However any offense that drops the passes we did last night will fail. I don't care how long of an argument is presented, what speed we snap the ball or any of the other variables. Catch the damn ball and we have a great chance at the victory.

I do love your passion (since it is for SU) even though I don't agree (at present) with your analysis.
Sota, my post was about the offense in general. Other people are fixated on the game last night.
 
To be honest, I see it as we're still trying to install an offense that isn't completely suited for the players we have. If doug really wants to play power football, we can't be running a 5'7" back up the gut every play. He needs to utilize the players' abilities better by calling plays that will allow players to be put in situations where they can excel. It may take another year or two. Bailey is better outside, but is being called to put his head down and go through the middle. It just isn't his game. He's better on swing passes and off-tackle runs. If doug wants to run it up the gut, i'm okay with that, but the ball needs to be in a big back's hands, not bailey's.

The passing attack needs a deep threat/more accuracy, but I'm fine with ryan going 15 yards and 25 yards every once in a while. I don't need home runs every play. if they can get kids that will run hard up the middle for 5ypc, a spell RB that can gash and catch the ball, things can be okay. Not too worried about the line or Nassib as much. I thought they played well and put the ball where it needed to be. He stepped up in the pocket much better and had plenty of time. Receivers werent getting open and dropping the ball. Not really the lines or ryan's fault. Didn't like the pounding of the ball by Bailey, but once we've recruited the kids that we really want and need to run the offense, maybe you can do that a little easier and wont appear as bad.
 
No, good coaching knows how to enable players who are lesser athletes to use technique, skills and teamwork to use angles, traps, counters, roll-outs, etc., to permit inferior athletes to effectively block better ones, thus providing time for plays to take place.

Even at the end, DeLeone was a good enough offensive line coach that he could put 5 tomato cans out there and give you a 1,000 yard rusher at the end of the season. Their problem was they were also too conservative in their play calling and didn't coach well during the actual game itself, in terms of time and clock management, making adjustments to what the other team was doing, etc. They were in perpetual brain freeze. But in terms of teaching players plays and how to execute them in practice, they did a better job than both of the coaches that followed them, at least from what we've seen so far from Marrone.

I don't meant to sound flippant, and I'm sure I do, but I find it amazing that lay people such as those on this board know so much about the ins and outs of major college football coaching - and play calling.

So, Marrone is not getting what his talent level warrants. How exactly do you know that? Who has more talent than he is showing right now?

As far as I can tell - and I'm just a lay person - he's gotten about as much out of Nassib as one could ever get . I think the same holds true for guys like Provo, Adam Harris, Macky and Alec Lemon.

And I don't understand. DeLeone knew how to gain solid rushing yardage with lously talent, but was too conservative? You mean he should have been running a wide open, sophisticated passing offense with the lousy talent he had? Could it be that he ran a "conservative offense" that gained a lot of rushing yardage because that's all he could run and be successful?

I must say, I am also amazed that the post loss conversation on this board is always about the offense, when it's our defense that has been the primary problem. We don't tackle well, we don't put enough pressure on the QB, we don't generate turnovers and we have problems with field position because we can't find a guy who can KO into the endzone.

I guess we focus on offense because that's what we as lay people can see - at least that's what we think we can see.
 
To be honest, I see it as we're still trying to install an offense that isn't completely suited for the players we have. If doug really wants to play power football, we can't be running a 5'7" back up the gut every play. He needs to utilize the players' abilities better by calling plays that will allow players to be put in situations where they can excel. It may take another year or two. Bailey is better outside, but is being called to put his head down and go through the middle. It just isn't his game. He's better on swing passes and off-tackle runs. If doug wants to run it up the gut, i'm okay with that, but the ball needs to be in a big back's hands, not bailey's.
Good post. I'm 100% laying this at the feet of the coaching staff, but if our offense truly is multiple, we should be able to employ Ant in a way that suits his talents. What you're describing doesn't sound multiple to me, it just sounds like standard rushing i formation.
 
Good post. I'm 100% laying this at the feet of the coaching staff, but if our offense truly is multiple, we should be able to employ Ant in a way that suits his talents. What you're describing doesn't sound multiple to me, it just sounds like standard rushing i formation.

I think you know what I'm getting at, atleast. I don't really care what the name of the offense is. Just seems like guys aren't being utilized to their strengths, rather trying to fit a square into a circle.:noidea:

I just kinda wish that the staff were a little more flexible with the playbook, almost seems like there is a lot of "forcing" things at this point.
 
I must say, I am also amazed that the post loss conversation on this board is always about the offense, when it's our defense that has been the primary problem. We don't tackle well, we don't put enough pressure on the QB, we don't generate turnovers and we have problems with field position because we can't find a guy who can KO into the endzone.

I guess we focus on offense because that's what we as lay people can see - at least that's what we think we can see.
Two things. One, I agree that the defense is also an issue. I do not agree the defense is the primary problem. I'm mystified why we aren't better at generating turnovers. That said, the offense doesn't do the defense any favors whatsoever. I think the putridness of the offense fuels lackluster performance by the defense.

As for why I focus on offense, it's because I believe that offense is in your hands, and defense is not. You can be active with offense because you make the choice of where the ball goes after the snap. On defense you're forced to be reactive because you're not making those decisions. So, for me personally, I philosophically always lay the majority of the explanation for team performance on the offense because that is the thing that we can control.
 
I think you know what I'm getting at, atleast. I don't really care what the name of the offense is. Just seems like guys aren't being utilized to their strengths, rather trying to fit a square into a circle.:noidea:

I just kinda wish that the staff were a little more flexible with the playbook, almost seems like there is a lot of "forcing" things at this point.
I'm 100% in agreement with you. And that's why it's so frustrating. I agree that guys aren't being utilized to their strengths. A multiple offense shouldn't need to force things.
 
Two things. One, I agree that the defense is also an issue. I do not agree the defense is the primary problem. I'm mystified why we aren't better at generating turnovers. That said, the offense doesn't do the defense any favors whatsoever. I think the putridness of the offense fuels lackluster performance by the defense.
The way that BJ Daniels was holding the ball all night, I was dumbfounded that the staff didn't instruct the players to go for the ball while he was running. Should be doing that all game, every game.
 
Winning at the line of scrimmage would be nice.
Easy to blame the offense when we have a inexperienced D , young linebackers, and a finesse runner that we can barely give a hole to.

BJ ran with brains. He put the ball away and anticipated anyone closing in on him. And he threw the ball where we couldn't intercept. I don't blame us for not getting a turnover outside of the touchback, I blame South Florida.

Those are atleast 7 good points :rolleyes:
 
Gee, I wonder who would send a private message to someone trying to continue an debate from the board in private?
 

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