American Football

Take a Cue from the NFL: How to Restock Your Playbook During the Offseason

The adaptations in NFL offenses show the importance of adding to the playbook, and the offseason is the perfect time for it.

Innovation never sleeps. NFL teams are constantly hunting for the next play, concept or wrinkle to implement and catch the opposition by surprise.

Ten years ago it was the Wildcat, a formation made popular by the Miami Dolphins with two running backs in a shotgun formation, one of whom took the snap as the quarterback traditionally would. Five years back it was the zone-read option, which quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson used against bewildered defensive ends.

As spread offenses continue to permeate the league, NFL coaches are tinkering with ways to amp up their attacks even more. The Chiefs in particular have thrived behind innovative thinking with jet sweeps and shovel passes to tight ends.

These concepts have been staples of high school and college offenses for years, and the NFL’s desire to find even the slightest edge led to finding them.

Kansas City’s offense is a prime example. The Chiefs, who employ a “spread game analyst” (Brad Childress), found creative ways to get the ball to Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce en route to averaging 475.4 yards per game, the fifth-highest mark in the NFL.

“They’re making the Madden guys’ jobs hard,” running back Charcandrick West said to USA Today. “I don’t know how they’re going to get all of this stuff in the game next year… (Head coach Andy Reid) amazes us every week we come in, he’s got something new. How does he even continue to create this stuff?”

While Reid deserves a lot of credit, he’s not necessarily “creating” a new offense. The concepts he employs are found in much smaller stadiums all across America as high school coaches experiment with ways to boost their offense. Those ideas trickle into the college game before eventually being picked up by NFL teams.

“The jet action is a high school play we’ve been using for 25 years. It is literally a high school play,” Mark Colyer, the founder of spreadoffense.com, told the Ringer in a recent article. “This year, the spread has really bubbled up to the NFL.”

The best of the best are always searching for ways to improve, and this is the perfect time of year for high school coaches to do the same. The offseason is a great opportunity to review game video from the season and see what plays or concepts worked against you. Is there something an opponent ran that you could incorporate into your game plan?

“Borrowing” plays is common practice. Consider a 24-yard reception by Patriots’ back James White against the Saints on Sept. 17. If it looked familiar, there’s a reason—the Chiefs burned New England for a 78-yard score with the same play 10 days earlier.

Take advantage of free time during the offseason to restock your playbook. Chat with other coaches in the community and brainstorm new ideas with those in your inner circle. Attend coaching clinics and try to make as many connections as you can. Dive into video of other successful teams for inspiration.

We’d love to hear about creative innovations or concepts you’ve integrated into your offense. Tweet your creative ideas to @HudlFootball for a chance to get a shoutout.