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Packers’ Playbook Is Getting a Do Over

You saw it earlier here at TP. When coach Mike McCarthy introduced his new coaching staff, he also said, “We’re going back and building a playbook like you would with a first year as a staff.” Since he’s been there for 12 years, it does seem high time to do it.

Almost everyone who’s been a Green Bay Packers fan since that fateful year of 2006 probably agrees that every year we see the offense run the same old plays, over and over. It’s no wonder opponents have a pretty good idea of what play is about to be run.

So, yes, the team needs to come up with some new plays. While at it, how about dropping plays which year after year have resulted in below average gains?

A problem I see with play sheets is that it leads to a tendency to run certain plays in certain situations. Opposing teams no doubt do “oppo” research on this, so they are likely to know, for example, what McCarthy’s favorite plays are on third and short. It does seem to me that play calling has become a habit-forming trait for the Packers’ play caller.

Before proceeding, I am assuming that the playbook is indeed a book, or a three-ring binder, containing all the plays the team has practiced and might run during the season. Every so often, a player loses his playbook or has it stolen – causing much anguish. The play sheets are those two-sided laminated sheets that McCarthy buries his nose in for most of the game. These sheets are almost readable on the TV screen. I wonder how many times have the Patriots taken advantage of this.

Finally, I assume that there’s a custom-made play sheet prepared for each upcoming opponent. Some plays are removed and some are added each week – and those added plays are practiced during that week of preparation.

Play Sheet Contents

From here on, I’ll talk about play sheets, rather than playbooks.

While I couldn’t find much about the contents of an actual NFL play sheet, I did find a site, CoachFore.org, in which a Southern California high school coach shared his play sheets, circa 2014. It’s undoubtedly primitive compared to McCarthy’s, but it’s based on the same idea.

Here’s the LINK if you are interested.

Fore’s play sheets are organized by down-and-distance situations, which is probably standard practice. His categories include: 1st Down, 2nd Short, 2nd Long, 3rd Short, 3rd Long, 4th Short, 4th Long, Scripts, and Specials.

I’ve read elsewhere that some play sheets contain lists of plays for particular players, and some list plays run out of particular formations.

Scripts are those plays that are likely to be used to start out the game on offense – most teams seem to now list 15 scripted plays. The “This Week” section is a reminder of plays the staff thinks would work well against that opponent. “Specials” are, of course, trick plays – Chris has got two reverse sweeps and a hook-and-ladder listed there. I’m not sure if McCarthy has any such heading.

On Fore’s sheet, plays in red are runs, blue ones are passes, and green seems to designate screen passes. Big Mike’s sheets seem to have about 10 colors.

Under his down/distance headings, Fore has from eight to 28 plays, including the play’s number and nickname. These are also on the QB’s wrist band, for use in no-huddle situations. Coach Fore must have some speedy backs, because he’s got a sweep for every occasion.

There seems to be an endless debate over how many plays to put on the play sheet, and to also spend time practicing during the week.

Fore has come to rely on these sheets, and admits, “I would feel so naked without it!!”

Please try to avoid forming an image of this in Big Mike’s case.

Fore even has a section for the first names of the game officials, so he can act like he’s on a best-friend basis with them.

Getting back to McCarthy’s press conference statement, not many are going to criticize rebuilding the Packers’ playbook. I certainly applaud Big Mike’s latest intention, which I’ll now add to my “better late than never” list.

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Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.

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1 Comment

  1. Howard January 29, 2018

    Rob: Really like reading your articles. I think most playbooks are on tablets these days. That way they can self destruct if the wrong password is entered : -)