Watching Football Through the Eyes of a Coach

Televised Games Take on New Meaning

Coach speaking with football player
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Coaches and casual fans can watch the same game and see very different things. Coaches tend to pay attention to a wide variety of on-field occurrences and details on each play, while fans often tend to focus directly on the on-ball action.

Rather than watching a televised game from a football fan's viewpoint, try viewing it, in the same manner, a coach watches the next opponent's game video.

Keep Your Eyes Off of the Ball

This idea runs in contradiction to the common sports phrase “keep your eyes on the ball,” but coaches watch a whole lot more than just the ball on any given play. They pay attention to things like how the defense sets up, how the offense reacts, and how individual players perform their duties. Thus, instead of having tunnel vision toward the quarterback, look at the defensive and offensive lines, the secondary movements, the receivers, and the running backs. As the game progresses, you will begin to realize all teams have tendencies and you will be able to pick up on some of them.

Picking up on tendencies takes time, and comes with familiarity, but some small inclinations can be noticed almost immediately.

Watching the Defense

When paying specific attention to the defense there are a number of things to watch for:

  • Are the cornerbacks playing inside the receivers' shoulders to take away the slant pattern?
  • How many players are on the line?
  • Is the secondary showing man-to-man or a zone look?
  • Do the defenders rotate into different coverage packages?
  • How good are the linebackers at blitz disguise?
  • Can you see the overload of defensive players on a side?
  • Is it Cover 2? Tampa 2?
  • Is the defensive end crashing? Or, is he playing his contain role?

Watching the Offense

There are also a number of things to watch for on the offensive end.

  • Do the tackles set up differently on pass plays? Do they tip their hand?
  • Can you see a lean forward by the linemen when it's a rushing play?
  • Can the quarterback read the defense and make play calls based off of those reads?
  • Motion? Is it to set up another play? Is the quarterback determining if the defense is in man coverage?
  • Throwing on first down? A lot? A little?
  • How effective is the play-action?
  • Do the receivers work on 'baiting' the secondary?

Field Position

  • Inside the opponent's 25-yard line, is there a pass play to the end zone on first down?
  • Does a team’s offensive approach vary based on where they have the ball?
  • With the offense backed up, will the quarterback throw deep? Play it safe and run the ball?
  • Fake punt? Is it likely to happen at midfield or inside the opponent's territory?

You Make the Call

The more often that you watch the same team, the more familiar you will become with the team’s tendencies. Who knows? By the time your favorite team makes it to the Super Bowl or the National Championship game, you just may surprise your friends by your keen sense of calling out the plays before the ball is snapped.