Paring Down The Playbook For A Backup


Picture this: it’s the second game of the season. Your team is driving late in the third quarter and your quarterback drops back when BANG! He crumples to the ground in pain. It doesn’t look good for him, so you have to bring in your backup quarterback. As a coach, you’re faced with a huge issue- does the backup quarterback understand the complexities of your offense? How can you ensure a smooth transition without destroying team chemistry or offensive flow?

Simplify the Offense

Depending on what kind of offense you run, it’s always important that you work to simplify it for the backup…especially if it is a younger player. If you run an offense entirely out of the shotgun with multiple reads associated with each play, perhaps pare it down to a simple read-option offense so your quarterback doesn’t have to overthink every play. 

Focus on Strengths

While this may negate the tip above, it is important to focus on the strengths of your backup quarterback. While the read-option is an excellent proposition for a mobile quarterback, it might not work as effectively for a pocket passer. Perhaps a simple pro-style offense would work better. If a backup has greater arm strength than your starter, maybe you add more deep routes to your offensive game plan. If the arm strength isn’t there, perhaps focusing on slants, or simple out routes might mitigate any offensive downturn. 

Flexibility is key. As Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera says, "If your offense doesn't have any flexibility, where it can go from a zone read back to a pro-style back to a spread, you can get in trouble.”

Don’t Commit To One Offense If You Don’t Have the Personnel

Installing an offense for a quarterback means installing an offense for ten other starters. Just because an injury happens, that shouldn’t mean the offense goes by the wayside. Make sure your quarterbacks have similar skill sets so you don’t have to completely change your offense. Don’t forget, changing an offense messes with the techniques that offensive lineman have to learn, routes receivers have to run, and pass-blocking keys from running backs and receivers. If you keep it consistent, your play will be consistent. 

Rep Distribution- Installing the Starter Mindset 

It’s all about reps. If your backups aren’t getting reps, they won’t be prepared for game action. There’s a story of a coach who had a winless year, threw out his playbook, and switched to only five running play concepts, enough that players all over the roster would get reps. Because of that, his backup went through enough reps that when pushed into starter duty, he rushed for 369 yards and six touchdowns… in ONE game.

Focus on the Film

With a starter out, your film study takes on a new life. You need breakdown software that can spot weaknesses in your offense, as well as your opponent’s, in order to effectively bridge the offense from a starter to a backup. Sign up for a one game free trial of Krossover today, and see how we can help you pare down your playbook effectively! 

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