Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Best Play? More Complex Than It Looks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Best Play? More Complex Than It Looks

Article excerpt

Byline: Gene Frenette

For second-guessers on any football level, it can often be the most polarizing aspect of the sport. Many of the frustrations associated with losing, and a frequent target for blame, are laid at the feet of one man who spends much of the game staring at a play sheet.

In this age of Madden video games, Red Zone channel and endless media analysis, few people in football get dissected when things go wrong like a play-caller. Whether that guy is the head coach, offensive coordinator or both, many die-hard fans think they could handle that responsibility as well or better than someone with years of on-the-job experience.

The problem with that convoluted reasoning is this: Until those who question or ridicule play-callers actually sit in that chair - and know they're going to be publicly held accountable for all those game-day decisions - it's difficult to comprehend how difficult an undertaking it really is.

"I couldn't imagine calling a game. That's a difficult task for sure," said Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. "Yeah, I think it's unbelievably hard to appreciate."

Given the ineptness of the Jaguars' offense the past four years, every offensive coordinator (Jedd Fisch, Bob Bratkowski, Dirk Koetter) has had their play-calling acumen come under fire. Why, even the OC of the NFL's most successful team the past two years, the Seattle Seahawks' Darrell Bevell, was called out this week by the mother of the team's franchise running back, Marshawn Lynch, after Sunday's loss to the St. Louis Rams.

Many fans think calling plays isn't that complicated. The truth is, it's far more complex than many savvy football observers can possibly imagine.

"Certainly nowadays with technology and the things you're able to get, [there is] so much information," said Jaguars first-year coordinator Greg Olson. "So, you try to find the value of information or things that you can actually draw upon during the course of the game, in terms of tendencies and statistics.

"That part of it has changed, and really has changed the last five or six years. There's an importance to that when you're looking at that in terms of percentages and where you're at in anything, whether it be run-pass ratio; what are we in first possessions, what are we on first-and-10 within a series, what are we on second-and-long within a series."

Point being, unlike fans who think dialing up a successful play is no different than maneuvering fingers on Madden, there's literally dozens of thoughts swimming in a play-caller's head during the 10-15 seconds (except non-timeout situations) he might have to send in a play.

If it's a pass, will the defense send four rushers or call an all-out blitz? Did the defense substitute a nickel back for a linebacker at the last second? …

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