Cowboys Nation: You played for three NFL teams in your career, and you mentioned in our first chat that you're now an offensive coordinator. You've seen the process from both sides, as the guy who helps carry out the game plan and the gentleman who creates it.
Rich Musinski: I'm the offensive coordinator for my high school, in Pennsylvania. I've been calling plays for the past two years.
CN: Great. Play calling is this mysterious catch-all phrase much of the time. It's the short hand for winning and losing to a lot of fans. If a team has a successful game, the coordinator called a great game. If his team lost, he did a lousy job, or he was "out-coached." That's a phrase that comes up a lot.
I'd like for you to break down play-calling, and how coordinators go about it. First, walk us through the process of establishing a game plan.
RM: The first thing you do is start with your own team. You have to find the pieces. Who's available? Who's healthy that week?
Assuming everyone is healthy, and your starters are going to be your starters... then, you watch film on your opponent. Even at the high school level you exchange film. In the NFL it's more intensive and even at the college level, there's so much film nowadays.
When I played, there was not as much, and it was in VHS format, so you have to go forward and backwards. Now, everything is digitized and there are sites where we can upload our film and you can see other teams' film.
The big thing is you spend a lot of time watching, and you look for tendencies. As a former receiver, I look at DBs. I try and find the weak DB.
When you're going through a system... we've run more of a spread offense the past few years. We play 4-5 wides. We have empty backfields sometimes. But we can also line up two tight, one tight, power-I. We have a quarterback who is .. the pistol offense, the spread offense is more his style.
Even if there was a safety or an inside linebacker lining up man-to-man on an inside receiver, you look to exploit that. When you're going through the process, you look at other teams which have played your upcoming team, and what those teams ran against your opponent, and what they did well. You then look to see if you have that in your arsenal. You bring that to the forefront.
You also look for mis-matches, all across the field. Even if it's up-front. If they have a bad D-lineman or a defensive end who always comes flying up the field, then you're going to run inside of him, until the kid decides he wants to play down.
So, that's definitely part one of game planning is watching your opponent, and watching for their tendencies.
Next: Installing and practicing a game plan .