Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Triple Option Playbook, Part II, QB Decision making

The good old dual-threat QB. Folks, it's going to be super-easy to assume that every dual-threat QB can run Paul Johnson's triple-option offense. We learned in the last episode of the "Triple Option Playbook" that a TO ("Triple Option") QB must have 1) the willingness to get off the ground after a big hit and run the same play again, 2) enough athletic ability to get a first down on 3rd-and-7 when he is forced to run, and 3) the willingness to be an option QB. That means that just because a QB prospect is quick and can run doesn't make him a legit TO QB.

Don't we all kind of have this idea that Josh Nesbitt is going to shine in the TO? He sure looks the part. I'm sure many Tech fans believe that Reggie Ball could have thrived in a PJ TO system. True? Who knows, but don't assume the answer is yes. Why?

The reason is because there is one true measure of a QB - decision-making. Fast legs and a strong arm come and go with hundreds of kids every year out of the high school ranks. When the cream rises to the top, there are two things that cause some to stand out from the others - decision-making and accuracy. Chan Gailey always said it. Most coaches do..... because it's true.

Paul Johnson says it in his "playbook". Once again, from that wonderful interweb, we bring you an excerpt from an old Georgia Southern Veer Playbook. Today's topic - QB Decision-making:

Excerpt from Georgia Southern Veer Playbook:

The ability to make the decisions to execute an offense is the true measure of a QB. Quarterbacking is decision-making. The QB's decisions win or lose football games. Regardless of the style of an offense a coach designs, it won't be successful unless the QB makes a significant number of correct decisions. Athletic ability and mental and physical toughness are key ingredients in a quality QB. But, a QB with these qualities can't get on the field when he doesn't possess the decision-making ability which allows the offense to move the ball.

The most important and difficult technique to coach in any offense is the QB's decision-making. The difficulty arises in preparing the QB for the numerous variables, either offensively or defensively, which influence the QB's decisions. The QB's decision-making in an option offense is the key to success because of the number of decisions an option QB must make in a game. To be a successful decision-maker the QB must be coached to understand and execute a simple and logical decision-making process.

A QB can't be expected to be one hundred percent correct with his decisions. In football that is impossible when twenty-two players react on the snap of the ball. But, two very important results must occur when the QB makes a wrong decision. First, the initial wrong decision isn't followed by another poor decision. Usually the second wrong decision creates a lost yardage play or a turnover. Second is, the offense has possession of the football after the QB makes an incorrect decision.

The QB must understand he will make X number of wrong decisions in the course of a game. Those X number of wrong decisions are acceptable if the offense has possession of the football when the whistle blows to end the play. An offense can recover from a QB's wrong decision, but often can't recover from a turnover.

Regardless of how complex double or triple option decisions appear, those decisions aren't complex when a simple, logical decision-making process is coached, practiced and applied in a game. In an option offense the QB must have the decision-making tools to minimuze the risks in an option offense. For an option QB to consistently make the proper decisions he must be coached to:

1. Make one way decisions
2. pre-snap read the defense, and
3. understand the perimeter of the defense.

The key to consistently making correct decisions in an option offense is for the QB to make one-way decisions. One way decisions are predetermined in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage.

In a double option the QB can't dome down the line of scrimmage to option number three, hesitate and then decide to pitch the ball to the tailback or not to pitch the ball. The decision can be predetermined for the QB with a one-way decision-making process. The one way decision-making process removes any hesitancy because the process instructs the QB exactly what to do when he reaches number three. The one way decision-making process instructs the QB to pitch the ball off number three, until number three won't allow him to pitch the ball. When the QB takes the snap and comes down the line of scrimmage he tells himself, "Pitch, Pitch, until the option man won't let me pitch the ball".

The QB makes a pre-snap read for a TO by asking four questions. These are:

1. Where is the free safety?
2. Where is the "read man"? The read man's alignment on the offensive guard or tackle establishes the QB's one way decision-making process for ready the triple-option play
3. Where is number three?
4. Where is number four?

When the QB answers these questions he can execute the option with confidence and with minimal risk.

The QB must have a fundamental knowledge of perimeter defenses to execute an option play. He must understand how the defense reacts from a variety of perimater alignments to defend the option. Also, he must recognize the perimater defense to determine whether the offense has a number advantage or disadvantage based on alignment.

The defenders in the perimeter defense are the QB's aphabet to read the perimeter defense. The perimeter defenders include: the option man (number three), the run support defender (number four, either a DB or outside LB), the free safety, and the DB's responsible for the deep half or third of the field.

So there's another piece of the Triple Option Playbook. It's a bit fluffy but really these type of things form the base for everything. The QB brings this system to life more than most other "systems". So decision-making is the ulitmate.

Some other posts on the triple option for your viewing pleasure

The Triple Option Playbook, Part I, Evaluating QB's
Into the Mind of the Triple Option