Play Calling by Coach Hays
One of my all-time favorite things about football is play calling. I loved it as a coach, especially on the defensive side of the ball. As I was a fan long before I was a coach, I learned the bleachers are the perfect place to appreciate the fine art of play calling.
One solid fact about play calling I learned in my time as a fan was this little nugget of wisdom; Plays called from the stands AFTER the actual play is over have a 100% No-Fail Rate. Seriously, if a 4th and short iso run play gets stuffed at the line of scrimmage, there are at least 50 guys in the stands hiking up their jeans, sucking in their gut and exclaiming to everyone within a 12 row radius, “I’d a passed right there, a quick slant.”
Now, let’s take the same 4th and short situation. If the call of a quick slant pass falls incomplete to the turf, those same 50 guys hiking up their jeans in the stands are saying, “Shoulda run the iso, that’s what I called in my head while they was still in the huddle.” This still cracks me up today as a fan and used to cracked me up as a coach.
One JV game night, we played after the freshman squad’s game at our home stadium. We arrived in the 2nd quarter of the freshman game and we had time, so we let the kids watch some of the game from the endzone before we began warming up. The double wing team the freshman were playing were moving the ball well. After a couple long runs, what sounds like a older gentleman from our home stands started screaming “WATCH THE RUN! WATCH THE RUN!”, in that maniacal voice one often finds in the stands of sporting events. Very next play, the opponent threw a long play action pass that put them inside our 10 yard line. Guess what the older gentleman screams now. “WATCH THE PASS! WATCH THE PASS!” Classic. And the best part was he kept this up well into the fourth quarter. I giggle just to think about it.
Another play calling story. We hosted the opening game of district playoffs with our rival and challenger for the district championship in town. We control the first half against their highly potent (and relatively rare for that time) spread offense, thanks to the secondary gameplan of Coach Smith. We get the ball back with a lead less than two minutes in the first half and with Coach Smith calling the offensive plays, we methodically move the ball down the field. We don’t call any timeouts, the clock is running down to half and our plan is to score or hold the ball until the half runs out. We know we don’t want to give their offense a chance to score. So, we’re moving the ball, not calling timeouts and for the first and only time I become aware of a fan in the stands screaming, “YOU STUPID COACHES!” over and over again. Well, screaming is too nice a term. As I look to the action on the field, the voice I hear emulating from the stands sounds like Mama Alien from Alien 2 if she were to sit in the stands of a high school football game and scream, “YOU STUPID COACHES!” at the top of her lungs. Well, to make a long story short, led by us “STUPID COACHES”, we score with less than 10 seconds left, run the clock out on the kickoff and go on to win the game handily. Not bad for stupidity.
Want to know what it is like to call plays? I give you this representative scenario to describe what it is like.
Stand up and hop on one foot around the kitchen while a pot of spaghetti noodles boils over on the stove next to the bubbling pan of sauce and the garlic toast sits on the white hot griddle. You are hopping because you dropped the heavy pasta pot lid on your big toe. Then your three year old sextuplets knock over the 20 gallon aquarium and are currently “bathing” in the fish juice soaked carpet. Next, the doorbell rings and in marches a gaggle of Girls Scouts hawking the world’s best thin mint cookies. Broken toe, dead fish, wet kids, houseful of precious little angels selling fattening discs of chocolate heaven, soggy pasta, charred garlic toast, smoky sauce and …THE PHONE RINGS.
It is Alex Trabec saying that if you can provide the correct question to the clue “65 Toss Power Trap “ within ten seconds you win 1 million dollars.
You get excited, you know this answer and shout into the phone, “Play Hank Stram called for a Chiefs TD in the Super Bowl IV”.
“Sorry, correct answer, but it was not in the form of a question.”
Ladies and gentlemen, that is play calling and that is why I liked it so much.