How your Team Can Improve This Upcoming Season
A new year always brings reflection. Whether personal, health or organizational, it is pertinent to look back on the year and see how you or your team can improve. One primary way to stay ahead of the curve and objectively look at performance within football is to look at simple efficiency data.
Football is constantly evolving, and the need to stay ahead of the competition is a must for every staff member. To succeed, coaches must be able to accurately gauge their team's performance and identify areas of improvement, which is where efficiency data becomes a crucial tool. Efficiency data allows coaches to self-scout their pedagogy, scheme, and performance while identifying areas of strength and deficiencies.
First, let's define "efficiency" within football
The best way to look at calls, plays, and performances is to create a way to formulate a simple "win/loss" for the offense or defense. An easy way to do this is by using Down & Distance and play result (gain/loss) to create an efficiency number.
Here is the basic formula I use (and is also used by Hudl):
- 1st Down = < 3 yards (I would also add Possession & 10)
- 2nd Down = < than half the yards needed
- 3rd Down = < than total yards needed
- 4th Down = < than total yards needed
3rd and 4th Down are simple "win rates," meaning, did the team "win" the down? For offenses, did the team convert? For defense, did they get the stop? I have chosen three yards for 1st Down because 2nd & 7+ for most offenses is an "off-schedule" down.
Coaches can then combine the simple efficiency number with personnel, call, or field zone to clearly show how the scheme and your calls are doing in specific scenarios. It is incredible what you can find with a simple efficiency stat.
One of the critical benefits of efficiency data is identifying patterns in the team's performance and how a coach calls a game. Unfortunately, the "fog of war" during the season can blind coaches to critical information. We are all human by nature, often defaulting to our comfort zones. In an ever-changing game, coaches that can identify weaknesses early on and adapt are more likely to succeed.
Efficiency data can help coaches pinpoint areas of improvement and develop strategies to help the team become more successful. The data can also provide coaches with an insight into their team's strengths and weaknesses and how they can utilize them to become more effective. An example of this would be a specific fringe coverage scheme that is very successful when you call it. The staff can quickly identify this and create more concepts that utilize the strategy.
Example: You are a middle-of-the-field-closed (MOFC) dominant scheme, but your efficiency skyrockets when you run Tampa 2 on passing downs. Simple efficiency data would allow you to see this and show you and your staff that you need to mix those calls in more. If you only have a few calls, the information allows you to expand that part of your call sheet. You always want to add with purpose.
Coaches should use efficiency data to identify trends in the season and help the coaches make better decisions heading into the offseason. Now that the season is over and most staffs have entered all the pertinent data for self-scouting purposes, it is essential to look back with a critical eye regardless of your record.
Five Ways Efficiency Data Can Help You
1. Analyzing player performance
Efficiency data can help coaches analyze a player's performance by looking at each call objectively. If one call is not working, coaches need to identify the why. It could be as simple as a lack of production or as critical as how a coach taught the concept. Coaches need to identify areas where players need to improve or areas where they excel. Furthermore, it can help coaches identify which players have earned more playing time, need to be moved to a different position, or used in a separate package. An example of this is an LB who is more efficient when blitzing or rushing the passer than reading and reacting off the ball. A staff could identify this and move that player down to the D-line to maximize his strengths.
2. Identifying patterns
Identifying patterns is the most straightforward yet crucial use of efficiency data. Coaches can use efficiency data to identify patterns in their call performance. Whether looking at how teams are attacking your squad or how you go about calling a game, the data can lead staffs to see where they need to improve in the next year. An example of this would be calling too many aggressive blitzes on 3rd & Long that resulted in huge gains for the offense. Likewise, the data would help a coordinator identify that they may need to play more coverage in long-yardage passing situations.
3. Comparing teams
Efficiency data can also compare how teams attacked. Offensively, the data can help coordinators identify patterns in how opponents decide to apply pressure. In addition, coaches can compare other teams to create a plan for the offseason on how to counter. From play design to a change in protection schemes, seeing how opponents over time chose to attack can give a boon of information to a staff.
4. Game Planning
Coaches can use efficiency data to plan new concepts for the upcoming spring and summer. Taking a deep dive into how games were called and prepared for allows coaches to develop strategies considering their team’s strengths and weaknesses. Moving into the offseason, a staff should objectively look at their call sheet and see where there needs to be an improvement and the team's main strengths. Too many times, coaches lean into the weaknesses of their squads. Identifying strengths gives a staff a home base to work towards improvement and expansion. Most coaches are always searching for "Who we are," so why not use efficiency data to identify that? Once weaknesses are identified, coaches need to ask, "Is it the system or the players?" The staff needs to dive deep into cut-ups and their teaching process if it is the system to find the reason these calls are deficient.
5. Evaluating Pedagogy
Coaches at all levels need more time with their players, but that isn't happening. Maximizing efficiency on the field and off is crucial to success. When looking at simple efficiency data, a staff can quickly assess what is working and what is not and create cut-ups to identify the issue. Often, deficiency in the scheme is related to how coaches teach concepts. For example, most coaches are not calling objectively "bad" calls that are unsound. The main question should always be, "How can we teach this better?" Using data can assert which schemes need a second look, and with film and review, coaches can identify how their teaching affects performance. The fix often is as simple as changing the language around how you teach a technique. For instance, we were having an issue with our Mike LB on a simple A-gap blitz that read the Center; he kept hitting the wrong gap, and our overlap player would overrun the play. To fix this, we eliminated the read and told the Mike to "cross the Center until you can't." The simple "Cross" technique fixed our issue.
Efficiency data is a powerful tool for coaches to analyze their team's performance. Analytics can provide a comprehensive and detailed overview of the team's performance in all areas, from their offensive and defensive playcalling to their overall roster structure and how coaches should teach concepts. In addition, efficiency data allows coaches to identify areas of the game that need improvement and where the change can impact the team most.