Can you explain football strategy and tactics to me?
January 15, 2004 3:36 PM   Subscribe

The Super Bowl is coming, I got an NFL game for my GameCube for Christmas, and I'm ready for some football! But while I know very well the rules of the game, I've never really understood the strategy and tactics, so I've never really felt like an armchair quarterback, much less a general of the field. What do all the X's and O's mean? How does the QB read the defense correctly? I'm ready to go beyond watching the game and getting down into the nitty gritty of it all. Where do I start, short of going back in time to high school junior varsity?
posted by WolfDaddy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total)
WolfDaddy, watch some of the pregame shows (I prefer ESPN's coverage, but FOX does a reasonably good job) especially this week. Peyton Manning, the quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts will be in action this weekend. He has a very interesting (and AFAIK unprecedented) method for calling plays. Normally plays are sent in from the sidelines by the coach or Offensive Coordinator and the QB will run them most of the time. Occasionally a QB is given free reign to change a play ("call an audible") right before action begins ("the snap"). But Peyton goes up to the "line of scrimmage" with only an idea of what he wants to do (pass or run, maybe deep or short) and then wings it based on what he sees the defense doing with their setup. He will, on almost every play, run up and down the line, barking commands to his players, and positioning them where he wants them. The team they play this weekend, the New England Patriots, have almost as improvizational a defense as the Colt's do an there is much to learn about the sport this coming Sunday.

The Super Bowl is Feb. 1, but I expect the games this weekend to be every bit as exciting. Enjoy it!

Oh...and I would be remiss if I didn't point you here for top notch discourse and furious second-guessing.
posted by vito90 at 4:56 PM on January 15, 2004

hopefully you got madden2004. that has an excellent tutorial. i'm a football die-hard, and hell, even i learned something.
posted by ruwan at 5:30 PM on January 15, 2004

Watch for zone vs. man-to-man coverage. If it's zone coverage, you can use motion at the line to overload the zone and get your receiver open.

And, also, a million other things ;)
posted by The God Complex at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2004

In all honesty, I learned more about football playing Madden 2003 than I ever did by watching games.

Except in rare cases, television coverage of football is atrocious. The cameras follow the ball, which means you often never see the real action: receivers running their routes, blocking developing downfield, the free safety in zone versus in coverage. It's amazing the understanding of the game you get once you can see (i.e., with Madden) all of the little bits and pieces happening.

Quarterbacks are basically never given freedom to "wing it" in the NFL. If you watch closly, all NFL quarterbacks wear a wristband on their throwing arm; on this wristband is a list of all the team's plays, and corresponding numbers. The coach calls in the number from the sideline, and the quarterback calls it in the huddle. Usually, a quarterback has two or three "audible" options in every formation, so that he can change the play to respond to the defense (blitz, zone coverage, etc.) Receivers also alter their routes if they see a blitz coming, with no input from the quarterback.

Manning is exceptional because he is maybe the last play-calling quarterback in the league. But he certainly doesn't have the level of control that Unitas-era QBs did, and he still wears the armband.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:28 PM on January 15, 2004

I wish I had a good answer, but it's too open-ended. If you did get Madden, definitely go to the Practice modes and listen to his explanations of how the offensive play is designed to break down the defense. For all his bluster, he's still a Hall of Fame coach who knows his stuff.

Beyond that, you have to watch for a few years. Pick a team that you get to see on a regular basis (which can be difficult due to NFL blackout policies, etc.) and read the local sports page to get a feel for what their gameplan is week to week. It helps to pick a team that actually knows what they're doing. I'm not going to recommend my local Patsies to you, but the Falcons or a team like that would at least be fun to watch going forward. And then go back to the GameCube and try to break down the defenses yourself.
posted by yerfatma at 4:07 AM on January 16, 2004

Hi yerfatma! You should have posted this article here for WolfDaddy!!
posted by vito90 at 10:44 AM on January 16, 2004

Best quote by Madden in Madden: "Ninety percent of the game is half mental."
posted by The God Complex at 12:47 PM on January 16, 2004

Response by poster: Wow, good stuff everyone, and thanks. I got NFL 2K3, not Madden (and it seems 2K3 came out in 2K2 so methinks I got a bargain bin present!!) and there's no tutorials there (though the banter between the commentators is hilarious) but I think I'll pick Madden up now for the in-depth tutorial stuff, and use the links here for color and insight ... like Madden himself was used, heh.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:54 PM on January 16, 2004

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