Football Play Calling System: A Winning Game Plan for Coaches

As a coach, you know that every aspect of the game matters. Football play calling is no exception, as it directly impacts team performance and often determines game outcomes.

We all remember that the infamous “Philly Special” was the play call that won the Philadelphia Eagles the 2018 Super Bowl against New England. We also know the call that led to the controversial Malcolm Butler Interception cost the Seattle Seahawks their Super Bowl in 2015.

Strategic football play calling requires coaches to understand offensive and defensive schemes, player strengths and weaknesses, and situational awareness. They must translate this knowledge into clear, concise plays that their team can execute effectively under pressure.

Football play-calling system providers, such as GoRout, offer a structured framework for making strategic decisions, streamlining communication with players, and ensuring everyone is on the same page. 

These systems provide coaches the tools to develop winning game plans and maximize their team’s potential.

In today’s article, we will explore the critical aspects of football play calling, its benefits and challenges. We will also be shedding light on our innovative football play calling system, GoRout, its advantages for coaches of all levels, and how it can help overcome the complexities of the game. 

Let’s get started.

The Fundamentals of Football Play Calling

Let’s explore the core principles governing this critical aspect of the game.

1. Analyzing player skills and positions

Analyzing players involves assessing their physical, mental, and technical skills and understanding their contributions to the team’s overall strategy. This analysis is essential for customizing plays and maximizing team performance based on individual skill sets. 

For example, a quarterback’s role goes beyond arm strength and accuracy. A skilled head coach will use the quarterback as a team leader to execute plays, especially in high-pressure situations.

2. Recognizing offensive and defensive strengths

Effective play-calling in football is more than just drawing Xs and Os on a board. It’s about understanding the unique dynamics of a team and using them to gain a strategic advantage on the field. 

When calling running plays, a coach considers team communication, chemistry, culture, adaptability, and trust. 

Recognizing the strengths of the offensive and defensive lines allows coaches to construct a playbook that maximizes their team’s potential. It helps maintain balance and create favorable matchups during practice and in games.

3. Studying the opponent

The saying “know your enemy” is true in football. You must take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses to win on the field.

Scouting your opponents through game footage means gathering video clips, analyzing plays and formations, and understanding each player’s strengths and weaknesses.

The goal is to develop an organized game plan that you can quickly adapt based on in-game observations or patterns.

4. Tailoring plays to specific game situations

Adapting strategies to different game scenarios is crucial to maximizing strengths, exploiting weaknesses, managing the play clock, and responding effectively to the scoreboard. When your team is down by three, and your go-to same-play RPO isn’t generating results, it’s time to switch things up to secure a win.

Situational play calls include a range of strategies, such as goal-line stands, clock management, prevent formations, onside kicks, two-point conversion attempts, and trick plays. 

Use a two-point conversion when your team is trailing by one point late in the game, or consider an onside kick to get the ball back quickly to erase a deficit.

5. Adjusting strategies based on score, time, and field position

Successful coaches prioritize customizing their play-calling based on factors such as the score, play time remaining, and predictable game situations. Adjustments made in real-time can often lead to a winner-takes-all scenario, especially for teams with the same skill level.

Leading teams focus on ball control and conservative plays, while those trailing may opt for a more aggressive approach with hurry-up offenses.

Time is crucial in determining strategies, with late-game situations often requiring a quicker pace. Field position also impacts the level of risk taken, with teams deep in their territory preferring conservative plays, while those in favorable positions are generally more aggressive.

Challenges in Football Play Calling

In football, play calling is a complex task. Coaches must make quick decisions on the gridiron that can determine the outcome of a game. Let’s explore some common challenges they face.

1. Adapting to unexpected opponent strategies

Head coaches are responsible for adapting to unexpected strategies and coming up with plays that can overcome them successfully. It involves assessing and countering unanticipated defensive or offensive plays, ensuring flexibility and strategic agility to maintain a competitive edge.

In football, coaches can adapt to surprising opponent tactics by observing in-game developments, maintaining open communication with assistant coaches, such as the offensive coordinator and defensive assistant, and making necessary adjustments.

Post-game film study can help a coach understand opponent strategies, while a playbook full of versatile responses provides the necessary flexibility to handle any situation.

2. Overcoming in-game obstacles

Extra game challenges arise from unforeseen obstacles like weather, tactical shifts, refereeing decisions, and turnovers. To overcome these circumstances without compromising the game plan, you must:

  • Have a versatile playbook for a variety of weather conditions or tactics
  • Use effective communication among the offensive line and offensive coordinators
  • Take advantage of time-outs in a strategic way
  • Focus on what’s controllable rather than harping on unforeseen obstacles
  • Evaluate the risk and reward of a specific play call before calling it

Adapting and making timely adjustments is crucial for success in football.

3. Managing player fatigue and injuries

Coaches can help players perform better and avoid long-term physical setbacks by proactively managing player fatigue and injuries. A comprehensive approach that includes conditioning, monitoring, and recovery strategies is essential for developing a healthy and resilient team. 

Managing player fatigue through rotation involves strategically substituting players during a game to ensure optimal performance and minimize the risk of injuries. 

A well-planned rotation strategy that provides players with adequate rest periods and allows them to recover will balance the team’s overall energy levels.

4. Adjusting the game plan based on player condition

Coaches can make real-time adjustments based on the players’ condition by using sports technology for in-game monitoring, maintaining open communication with players and medical staff, and strategically implementing substitutions. 

Observing players on the bench and assessing their overall condition can help make the play call system more effective.

During the 2022-23 NFL season, the Chief’s all-star quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered from an ankle injury

In response, head coach Andy Reid changed his play calls so that Mahomes spent less time on long passing plays, such as go routes, and focused more on shorter routes and runs by the running backs. 

The adjustments made to the play calls ultimately led to the team’s win in the 2023 Super Bowl.

Building a Football Playbook

Football coaches meticulously craft a playbook to serve as a strategic blueprint for their team. It comprises a collection of offensive, defensive, and special teams plays. It is the holy grail of a team’s best-kept secrets and strategies.

Everyone knows the playbook inside and out, from the head coach and offensive coordinator to the third-string players. It ensures that each member of the team is on the same page. 

Let’s explain the key elements of an optimized football playbook.

1. Developing a playbook philosophy

Every football team has its playbook philosophy, which is crucial in aligning plays, formations, and strategies with the team’s identity. This philosophy promotes consistency and encourages team cohesion. It serves as a set of guiding principles that shape the team’s approach to the game and enhances its overall effectiveness on the field.

2. Categorizing plays based on formations and situations

Football plays are categorized based on formations and specific game scenarios. These scenarios include the down, distance, field position, and time remaining. 

This methodical approach gives the team an advantage by making the play call more consistent, adaptable, and more convenient to analyze for future use and helps teams monitor their progress over time.

3. Including a mix of run and pass plays

A smart play call system includes a mixture of both passing plays and running plays. Balancing run and pass plays in offensive play-calling is necessary to:

  • maintain defensive uncertainty and exploit weaknesses
  • control the clock
  • maximize offensive versatility
  • reduce predictability
  • protect quarterbacks
  • enhance play-action effectiveness
  • keep defenses honest
  • establish offensive rhythm
  • adapt to various game circumstances

This balance is fundamental to a successful and adaptable offensive football strategy.

4. Using trick plays strategically

Trick plays are tactics used in sports to bring an element of surprise and unpredictability into the game. These plays are executed at tactical timings, catching opponents off guard and psychologically impacting both the opposing players and the coaching staff. 

Famous plays like “Flea Flicker” or “Hook and Ladder” force defensive adjustments and create mismatches between the defensive and offensive lines. When executed successfully, trick plays can open up the entire offense playbook, build momentum, and have game-changing potential.

5. Collecting input from key players

Collecting input from key players on the team is beneficial for a few reasons. The input:

  • Creates team cohesion
  • Boosts the confidence of players
  • Encourages creativity
  • Allows real-time adjustments to play calls

This approach involves collaboration to create a playbook that is both strategically useful and personally meaningful to team members.

6. Adjusting the playbook based on player strengths

Tailoring the playbook to highlight individual players’ strengths is crucial for achieving optimized team performance, boosting player confidence, and gaining a strategic advantage. Such adjustments foster increased player buy-in, versatile play calling, efficient resource utilization, and improved player development.

A great example is Marcus Mariota, the former quarterback for the Oregon Ducks. Mariota was known for his speed and accuracy on the field, so his head coach, Mark Helfrich, emphasized an up-tempo spread offense that fully capitalized on Mariota’s athleticism during his standout 2014 season. 

As a result, Mariota went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead Oregon to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

Implementing Football Play Calling System with GoRout

Coaches understand the importance of effective communication during games and practices with their players. Clear communication is key to avoiding errors and controlling the game. 

It fosters confidence and creates a constructive feedback loop, which minimizes confusion and maximizes performance, making it one of the fundamental factors that sets successful teams apart from others.


football play calling system

GoRout, as the leading coach-to-player communication system provider, equips you with a reliable and feature-rich electronic football play-calling system to optimize your football practice, boost team communication, prepare your players for the game day and maximize their performance on the field.

With the GoRout football coaching software, teams can average 2.5 reps per minute. It means coaches have more time to teach, and players have more opportunities to develop.

Let’s explain how.

GoRout scripting app

GoRout scripting app

GoRout Scripting App simplifies practice planning. It works with any card drawing software you already use, so you can easily add, edit, copy and organize your practice scripts.

No more hand-drawn cards or messy spreadsheets! 

With GoRout, you can easily copy, move, and flip plays between periods, making adjustments on the fly.

Best of all, GoRout works with Google Chrome, so you can access your practice plans from any device. It saves you time and effort so you can focus on what matters: coaching your players.

GoRout on-field practice app

GoRout on-field practice app

GoRout on-field practice app helps coaches run smoother and more productive practices, making communication with each player fast and easy.

Here are the key features of our solution:

  • Faster formation changes: Flip formations instantly with a tap, keeping players focused and saving time.
  • Easy play review: Flag plays for review with a single touch, allowing for quick adjustments and improvements.
  • Live card editing: Draw directly on the screen to edit plays anytime, making real-time adjustments to your plan.
  • Streamlined practice flow: Start, end, and easily organize practice sessions and send plays directly to players’ devices.
  • Improved communication: Ensure clear and consistent communication with players, keeping everyone on the same page.

The GoRout on-field practice app offers various advantages, including platform compatibility across multiple devices for convenience and accessibility, a user-friendly interface for intuitive operation, and time-saving features that free up coaches to focus on what matters most: guiding their players to success.

Player devices

GoRout player devices

GoRout, as the leader in wearable technology in sports, provides player devices to help coaches communicate effectively with their players during practice and games. These devices are straightforward to use and do not require any setup or Wi-Fi connection. 

All teams must do is select their practice group on each unit, and players will be ready to receive plays. The devices vibrate to notify players when a new play is sent, making sure everyone is on the same page and prepared to execute. 

Here’s how you can integrate GoRout into your practice:

  • Run more plays with scout teams
  • Walkthroughs and football drills
  • 7 on 7 football
  • Special teams (KO, KOR, P, PR)
  • Preparing against up-tempo teams
  • Reducing install times for new players

football play calling system

Additionally, these devices can display play drawings, position-specific messaging, and other essential information, helping players stay aligned and perform at their best.

Why choose GoRout football play calling system

Here are just some of the reasons to experience the GoRout football play calling system firsthand:

  • Seamless experience: Our team has created a user-friendly system that seamlessly integrates into your workflow. It’s built by coaches for coaches.
  • Out-of-the-box operation: There is no setup or configuration required. Just turn on your GoRout system and start practicing with your team.
  • Ease of use: GoRout is available on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices and has a user-friendly interface, allowing you to start practicing without any setup or learning curve. 
  • Import and use existing playbooks: Easily import any image file or PDF document into GoRout and build scripts from there.
  • Real-time play calling and monitoring: Launch the remote control and easily send plays or reload them with a swipe. Player Vue lets you see what players see and monitor practice in real time.
  • All-weather performance: The GoRout system is built to withstand all weather conditions, from high heat and humidity to snow and rain.
  • Durable and reliable devices: Every GoRout device has a 100% warranty against breakage, protecting your players and equipment.

With its intuitive design, rugged devices, and real-time communication features, GoRout helps you save time, improve efficiency, and maximize player performance.

Get a quote now.

Developing a Game Day Strategy

Each team prepares and trains to create a winning game-day strategy. Here are the necessary steps to take leading up to the big game.

1. Finalizing the game plan

Finalizing the game plan involves a series of strategic steps to ensure the team is well-prepared and equipped to face their opponents:

  • Scouting and analysis
  • Establishing tactical objectives for the game
  • Assigning player roles
  • Creating contingency plans
  • Reviewing and refining strategies and play calls

A well-finalized game plan sets a team up for success in the upcoming matchup.

2. Conducting a final walkthrough with the team

Preparing for a big game involves a final walkthrough that helps the team mentally get ready for their performance.

  1. Have a structured agenda
  2. Be concise about the game plan
  3. Encourage active participation
  4. Use visual aids like football play calling systems
  5. Conduct a team huddle to bring everyone together

It clarifies player roles, reinforces tactical strategies, promotes effective communication, and contributes to team unity to ensure players do everything they can to crush their opponents.

3. Implementing in-game adjustments for success

Football is dynamic, and unexpected challenges often arise during a game. Timely adaptations to a blocking scheme, offensive line protection scheme or other play showcase a team’s ability to solve problems on the fly.

At GoRout, we are excited to announce the development of our innovative football in-game solution. It will address the critical need for coaches to communicate play calls and adjustments to players seamlessly, securely, and in real time.

football play calling system

You’ll be able to build your game day script or call sheet precisely as you envision it. You will also be able to customize the play call display to your preference, featuring play calls, images, colors, diagrams, or any other visual representation that optimizes player understanding and execution.

GoRout will allow you to securely transmit your play calls directly to player devices with a single button press, eliminating the need for verbal communication and minimizing the risk of sign stealing. It allows for rapid adjustments and strategic adaptations based on real-time game situations.

But that’s not all. We are preparing additional features to help you secure a victory for your team.

Follow our site for official updates, and stay tuned.

4. Post-game evaluation

Coaches understand that no team can be perfect. Whether they win or lose, they constantly evaluate the game to identify improvement areas. 

Post-game evaluations help coaches adapt their play calls to prepare for future games against new and familiar opponents. They also focus on developing individual players and creating an environment of ongoing improvement within the team.

Conclusion About Football Play Calling System

Football coaches need to optimize team performance and adapt to changing game situations to achieve success on the field. However, lack of proper communication and preparedness during practices can make game time play calls challenging.

It is where a well-structured football play calling system, like GoRout, can make a difference. It can help you simplify on-field communication, achieve better and faster reps, and boost efficiency on the field.

GoRout is the best sports team communication app with software and hardware designed by coaches for coaches. 

As experts, we understand the importance of having complete command on the field. Our state-of-the-art solutions provide reliable technology to help you focus on coaching your team to success.

If you want to improve your football team’s performance, then GoRout is the perfect solution. Get a quote today and take the first step towards an advanced football practice experience.

FAQs About Football Play Calling System

Let’s answer frequently asked questions about the football play calling system.

How does football play calling work?

In football, the head coach or quarterback chooses the next play call or route from a predetermined set based on the game situation, the opponent’s defense, the offensive line protection scheme, and the team’s strengths and strategies. Once the play is selected, it is communicated to the players through signals, huddles, audible calls or wearable devices on the field.

How do football players know the play?

Football players typically understand the play call through hand signals, verbal communication from the quarterback or head coach, or by studying and memorizing the playbook during practice.

Can a football coach talk to players?

Football coaches can communicate with players during designated times, such as timeouts and breaks between plays. They often use various hand signals, sideline communication systems, or direct verbal instructions to convey strategies and adjustments.

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