I believe that Bill Walsh was the very first coach to “script” plays.  At least most coaches that I’ve heard talk about it give him the credit for this.  Coach Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers brought a lot of the “classroom” to football.

Scripting plays means that you use a certain set of plays that you have developed for a specific game, practicing those plays many times during the week, and then opening the game with your offensive “script.”

Why Script Plays?

1.  I script the first ten to twelve offensive plays for every game.  I came to the number twelve because I want to score in twelve plays the first time I have the ball.  This would represent 4 sets of downs.  I like to be able to manage the clock, and use a strong running game.  If you are able to come out and score on the first drive, using twelve plays to do so, it sets the tone for the game, and for your offense.  Scripting the first twelve plays you will run helps to set you up for this type of early success.

2. To help us take an early advantage of what we have seen on film.  The way I do this is by studying the film of our opponent, and thinking about what we have in our offensive arsenal that will best match up with what they are showing me about their defense.  Perhaps there is one side of the defense that is particularly vulnerable to a certain play we have in our quiver.  Maybe we see that their secondary bites really hard on a stop and go pattern, or that their linebackers over pursue the football. Watching film helps the coaching staff set the tone for the offense, and what we will try to do.

3.  One of the reasons that I love to use a script is because the players gain confidence with what we are trying to do with those first twelve plays.  By the time the game comes along on Friday night, we will have practiced this script at least eight times during the week.  We will walk through the script twice on Monday, run through it once on Monday; run through it two times on Tuesday and Wednesday, and once or twice on Thursday.  By Friday, that script is almost memorized by the players.  They gain confidence running these plays all week.  They gain confidence seeing them work in practice, and feeling the flow of what you are trying to do.

4.  I put together my script in sets of three.  I imagine the best first down play, then second down play, then third down play, etc.  On some occasions, I will have a second down and short play, as well as a second down and long play.  And we will practice them both all week.  Scripting plays like this takes some of the thinking out of the play calling early on in the game when emotions can be high, and the crowd can be louder.  The script gives you a solid focus on what to do.

Below is a script that we used several years ago.

1 1 Base Right Strong
2 2 Base Right Jet X Screen
> 4 yards         < 4 yards
3 3 BL Strong Waggle      BL Fly Strong
4 1 Tight Right Jet Strong
5 2 Aces R Strng Pas Y Stop
> 4 yards        < 4 yards
6 3 OR Strng Flood Y Scren BR Dead Strong
7 1 Base Right Jet Sweep
8 2 Base Right Strong
9 3 Base Right Strong Pass
10 1 Wide Right Strong Keep

We scored a touchdown on play 6 of this script – Over Right Strong Flood Y Screen.  It went for 45 yards!  So, when we come out for our seventh play of the game, we will open up with Base Right Jet Sweep.  We stay right on the script, if we like how things are going, until we have gone all the way through it.

What happens after the script?

A million different things could happen!  I’ve been known to go right back to play one, if we liked how the script turned out.  There are times you run a play from your script that you see will be a homerun during the game.  That is when you circle it with your sharpie.

There are other times when you run a play on your script, and might feel that it just won’t work tonight.  Maybe there is a mismatch that you didn’t see on film.  So, sometimes, you will scratch that play out totally for the night.

Perhaps you liked one set of three plays very well.  You knew coming in to the game that these complimentary plays would work well, and sure enough they did, so you might come back to this set of plays once your script is out.

The bottom line is, once that script is done, there are a lot of different options you have as the coach.