This one took me FOR.EV.ER. to figure out. And it all boils down to this:
The plan is set, and you pretty much have to stick to the plan.
Here’s what I mean:
The plan in football is called the play. Generally decided (or called) by the coach, the play determines what each of the players on the team will do on the field. If someone deviates from the play, their teammates may not be able to accomplish what they need to on the field, or the other team may gain an advantage, or worst of all, someone may get hurt.
If the Quarterback is going to hand the ball to the Running Back who is going to run left, everyone needs to know. The Linemen will block to make sure that the defense doesn’t get through and stop that play from happening.
But what if that Running Back sees that the defense “read the play” (which means they predicted what’s going to happen)?
Should he just go right instead?
No one will be there to protect him in time, or block for him, because that wasn’t the play. Chances are he will get hit and injured. Plus he wasn’t probably even mentally ready to make that kind of improvisation.
He’ll run into the pile on the left, where Linemen are blocking, and if he’s good, like my Pookie, he’ll power through, angling right, and gaining yardage.
The scheduled plan for a Wide Receiver or a Running Back if he’s going to catch the ball is called a route.
My good friend Coach Mike taught me all about routes by drawing me a ROUTE TREE:
Odds go inside, Evens go out; The higher the number, the deeper the route.
So, from the line of scrimmage, the WR who runs a “curl” will run straight and then come back to the inside of the field, getting open for a catch.
All of these routes allow the Quarterback to know the TARGET DESTINATION when it is time to throw that ball!
Sometimes the play isn’t to throw the ball, though, is it? Sometimes, the Quarterback hands it off to a Running Back. In this kind of play, there isn’t a target destination for the Quarterback – the ball’s already in the RB’s hands! Now it’s about the RB’s assignment: where is he supposed to go?
As we discussed above, the Linemen are in on the plays, too. They are ready to make a hole for the RB, to get through the defense and run with that ball. You might hear an announcer say things like, “he punched it through the hole,” or something else vaguely homoerotic.
My favorite quote from the ENTIRE SEASON last year was one an announcer screamed during the Seahawks-Texans game:
Oooh! Right in the honey-hole!
I can’t lie – sometimes I still yell that randomly for a laugh.
Well, Rookie, I hope that helps! The strategy of football is endless, and setting up these plays – predicting what the offense and defense will do – is what keeps us glued to our seats!