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April 9, 2018 • Football

Coach & A.D. throwback: John Madden’s ball control passing game

Coach & Athletic Director is in its 87th year, and occasionally we like to take a look back and share some material from our archives.

One of our football clinics in the early 1970s featured John Madden, a Hall of Fame NFL coach who won Super Bowl XI with Oakland Raiders. Madden spoke about his ball control passing game and offered some thoughts about practice structure.

Here are Madden’s notes for the clinic.

Ball control passing game

The things that I am going to talk to you about can be done on any level. Of course, everything is relative. The players I have will execute it a great deal better and sharper than yours. However, you can make it work if you work on it and believe in it.

Your program should be set up as a dictatorship. Know what you want. Define it. Make sure everybody understands it. Sell it to your staff. Get feedback. Iron out all questions and doubts. Make sure your staff believes in what you are doing and that they will teach with the same terminology.

Teach your system to your players by:

  • Using an overhead projector.
  • Walking through it.
  • Having players diagram it.

We progress in the following manner:

  • We give the aims and objectives at the beginning of the week and progress from that point.
  • You are the authority figure. You stand up and they sit down.
  • When you want to exchange ideas, you sit down together.

We practice longer than most. We are at meetings two to two-and-a-half hours, and we dress and are on the practice field two-and-a-half hours. I feel that the players don’t have to like you. They have to respect your effort and knowledge. Don’t compromise your principles. Do not practice on an unmarked field. The players and the Quarterback in particular will never understand field position unless they practice on a marked field.

DIAGRAMS 1-2 show our 91 out and our 94 short out (click diagrams for full size). DIAGRAM 3 shows our 81 hook. In drilling our quarterback for our pass offense we start with receivers running to the numbers as in DIAGRAM 4. Incidentally, we like to have our receivers work on the speed punching bag. This helps their hand and eye coordination.

Another drill we practice is the end of the move pattern. The quarterback is in position to throw and the receivers stay in their area and make their final move. For example, see the curl pattern shown in DIAGRAM 5. We do practice releases, fake blocks, fakes one way and going another, etc. (DIAGRAM 6).

We go into our East formation when we want both wide receivers to the same side. It’s our hope this causes a mismatch. DIAGRAM 7 shows our East formation with the 91 hook. At times, we go into our East formation double wing, as shown in DIAGRAM 8. We like our roll pass (DIAGRAM 9).

We like linemen to have a big spread and work a great deal on team take off. A coach is always assigned to the line of scrimmage to make sure we are not offside and that we take off together. We hit the seven man sled every day and follow up on this with hitting the bags and then men. We favor the 68-69 play, which is our fullback dive, as shown in DIAGRAM 10.


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