Play calling is very similar to ordering from a menu.
When dining at a restaurant you are given a menu of items to choose from. Each person will receive the same menu. The number of items on the menu will vary depending on the restaurant’s philosophy. Do they specialize in Seafood, Steaks, Hamburgers, Chicken or Pasta? Some restaurants will try to serve many different items. Once the customer is ready they place an order from the menu.
If you had a dinner party of 8, even though everyone had the same menu there will be 8 different orders based on each individual taste.
Play calling is very similar to ordering from a menu. If all play callers had the same call sheet or menu, the game would still take on many different complexions depending on the personality, philosophy, and the taste of each individual play caller. Some play callers are aggressive while others are conservative.
There are instances when you hear of the Head Coach taking over the play calling or relinquishing that duty. If you wonder if that can make a difference even though the plays or the players may not have changed, the answer is “Yes!” Like any task or skill, everyone has a slightly different level of expertise, competency, and execution.
Many factors are involved. Performance under pressure plays a big part. Does the play caller go through the emotional highs and lows of the game and let it affect their objectivity in decision making? Do they stick with the plan developed during the week when you have the most objective view of what is best for the game week opponent or do they abandon quickly? The opposite scenario can also be true if the play caller is too stubborn or committed to a plan that clearly isn’t working.
A play caller must be like the Kenny Rogers song “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em”. You never know what kind of caller you will get until that person actually calls the game. One game is not enough data to know what you have. It will take at least a full season to get the experience needed to truly evaluate a play caller’s talent and personality.
One of the other influential factors affecting a play caller can be the talent or strength and weakness of his own team or the opponent. Obviously a great play caller takes advantage of his strength and exposes the weakness of the opponent. Some play callers are influenced by fear. Fear of giving up a big play. A lack of confidence in your players’ execution can keep a coordinator from making a call that wasn’t properly executed during the week.
Play callers can be influenced too much by the head coach when his calls are constantly criticized post-game. The play caller then makes decisions based on the way he thinks the head coach would. A play caller being anyone but himself simply doesn’t work.
Play callers can also be influenced by players. A player or players may complain or ask for certain plays that highlight them. At times the suggestions are constructive and other times don’t fit the big picture, but will be used for fear of offending the player. The play caller must be confident in himself and his plan, commit to it and let the chips fall where they may!
A play caller is just one member of the team. The best called game poorly executed, will probably not succeed. Ultimately the entire team must understand and execute the plan for the team to be successful.