MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There is a lot more to play-calling in football than reciting lines off a color-coded laminated sheet into a headset.
According to WVU head football coach Neal Brown – who will once again call plays on offense after a one-year hiatus – the art of play calling may seem more glorious in the heads of spectators than it is in reality.
“The actual in-game play-calling sometimes is a little bit overrated,” Brown said. “It’s more about getting your gameplan set early in the week and being able to rep those plays, and [then] having answers within the game.”
For example, heading into any game, Brown and co. predetermine what circumstances will warrant a fourth-down attempt, certain personnel groupings, play sequences, etc. Their script is essentially pre-written, with Brown having editorial control. This way, Brown centralizes all offensive decision making, not just the play-calling.
Often times, the “answers” – the adaptations to situational presets – come from the coordinators and other assistant coaches. Three of which (Chad Scott – Sean Reagan – Matt Moore) have been at Brown’s side for the entirety of his WVU tenure.
“My trust level with those guys – we’ve been through a lot of battles – is extremely high,” Brown said. “I listen to them. They’re not just giving suggestions that are just, ‘Hey, try this.’ They have really good reasoning behind that. When they tell me things – whether its practice games [or] planning purposes – I listen.”
Essentially, there’s a lot more that goes into the process then flipping through the “Ask Madden” rolodex.
In addition to the plays themselves, the play-caller also manages the pace of the game. They have the option to run up-tempo sequences with very little time between the end of one play and the start of the next one, or they can also slow things down and kill the clock.
“I think there are advantages of being able to do that, as far as managing the game,” Brown said. “Taking a step back and not doing it last year is not necessarily something that I regret. It was good for me from a growth standpoint.”
As for the decision to resume calling plays after the year off, Brown put the pieces together on some of his best seasons in eight years as a head coach.
“The most success I’ve had as a head coach is doing [the play-calling],” Brown said. “The only reason I have this job in the first place is because I was a really good offensive coordinator.”