why are playcalls so long?

Come on, all you have to do is find the seam. You really think it’s that hard?

Well, it isn’t easy when the linebackers are bigger than the tackles. I can shake the corner without a problem, but those linebackers are gonna be the death of me.

The receiver coach let out a huge sigh.

Well, try anyway. Get back into the huddle.

He gave me a pat on the back and pushed me towards the field.

Good to see that you’re back in the game, Mitch. Okay, they want us to run ace right z-dig x-shallow y-comeback w-curl. You guys got that?

Sorry, what am I doing?

You’re running the dig. Come on, man. Let’s go win this thing. Break on three. One, two, three, break!

We all clapped our hands and lined up in the ace right formation. I always wondered why football playcalls were so long. They were never like this in high school…

Our center snapped the ball, but it never made it into the hands of our quarterback. Of course, we lost the game.


I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. I figure I’m gonna start a small series about football and playbook explanations. Yay for a lack of creativity!

In this story, our receiver, Mitch, is one of five receivers in the play.

Now, the quarterback is sent the play from the head coach (or offensive co-ordinator).

Ace right z-dig x-shallow y-comeback w-curl

It may seem intimidating at first, but this play is seriously simple. Let’s break this down, shall we?

First of all, this play comes from a variation of the West Coast Offense. Most people understand this to be the most difficult and complex offense in football. While this is mostly true, it is very easy to dissect and as a former defensive back, I can tell you that if you catch even the slightest part of what the quarterback tells his huddle, you’ll be able to figure out the routes accordingly. But that also relies on your knowledge of a West Coast Offense playbook and what routes are complementary to which play.

Okay, so it’s a bit complicated. So what?

Ace right z-dig x-shallow y-comeback w-curl

Generally, you wouldn’t have a name this long. I stretched out the name just for the sake of explanation. Now, the first two words, ace right, tell the players what formation they are lining up in.

The letters represent which receiver is assigned which route. And yes, as you probably have guessed by now, the routes are assigned accordingly.

Receiver z runs a dig route (and he/she is the primary option), receiver x runs a shallow route, y runs a comeback route, and receiver w runs a curl route.

In a real huddle, you would probably hear this instead:

Ace right z-dig x-shallow, got it?

Receivers y and w are generally on the field more for the sake of distraction, blocking, or last resorts in the passing game. Playcalls will be shortened accordingly. If you are insignificant and will not be receiving a pass, your part of the playcall will be cut out.

I know that’s a little harsh to say,  but that’s how it is. Plus, even if your route is cut out of the playcall, you are expected to know what you are doing. You are running a complementary route and are expected to execute to perfection, regardless of whether or not you are catching a pass, blocking for another receiver, or running a route for the sake of clearing up the field for the primary option to get open.

Now, let’s kick this up a notch. The West Coast Offense and its variations can shorten these playcalls even more!

Ace right z-dig x-shallow can become this…

Ace right z-1 x-5

Yes, you guessed it. Routes can be assigned numbers. Assuming that a player has played wide receiver/tight end for several years (or at least long enough to know the entire receiving tree), coaches will refer to routes by numbers or the order on which they appear on the receiving tree.

So, pull out your playbooks and start studying. Receiving is a fine art.

Hopefully, you guys learned something from this! Next up, running backs and the fine art of the juke. ;D


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