How to Analyze Football Game Films

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Analyzing football game film requires a philosophy, strategy and process. Often called "breaking down film," reviewing game videos is an essential part of a team's preparation. Whether analyzing your team or the opponent, watch game film to gain insight into players' tendencies. By observing and tracking trends and tactics, you can decipher an opponent's strengths and weaknesses.

Establish a Philosophy

Some coaches are known for arriving at 5 a.m. and viewing film for countless hours. Others depend on assistant coaches to break down film. Whatever your approach, it's important to develop a philosophy for using film. Determine how much film you need and how detailed you want the analysis. Many coaches like to view two to three games, including the most recent. Set a schedule. Perhaps you want to review film with the coaching staff on Monday and then with the team on Tuesday. You could also have players review film with position coaches. Whatever you decide, make the film analysis process as routine as possible.

Recognize Tendencies

One reason coaches analyze film is to pick up tendencies of the opposing team. Recognize general characteristics, such as how often do they run to the right when they use a particular formation? Take notes on how many times you see certain formations. On what down do they make substitutions on defense? How do they handle multiple receiver sets? Also, pay close attention to a team's tempo during the game. Do they go no huddle most of the time? How will this impact your strategy? When reviewing your team's postgame film, look for poor execution and busted plays. Players who appear to struggle throughout the game may need additional training or instruction.

Breakdown Schemes

Every team, from high school to the NFL, uses certain offensive and defensive schemes. How many wrinkles a coach adds to these schemes depends on the sophistication of the play caller and the team's talent and skill level. Once you've determined what schemes a team uses, take notes on how often the coach deviates from these schemes. Request film from any matchup in which your opponent played a team that uses schemes similar to yours. Give special attention to film in which a team with a similar scheme to yours dominated your opponent. Ascertain what about the scheme gave the opponent trouble.

Critique Key Players

Even before coaches view film, they have an idea of who an opponent's best players are. Yet, analyzing film can help identify key players who may be flying under the radar. This includes top offensive linemen or defensive linemen who dictate play at the line of scrimmage. If defenders struggle to get past one particular offensive tackle, you may consider double-teaming that player. Also watch for how players progress through a game. Is there a running back who gets stronger with more carries? How does the quarterback react to getting hit? Understanding the tendencies of a team's best players can be the key to victory.

Consider High-Tech Solutions

The term "breaking down film" arose from the days when coaches used real reel-to-reel black-and-white film. Even following the advent of video recordings, coaches still spend hours breaking down film, then making DVD copies. They then print encyclopedia-size playbooks to distribute to players. These days more teams are turning to video analytic software to streamline the process. Software can break down the tendencies of individual players and categorize data in more detail. Results can be uploaded and retrieved by coaches. Football coaches, creatures of tradition, will probably never abandon their film-room rituals. However, software analytics could save time and certainly many trees.