Constraint Theory of Offense

Discussion in 'Between The Lines' started by Shaun Mason, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. Shaun Mason

    Shaun Mason Somebody you used to know.

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    I read this on a blog I read, thought some of you coaches out there would enjoy it:

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    What kind of offense should you or do you? A typical responses sounds something like: “I run a system with bubble screens, play action passes, screens, and draws.” This is a nonsensical answer. That’s not an offense; it’s a collection of plays. An offense consists of what are your base runs, base dropback passes, base options, or whatever else are your base, core plays. The other plays I mentioned are not your offense, they are constraints on the defense, or “constraint plays.”

    The idea is that you have certain plays that always work on the whiteboard against the defense you hope to see — the pass play that always works against Cover 3, the run play that works against the 4-3 under with out the linebackers cheating inside. Yes, it is what works on paper. But we don’t live in a perfect world: the “constraint” plays are designed to make sure you live in one that is as close as possible to the world you want, the world on the whiteboard.

    Constraint plays thus work on defenders who cheat. For example, the safety might get tired of watching you break big runs up the middle, so he begins to cheat up. Now you call play-action and make him pay for his impatience. The outside linebackers cheat in for the same reason; to stop the run. Now you throw the bubble screen, run the bootleg passes to the flat, and make them pay for their impatience. Now the defensive ends begin rushing hard upfield; you trap, draw, and screen them to make them pay for getting out of position. If that defensive end played honest your tackle could block him; if he flies upfield he cannot. Constraint plays make them get back to basics. Once they get back to playing honest football, you go back to the whiteboard and beat them with your bread and butter.

    In a given game your offense might look like it is all “constraint” plays: all gimmicks, screens, traps, draws, fakes and the like. Maybe so, if that’s what the defense deserves. But you can’t lose sight of the structure of your offense. Just because the bubbles, the flares, the fakes, and other gimmicks are your best offense for a couple of weeks doesn’t mean that it will be there. Indeed, the best defense against that kind of stuff is simply a sound one. Thus great offenses must be structure around sound, time tested core ideas, but have the flexibility to go to the “constraint plays” whenever the opportunity exists. Too often, the constraint plays are alternatively given too much and not enough weight. But they nevertheless are what make an offense go.

    If you’re a dropback pass team — think of the Airraid guys — you need constraint plays that counteract defenses that cheat for the passes. If you’re a great run team, you need constraints that attack safeties and linebackers who all cheat by formation and post-snap effort to stop your run game. You must have the counters, the screens, the bootlegs, and the quick passes, which work best when the defense gives you the structure. All this comports well with a game theory approach to football. Indeed, these constraint plays are most important against the best teams because those teams put the biggest premium on taking away what you hang your hat on. (But be wary of constraint plays against very talented teams — they may be stuffing your core offense not because they are cheating, but instead because they are better than you; the constraint plays then play into their hands.)

    The upshot is that a good offense must: (a) find those one or two things on which it will hang its hat on to beat any “honest” defense — think of core pass plays, options, and so on, but also (b) get good at all those little “constraint” plays which keep the defense playing honest. You won’t win any championships simply throwing the bubble screen, but the bubble will help keep you from losing games when the defense wants to crush your run game. Same goes for draws and screens if you’re a passing team. You find ways to do what you want and put your players in position to win and score.

    Designing an offense is all about structure. Constraint plays, like the bubble, work when the defense gives you the play by their structure; same for play-action passes over the top. When I say these are defensive cheats, I mean they aren’t the base, whiteboard defenses you expect, because defenses — both players and coaches — adjust to take away what you do well. But you want to go to your core stuff, so you build your offense off of that, and each constraint play forces the defense back in line, right where you want them. That’s the beauty of football: punch, counterpunch.
     
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  2. Kasper

    Kasper The Ghost Himself

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    Nice read shaun- I definitely have a few bread and butter plays like they are talking about here.
     
  3. RadarRider

    RadarRider Montage!

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    Great read - It is a shame that a majority of guys who play the video game do not see it that way.
     
  4. Wick36

    Wick36 Welcome to the Jungle

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    The last sentence really sums it up...

    I mean, you're going to try to do the things your team is strong at. The defense is going to call plays to stop those plays. You counter his counter. It exists in every game where strategy matters at all - it's not just limited to football! :)
     
  5. smlVICTORIES53

    smlVICTORIES53 Walk On

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    Excellent find sir
     
  6. GoGators

    GoGators GT: KSherm

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    Slow day today??? You've been doing some digging. This was from a while back wasn't it?

    Interesting article none the less.
     
  7. Shaun Mason

    Shaun Mason Somebody you used to know.

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    It came up on my RSS today.
     
  8. GoGators

    GoGators GT: KSherm

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    Gotcha.

    IMO the best part of this article is that it boils down exactly what "SIM" football is. This article could be the backbone of what football played here at TSO is suppose to be all about. Offenses are suppose to have an identity, a staple, built around the play that you are likely to run when the games on the line and you gotta pick up that 3rd and 3. If I had a dollar for every time somebody has come out and ran a counter as their very first running play or used it as their staple running play I'd be able to buy a tank of premium gas! That's not how football is played. Just as the article indicates, a counter play, like a bubble screen, is a constraint play, aimed at keeping the defense from cheating.
     
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  9. Shaun Mason

    Shaun Mason Somebody you used to know.

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    Preach!
     
  10. Hova

    Hova Live Action. YiYiYi!

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    Because AI defense don't "cheat up" or adapt like they claim they will every season. They just randomly drop back or mindlessly blitz with no rhyme or reason to what your doing.
     
  11. BlyGilmore

    BlyGilmore It's All In The Hips!

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    only problem is the game's coding and AI don't always make that a reality. because a lot of this stuff preys on getting a player to react instinctually and take advantage of it. Computer AI doesn't have those kind of instincts - the closest thing you have is a guy with low Awareness who just doesn't adapt quick enough.

    the result is you often end up flip-flopping the base plays and the constraint plays.

    Take the first NCAA that had online franchises (i think it was 09). In that version, if you were a running team your bread and butter was tosses, counters and the option. Those were your base plays that were the most consistently effective play after play - contrary to real football.

    Folks did run between the tackles and run some Dives, Leads, Blasts, etc. but you did that to keep the defense honest - pretty much the exact opposite of real football where those plays get you 3 to 5 every time and the counters and tosses can get you anything from -3 to a big gain.
     
  12. Wick36

    Wick36 Welcome to the Jungle

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    There's nothing worse than going the entire game without calling a screen, calling it into a blitz, then having the entire defensive line run over to stop the screen. :(
     
  13. Keller

    Keller The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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    I ran dives like it was my job in NCAA 09. Maybe it was just that I was OSU and my Oline was that good, but I consistently worked the dive plays with great success.
     
  14. GoGators

    GoGators GT: KSherm

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    This is true for games against the CPU where they have they know your offensive play before you even line up. I disagree however for user vs user games. Users call plays in the flow of the game. If a guy comes out and establishes the Power-O or the dive play the user defense will begin flowing to those plays due to playcalling and user control. Then, the counters should be used to counter that defensive playcalling and over pursuit.

    Like I said in my initial post, way too many times you come out in a user vs user game and the first running play a guy calls is a counter. That shouldn't happen. Counters should be setup first, not used as your bread and butter play from the start.

    From a high level though, I agree with you and this is one factor I really wish EA actually meant when they threw around their "Adaptive AI" phrase. If the CPU would actually respond and start leaning to stop a power-0 allowing you to setup a counter or play action plays, that would take the strategy of these games to an all new level.
     
  15. Kasper

    Kasper The Ghost Himself

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    Imo.. like Gators said i don't think it would hurt to.make new members here read and comprehend this. If soneone would claim it "stupid" to take the time to read this just to join this site, it obviously isnt for them to.begin with.

    Make this part of signing up shaun..
     
  16. DirtycashDylan

    DirtycashDylan I came here to scheme and chew bubblegum...

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    Take what the defense gives you. There's an answer to every defense! (irl anyway)
     
  17. a Robbed Lung

    a Robbed Lung Legendary Veterans

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    Great read Shaun. The more you know (makes a rainbow with his hand)
     
  18. Oneback

    Oneback Walk On

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    I agree with you here when talking about the CPU, and there are a lot of areas where the AI needs to make large strides. However, when playing a human opponent, especially one that users a linebacker it is imperative to establish your bread and butter then hit them with a counter. I myslef like to start off with the inside zone, then once I see my opponent flow hard to the inside zone I will start using power, he now gets caught up in the wash because he is flowing hard inside. Sooner or later he will either hang trying to read inside zone or power and I'll hit him with one of the few play-action passes that work or if he starts playing over the top of the down block on power I'll start to mix in my counter or misdirection stuff.

    I personally love it when I come up against people that user a linebacker, as long as I am in a balanced playbook I can really start to manipulate the other user.
     
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  19. GoGators

    GoGators GT: KSherm

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    Agreed. You also make some great points about running game strategy. You can set up different running plays all to the same side of the formation (dive, zone, power, sweep/toss) all w/o using counter plays. Nice post oneback.
     
  20. RynoAid

    RynoAid ..

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    Mike has probably forgotten more x's and O's than I've ever learned...
     
  21. DirtycashDylan

    DirtycashDylan I came here to scheme and chew bubblegum...

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    Nice to see you over here! Always enjoyed your posts on NCAAstrategies.
     
  22. fuzzyl0gic

    fuzzyl0gic No new friends

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    As DCD said above, it's good to have you over here! I learned a lot by lurking at ncaastrategies and viewing your posts.
     

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