I commented recently about how I segmented and chunked my travels and trips and chores to make them easier to deal with and easier to understand, and recently I had the chance to watch one of my favorite YouTube channels, which features the QB advice of someone who is currently a coach on the high school level and was a longtime backup QB in both the NFL and then later a QB in the CFL. One of the things that he commented on was how he used the same segmenting and chunking techniques that I was talking about in order to better understand playcalling across different systems, recognizing that what was being asked of him in different systems with different names often amounted to the same thing. He commented, moreover, that his ability to chunk and segment playbooks effectively gave him a reputation for being an intelligent player that greatly prolonged his career and that likely makes him successful in coaching and scouting as well, and one of the reasons that he is particularly interesting to watch.
How is that he segmented plays to make them easier to understood? First, he looked at formations. There are not all that many formations from which plays come, but they are pretty vital to understand when it comes to what is being asked of one as a quarterback. For example, one has 2-5 WR, 0-2 RB, maybe a fullback, probably at least one TE, and so on. Each of those formations is designed for different purposes. An empty backfield 5WR formation signals the need to pass and likely a lot of distance to cover for a first down. On the other hand, a 2RB, 2TE, 1 WR set is likely focused on max protect with running in mind. I have thought myself that it might be useful and interesting to see how it is that the same personnel could be made into different formations based on how flexible those people were at doing different tasks. For example, one could have a TE that could run well enough for a FB dive play, and might be fast enough to double as a slot receiver. Similarly, one could have a RB that could block well enough to help out in pass protection as well as catch well enough to do be a solid option in the passing game. This appears to be something that would be asked of NFL players and not so much players at the lower level, especially in college where people want to be recruited for obvious prestige roles rather than for utility roles.
After one has personnel covered, then it is time to deal with questions of protection. For a QB, this is of the utmost importance. Generally speaking the assumption is of five person protection, with the five offensive linemen, but there are times where an additional blocker is used for obvious blitzing downs. At times there are read/pass option plays that depend on the reading of two levels of key defensive personnel, where the decision of whether and where to rush a quarterback changes protection schemes as well as forces additional attention to be paid on free runners into the backfield who can cause havoc if they are not at least noticed and accounted for. An offensive linemen can only do so much at a time and must focus on interior rushers who can get to a QB faster than exterior lanes often allow.
But the most important aspect of understanding a play is the play itself and what concepts are included on them. There are a variety of different routes that can be called different things by different teams that all amount to doing the same things. One time, for example, this particular channel looked at several different ways that the same play was designated in different systems that the speaker had been familiar with. The play itself was straightforward enough. There was a long go route on one side of the field to draw off deep defenders, and a medium to deep post route, with two other routes that either went in a triangular fashion to shallow routes and then had the WRs either hold in those locations or move towards the sidelines on either side depending on whether the defense was in zone or man. Despite the different names and different ways that these concepts were conveyed, the end result was the same in all kinds of systems, making it a pretty obvious and fundamental play for a wide variety of systems and offenses, and allowing someone to take their knowledge of one system to bring them to awareness of what is going on, but it also provides a way that someone can prolong their career by demonstrating the mental acuity to recognize what is being communicated by a play call in a variety of systems. We are intelligent not just because have a good mind, but because we can put that mind to understanding fundamentals and being able to get at that truth through a variety of different labels and names.