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It's game-plan Tuesday

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It's late Monday afternoon. You're the defensive coordinator of a team coming off a big win the day before and now you're facing an even bigger game this Sunday against a division rival.

The players came in today, corrections were made and now they're all at home, safely tucked into their family lives, you hope. OK, it's time to get to work on this Sunday's game plan.

You and your staff repair to your respective offices. The whirl of video machines fill the coaching suite as each coach digs in on his assignment. They're closely examining video tape of this Sunday's opponent. One coach has been assigned the task of examining the opponent's running plays out of base offense. Another is researching runs out of substitution offense. There's also short yardage, third-and-long, and on and on and on.

Dinner arrives in the form of warm-to-the-touch styrofoam boxes and somewhere between that off-tackle slant and play-action pass you get your first taste of heartburn. It's the same every week; a lot of gas, not much sleep. Oh, well.

Later that evening your staff begins leaving the building. They've done their homework and prepared their reports for tomorrow morning's meeting. Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow is game-plan Tuesday all across the league. You won't sleep much, but neither will your opponent. In fact, the guy who sleeps the least will probably win the game.

At six a.m. on Tuesday morning you walk into your office, open your briefcase, start your laptop and make quick examination of the to-do list on your grease board and the neat little piles of papers on your desk. Everything's in order, so go ahead, get your first cup of coffee.

Later that morning you bring your defensive staff together. First on the agenda is a report from the pro personnel department, which had an advance scout at the opponent's most recent game. The scout gives his report and pro personnel also reports on the state of the opponent's personnel; injuries, lineup changes, etc.

With that complete, you and your staff report on your tape work from yesterday. Findings are noted in preliminary game-plan discussions and opinion is offered on what might be the best game-plan strategies for defensing this Sunday's opponent in the specific situations that were assigned. How do they respond on third-and-two? Do they like to run or pass?

Lunch is 45 minutes long and usually involves more game-plan discussion. Now comes the private time. You're the defensive coordinator, it's Tuesday afternoon and you gotta put this Sunday's game-plan together for the head coach's approval later that day.

Tuesday is the players' off day. When is your off day? You're kidding, right?

By styrofoam-box time on Tuesday evening, you've completed your base game plan. You have it all down on paper; the specific fronts, blitzes and coverages your defense will employ, and the head coach nods his approval.

That means you can bring your staff together to finalize preparations for Wednesday's practice. You and your staff will decide how to implement in practice the game plan you designed on Tuesday afternoon.

Each of your coaches is now assigned the task of preparing scout-team play cards. What that means is your staff is going to put on paper cards the X and O form of the opponent's favorite offensive plays. That's right, to be your team's defensive coach means you have to also be the opponent's offensive coach.

In practice tomorrow the coach who is responsible for the offensive plays that correspond with the specific defense you're practicing will present those play cards to the scout team for execution. Preparing those cards is a tedious job, but at midnight on Tuesday you leave the building with thoughts of tomorrow morning's team meeting, at which the game plan will be presented to the players.

"Tuesday and Wednesday are the days you have to get your game plan set," Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith said. "Your hopes are you don't have to make any changes to it, but if there are areas of concern as we watch our practice tapes, there are occasions when we do make changes."

Yeah, you might find out that a specific coverage you want to use isn't something your players do especially well. You better tear out that page of the game plan.

"We analyze what our opponents do and then we're able to take from our catalogue of stunts, fronts and coverages what we feel are the best to defense what the other team does. The most important thing of game-planning is making sure you have practiced and put your players in the calls you'll run on Sunday. You can't prepare them for everything that occurs, but you have to make sure you've exposed the players to the offensive plays and the offensive formations against which you'll call the defenses," Smith added. "You have to analyze your scripting and make sure you have the right percentage of personnel groupings you plan on seeing. The toughest thing of my job is to make sure we pull all of this together in practice."

By week's end, you're back on a more respectable sleep schedule. You're eating dinner at home and the dog is glad to see you again. But will he feel that way after the game?

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