game plan nfl

Guide to NFL Game Planning (Inside Look)

Understanding the logistics behind game planning in the National Football League (NFL) is an intricate and fascinating process.

NFL teams employ several strategies, tactics, and methodologies to form game plans.

The process requires expertise, precision, and flexibility.

This guide will take you on an inside look at how these game plans are formulated, from the weekly schedule to the teaching of the plan to players.

The Importance of the Game Plan

NFL game planning is of critical importance for the team’s success.

Every game plan is a strategy specifically designed for the next opponent, with plays designed to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses while protecting against their strengths.

The amount of planning that goes into each game cannot be overstated.

Post-Game Analysis

Following a Sunday game, coaches and coordinators immediately embark on an exhaustive process of analyzing that game’s footage.

The purpose of this analysis is twofold: identifying the areas of strength and weakness in their own team’s performance, and recognizing potential opportunities to leverage in the next game.

The Next Opponent

Once the post-game analysis is completed, usually by late Sunday night or early Monday, the team’s focus pivots entirely to the next opponent.

Detailed scouting reports on the opponent team are provided to the coaching staff.

These reports are designed to offer insights into the opponents’ style of play, their player’s strengths and weaknesses, and their overall game strategy.

The Game Plan Creation

By Tuesday, the coaching staff begins to assemble the game plan.

The offensive and defensive coordinators, with the input of other assistant coaches, work tirelessly to create a strategy that they believe will yield the best results against the upcoming opponent.

This process can often take up to two days and sometimes extends well into the night.

How’s an NFL Game Plan Created?

The Playbook

In tandem with the development of the game plan, the team’s playbook is updated.

Plays designed to counteract the opponent’s strategies are added.

The plays are then distributed to the players, typically by Wednesday morning.

This allows the team to begin learning and practicing the plays.

Teaching the Game Plan

Once the game plan is distributed, teaching it to the players becomes the next priority.

This process typically begins with a team meeting where the coaches provide an overview of the plan and highlight key elements of the upcoming opponent’s strategies.

The Role of Position Coaches

Position coaches then hold individual meetings with their respective groups, where they dive deeper into the specifics of the game plan.

These meetings are designed to allow players to understand their roles within the plan and provide them with the necessary information to execute their duties effectively.

How an NFL Coaching Assistant Prepares Players for Games | Do Your Job (New England Patriots)


By Wednesday and into Thursday, the team is on the field practicing the new plays from the game plan.

The initial practices often focus on basic execution of the plays.

As the week progresses, the practice intensity increases with an emphasis on speed and precision.

Adjustments and Tweaks

Throughout the practice week, the coaching staff closely monitors the team’s execution of the game plan.

Based on their observations, they may choose to adjust or tweak the plan.

These modifications aim to ensure the game plan’s effectiveness and the team’s comfort with it.

Game Day

By Saturday, the team has ideally mastered the game plan and will go through a walk-through practice of everything to ensure they’re ready.

The culmination of a week’s worth of strategic planning, teaching, and practice is put to the test on the field.

The outcome of the game is heavily influenced by the success of the game plan and the players’ ability to execute it under pressure.

FAQs – Guide to NFL Game Planning

What is the starting point for NFL teams in coming up with a game plan?

The starting point for any NFL game plan is the review of the most recent game.

Coaches analyze the strengths and weaknesses exhibited in that game to decide on what aspects to improve upon or capitalize on.

Simultaneously, they also begin studying the next opponent, analyzing their gameplay, strategies, and key players.

How fast do teams come up with new game plans?

New game plans for the next game start being devised almost immediately after the last game has ended.

Initial reviews and analysis start as early as on the return flight home (if playing away) or that night or the next morning (if playing home).

It also depends on the schedule, if playing Sunday or Monday.

By Monday or Tuesday, the main focus shifts toward the next opponent.

The game plan is generally finalized by Wednesday when the team starts practice.

How is a typical week scheduled post a Sunday game?

A typical week after a Sunday game is generally structured as follows:

  • Sunday: Game Day
  • Monday: Players’ day off; Coaches review game footage, evaluate player performances, and start preparing the game plan for the next opponent.
  • Tuesday: Team meetings, film study, and recovery workouts for players; Coaches finalize the game plan.
  • Wednesday – Friday: Practice days; The game plan is introduced and practiced.
  • Saturday: Walk-throughs, final reviews, and travel (if it’s an away game).
  • Sunday: Next game day.

When are new plays installed into the game plan?

New plays are typically installed into the game plan between Tuesday and Wednesday when the coaching staff finalizes the plan.

These plays are then introduced to the players during Wednesday’s team meeting.

How long does it take to formulate a complete game plan?

The complete process of formulating a game plan takes about two to three days, depending on the team and the complexity of the plan.

This includes the analysis of the previous game, studying the next opponent, devising strategies, and installing new plays.

How is the game plan taught to the players?

The game plan is taught to the players using a combination of methods:

  • Team Meetings: Coaches present the plan to the entire team, explaining strategies and emphasizing key points.
  • Film Study: Players study video footage of their own and their opponent’s games to understand how to apply the plan.
  • Practice: On the field, players physically execute the game plan. Coaches provide real-time feedback to fine-tune execution.
  • Walk-throughs: These low-intensity sessions are used to reinforce learning, correct errors, and build player confidence.

How specific is a game plan to the opponent?

Game plans are typically very specific to the opponent.

They take into account the opponent’s strategies, strengths, weaknesses, and key players.

They also consider variables like player injuries, weather conditions, and whether the game is home or away.

How flexible are game plans?

While a significant amount of time and effort is spent developing a game plan, they are not set in stone.

Coaches remain flexible and adapt the plan as needed based on game developments.

If certain strategies are not working or if unexpected situations arise (like injuries), adjustments are made on the fly.


To summarize, game planning in the NFL is a complex, demanding, and dynamic process that involves careful analysis, strategic thinking, and effective communication.

It requires an intimate understanding of one’s own team, as well as the opponent.

Despite the demanding nature of the task, it is integral to the success of any NFL team.

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