Pressing The Panic Button

By FirstDown PlayBook on Dec 13, 2014

By Guest Blogger Gino Arcaro

Case Study: The following diagram shows our team on defense, the opponent on offense. We’re winning 32-13. There’s 3:16 left in the 3rd quarter. They have the ball on their own 38, on our right hashmark. Its’ 3rd and 5. Their personnel collectively outmatched ours. Their offense ran at the conventional pace, huddling over 80% of the time but they floored it at the beginning of this drive. Their quarterback was right-handed. This was the 5th play of the drive. Their run-pass ratio for this game up to this point was 60% run – 40% pass, consistent with their season-long ratio that film study had shown.

This is the formation and play they called. It was the 4th time they used the formation in this game. Film study showed it was their 5th most used formation up to the mid-point on the season.


Gino's Pics

Every play you face as a defensive coordinator teaches you a lesson. Even if you already know the lesson, every play confirms what you know, challenges what you know, or adds to what you know. One of the main lessons I’ve learned as a defensive coordinator is that every offensive coordinator has a panic-point – where he presses the ‘Panic Button.’ This play was their offensive coordinator’s pressing of the Panic Button. Not just the play itself but when it was called and the context it was called in. It was the first time in the game that they pressed the Panic Button. It would not be the last.

The Panic Point is the moment an OC commits ‘identity theft,’ where the OC steals the identity of his own offense. It’s the point when an OC acts out of character and calls for a play outside the character of the offense. ‘Offensive identity’ is more than a conventional narrative that explains ideology. Offensive identity is a multi-level unit character and personality that the OC decides to be positively identified by. A true offensive identity can be picked out by more than its lineup. Offensive identity can be picked out by what it does the best, most often and what it does the least, most often. Offensive coordinators build real or perceived identity by investment of high-quality and high-quantity of reps. The problem is how an OC defines high-investment. Countless variables affect the equation. At the top of the list is loss – loss of games and loss of players. Those two losses are the two major influences that affect an OC’s decision about rep-investment.

In its raw form, offensive identity can be picked out by its strengths. Film study of an offense will reveal what an OC loves to do and hates to do. Recognize the OC’s love-hate relationships and you will find the OC’s panic point and be able to predict when he will press the Panic Button. The panic point is a real or perceived crisis in the mind of the OC. Study enough film and you can identify your opposing OCs panic point. When the panic button gets hit, you can capitalize and turn it into a defining moment.

Pressing the panic button happens when the OC abandons his unit’s strengths to a degree of weakness. Every offense, whether consciously or not, builds multi-levels of strengths and weaknesses. Every offence is multi-level unit of strengths. Every offense has two dangerous levels of strengths – one when it’s a danger to the defense and one when it’s a danger to itself. When faced with a real or perceived crisis, an OC has to make a decision about what is the fastest, most efficient solution to the crisis that could sink a game and an entire season.

The above offensive play was an example of pressing the panic button. The evidence was in the flawed execution. The opposing offense ran a play-action play, featuring three major flaws that identified a comparatively low-rep investment. The offensive play had no context. We had shown what we do and when we do it. They had proven that certain strengths were working. A flawed play-action out of this formation against our expected defensive call was a turning point.

The three flaws were:
1. Poor mesh with the running back. There was too much separation between the ball and running back.
2. The running back decelerated after the mesh.
3. The quarterback’s drop after the mesh took too long. The drop did not follow a seamless path with the faked handoff.
Their quarterback was sacked, fumbled, and lost possession because of a play-action pass that served no purpose within the context of their rep-investment and our defensive identity. Their OC pressed the panic button.
Play-action reps need more than a practice run. Dual meaning.

Gino Arcaro M.Ed., B.Sc., Level 3 NCCP (Nat’l Coaching Certification Program)
Head coach – Niagara X-men football
Owner – X Fitness Inc.

Gino Arcaro is a widely published author. His website, blog, Youtube channel, and list of books are at:
His books include:
4th & hell: seasons 1-5, Soul of a Lifter, SWAT Offense, SWAT Defense, X Fitness Workout System, and a 3 business book series called Soul of an Entrepreneur
He also has written 20 editions of 6 law enforcement academic textbooks. A new 8-volume interrogation book series will be released in 2014. And just released, a new children’s book called “BE FIT – DON’T QUIT.” His latest book on human potential called “Hashtag Peace” is at the editing stage. He just finished another book called “Lifter’s High.” Both will be released soon.

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