The Value of Talent / Execution.

One of the things you will get in most of my posts is analysis of either positions or abstract ideas about football. Today I want to talk about the concept of Talent and where it belongs in the hierarchy of factors of winning.

Talent is made up of at least the following traits. ( I may be missing one or more ).

  • Speed
  • Height
  • Instincts
  • Agility ( lateral movement, explosion, turning your hips, Leverage, power, etc )
  • Strength
  • Experience
  • Memory / Comprehension
  • Intelligence
  • Technique
  • Execution

In the NFL teams usually assign a grade for each of these traits.

Here's a fresh look at these in action on a typical running play.


First thing to notice is how the matchups are between an offense and a defense. Most people don't stop to think about it, but on a running play it is usually 9 Offensive players trying to block 11 defensive players. That is because the QB isn't assigned anyone to block, and neither is the running back because they are both handling the ball.

So, with that in mind it may not be as simple as 9 against 11, but it is true that the defense has 2 extra players that are not targeted to be blocked. Usually those guys are the 2 safeties. One could come down to make it 8 in the box and the other might play deep to insure no one gets behind the defense.

Once the ball is handed off, the entire defense rallies to the ball carrier and so with the corners rallying to the ball carrier, that makes it even more free tacklers available.

From time to time the defense will put 9 in the box, such as when the offense is in what they call the "Ace Formation" (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB),  which means that the offense has 7 guys trying to block 9 guys and the smart teams will audible from a called run play to take advantage of the single coverage on the two outside receivers.

All of this is to emphasize the fact that if you look at the "Play Chart" the Coordinators have in their hand, there are sections blocked off based upon what they call "Down and Distance" plays. You have a section for most common down and distance scenarios. First and 10, 2nd and 10, 3 and 10, First and 5, 2nd and 5, 3rd and 15 or more, redzone plays, etc.

The reason the plays are blocked off this way is that if all the offensive blocks are "executed perfectly", then the play should get the amount of yards that the play was designed to get. And the reason it will usually only get the required amount or close to it, is because as I mentioned the Defense has players who are roaming free and are not assigned to be blocked.

A QB Sneak is designed to get 1-3 yards. Most "3" step drop pass plays are designed to get 3-5 yards, and most 5-7 step drop pass plays are broke off at 12-15 yards and are designed to get that yardage. You will almost never see pass plays designed to break off at 8 yards.

Only an person who has never designed or studied a playbook will tell you something silly like "every play is designed to get a touchdown if executed perfectly."

The above should be a good explanation of why it is not all about "execution", but rather a chess match between the coordinators and or utilizing the other traits of talent that are a mis-match.

One can see that if a 4.7 40 Safety is covering a 4.2 40 wide receiver, and if both "execute" perfectly, the guy with the speed advantage will win the majority of the time, and it was the Offensive Coordination that called the play to take advantage of that mis-match, and it completely over shadows the fact that both players could be executing perfectly.

UPDATE: The point of this article is to show that even if you execute perfectly, the amount you gain is more a factor of the play call because THE DEFENSE has the numbers to limit the play to USUALLY what it is designed to get. Meaning that EXECUTION IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT trait of a players talent, but rather more about the chess match that is being waged by the coordinators trying to find mis-matches.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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