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Bill Walsh on Scripting Openers

Bill Walsh was the first to talk about a method of scripting plays, which he called “openers.”  He believed that the players enjoyed knowing what the first plays of the game would be.  It made them comfortable.  Walsh believed in 10-15 opening plays but his script would often go into the 20’s. Here are some more thoughts from “The Genius” concerning the opening script method.

  1. Scripting openers allows the coach to make decisions in a detached and thoughtful manner.  Even the best play callers work better ahead of time where they have the opportunity to think about the possible contingencies that could occur in the game.

  2. It allows the coach to determine the proper balance between running plays and passing plays on early downs. If the coach wants a 50-50 balance, the opening script gives him a method to do so.

  3. Scripting openers allows the coach to be more creative in his team’s personnel groupings early in the game by having the offensive sequence planned ahead of time.  The offense can use specific personnel for specific plays and have it planned and practiced ahead of time.

  4. Enables the defense to determine early in the game how the defense will react to specific formation and personnel groupings.  Great way to determine the opponent’s game plan.  The offense can anticipate the defensive game plan adjustments and have some counters ready.

  5. Allows the coaching staff to see how the defense will defend certain plays or play sequences. The coaches can be prepared to know what to look for and ready to suggest some alternative plays and moves.

  6. Openers are great to allow the quarterback to get in a rhythm. Practicing these plays ahead of time will improve the level of confidence that the quarterback has at the beginning of the game.

  7. Scripting is a great way to include “special plays” early in the game and be sure that they will be run.  We often work on special plays only to hold on to them and never call them in the game.

  8. Increases the versatility of the offense without having to run a large number of plays or excessive number of formations.  Different formations and looks early in the game will require the opponent to do some thinking and take some aggressiveness out of the defense.

Walsh believed that one of the greatest uses of openers was the sheer confidence that the offense had in the game plan because it knew the opening plays and had practiced the sequence.  If the offense scores on the first series, the confidence level shoots up and could lead to a dominant offensive first quarter or first half.


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