Why Field Position Matters in Football

Watching some of the games last weekend, reminded me of playing flag football back in the day. It brought back these memories because of some of the plays teams called or strategies they used were something you do more in flag football (or any front yard pick up game) than you do in ‘real’ football. These memories had me pull out the playbook from the attic we used in college at the state championship tournament. Good times!

field position in football

Since we still like to ‘teach’ you a bit about the rules, strategies, plays, etc, I decided doing a post on why field position matters in football. This will be something you can pull out of your back pocket in a conversation that will make you look like you know as much as Condi Rice does. Maybe you can get nominated to be on the BCS committee too!!

What is Field Position

Field position refers to where the offense physically is on the field – their position on the field. Duh! Ok, so that’s not rocket science. Let’s move on.

Why does field position matter

The obvious reason it matters is the closer you are in relation to the goal you are trying to score in, the better. The closer you are the better the chances are for you to score at least some points. Think of it like your physical proximity to the bowl of Halloween candy. If you are not close enough to reach it, how can you possibly score that Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup you hid at the bottom!

You probably hated statistics like most sane and rational people, however when I used ‘better chances’ above, you understood that as better odds, as in more likely to have an outcome where points are scored the closer you are to the goal. But it would depend on how you looked at it. If you look at the statistics problem as the outcome (actually scoring), then the odds are better the closer you are because you are likely close enough for a field goal. In fact, the red zone statistics of a team are readily maintained to show the percentage of times a team ends up at the 20 or better in front of their opponents goal and scores at least some points.

However, if you look at the problem as the number of plays in the teams playbook they could run, you would get a very different result based on where the team is on the field (aka their field position). Let’s take a look.

If an offense is inside their own twenty (80+ yards away from the goal), there are many plays in the playbook they will not want to run because they are too risky. The last thing an offense wants to do is turn over the ball so close to their end zone or have to punt from so far back to give the other team great field position (allowing them to Flip the Field). So, the offense will be a bit more conservative. They won’t have the quarterback drop back 7+ yards and wait for a long passing play to develop because the risk of getting sacked is too great. Instead they will run quick plays consisting of either short passes or safe running plays. This eliminates probably 1/2 of their playbook so their options are few.

Let’s move the ball to the red zone (20 yards or less away from the goal), now the team ‘should’ score but like the situation above, their playbook is limited, but for very different reasons. Once you are this close to the end zone, there just is not enough green space (or blue space if you are in Boise State’s home field. I hate the Smurf Turf) to have the option to run every play in the playbook as many of the  plays require time and space to develop. Once again, your playbook options are few.

Now, when you are between the 30’s, you pretty much have every option open to  you. You can run every play in the playbook, so aren’t your options to score greater? Well, if you look at it as the number of different plays you can run, then yes! Short plays, long plays, risky plays, time consuming plays, whatever. The field is your oyster.

Class dismissed!

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