29 03 2011

We have 3 potential QBs: One, call him option A is fast / fairly accurate, option B is slow, VERY accurate and very good at reads, and option C is a decent passer/runner but lacks decision / leadership skills. We tried all of us through out the season, do you think that sticking with one QB is better throughout the season to develop some chemistry between the players?

Picking the Right Quarterback – Based on the description above, the Ninja will discuss and analyze the quarterback options

The “Run and Gun” – a fast QB with decent accuracy
Run and Gun is fast and can deliver a decent pass. He’s often looking for a running lane, but can deliver the ball through the air. He struggles with accuracy on longer balls.

Pros: Mobility can be a huge asset on the field, particularly if league rules allow running. A mobile QB buys time for the patterns to develop, and making the defense respect the run can pay off by opening passing lanes as well.

Cons: If Run and Gun is prone to the occasional bad decision or pick, that can be a momentum changer. With shorter game times and offensive-heavy play, so often flag football games are won or lost on the backs of turnovers. Also, a QB who is looking to run first and pass if/when open will have a hard time capitalizing on the timing routes.

Analysis: Run and Gun has some great potential. Depending on league rules and other talent on the team he may be a good choice. Because of his speed, though his biggest benefit to the team may be as a receiver. For this reason (and the converse), he is probably the second choice.

The “Sniper Turtle”
Sniper Turtle is as “slow as molasses in January,” as a coach used to say. He’s got a great eye for reading the defense, a good arm and makes accurate throws, but couldn’t outrun his 2 year-old niece.

Pros: The Sniper Turtle can make some big plays by reading the defense and placing the ball exactly where it needs to be. The inability to spring out of the pocket means he/she is more likely to sit back and find a passing option.

Cons: The obvious con is an inability to escape a rush. Even a mediocre rushing duo can hurry the Sniper Turtle. Sacks can be one obvious result. Another is not having time for long plays to develop.

Analysis: Turtle-Sniper may be the best choice of the three. In flag football where defenses are typically not very disciplined and organized, well-timed passes combined with good routes are almost unstoppable. In contradiction to Run and Gun, Sniper Turtle adds his most value as a QB and brings little to the table as a receiver. To make Sniper Turtle successful, make sure he takes a deep snap, and give him short “escape hatch” receiver options. This may tame an otherwise aggressive rush. Having a strong playbook and practicing timing will also go a long way.

The “Mid-Liner”
The Mid-Liner does everything ‘ok’ but does not excel anywhere. Speed is decent, arm is passable, but leadership is lacking and choices are questionable.

Pros: Mid-Liner may give you an opportunity to put your faster “star” players at receiver slots. Mid-Liner doesn’t get trapped in the pocket like Sniper Turtle, and has an option to run from time to time.

Cons: Decision-making is not a strength. He suffers from the same potential challenges as Run and Gun from a turnover standpoint. Also he may be indecisive both with play selection and field reads.

Analysis: While QB leadership is not a pre-requisite (although that’s the default leader on most college & NFL teams, in flag football, a mastermind receiver can play that roll almost as well), decision-making is extremely important. Any type of hot reads or defender read could be a big weak point. He doesn’t add much in terms of excellence and probably fails to lead the team far in the playoffs. Of the three options, Mid-Liner is probably the last choice.

Football Video of the Week: Ninja Quarterback Does Crazy Trick Shots

15 02 2011

Check out this video of a ninja quaterback hitting crazy trick shots – follow this link to the watch the video on YouTube.


Football Gear Review: Cutters C-Tack Football Receiver Gloves

10 02 2011

Football Receiver Gloves
Many have looked for a way to catch more footballs and elevate their game.  Receiver gloves are a great way to do that.   Manyof the football gear companies (Nike, Reebok, Under Armour, etc) have some version that they sell, but Cutters, a relatively young company, has specialized in this market  and focused on little else.  Inspired by indsutrial glass-handler gloves, the C-Tack revolutionary tactification process integrates the grip into the material Unique look, feel, grip and durability C-Tack’s tackiness is easily restored by wiping the palms with a damp towel and then wiping dry and machine or hand washing in cold water Neoprene on knuckles Ideal for receivers, running backs and defensive backs Ensure the ultimate in gripability Perform well in all weather conditions Machine washable and dryable Meets NF/NCAA specifications.

The Good: The C-TACK Receiver Gloves are among the stickiest on the market (still legal for NCAA college and other league play).  Even better, they keep their tackiness longer than many of the competitor gloves on the market. They are not particularly fragile (machine washable), and come in a few different options.

The Bad: Cutters has struggled in their “cool factor” for a while both in design and color options.  The solid gray with white piping scheme was intended to comply with NCAA rules.  They continue to evolve on this front, and we are big fans of the new black on black.

Rating   4.5 of 5 Stars - GREAT 
Slightly dinged for appearance, we think these are about the best gloves on the market for durability and stick factor.  (And the Ninja always appreciates the black on black…).  Get your pair today. 

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One of Football’s Most Dangerous Plays (and how to run it)

7 02 2011

The Out-And-Up


For more plays, check FlagFootballNinja.com


Shatter the Zone

If run correctly, the out-and-up can shatter the zone defense.  Whether you’re facing a cover 2 (two deep defenders) or some variation, like a three deep, box or diamond coverage scheme, you can open it wide up with this play.  What’s the catch?  You have to run it right.   We look at the out and up against a cover 2 defense.  This is a 7on7 look, but the same thing can be run in 5man, 6man, 7man and 8man football.  Line up twins to the side where the ball will go (here its right).  The wideout (outside receiver, Z) should line up about 10-12 yards from the sideline.  He is the decoy.  Some sort of fake communication to draw attention to the wideout can be used (receiver tapping his head or the QB making eye contact and calling a fake hot route).  The slot receiver (inside receiver, Y) should line up halfway between the ball and the wideout.   On the snap, the wideout will head straight for the center of the field.  The purpose is to draw the deep right defender into the middle of the field.  This will be particularly effective if the QB locks his eyes on the Z receiver.   The Y receiver will line up with his inside foot forward.  On snap, the Y receiver will take two steps and plant his inside foot on the second step.  About 2-3 yards off the line, the Y receiver will cut hard to the sideline.   He will not change course until he is 1-2 yards from the sideline (very important).  As soon as he reaches the edge of the field, the  Y receiver breaks deep.  The other routes are safety valves.  If it’s run right, the Y receiver will break open soon after the cut.  The QB should hit him quickly, or let it unfold and hit him deep.  The defense may not even notice the Y receiver until the ball is being launched over their heads.

Beat Man

The same play will work against man coverage.  The routes need to stay crisp.  The Y receiver should run about 3/4 speed until he reaches the sideline, then turn it on.  If the Y receiver has not signaled the fake, he should be able to break away and get separation down the sideline. If the defender is playing off the Y receiver, consider making the first cut 5-7 yards deep.

For more devastating plays, visit FlagFootballNinja.com

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Who’s Calling Plays? – Playing Time, Egos, and Winning: Struggles of the Player-Coach

4 02 2011

Player Coach

So you’ve rounded up some buddies, some of them have rounded up their buddies and you have enough players to field a flag or touch football team. You’ve thought of a clever team name and registered for the league.  Congratulations, the easy part is over.  Now you have a team to run. Sound easy? Maybe not easy as you’d think, especially when the coach is a player.  Here are some tips to stay competitive and avoid turning a group of friends into enemies in the meantime.

Do We Need a Coach?

“I’m playing for fun with some friends, do we really need a coach?” It’s a common question, but the answer is: you most likely already have a coach (you may not use that title, but handling scheduling, calling plays, and rotating players  makes you coach).  A good, competitive team will need leadership and organization.  Also, in many informal settings (rec leagues, weekend football, etc) you will have no-shows and scheduling conflicts.  For this reason, it is good to have more players on the team than will play on the field each down.  BUT, this also means having more players than spots.  When games become important (playoffs or championships), don’t be surprised if all 14 players show up for the first time all season.  For the unprepared coach, this can be a real problem.  Flexibility on the field is hugely important to respond to different challenges mid-stream, and without a defined leader calling those shots, you will find there are suddenly several coaches on the field, each with strong, differing opinions.

Coaching Style and Structure

Communication is key.  Whatever strategy you use, communicate it to the team as early as possible.  This goes for planning, plays, practices, rotations, schedule and everything else.  Usually the guy who ends up coaching is one of the better athletes on the team.  Often he’s the QB.  In some ways that makes coaching easier – its a natural leadership position, play-calling and organization flow well and the concern about playing yourself more than others disappears (for offensive plays).  If you are not the QB, it will be difficult to be the sole coach for all the same reasons.  If this is the case, consider creating a “coaching committee” of 2-4 players, including the QB.  That way play-calling, structure and organization still comes from a singular point.  You may want to form a committee like this anyway to avoid some of the interpersonal and ego-related issues that can surface.  Taking a player out of a game is far easier if it comes from two or three “coaches” than it is coming from one player-coach.  Of course, it can be more complex making calls from the field, and if disputes arise in the committee, there is no final word.

The more organization the coach(es) have the better.  Having set plays and strategies improves performance and can help with putting people in positions and making rotations. A set rotation may be preferable to replacing players on the fly to ensure better distribution of play time as well as distribution of skill.  Also finding player strengths is important – if one guy is especially effective on defense, you may be able to keep him engaged and interested without adding him to an already full offensive rotation, all without sacrificing talent.

Fun and Winning: a Delicate Balance

This dilemma affects most every (unpaid) coach, from the Dad youth football coach to the junior high team coach, and especially the player coach.  And there is definitely no one-size-fits-all solution.  The balance between winning and fun will be different for each player on the team.  There are players that would rather sit on the sidelines the entire season if it meant winning, while others would play without keeping score, just for love of the game.  The first step for the player coach is to determine where your team comes out on the question.  Are you in the lowest division in the coed football-for charity league? If so, chances are that fun is the reason to be playing.  Do you have a slate of ex-college players, who want to practice just so the championship is within reach? Probably a winning-mentality.   Most people voluntarily engaged in competitive sports probably enjoy winning, but you have to find out at what cost.  Early in the season, you will have more leeway. Once playoffs arrive, you’re playing for keeps.  But even along the way, winning games can be very important.  Consider starting some of the non-playmakers so when the crucial final 2 minutes arrives, you’re not compelled to play a weak lineup.  Also, making a “Red Team” lineup in addition to the regular rotations allows you to fall back on a pre-established system and quickly get your best team on the field when you need it. Oops, the “here-to-have-fun” guy just gave up a 60 yard touchdown and you need to score in 46 seconds: bring out the Red Team. At the end of the day, people need to have fun to keep playing on your team, but if well managed, the mix between adequate involvement and being part of a winning team, should work for the whole group.

Big Picture

A parting thought: remember why you’re playing.  It’s not the superbowl, you don’t have professional athlete insurance on your legs, your game is (probably) not televised.  Is it worth losing friends, offending people and hurting feelings just for the sake of the win? If you have a hard time answering this question, first, take a deep breath and re-consider your life purpose, and then, surround yourself with like-minded players and go win the championship.

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Flag is Fun, But How About Full-Contact Plays?

13 01 2011

Like This!

A lot of coaches have found a way to fashion passing plays, flag football plays or touch football plays and strategies into successful full-contact schemes. But there is a better way. Go straight to the source to find schemes built from the ground up for 11-man full contact plays.

TackleFootballPlays.com (previously FootballPlays.net) is a great source for plays and strategy to get a leg up against your competition. They bring years of great coaching into their plays and plans. If you need full-contact setup, this is a great start.

Adapting the Playbook for Full-Contact Play

4 12 2010

Coach, although have coached at varisty level mainly wing T in the UK, i am this year a 1st year JV (14-16yr) coach in the UK where my son will be playing. Football orgainsed by BAFACL runs from May-September in the UK and at this age group 5on5 is full contact. To my mind this is still flag football in principal, hence i have purchased 5on5 offense, defense and strategy guides which i think are great by the way and will essentially be our playbook this year. I wondered if you had any tips playing the offense, implementing your playbook with full contact in mind??
Football is alive and well on the other side of the pond. (Check us out at http://www.northwesternbulldogs.co.uk)
– Regards, Mike

Ninja Speaks

Coach Mike,

Glad to hear you have implemented the Ninja’s plays over in the UK and found them helpful.  To jump right in to your question, adapting flag football plays to full-contact football has its challenges, but whether playing in the back yard or under the lights in a varsity game, football fundamentals and core concepts don’t change.  As long as the plays you are starting with are solid, they should work in just about any venue.



Full-contact fundamentals differ from those of flag football in that blocking and tackling will be key to your success in a full contact league, whereas flag pulling and pitching will be key to flag football.  In your case, emphasize swarming to the runner and protecting the football – broken tackles and turnovers lead to most of the big plays in full contact youth football.  But most of the fundamentals discussed in the Ninja’s Ultimate Strategy Guide (included with playbook packages in my dojo) will apply in both situations.  Throwing, catching and routes will be the same.



In a full contact league, you may be more likely to see a zone defense than a man defense, but just as you would with flag football, adjusting to the defense is just a matter of running the right routes (quick and precise against man defense, less rigid and adjusting to find the hole against zone defense) and finding which plays work in your league.



Typically, I would say the biggest difference between full contact ball and flag football in terms of plays and schemes would be the blocking scheme and creating holes and protecting the quarterback.  Although in a 5on5 full contact league, you likely do not have a full line with stunts, pulls and other blocking schemes. If that is the case, you’re essentially playing the same passing game with more running options and tackling instead of flag pulls.  The plays should work well in this setting.


Coach, keep to the fundamentals that have worked for you in the past.  Choose a few key plays to build your offense around, and then practice, practice, practice – both fundamentals and plays.  Remember to keep it simple and play to your strengths.  Go get ‘em.



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Rush or Cover? How to Handle a Talented QB in Co-Ed Flag Football

3 11 2010

I’m in a co-ed flag football team. Our offense is solid and it has helped us win the regular season. However, we have not played all teams. We hope to reach the other undefeated team in the championship game. They have a running QB who is fast as hell and can actually throw (we have watched his games). Our defense is: fastest female rusher, two girls short on each side, one tall quick middle guy, two guy corners and two guys long. This has worked really well but we have not faced a fast QB. Any suggestions on dealing with this fast QB? (when we man up the QB always finds our weakest guy).


Don't give up the open field to a fast QB

  It sounds like the quarterback you will be facing in the playoffs is a strong player who can hurt you running or throwing.  The first question is whether your league allows QBs to run when rushed.  For purposes of this answer, we will assume the QB is free to run when rushed. 

For this playoff game, you need your best player on their best player. This means rushing or spying the QB with your superstar.  The way you’ve described it, this QB will put a move on your rusher and have the entire field at his disposal.  Also, by not having an effective rush, it will give the receivers time to break away and find an opening in the field.  It is extremely difficult to hold coverage for more than a few seconds in any league, but especially in a flag league where defenders have not had the benefit of a few years of organized football.  This is not to take anything away from your fast girl rusher, but unless she is also truly superior athlete, there is a good chance that her speed and efforts are wasted.   Consider keeping her as a rusher  with your best player also rushing or hesitating and then pursuing the QB once he has made a move in the pocket.  Often speedy QBs are not comfortable sitting in the pocket and will make a move soon after getting the ball.  As a QB, standing still with people running at you, it’s actually very easy to make a move and break free, using the rusher’s momentum against her.  It takes a lot of discipline and experience to rush in under control and not be eluded by a shifty runner.

What you need to avoid is giving the QB the benefit of time and space to run or throw to an opening in your defense.  Also, his accuracy and timing will be drastically reduced if he has a good rusher in his face.  He will force bad throws, he will make bad choices, and at the end of the day, you have taken away at least one, hopefully both of his weapons.  You don’t need to default into man defense.  Consider one deep guy, corners that drift back as the play progresses, two linebackers picking up middle and short threats, and rushing your fast girl and your best player.  With the corners drifting back, you may open up some shallow routes, but you should be able to maintain coverage on the deep ball. 

These strategies and more can be found in my playbooks and the Ultimate Strategy Guide and Defensive Handbook in my dojo.

No mistakes. No mercy.
– Ninja

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Never Miss Another Flag Pull Again – and Win More Flag Football Games

1 10 2010
Flag Football Tips: How to Pull Flag Football Flags

Pulling Flags the Right Way

It doesn’t take playing too many seasons of flag football to be able to count up the wins earned and losses given away because of missed flag pulls. But with practice, your team can greatly improve its flag pulling ability and start winning more of those close games.

Practice. Many teams don’t practice at all, but those that do practice route running, catching, throwing, running live plays and occasionally the stray defensive set. But almost never do you see a team practice flag pulling, even though it s a crucial part of the game (that happens nearly every play).

Technique. Aside from practice, the defense needs to have good technique. Too many players stop running and swat at the flag, which is fluttering and flapping. The likelihood of grabbing a flag with the swat method is lower than by using many other techniques. What’s worse, if you swat at a flag and miss, you’ve probably lost your ability to make a play on the runner because he’s still moving full speed and you’ve stopped to swat. Instead, use these three techniques from the Ninja’s Ultimate Strategy Guide, to improve your game:

  1. First, don’t swat and don’t stop your feet. Keep up with the runner and instead of swatting across at the flag, with one hand rip down the runner’s body (assuming your league uses tear-away belts rather than velcro flags) and rip the belt off and with the other hand you can take a swipe at the flag.
  2. Second, slow the momentum of the runner.  Most leagues allow some contact without a penalty, so wrap up the runner completely for a split second and then in one motion rip the flag.  If your referees are especially sensitive to this kind of thing, just put your body in front of the runner.  It will make him stop his forward progress and make a cut.  The result is a much easier target and more success.
  3. Finally, get your team in the habit of pursuing the runner from anywhere on the field.  This is the best defense against pitches and will save you from missed flag debacles.  Swarm the ball!

Here’s a Good Drill:

Form a line of flag pullers about 10-12 yards off the line of scrimmage, centered on the field and facing the line like a defensive back. On the line, have three lines spread out (wide right receiver, wide left receiver and center). Coach/QB will release one receiver from the center, right or left position and throw a quick pass (to work on other mechanics). As soon as the ball is caught, the flag puller releases and pursues the receiver. One point for the offense if he misses the flag, one point for the defense if he pulls it.

The Ninja.

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Drills and Tips for a Successful Zone Defense – Flag Football Tips from the Ninja

18 09 2010

What drills can I run to help my defense with ZONE. I’m having a hard time showing and teaching them. This is my 1st time coaching defense.  Thanks in advance,
Coach Paul

“No feather can fly.  But a wing full of feathers soars.” -Further Musings of the Master

Coach Paul,

The first thing to realize is that there are two components to a successful zone defense: Scheme and Execution.  Drills and practice need to revolve around those two themes.

Scheme. The wrong zone defense will get beaten no matter how hard you practice or what drills you work on. Having a good scheme is vital.  Some league formats (like 4on4) make running a zone defense very difficult. But with enough players it’s just a matter of the plan and carrying it out.  If you have purchased a playbook from my dojo, you will have received the defensive handbook with plays and tips to success on defense.  Also see the recent post on a great 7on7 flag football defensive look.  The important piece of running a successful zone, is to be able to tailor it to the offense you’re playing.  Have a couple of different sets ready for different offensive looks.  An aspiring Michael Vick quarterback requires more linebacker support and maybe even a dedicated defender to spy the QB, whereas an immobile gunslinger with strong receivers demands more attention in the secondary.

How to Run a Zone Defense Right

Know your zone responsibilities, and stick to them.

I like a base cover 2 defense with two deep safeties, two cornerbacks a linebacker and two rushers with blitzes and rotations out of that format.  As some earlier posts mention, man-on-man defense is a good alternative if you have the athletes. Also experiment with a hybrid.

Execution. The second, and probably more important, aspect of a good zone defense is execution.  Brush up on some of the fundamentals from the Ultimate Strategy Guide that comes in our playbook packages like the backpedal, keeping your head on a swivel and maintaining proper field vision.   Work on breaking on a ball, swarming the receiver and reading the QB’s eyes.  But those pieces are peripheral to the core zone defense key: staying in the zone.  By far the biggest problem with zone defense comes from guys who are not used to playing disciplined, organized football abandoning their zone coverage responsibilities.  One or two flashes of sandlot glory and suddenly a cornerback who is supposed to cover the flat is flying across the field with a receiver, hoping for a pick.  DEFENSE HAS TO STAY IN THE ZONE.  Work on fundamentals, work on vision, definitely work on swarming the football, but if you want to practice for a zone, practice staying in your spot.  Have a skeleton defense line up in the zone coverage.  Consider arranging a point scheme for receptions and touchdowns (to get the defense trying to win), and then start sending receivers through the zones.  Double up receivers in a zone.  Try to run routes that will pull the defenders out of position. If a defender blows coverage, pull him out, replace him and have him stand and watch the defense from the offensive side of the ball (not running a route, just watching). This will give perspective on what it looks like as a QB when zone coverage fails.  Also, emphasize communication.  When a receiver cuts across the field, he likely goes in and out of 2 or 3 zones.  If the defenders are communicating what’s happening, this fosters the cohesive defensive front, and will improve your team.

The key is to think about the zone from an offensive perspective.  Any good offense that’s targeting the zone will do what they can to exploit the zone.  Pull a defender out of his spot and hit another receiver in the hole.  A good quarterback knows which routes split a zone defender and where to look for an opening.

You don’t need a long list of specific drills to improve your zone coverage. You need a good foundation and scheme, and then you need to work on execution.  Yes, fundamentals play a big part, but the zone defense is only as good as the players executing it.  Each defender has to trust and rely on the guy next to him to pick up the receiver that crosses from one zone to another.

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