Al Saunders and His Colossal Playbook
Much has been made of the intricacies and exorbitant volume of the playbook Al Saunders had Mayflower Shipping Lines bring with him to DC from KC. Some say the book entails over 700 pages of detailed offensive structure. To some, a football playbook of such voluminous measure is overkill and surely a prelude to confusion. The installation of the offense certainly would be never ending. Why produce such a millstone for the team to carry?
When one considers the wide range of intellects that must be able to not only utilize rote memorization skills to manage all the information, but also be able to comprehend and implement the details of the playbook: there is certainly cause for concern. The team being a microcosm of society, intelligence certainly runs the full gamut, ranging from imbecilic to Rhodes Scholar. So why develop an offensive system that seems to cater to the high end of the bell curve? The answer is quite simple. Although, it requires a holistic outlook, seeing things beyond football terms.
Playbooks aren’t simply technical guides. They aren’t the equivalent of instructions to the VCR. They are philosophical tomes. These tomes are authored by men who devote their lives to the game of football. Football is life. A playbook is a reflection of the author’s philosophy of life. The joys, struggles, pain and lessons learned in life are all contained in the playbook. Playbooks are akin to an author’s personal journal. An artist’s sketchbook. But, rather than using sketches or words, the coordinator uses X’s and O’s.
The reader must open his mind, and understand that he isn’t simply implementing a series of directives that are drawn out and serialized through some sort of communicative numbering system; but rather, is being exposed to the naked soul and living outlook of the artist. The problem that exists, and the reason as to why it would be difficult to implement such a voluminous playbook…..isn’t a question of the intellect of the player. It is a question of the player’s desire and ability to accept the philosophical outlook of the playbook’s author. Only when the player accepts that his offensive coordinator has bared his soul and is asking the player to consider his emotions and philosophical logic can the volume of the playbook be discounted. If the player cannot accept this, then 700 pages is certainly too much.
The bottom line: It is up to the playbook’s author to elicit the trust of the player. If the philosopher cannot gain the trust of his audience, he can’t gain their understanding. In that, the number of pages is irrelevant.