Clinic Report: Dropback Passing Game

Clinic Report: Dropback Passing Game

March 13, 2019

January through March is clinic season for coaches, so after having spent time at a few clinics over the past couple months, I wanted to feed back some information from a few sessions that I visited. Not all of these have to do with Michigan, but they might be interesting for you football fanatics out there.

One session I visited was on the dropback passing game. There are very simple passing calls out there, and there are very complicated passing attacks. I thought this approach was interesting, and it came from a college offensive coordinator. (I don’t want to name the school out of respect for their staff and the presenter.)

This is a somewhat simple concept that I’ll call “Brown,” which means the QB would work from right to left in a counterclockwise direction on his progression. The reads are as follows:

  1. Short right
  2. Deep right
  3. Middle intermediate
  4. Deep left
  5. Short left

You can see that the different areas of the field are labeled as the first read, second read, third read, fourth read, and fifth read. The nice thing about this passing concept is that your receivers can get to these places from a variety of formations and routes. In “Brown” out of a 2×2 formation, the Y has an arrow, the Z has a deep comeback, the X runs a dig, the W runs a go route, and the T runs a weakside checkdown.

Want to switch things up a little bit? Run Brown Smash.

Brown Smash

Notice that the first read is still in the same place (short right) as it was on “Brown,” but it’s a short hitch route by the Z while the Y runs a corner route. That combination is called a “smash” concept. The back side (reads 3, 4, and 5) is still the same.

Okay, so how about switching up the formation and the play?

Brown Wheel

Once again, the back side stays the same, but the front side changes significantly. The Z runs a pivot route as read #1, and the tailback in the empty formation runs a wheel. Meanwhile, the #3 receiver to the call side (the Y) knows that he needs to become the fifth read on the weak side, so he runs a shallow cross to the left.

That’s three plays already, which are all based on the same read progression from the quarterback.

But let’s say you want to attack the left side of the defense first, because you think the defense is weaker over there, or you line up your best receiver on the left all the time. There’s a pretty easy adjustment:

You call “Black.”


“Black” is essentially a mirror image of the “Brown” play you see above, but the play call tells the quarterback to look left first. So the reads go like this:

  1. Short left
  2. Deep left
  3. Intermediate middle
  4. Deep right
  5. Short right

It may look a little complicated at first, but this is one dropback passing concept that can be taught out of various formations and personnel groupings, you could use motions to switch things up, and yet if the players understand the concept (“I’m the #2 receiver on the strong side, so somehow I need to end up in the flat”), they should be in pretty good shape.


  1. Avatar
    Comments: 1449
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Mar 13, 2019 at 8:12 AM

    Outstanding notes

    At my son’s school, their passing game could never have more than two reads. Anything more and the OL would would be trampled. I actually saw this a lot over the last 10 years between my two kids; how much was protection discussed?

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3220
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 13, 2019 at 4:36 PM

      Protection wasn’t discussed a ton at this particular session, but I did sit in on some FBS OL coaches’ sessions and a couple offensive coordinators who talked about their pass pro. Generally, you want to have the ball out in 2.5-3 seconds or so, which I think is feasible most of the time if you’ve practiced it enough. There are times where protection breaks down quicker just because a guy gets beat or they bring too many, but if you work in some adjustments, your quick game, etc., I think you can make up for it more often than not.

  2. Avatar
    Comments: 18
    Joined: 8/31/2015
    Mar 13, 2019 at 8:49 AM

    the old saying was, ‘be simple, look complex’, fits the bill. I dig it, only I’m coaching 3-4th graders and we can’t pass block for beans. 😎

    Used to love going to the old Duffy D. – Bud W. clinics back in the day, when I coached H.S. Lately started going to the Glazier clinics. There’s just something about sitting and listening to guys who love what they’re talking about, and know what their talking about, laying out the game for you.

    • DonAZ
      Comments: 459
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Mar 13, 2019 at 9:34 AM

      >> I’m coaching 3-4th graders and we can’t pass block for beans.

      No 6’7″ tackle prospects with long arms and good feet, huh? πŸ™‚

      • Avatar
        Comments: 18
        Joined: 8/31/2015
        Mar 14, 2019 at 8:51 AM

        DonAZ, Nope, no 6’7″. But we’ve managed to find some 4’0″ kids who play like they are 4’3″. 😎

        Forgive me for bragging a little…

        We’re a municipal league, meaning we draft, so we have 1st rd’ers and 17 & 18th rd’ers. We’re everyone plays league, so if a kid doesn’t play on O, he MUST play on D. And there’s no subbing a kid out after 2 plays and trying to say he started. Those late rd’ers play. Soooo….. we coach the dickens out of those late round kids, simple is best, with lotsa reps. We run the wing-t (out of Red and Blue – our parents don’t know its the Old Wing-T dressed up, but we look cool) and “down block” like crazy. We put our better OL at OG and pull, trap, and kick-out. I love to hear folk tell us you can’t teach an 8 yr old that stuff, and then they watch us do it. I think we’re successful b/c we “love ’em into submission”.

        Pass Pro? we roll out off play action (either Belly or Boot off Sweep) usually we can find one kid who can almost catch. Gotta throw about 4-6 times a game to keep the Momma’s happy.

        FWIW, we’ve played for the league title all 4 yrs, I’ve been in it, won it twice, so we draft last or next to last. My co-coach has a great eye for talent, we’re 21-2 over the last 2 yrs. We play a cross league challenge game with another league (the 2 first place teams play, the 2nd place teams play and on down the line) we’re 1 & 1 vs their league champs. Last season, 11-0 out-scored our opponents 344 – 6. Beat the other league’s champ – the only team that scored on us.

        Mostly, we win because we can run off-tackle.

        Again, forgive the bragging, but I love my little guys… 😎

        • Thunder
          Comments: 3220
          Joined: 7/13/2015
          Mar 14, 2019 at 9:43 AM

          That’s awesome. Anybody who devotes their time to positively affecting the lives of young people should be allowed to brag a little once in a while about their kids’ achievements. Good for you.

        • Avatar
          Comments: 1449
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          Mar 14, 2019 at 11:27 PM

          That’s awesome – you should brag!

          I coached AAU hoops and some Pop Warner for each of my boys. Only one championship, and two losing seasons. It’s a great feeling when it all comes together, especially with those rules in football. Be proud!

  3. Avatar
    Comments: 109
    Joined: 10/22/2015
    Mar 13, 2019 at 11:30 AM

    Very cool stuff for noobs like me. Do more of these!

    • Thunder
      Comments: 3220
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Mar 13, 2019 at 4:32 PM

      I hope to do a couple more to wrap up what I found during these clinics. I’m glad you like it.

      • Avatar
        Comments: 18
        Joined: 8/31/2015
        Mar 14, 2019 at 8:57 AM


        Count me in, too. I’ve been digging these kinda articles.

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