The head coach is at the top of the hierarchy in football. Underneath the head coach is the offensive and defensive coordinators. While these positions may often get confused, each position has its own role.
What’s the difference between a head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator? The head coach manages the game, while the offensive coordinator calls the offensive plays and the defensive coordinator calls the defensive plays.
In this article, we’re going to dive into each position and how they impact a football game.
Head Coach In Football
Football coaches are the player and game managers of the football team.
The head football coach manages the team, preps players for the game, and has to know each player on both sides of the ball. The head coach also manages coaching duties on the sideline and decides on the in-game strategy.
The head coach also schedules practices, scouts upcoming opponents, and has to call in other coaches for gameday when there is an injury or setback within the organization. The head coach has to manage his team in any situation that comes their way.
The offensive coordinator is in charge of orchestrating the offense. They are the right hand man of the head coach. The offensive coordinator is one of the most important coaching positions because it’s how the team will score points.
Every coach has their own system, verbiage, terminology, and practice structure. That’s what makes coaching football so great, there is no one offensive coordinator alike.
Calling Offensive Plays
The main job of the offensive coordinator is to call plays for the offense based on what defense he sees on the field. The offensive coordinator has to make adjustments in-game based on how the defense is playing them.
Offensive coordinators will teach each player on the offense what exactly they are supposed to do, within each play. Each coordinator typically has their own systems they implement. Each system is unique to each specific team.
The goal of the offensive coordinator is to get at least 3.5 yards per play. This means they will get a first down after three downs.
The first season as an offensive coordinator is typically a shaky one, just because the coach is getting to know his players. It’s not common for coaches to split their duties and have a run game coordinator and a passing game coordinator. This means they have one coach who watches for each aspect of the game.
Under the offensive coordinator are position coaches. These coaches are typically in charge of the individual positions in football. These are the 4 coaches that will report to the offensive coordinator:
- Quarterback Coach
- Wide Receiver Coach
- Running Backs Coach
- Offensive Line Coach
The offensive coordinator will hire the best coach that will help enhance his player’s skills at that position.
Offensive Quality Control
The offensive quality control coach works under the offensive coordinator. Their job is to make sure that the offensive isn’t tipping off any of their plays or formations.
Quality control is extremely important for an offense because this is how the defense finds out if there are any tendencies within the offense.
The offensive quality control coach is usually someone who may or may not be present on the field at all times but is part of the coaching staff.
The defensive coordinator’s main job is to call plays for the defense, but they also have to watch film and scout upcoming games that they’ll be playing in.
The defensive coordinator has to make adjustments in-game based on how offenses are playing against their defense.
Similar to the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator will have their own schemes and philosophies.
Special Teams Coordinator
The special team’s coordinator is in charge of ensuring their team has the best possible special teams unit.
The special team’s coordinator is often a position coach who is tasked with coaching the special teams. In the NFL and professional leagues, they will have a dedicated special teams coach.
How Coaches Communicate With Eachother
Head coaches, offensive coordinators, and defensive coordinators talk to each other by using headsets. These headsets serve as communication between each coach on the sideline, as well as the coaches that are in the booth.
In the NFL, coaches are also able to talk to the quarterback and 1 defensive player. The player who has the earpiece in their helmet is signaled by the green dot on the back of the helmet.
Can Head Coaches Be The Offensive Coordinator?
It’s common for the head coach to also be the offensive and defensive coordinator. For example, the Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay is also the offensive coordinator.
He is in charge of managing the game, while also being the head coach.
While this may seem like a stressful job, it is common in the NFL, as well as at the high school level.
Teams whose head coach is also their offensive coordinator mean that the defensive coordinator must manage the game when their defense is on the field.
Practices during the week will also be different. Head coaches typically oversee both the offense and defense during the week. With a team whose head coach is the offensive coordinator, he will spend all of his time with the offense, leaving the defensive coordinator to coach separately.
Many organizations will have more than one head coach in charge of directing the team. In this situation, the head coach is usually a position that is held by multiple coaches.
The head coach’s job is to make sure that everyone who reports under him knows exactly what they’re supposed to do and execute it. If a coordinator leaves the organization, it places additional stress on the head coach, who must also call in new coaches for gameday.
If you liked learning about coordinators, we recommend you check out our offensive coordinator course. It has everything you need to learn to be an offensive coordinator and will prepare you to think like one.