Advanced Concepts for Installing a High Precision Pass Game

Coach Bob Whaley- 30 year coaching career all levels from Pro, Semi Pro,  H.S., (even Pee Wee with my son’s teams)


The last years of my active career were spent mostly at the H.S. level. I found that when I wasn’t a head coach, many of the head coaches I worked for really knew the nuts and bolts of the run game, but were largely unaware of a lot of the little things that successful college and H.S. throwing coaches do to make their pass game more effective. Early in my career, I had the great experience of visiting and getting to know the staffs of some of the top college programs in the country after I developed my sound actuated timer. (See my “Speed and quickness coaching tips using a sound actuated timer” article) In addition to the college programs I visited, I was able to have many NFL teams as my clients too.

Naturally, a little bit from each program rubbed off on me, and when I started coaching H.S. ball,
Six of the first seven QB’s I coached started in either at the JC or 4 year level. The last varsity level program that I had some say as to putting in the passing game package,  we had a Sr. QB that averaged 63% completion, and a Freshman QB that took our varsity to the state championship that averaged 64%.  I have tried to condense some of the concepts and practices that many of the successful passing coaches use.

You may use some of these concepts now, but hopefully, some will be of use to you.


You can develop some package routes that attack both vertically, and horizontally. All package routes must be taught with all possible defensive scenarios and coverages in mind ..and how they each effect the pattern. You can have 3-6 of these packages along with a pass tree,  a bootleg, throw in some quicks , and intermediates, and you will have a pass game way above most H.S. programs.  You can achieve a high level of execution in the pass game if you become aware of the “Spot Timing Concept” with all of your patterns.  The Spot Timing Concept involves being always aware of the timing and  WR depth of each pattern, including your read patterns.  The key to having a precision pass game is to work in the off season on the read patterns especially, so that your pass game is in place before the season ever starts. If you email me, I can send you some routes that do the above.

The QB and the receivers must know what adjustments must be made in every defensive scenario. QB’s must know who to read! Put a scrimmage vest on the player the QB must read. With enough reps, the QB will begin to make his reads under pressure. It is best to use a timer or stopwatch to put pressure on the QB to make his reads within a certain time frame to prevent him from getting rattled during game situations.

Another good practice to incorporate is to install a system of calls where your QB consciously looks off coverage in the initial stages of his drop. This is especially useful against cover 2 when you want to influence the safety then throw to the opposite side of the initial look.


Always work to hit an uncovered receiver. Many times in games, because of coverage snafus, a WR, or a flexed RB will be uncovered….study your game films and you will be surprised how many times receivers may be uncovered against even better defensive schemes, especially if you move people around. Usually it will be one of the receivers in trips or the slot man. He can just go up field for 5 yds., getting as much separation as possible and wait for the ball.


Drills must be set up to teach the QB’s and Rcvrs to read the coverage pre snap and post snap within the given time frame.


All patterns must be executed within a specific time frame. (short, PA,  intermediate , or  deep            patterns.) Here are some optimum suggested times……( You may not be able to achieve these times, but with some work, your players may come close: Hitch .9 seconds into the WR’s hands, 3 step 1.3 Sec, quick 5, 1.5,  long 5 step, 1.7,  7 step 2.4.  Note: using shotgun, add .4 to .5 seconds to those times. (With shotgun, you should adjust the depth of your WR’s patterns too.


The quicker your QB can learn to execute a pattern in practice, the easier it is to have good pass pro. Also the QB will have more poise and be able to have to recognize what is going on and
execute the play within a 1 to 2 sec. time frame . To give you an example, years ago, I began to use a timer when I would teach my QB’s to throw a quick hitch pattern. My QB’s eventually learned, using good technique, to use a one step and throw and get the ball Into the receivers hands in .9 of a second. Believe me, that’s smoking! Realistically, the average H S corner playing zone can barely react if, as he is coached,  takes his first step back . (Your WR’s can go 6 back to 5 in that time) If you know how to teach a “cheat step”, you can gain an extra  .1  – .2 sec and it eliminates a “false step” by your QB.

When your QB’s are going through their read progression in the shot gun, they should chop their feet as rapidly as possible and find their back foot at the beginning of their release.


All patterns must be coordinated with the line coach to develop a strategy to afford maximum pass pro for each pattern. If you implement a quick passing game, pass pro gets a lot easier.,
especially if the Guard and Tackle do- dad and zone block seal to the inside and let the backs take care of the outside. Always run your play action passes using a “low helmet” run look or else the DB’s &
LB’s won’t bite on the fake.


Each combo pattern must have its own strategy. If you have a good pattern, such as some Bunch patterns, you must work too, to arrive at the execution point from as many formation looks as possible to thwart tendency recognition. With your combo patterns, you should teach a read progression, and teach it within a a specific time frame. I eventually taught on the average of 4 reads in our progressions, (including hots) all within 2.5 sec. Certain coverage’s will negate specific patterns within your read package right up front….your QB’s must be taught to recognize this pre-snap. For instance, if part of your package is a quick hitch, hard man coverage will take this away. As you become more advanced with this, the QB and Rcvrs can make adjustments on the fly. .


You can throw to spots with timing. Either the deep post – corner, a fade stop or the arrow-fade can be thrown to a spot…the Rcvr runs to that spot at absolute top speed to arrive at the same time as the ball. You must use a timer or stopwatch to coach this. Try to run your timed deeps off of quick
play action. If you can get the ball off in around 1.6 seconds, you can hit spots at 24 yds deep. Again, if you email or call me, I can get more in depth about the patterns and how to coach them.


You must throw 45 minutes a day ( in indi, or 7 on 7) apart from team scrimmage to teach good execution of your patterns. Don’t expect to have a precision pass game throwing 10 to 15 minutes a day.


You must have a plan going into a game as to how you are going to attack with the passing game as well as the run. You must have specific objectives as to what can be accomplished with what they give you. A team that will jam you has to be planned for with a much different approach than with a team that plays you in a deep zone. How do they play you in the Red Zone? More and more DC’s are using jam techniques in the Red Zone while using zone everywhere else. Know your opponent!

Of course, these are just a few concepts, there are many more practices that successful throwing coaches employ. My next article will be about how to train your QB’s to execute year in and year out to move the football without opposing teams loading the “box” with nine men to stop your run game.

There are more books than ever to increase your knowledge of how to put into place the ideas listed above. One of the most knowledgeable book series ever written about packages, reads and the pass game are written by Coaches Robinson and Cloverdale (Coaches Choice)…You can get the books on,  or from you local book seller. There are 3 books in the series. The most advanced book of the series is “The Bunch Attack” It has more “secrets” in it than any football book I have ever read. Many college coaches use “the Bunch Attack” as a throwing bible.  I heartily recommend them to any coach that wants to upgrade their knowledge of the pass game. Another good book you may want to read is written on the pass game by x-BYU Coach Lavell Edwards…He’s probably forgotten more things than all of us will ever know.

If you are interested in discussing any part of this article, email me and I will be happy to explain some of the specifics  to you.

One of the fascinating things about football, it seems like on a regular basis, you say to yourself “I can’t believe how much I’ve learned the last two years”!

You must be a student of the game to get your program to higher levels. I hope this information has been helpful to you.