Zohn reader Chris asks me to elaborate on Bill Walsh scripted plays — Chris says Bill scripted the first 25.

Here’s my understanding. He started with fewer than 25, maybe as few as 15. He definitely then scripted 20 and may have gone up to 25.

He would go over these plays in the offensive meeting the night before games. One coach who never had seen this before told me this was fascinating. Of course, if unexpected things happened, Walsh would abandon the strict order of the scripted plays but he tried to come back to them when he could.

Why did Walsh script his plays?

He once explained this to me and gave me an example. It was Stanford’ 1992 season. Bill took me into the coaches’ conference room — long oblong table. He shut the lights and put on a tape of the USC game they had played earlier that season. He showed me one scripted play after another — I can’t remember the plays, wish I could. He said each play he called would give him information. If, for example, he ran a particular pass pattern how would the Trojans respond? And so forth.

How USC responsed to the scripted plays let Bill know how to call plays the rest of the game. He was getting USC (and all other opponents) to reveal what they were trying to do.

Bill and I always talked boxing metaphors. He said scripting was like throwing a jab in a fight. How would the opponent react to the jab? What would it tell you about the next jab or a left hook off the jab?

So the scripted plays were designed to score points, sure. But also to get the opponent to declare itself without ever intending to.

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