I’ve been soliciting requests for suggested post topics both here and on the AFDC forum. The reason being is that all things being equal, we’d rather write about things that people are interested in rather than things they’re not. So, if you have a question please drop me a line. I may not be able to answer your question, but I can usually find someone who has something interesting to say about it.
Today’s question comes from Mike in Atlanta who writes, “Can you please post something about the German Offense? Is it just a normal spread offense? How does it differ from Horizontal Stack and Box?”
Thanks for reading and thanks for sending us a question. Since this is our first Mail Bag, I decided to turn this question over to Florian Pfender (expert on all things German), rather than just make something up. Flo played on various Atlanta teams (Chain, Gridlock, Rival) while completing his Ph.D at Emory. He played on the German Mixed National Team at the last Club Worlds. Currently, he has returned to the fatherland where he is living in Berlin teaching mathematics. He’s also a scheduling/format/rules guru – basically he’s the German Tarr who can dance. In any event, he wrote the great 4-1-2 write up that’s posted below.
The 4-1-2 is a possession based offense; some people call it lawn chess (it's certainly not the most exciting offense to watch). It tries to score with one mid-risk pass plus a few low risk passes.
The set up is as follows: 4 handlers in the back in a horizontal stack, one person in the middle (the 1) with almost the whole field around him to work with and two people all the way down-field.
An optimal sequence would be: handler catches pull, throws to one of the middle handlers. 1 posts up fairly close to disc, gets a lead pass, and the three down-field players homey it in for the score.
So the only risky pass is the one to the middle, and that's not so risky after all. the worst that can happen is that it turns in a game of 500 if you float it way too much (always rather throw it too high than too low, this way the 1 can save you on an errant throw). That's why I like to play it if I got someone like aj, Goffi or Goodson on my team.
The positions in detail
1. The two middle handlers
The two best throwers on the team. Their job is to hold the disc and wait for an opportunity to throw it to 1, preferably going away, but at least for a big gain in yardage. The main reason that they cannot get this throw off (if 1 plays well) are poaches from the handler defenders. In this case it should be easy to reset the stall count with a lateral dump throw. Never cut diagonally in front of the disc, this will lead to turnovers. If the other thrower has the disc, the best cut to get open for the dump is "go hard for 3-5 yards down-field, and cut straight back", works almost every time, since there is no immediate help down-field. Also be ready for the "angucker", the dump thrown to space (preferably to the down-field side) when the defender is face guarding.
Be patient. The reset is easy, so you can really wait for a good chance to throw it to the 1. At the prime of this strategy (when some teams used it almost exclusively in Germany, which is not done anymore), games could be really boring reset fests until finally the disc was thrown to the middle. often there would only be 1-2 turnovers in the first half before teams got a little too tired and lost concentration towards the end (well, Germans aren't really known for their stellar defense...).
2. The two side handlers
Two jobs-keep their defenders from poaching and reset the stall count. So if a thrower needs a reset, one option is to throw to the side handler (usually poached a little), and get it right back on a fake give-and-go.
3. The 1 (aka "the man")
Usually a player that combines ups/speed/boxing out with decent throws. He sets up in the free space. No big cuts, just find the spot on the field where your defender doesn't know if he should guard you from the front or back, from the left or right. In general try to position yourself, such that you can get the mid range go away pass with as much green as possible in front of you.
If the defender is always playing you from the back, push further out, and
See what happens when you cut in. if he chases hard, you are set up for the 180 and the go-away throw. If he is not chasing hard, break off the cut, turn around and push out even further. Now you are set up for the easy 20 yard gainer on the 45 in-cut.
If the defender is face guarding you, think "DUFUS!!" Move closer to your thrower (best is usually 10-15 yards), and wait for the angucker somewhere behind you. No cut on your side is required, let the thrower do the work. Just give him a good spot to throw to (you gotta know which throw he likes best). He will put the disc in a place where your body is between the disc and the defender. On top of that you get a head start (at this distance, an "up"-call doesn't help much).
If the defender is looking at the disc, move in a similar position, with as much green to work with on one side as possible. Now it's your turn to cut. One quick start should be enough to get you wide open.
Eventually (after you’ve schooled him several times), a good defender will find a mix of looking at you and at the disc. In this case, position yourself again at the sweet spot 10-15 yards away, a little to the forced side. Every time he looks at the disc, move a step or two to make him lose track of your position. Eventually he will either look at you long enough for the angucker, or he will no longer know where you are, and you can get a quick head start to the green space.
Once you get the disc, throw an easy continuation pass to one of the two deeps. You’ve got the whole field for 3 on 3, usually first throw unmarked. This should be easy. Remember, it's a possession offense, so usually you do not throw it directly into the end zone. You only have to move the disc down-field quickly enough that the other 4 defenders can't catch up.
4. The two deeps
These two players go all the way to the end zone. They will not get a pass from the handlers, their first job is to keep their defenders from poaching against the 1. Don’t worry about your man playing 10-15 yards off. This will not help him poaching on the 1, but it will make it really hard to catch up to you for your continuation cut (just run at him and turn him around---back paddling is really hard against someone at 90% speed). Once the throw to the 1 is in the air (it usually takes a couple seconds to get there, so you got enough time), set up your continuation cut. Most times the backs do some cross over action, but something is always open---take what they give you. It should take 2-4 passes from the 1 to the end zone.
One standard play we use out of the 4-1-2 is the 1 streaking all the way to the house, and the 2 coming upfield along the sidelines for the 30 yard gainer. In a way this is off cause a 4-3 ho-stack disguised as a 4-1-2. This is also the play that you usually run when one of the deep defenders is completely committed to poaching against the 1, and you can't really get the throw off.
But there are other ways to break this poach. Any pass that you can complete to the 1 in this situation will break the bank since the poacher will never catch up to his man afterwards. So look for a good spot to put it to. There is always a spot on the field the 1 is closer to than any of the two defenders (basic geometry). If the two defenders play really hard against the 1, he can simply run them to the side; one deep comes up the other side--> easy pass. The other deep defender has to stay deep after all.
One can also call a play out of the 4-1-2 that calls for the one to go to one side and the opposite side handler to streak down-field for the 30 yard gainer---a disguised 3-2-2. Especially effective in the case of handler poaches.
As for poaches from the handler positions (this will happen very often). If they don't poach very aggressively, a good thrower will just throw around/over them to the 1, no harm done. If they poach aggressively, 1-2 other handlers will be wide open for shorter gains. Also the last described variation is a very good way to break this poach since the poacher have to very focused on the disc and not their man to be effective.
In mixed, the extra dimension of athletic mismatches plays a whole ‘nother role. You can play a man in the middle and mixed genders in the back. After the pass to the middle, the deep defenders can't really switch, which makes life a lot easier. Another thing you can do is to play a man in the middle and three women deep (3-1-3). This way, there are no effective poaches from the back (a woman can't help defending a high pass to the middle), and there are only two available poachers with the handlers. It also gives you the opportunity to not use the women at all (wink, wink!), and take the 1 all the way to the house. Again, on a floater the deep defenders won't be able to help much. On the other hand, once you move the disc to your women, there are no male poachers preventing the women from scoring. If they go all the way and poach with a woman from the front so the man-to-man d against the 1 can play from behind, 1 makes the hard 45 in-cut--should get you open and then you have all kinds of match-up/switching problems for the d in the back.
Off course, you can also put a woman in the middle, but then you HAVE TO put two women deep. A man deep is just too dangerous should the pass to the 1 float a little.
If this offense is so good, why is it not played by everyone?
The fact is that this offense has fewer turnovers than some other strategies. The biggest problem is that IF you turn it over, you usually turn it over right in front of your end zone, so it is easy to score the break. More bomb heavy offenses don't have this problem. If you give the other team's d-line a full 70 yards to work the disc up after you run them a little, chances are you get it back. 4-1-2 is also difficult to play in windy conditions, since you throw a lot to space. But it is a GREAT o-set to have in your play book. you can change the whole pace of a game if you "run" an offense from time to time, that involves mostly standing around, and gives the other d-line no chance to run (if you play d a whole game against a good 4-1-2, you will not even break a sweat).
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