Fire Engineering Training Community

Where firefighters come to talk training

The Coordinated Attack: Stealing the X’s and O’s from Football’s Playbook

If you have ever sat through one of my lectures this will not be new.  But as the high school, college and professional football players begin to get back to their practice fields, I thought this lesson in coordinated tactics was relevant.

Many comparisons can be made between American Football and Firefighting.  Football is a game which was developed to mimic a battle field where strategy and tactics are implemented in order to defeat a staunch defense, placed to defend an offensive aggression from reaching their objective, the end zone.  The leader of the offense, the quarterback, is tasked with implementing plays developed and directed by the offensive coordinator.  For implementation purposes, the offense can take the field in multiple formations to combat a specific defensive scheme.

The quarterback in both the fire station and fire ground is the company officer.  The company officer leads his crew in both emergency and on emergency settings, fostering morale, increasing knowledge, skills and abilities, and making important leadership/management decisions.  Similarities can also be made to chief officers and coaches/coordinators, developing policies and procedures and overseeing operational success.

Let’s look at an example.

Here we see #52- Ace Left.  In this play the X wide receiver will take one step back from the line of scrimmage on the snap and receive a pass from the quarterback.  But this action is only half of the play.  The other half of the play is the H and F backs engaging the defensive backs and blocking so the X back can run down the field.  If this play works, it is usually good for about 10 yards before a safety or linebacker re-corrects and reads the play. 

What happens when the H and F backs do not block and decide not to carry out the assigned play?  Simple!  The X back gets knocked into the next world by a corner back, a safety, and maybe a linebacker.  The play requires a coordinated effort.

Now, let us analyze this play from a fire ground perspective.  The quarterback is now the first due engine officer.  The first due engine officer arrives to find fire showing from a structure on the second floor and orders an interior offensive attack with a hand line.  Is the action of the hand line the only fire ground function which will be required to put the fire out?  Now, view the H and F as essential truck company functions.  Examples could be: fire location, forcible entry, search and rescue, and ventilation.  What if you are making a difficult stretch on the second floor of an apartment complex with fire extension, forcible entry issues, and possibly victims trapped and the truck work hasn't happened?  Same principle as the X receiver, failure and knocked into the next world.

The funny side of this, is sometimes crappy tactics still work.  One afternoon while putting a presentation together my youngest son (10 years old) who plays junior football asked, “Dad, why is football in your presentation?”  So I tried to explain the comparison.  I asked Will, what do you do if you need 10 yards and your back is against the wall?  He stated: “We give it to our Quarterback, who is the biggest kid on the team, and let him run.”  That really defeated the purpose of my example.   But in actuality it proved a different point.  There are times on the fire ground where we get away with bad tactics.  Sometimes we simply pull a line off the truck and go straight to fire attack without any coordination.  Heaven forbid if you are taking a gamble with a booster line or small attack line.  That might work 9 out of 10 times.  But what about the 10th fire?  What happens when we are challenged with above grade stretches, victims trapped, forcible entry, and rapid fire events?  What will happen when these tactics are applied to the pros?  DISASTER

I have been blessed with 4 children, 2 being boys who play football.  My oldest son will be a sophomore on the High School Junior Varsity Squad this year.  He has only been playing since 7th grade.  However, in 7th grade the junior team already ran a very complex “spread offense” formation.  They ran it precisely and made very few errors in play execution.  How did they achieve this?  This is achieved for 2 main reasons:

  1. 10 to 1 principle.  They practice 10 minutes for every game minute

  2. They have a very detailed playbook

Why should we be any different in the fire service?  We too should train as thoroughly and work off a playbook (SOG guide). Our game is actually life and death.

Happy football season! GO SEC!

Views: 957


You need to be a member of Fire Engineering Training Community to add comments!

Join Fire Engineering Training Community

Policy Page


The login above DOES NOT provide access to Fire Engineering magazine archives. Please go here for our archives.


Our contributors' posts are not vetted by the Fire Engineering technical board, and reflect the views and opinions of the individual authors. Anyone is welcome to participate.

For vetted content, please go to

Fire Engineering Editor in Chief Bobby Halton
We are excited to have you participate in our discussions and interactive forums. Before you begin posting, please take a moment to read our policy page. -- Bobby Halton

Be Alert for Spam
We actively monitor the community for spam, however some does slip through. Please use common sense and caution when clicking links. If you suspect you've been hit by spam, e-mail

FE Podcasts

Check out the most recent episode and schedule of

© 2022   Created by fireeng.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service