How Many Different Plays Does an NFL Playbook Have? (Explained!)

Last Updated on May 15, 2022 by

Typically, an NFL playbook contains an average of 300 plays that may not be used during the games. Different variations of plays in an NFL playbook are highly dependent on the coach and team’s decision regarding their game plan. Certain teams possess a large number of various plays while some teams are heavily reliant on a similar play throughout the entirety of a game. 

NFL as a sports game requires physicality and high technicality with each team coming up with a new system to have a unique identity and winning strategy. The playbook contains designs, formations and terminologies needed to prepare ahead of NFL game.  

Have you ever wondered how many plays are there in an NFL playbook? Seek no further as this article will provide resources enough to answer your queries about different plays in an NFL playbook and how it’s key aspects can be executed on the field of play. Now, let’s get right into it!

What is an NFL playbook?

What is an NFL playbook

Traditionally, playbooks are old-school printouts or pdf downloads that contain all sets of plays a team can call during NFL games. the offensive and defensive aspects of the game as well as running and passing plays are expected to be in playbooks in different variations. Game plans and formations which are crucial to a team’s winning strategy are embedded in playbooks and must be guarded closely to prevent the opposition from planning against them. Furthermore, NFL playbooks amazingly come in different varieties with versions like Organized Team Activities(OTA) playbook, a training camp playbook, a regular-season playbook, and a final global playbook which practically covers everything regarding NFL games.

What are plays and how are they named in an NFL playbook?

Play is a term used in NFL to describe a close-to-the-ground strategy performed to move the ball down the field during games. As a unique way to safeguard a team’s formations and gameplay strategy, odd monikers like zoom, quick ace, and buzz are given to plays by teams. Depending on the play that is called, each moniker has its meaning and specifically refers to actions within the play.

How many plays are in an average NFL playbook?

A playbook is arguably the most challenging piece in NFL and the sports world as a whole. On a rough estimate, a typical playbook will have several plays in different variations which might be up to 4000 to 6000. This includes offensive and defensive plays as well as other varieties used by NFL players to assemble a game plan and winning strategy. In finer detail, playbooks typically have a hundred of plays but teams selects a certain number of plays ahead of a particular game. In most cases, teams chooses 75 to 100 and 15 to 20 for pass plays and running players respectively.

How do NFL players memorize plays?

As stated earlier, plays come in massive numbers and different variations. As a rule, it is massively important for NFL players to extract and absorb every inch of information the playbook contains. However, players don’t have to memorize everything in the pages of a playbook. The playbook serves as a reference point with requirements and expectations for each playing position clearly stated. Often, offensive plays require the quarterback to memorize what every other player is doing. Blocking assignments, downfield tactics, snap count, passing routes, and running routes are basic tasks expected to be carried out by each player during the games.

How long does it take to learn an NFL playbook?

The content of a typical NFL playbook is large and it might be above a hundred of pages. There is a diverse technicality in plays which makes some harder to learn than others. NFL is a grueling sport and require players to go through the basics. Concepts and procedures of the game are in the playbook and everything therein can’t be taken for granted. Practically, to have a total knowledge of the entire playbook content would take 2-3 years for a quarterback – which is probably the most sensitive position in an NFL teams lineup. On the flip side, it would take a year to two years for other players to learn the whole scheme.

How do NFL players know what to play?

In a custom manner during NFL season, each play is communicated to players via radio contact for a certain period before plays commence. In addition to that, Players on the substitute bench can be ordered onto the pitch if the coach wants them to have an idea of what to run before they get called upon. Pictorials or hand signals can also be deployed as a means to call plays by a sideline coach.

How difficult is it to learn an NFL playbook?

As an important piece that is essentially required to speed up the developmental process of NFL players, the playbook’s content must be absorbed into understandable terminologies and also stay grounded in ever-evolving and complex NFL games. In general, terms, learning a playbook containing concepts and procedures,  and terminologies with over a hundred pages were always going to be a daunting task but could get easier as teams use verbiage to describe assigned duties, personnel, and play side. The Learning Process of an NFL playbook can be hastened when teams also try to fasten up play calls.


We have a compiled list of frequently asked questions about different plays in an NFL playbook. Let’s check them out!

How many plays does an NFL player have to memorize?

In simple terms, each player has to memorize Nine plays out of ten.

How similar are NFL playbooks?

Playbooks come in different variations and are usually dissimilar in content. Some might have over 800 pages while some might be just above a hundred.

Are NFL playbooks sold to the Public?

No! Although there were a few cases of playbooks being sold several decades ago, it is not commonly up for sale in public as it contains sensitive information which must be closely guarded by each team.

Why do NFL coaches use playbooks?

NFL Playbooks are designed to serve as a reference point for coaches to select a winning strategy and for players to understand their roles under different circumstances during games.

Closing thoughts

NFL playbooks contain diagrammatic play designs and it is a traditional term for plays a team can call during games. the content is unique to each team’s winning strategy and players’ position. Plays come in different variations and could be up to 4000 to 6000, which must be closely guarded by each team to prevent the opposition from planning against the strategy ahead.

This article aims to provide resources for your queries about the different plays in an NFL playbook and we hope this write-up has done enough justice in that regard. For more questions about the article topic, kindly reach out to us through the comment section. 


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