The Wild Bunch: A Conflict-Theoretical Approach to Football Offense

Internet Gridiron Guru Ted Seay has finally published his book about his Wild Bunch Offense … I asked and he was kind enough to give us a preview of the book … 

If interested here is a link to the FACEBOOK PAGE.

And here is a link to the AMAZON PAGE if you want to buy it.

About the Book:

For the football coach and/or athletic director looking for a winning edge for their program; for the fan who yearns to dig beneath the game-day blather of TV “experts”; for students of conflict theory who find themselves attracted to the American version of football because they sense far more strategic thought at work than with, say, soccer; this book is for you!

The Wild Bunch offense features “modular” elements of some of the best-known football offensive systems of the past 50 years, and it does so in a way that maximizes deception and misdirection through what I call the “unity of apparent intent” – making one thing on offense look like another, and another, and another, long enough to confuse the defense and prevent the kind of swarming gang-tackling that the best defenses feature. These “modules” include play series borrowed from the Air Raid passing attack, the Fly Sweep offense, the Bunch passing attack, and the Run & Shoot offense.

A long time in gestation, the elements of the Wild Bunch system were first shared over Internet coaching boards in the late 1990s, and the offense has been in use ever since in both North America and Europe. As a result of my “day job” as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, I have been able to clinic and install the Wild Bunch in five countries on three continents, as well as spreading its basic theory and premises to coaches in some 8-10 other countries.

The present volume represents a number of milestones for the Wild Bunch: First publication; first simplification and codification of its plays into four series; and above all, first working of the Wild Bunch offense into the larger framework of my professional and academic research on conflict avoidance, amelioration and resolution theory, or CAART. This last point has occasioned two major differences from previous collections of Wild Bunch plays which I have posted along the way to Internet coaching forums: First, an in-depth analysis of the strategic underpinnings of North American (American and Canadian) football; and following from that, a spirited defense of the game itself in the face of what appear to be concerted attacks on its very existence, starting with youth football, but aiming inexorably at the game in every form.

While other books have dealt with components of the Wild Bunch offense, none has put together its modular elements into the kind of seamless whole which can misdirect defenses at will and increase scoring opportunities for smaller and less-talented squads. Nor has any football book on a particular system gone into such detail on the strategic infrastructure of the game – into the “Why” of offensive maneuvers, rather than simply the “What” and “How”. The great advantage of understanding why to call certain plays is, inter alia, to better know when to call them – when the opponent has been sufficiently deceived as to allow priceless scoring opportunities, no matter how superior they might appear to your squad on paper.

About the Author:
Ted Seay is senior policy consultant with the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) in London, England. Prior to that, he served for 26 years as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, most recently at the US Mission to NATO as arms control advisor from 2008 to 2011. Previously, Seay was seconded to the Secretariat of the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies in Vienna from 2005 to 2008. Prior postings included Slovenia (1998-2001) as liaison to the International Trust Fund for Demining (ITF); the US Department of State’s European Regional Political-Military (EUR/RPM) office (1996-1998), negotiating compliance with the Dayton Peace Accords’ military annex; and State’s Strategic Policy and Negotiations (PM/SPN) office (1994-1996), where he helped draft the Dayton military annex. He joined the State Department in 1985.

Seay has coached American football internationally with the Waverley Sharks in Melbourne, Australia, and as a volunteer assistant with the youth program of the Chrysler Vikings in Vienna, Austria. Since 2000 he has also served as an Internet consultant with football teams in Australia, Canada, the Philippines, Mexico, England, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, France, Denmark and the U.S. He has provided information on offenses including the Single Wing, Double Wing, Wing-T, TCU Spread, “A” formation, Spread Option Run-and-Shoot, and his own offense, the Wild Bunch, at every level from Pop Warner to semi-pro (the Gloucester County Generals in the Diamond Football League). The Generals went 9-2 and won the New Jersey division of the DFL running his Wild Bunch offense in 2005.

Seay’s defensive expertise has ranged from the Split-4 to the 5-5-1 “2-Level” defense, which he has used exclusively since 1988. Seay helped Chabot Junior College in Northern California install the 2LD before their 2004 season. They finished 8-3 and went to their first bowl game in several years. In addition, he has helped coaches in a number of programs with special teams, including the Wild Boars of Kragujevac, Serbia.

Seay has spoken at a number of clinics, including the first Double Wing Symposium in Dallas, Texas in February 2004, at a single wing clinic in Los Angeles in May 2005, and at the Single Wing Conclave in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, both in person and via Internet video conferencing.

Seay holds an A.A. (Criminology) from City College of San Francisco, a B.A. (Political Science) from the University of California, Berkeley, and an M.S. (Strategic Intelligence) from the Joint Military Intelligence College. In addition, he believes himself to be the only person in history to have been published by Wisden Cricket Monthly, Gridiron Strategy, AND Arms Control Today.

The following is an excerpt from the book about Ted’s thinking on series-based play calling, utilizing the “paradoxical logic of conflict” (logic excerpt first to set the stage):

Before we look at the concept of deception as it applies to various forms of human endeavor, we would do well to examine the basic, underlying logic that holds for both warfare and American football:

The large claim I advance here is that strategy is pervaded by a paradoxical logic very different from the ordinary “linear” logic by which we live in all other spheres of life… [it is] only in the paradoxical realm of strategy [and] war that a bad road can be good precisely because it is bad and may therefore be less strongly defended or even left unguarded by the enemy…when there is a live enemy opposite, who is reacting to undo everything being attempted, with his own mind and his own strength.[1]


I say American football is a strategic war game because it reflects, better than any other game or athletic contest, the “paradoxical logic” Professor Luttwak mentions above.  Football is an organized clash between opposing forces, where every step taken by either side is confronted by “a live enemy opposite, who is reacting to undo everything being attempted, with his own mind and his own strength.”

            Because of that, the seemingly best course of action can actually be among the worst, since your opponent can also see that it is your obvious choice.  In warfare, a straight road from your position to your objective can be counted on to be heavily defended by the enemy – precisely because it is the “best” road.

            In football, a team which features large, powerful offensive linemen, tight ends and running backs can be expected to line up in a Power-I or similar formation and try to ram the ball down their opponents’ throats – and for identical reasons of “paradoxical logic”, this can prove to be the very worst course of action to take.  Your opponents will of course align their defenders and strategies to stop your power running inside, in order to take away what you do best and force you to “play left-handed” – a key defensive stratagem.  Thus successful football – offensive, defensive and special teams – calls for something other than doing the obvious on every down.

[1] Luttwak 2001, pp. 2-3.



            The underlying logic behind this thinking is, of course, Edward Luttwak’s (Chapter 3).  It is important to understand, however, that even military theorists who grasp the “paradoxical logic of conflict” can make assumptions which ignore the whole picture – and that this is a phenomenon which we as football coaches can exploit.  For example, in the 1999 collection Contemporary Security and Strategy, J. Mohan Malik wrote about the “indirect approach” to conflict espoused by Captain Sir Basil H. Liddell Hart:

Flexibility needs to be exercised in following the line of least expectation and least resistance to induce the enemy’s collapse. [1]

            Unlike Liddell Hart, however, Malik here assumes that the lines of least expectation (a psychological phenomenon) and least resistance (a physical reality) must coincide.  It is easy to prove that they often do not, especially in our American war game of football.

            The Green Light Sweep is based on the assumption that the widest part of the field is the least heavily defended – it’s a simple matter of arithmetic to prove that there are fewer bodies available to defend each square yard out past the numbers.  If an offense organizes itself around the threat to attack that part of the field as its first priority, which is what the Fly sweep series is all about, it challenges defenses to react quickly to bring extra support out wide.  This is where the strategic fun begins.

            The line of physical least resistance may start out as the line of psychological least expectation, but when teams use the Fly Sweep series, opponents start to expect the wide attack and deploy their forces accordingly.  In short order, in fact, as soon as the defense sees a back going in Fly motion, the line of least resistance out wide past the numbers becomes the line of greatest expectation – defenders will try to be out there waiting for the Fly sweeper to turn up.

            Now the real advantage of the Wild Bunch becomes clear.  Whichever means the opponent uses to add defenders to the wide area can be attacked by a different play in the series, all using the same formation and motion, all identical until the snap (and some for a second or two after that):

DEFENSIVE ACTION                                                                                                                                    OFFENSIVE REACTION
* defender goes wide/upfield on Green Light Sweep (GLS) snap                                                      12/17 Red Light Sweep (RLS)
ILBs stop tackling faking F on 10/19 GLS                                                                                                       14/16 Dive
ILBs flow outside with 10 GLS                                                                                                                        15 Spin Trap
LBs, DBs flow outside on 19 GLS                                                                                                                    13 Counter, 11 Truck, X Reverse
Backside EMLOS ignores QB boot action on 10 GLS                                                                                     18 Boot
DBs come up to stop run                                                                                                                                   10 Shear, 19 Dig

[1] Malik 1999., p. 29.

* End Man, Line Of Scrimmage – usually a Defensive End or Outside Linebacker, often with Contain duties.

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