'Film room is the holy land'

Becoming a top player in the NFL requires more than just physical ability. Each of our experts spent a great deal of time in the film room. They explain why it was so critical to their success.

Theismann: The only way to be great

Joe Theismann


Joe Theismann played quarterback for the Redskins from 1974 to '85.

Joe Theismann: If you want to be a great player in this league, the film room is the holy land. Talent and heart can only take you so far, and the true impact players know the film room is where you become a star.

Studying film is how a player and a team find the little quirks in an opponent. There were times in my playing career when the coaches would have a play in mind they wanted to use against a team, and would make a tweak to it because of what we saw in the film room.

That might mean switching a deep route to a mid route, while keeping the same snap count, quarterback drop and motions. There were other times when we'd call a play that would typically involve our outside receiver running a slant route, then have him fake the slant and go upfield. As a result, the cornerback would jump the fake slant and be totally out of position. If everything broke correctly on a play like that, not much was stopping the receiver from making a big gain.

This is the type of information and knowledge you only get from studying film.

Allen: Recognize and respond

Eric Allen


Eric Allen played defensive back for the Eagles, Saints and Raiders from 1988 to 2001.

Eric Allen: I studied film religiously and got a reputation around the league for being able to sniff out plays by the opposition. A great example is when I played for the Philadelphia Eagles. One of the teams I saw a lot was the New York Giants, so I felt pretty comfortable with a lot of the Giants' play calling.

There was one play they loved to call where they would line up two receivers on the left side. They would send one of them deep and another one on an intermediate route, then roll the running back over to the left side to run a short button hook.

During the play, Giants quarterback Phil Simms would do a hard pump fake to the deep receiver to draw the corner off the intermediate, then go to him the minute that corner broke away.

I noticed this in the film room and decided because the deep receiver was my responsibility, I should start breaking on the intermediate receiver the moment the pump fake was executed, entrusting the safety to cover the deep receiver. As a result, I had tremendous success against that play over the next few games. Imagine my surprise when during one game, Simms didn't do a hard pump fake, but actually let the ball go to the deep receiver. I was caught out of position and the receiver was able to score. Coming off the field, I looked at Simms and he had a big grin on his face. He kept saying: "We finally got you on that play!"

Salisbury: Keep yourself connected

Sean Salisbury


Sean Salisbury was backup QB for several teams from 1987 to '94.

Sean Salisbury: Even though I didn't get on the field a lot as a backup quarterback in the league, I tried my best to be as prepared as possible in case I needed to play. Since I wasn't going to get many reps with the first team during practice, my way of getting up to speed with the offense and staying prepared was by getting work in the film room. I tried my best to spend a good part of my week preparing as though I might start the following week, so I would be ready for whatever was thrust upon me.

I was also able to converse with the starting quarterback and the coaching staff, giving my thoughts on changes that could be made and what kind of plays should be installed. Even if the majority of my ideas were not listened to, it was a good way for me to stay engaged with the on-field play and also show the staff I was prepared.