Innovation – “Special Teams”

Special Team Return Charts

Since I will be introducing a new innovation by Mr. Dan Flynn on Friday, I wanted to take the time to post Mr. Mark Zarb’s “Special Teams” innovation. Mark has rated each team’s ability to cover both kick-off and punt returns. These ratings can either be A, B+, B, B- or C. Let’s say Team A is rated “B” on kickoff coverage and “B-“on punt coverage. A separate chart breaking down kickoff and punt returns into each of the aforementioned indices is included above (a sample of part of the kickoff return chart is below). In the Team A example, whenever they are covering a kick-off you would look up the result off of the returner’s card under column “B” on punt returns you would look up the result off of the returner’s card under column “B-“.

Special Team Example






Innovation Friday – “Timing Method”

I want to revisit a tremendous innovation created by Mr. Mark Zarb. Without question, the most important statistic in a football game is “Total Plays”. Why, because if these are off, guess what? All of your other statistics will be “off”, it has the ultimate trickle-down effect.

What is the purpose of an innovation? To improve or rectify an existing shortfall and enhance accuracy. Using the “out of box” rules for timing is a very “cookie-cutter” approach. I say this because it doesn’t account for all the different eras of football or the individual styles of each team. Let’s just look at the statistics from the 2016 NFL season, The New Orleans Saints ran the most plays from scrimmage with 69.06 compared to the Detroit Lions who had the least with 61.31. If interested in comparing NFL seasons from 2009 to present,

Let me provide you with a quick history lesson. Mark and I have corroborated for years on a variety of APBA Football-related issues. Mark is the creator and I’m the tester for all of his incredible card sets and innovations. Never was an innovation or idea “created in a vacuum”. Each of his ideas have been thoroughly tested to determine the “cause and effect” the innovation has on the game engine.

Mark’s “Timing Method” was based off of several of “our” replays that range from the 1960s to 2011. Mark compiled our notes and created the below methodology but it did not stop there. Since then, we have tested it another 60-plus games using two different methods. Mark used the combined “total-play averages” of each team and I used the combined total plays of each team in accordance with the actual box score. What we found, is we consistently came within a plus or minus 2 or 3 plays per game. What I love best about his system is it’s easy to understand and implement. Secondly, it offers the flexibility to counter any situation ranging from the “dead ball era” of the 1970s to Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles.

Mark, I want to take a moment to thank you not only for all that you have done for me personally but for all that you have done for the APBA Football community. Without question, all of your innovations over the years as enhanced the Football gaming experience ten-fold.

Oguard62 Adjustment


Mark Zarb’s 1978 NFL Replay

I’m honored that my APBA Football brother and dear friend, Mark Zarb, will be posting  his 1978 NFL replay on my blog. This will be his fifth full-season NFL replay. His previous efforts can be reviewed on the left-hand sidebar under the “Mark Zarb Vault” widget. His posts will consist of the scoring summary and stat-line for each game”.

Mark will be using cards that he created for use with the modern boards. His preparation for a replay is “legendary” and his “post-game” presentation will be upgraded but still provide the same historical information that his readers have become so accustomed to. If you have never followed one of his replays, all I can say is you are really missing out. In my opinion, he is the finest replayer in the world.

During the 1978 season, the league expanded the regular season from a 14-game schedule to 16. Furthermore, the playoff format was expanded from 8 teams to 10 teams by adding another wild card from each conference. The wild card teams played each other, with the winner advancing to the playoff round of eight teams.

The season ended with Super Bowl XIII when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys at the Orange Bowl in Miami.

The average salary for a player in 1978 was under $62,600, up 13.2 percent over the previous year. Fran Tarkenton was the highest-paid quarterback at $360,000 and running back O.J. Simpson was the highest paid player, at just under $733,400.

The league passed major rule changes to encourage offensive scoring. In 1977 – the last year of the so-called “Dead Ball Era” – teams scored an average of 17.2 points per game, the lowest total since 1942.

  • To open up the passing game, defenders are permitted to make contact with receivers only to a point of five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. This applies only to the time before the ball is thrown, at which point any contact is pass interference. Previously, contact was allowed anywhere on the field. This is usually referred to as the “Mel Blount Rule”
  • The offensive team may only make one forward pass during a play from scrimmage, but only if the ball does not cross the line and return behind the line prior to the pass.
  • Double touching of a forward pass is legal, but batting a pass towards the opponent’s end zone is illegal. Previously, a second offensive player could not legally catch a deflected pass unless a defensive player had touched it. This is usually referred to as the “Mel Renfro Rule”.
  • The pass blocking rules were extended to permit extended arms and open hands.
  • The penalty for intentional grounding is reduced from a loss of down and 15 yards to a loss of down and 10 yards from the previous spot (or at the spot of the foul if the spot is 10 yards or more behind the line of scrimmage). If the passer commits the foul in his own end zone, the defense scores a safety.
  • Hurdling is no longer a foul.

“QB Sneak” Chart

I want to share this neat “qb-sneak” chart created by Mark Zarb. This chart incorporates fumbles, first down measurements, penalties and lost yardage versus all three defensive alignments. For example, it’s third and one and offense is in A index against G defensive alignment and the play result off the QB’s card is 11. Refer to the chart and you will see (1-4)* indicating a measurement is required. Roll single die and if within 1-4 range it’s a 1-yard gain and a first down. If it was outside the range (5 or 6) there is no gain.

Mark and I incorporated this chart into our audible system. The QB comes to the line and “A” gap is not covered by a defender, the QB has the option to audible to a QB sneak or you can use this chart purely as a “standalone” feature. Either way it offers another alternative to playing this great game without slowing down play.

Timing Adjustment Chart

When using the Master Game Addition, each quarter consists of 30 full plays.  Certain plays are recorded as half-plays (i.e., incompletions, touchdowns, field goals, safeties, plays that go out of bounds, whenever the ball changes team possession and penalties).  Each half play accounts for a 15- second interval, a quarter consists of 60 half plays.  Let’s use the following example, The NY Jets kick off to the NE Patriots and the ball is returned to the NE 20-yard line to begin the game (half play or 14:45). Tom Brady’s first down pass is incomplete (half play or 14:30).  L. Blount is stuffed for no gain on second down but remained in bounds (full play or 14:00). Darrelle Revis intercepts Tom Brady’s third-down pass 25-yards downfield and returns it 45-yards for a touchdown (half play or 13:45).  I would record this play on the reverse side of my scoresheet as: NYJ – Revis 45 interception return (Folk kick), 13:45.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an alternative timing methodology to enhance the realism of the game? Wait no more; Mark Zarb has created a simple but effective solution that only requires three dice (traditional red and white die and another colored die) and the Timing Adjustment Chart. After a scoring play, roll all three dice and read the red/white in first column and the other colored die across the top.  If the other colored die roll is a 6, a re-roll is required.

Timing Adjustment Example

Using the above example, I would add 8 from the original time of 13:45 resulting in the new time of 13:53. I would now record the scoring play as: NYJ – Revis 45 interception return (Folk kick), 13:53.

Note:  If you time a game were the final play of the game is annotated as the 15:00 mark, you would subtract.  If you time a game were the final play of the game is annotated as 0:00 you would add.

Greatest Replay Ever Done

What happens when you combine a first class card set with a replayer who leaves no stone unturned? Magic! Mark Zarb’s recreation of the 1972 campaign was the closest thing to perfection that I’ve ever seen.

To have a successful replay, one must dedicate countless hours in the preparation phase. Normally this consists of creating team workbooks to capture and compare data, develop cumulative conference and league workbooks, trade/waiver wire sheets, team sheets, innovations, etc. The coined phrase “attention to detail” is greatly overused in today’s society; however, it doesn’t come remotely close when describing Mark’s preparation. Did I mention the fact that Mark created the set? Most folks associated with APBA Football know of his tremendous card making ability but I’m not sure they understand the lengths he goes to achieve realism. For example, sacks were not an official stat until 1982 but he was determined to know each player’s sack totals. To do that, he purchased each team’s media guide and read them cover to cover. When a media guide wasn’t available, he would read archive newspaper clippings of every game to parse together sack information or watch youtube game clips. Who cares about touchback totals or who the holder was on extra point attempts? He does, he would search until these trivial details were answered. I remember a while back he had me watch the 1972 Monday Night game clip between the Jets and Raiders not to see Namath toss a TD pass but to see if I could read the number of the long snapper for the Raiders. It took him only three months to card and print this set with innovations (yards per catch, fumble frequency numbers, sack & interception ratings, penalty ratings, special team ratings, etc.) while working a full time job!

Shifting gears from card maker to replayer. In addition to the above mentioned preparation tasks, Mark created automated locator boards for all 26 teams. Once loaded, these boards allowed him to determine the following with one keyboard stroke: Lookup offensive index against Offensive Index Finder System, determine defense’s “Fletch” rating on neutral downs, defensive alignment on situational downs, keying/double coverage, blitz, designate rusher and type of running play, designate receiver/grade/YPC ratings/type of pass/index, trick plays, defender who registered the sack or interception and return specialist on kick/punt returns. Whenever I conduct a replay, I always refer to my special teams’ template when determining who was injured or recovered the fumble during a punt, punt return, kick off, kick return or field goal or extra point attempt. Evidently I’m a slacker because he makes special teams rosters for each unit for all the teams.

If you listen to any successful professional athlete, they always say playing the game is the easy part because of their preparation. It’s no different for Mark because all the heavy lifting was done in the preparation phase. Now he can enjoy the interactive journey of playing a game. His method of play is a simple five step process:

  • Refresh offensive team’s locator boards to determine index, play type, runner/receiver, audible, etc.
  • Refresh defensive team’s locator boards to determine defensive alignment for neutral or situational downs, keying/double coverage, blitzing, etc.
  • Roll three dice (traditional dice determine play result and blue dice indicates which column to use (1-4 or 2-3).
  • Look up play result on Master game boards.
  • Move football, down markers and first down marker accordingly.

Mark did an excellent job in the reporting phase of a replay. Each and every game report can be read in “APBA Between the Lines” forum sponsored by Delphi forum. He researched each game on the Paper of Record or other avenues and provided a brief synopsis of the actual game. Mark than provided a detailed account with full statistics of the replayed game. His game summaries and box scores are concise with a nice clean appearance. For those familiar with the Pro-Football Reference website, it provides a detailed account of each season played. Mark’s replay is no different; he goes the extra mile and provides weekly standings, individual team schedules and results, final standings and team/individual statistics and team/conference/league workbooks.

His game summaries/box scores can be viewed at the below link. I highly recommend you peruse the bevy of statistics from his 1972 replay in the “Mark Zarb Vault” on the side bar of this site. I’m very proud of my friend for all of his hard work and his pursuit in achieving “The Perfect Replay”. Well done!