Smart Football has moved!

Please check out the new site, All future updates will be made there.

Monday, July 02, 2007

What Killed the Run and Shoot?

Q: What killed the Run and Shoot? Why don't you see "the shoot" anymore in the NFL or major college football?

A: First, you have to distinguish between the
"Run and Shoot" as a specific, delineated system, and the individual Run and Shoot "concepts" or routes. And I'm not just referring to spreading with four wide receivers. I'm referring to the specific "Choice," "Go," "Switch," and the broader design of the system.

The first answer is that even if the "the Shoot" is dead, the Concepts live. This is so whether any of their current benefactors would admit it (or, in some instances, whether they even realize they are using run and shoot concepts). Indeed, the concepts are here to stay. Mike Martz with the Rams and now the Lions consistently use forms of Choice and Switch. Petrino at Louisville (we shall see in Atlanta) has used a couple R&S concepts. Even Charlie Weis at Notre Dame uses a play very similar to the Georgia concept. Moreover, the famous four verticals so common today where the slot receiver reads the coverage to attack the seam or the deep middle was largely developed and expanded upon by the R&S. Everyone who seriously considers passing offense should study the Run and Shoot.

The Shoot as a specific, delineated system with the four wide receivers (or two split ends and two slots), a single back, half-rollouts, certain run plays, the protections, the screen, and the like was countered. Offenses responded and have disguised their run and shoot philosophies by calling them different things and showing different looks. There is nothing magical (or surreptitious) about that; it is the West Coast philosophy and it is a good one. The reason people question this is because, for a time, the Run and Shoot had nearly unparralleled success.

As the typical story goes, the zone blitz killed the R&S. The preface to this story is that for twenty years, the Run and Shoot did not get blitzed. Well, it did, but Run and Shoot teams (like the U of Houston) would score 60 or 70 on those teams, and the NFL teams that tried it would give up after a quarter or half touchdowns raining from the sky.

How do you employ a four-wide pass-happy attack that was blitz proof for twenty years? And then why did it suddenly get blitzed out of existence?

The history of the Shoot is a lesson to all offensive coaches, and this same principle can be applied by all manenr of offensive coaches, and is often applied by coaches like Joe Gibbs and teams like the Indy Colts in the use of Tight ends and H-Backs.

The R&S used the RB in the protection. The quarterback would do a half-roll to one side, the line would do a kind of sprint-out/turnback protection, and the runningback would often block the defensive end or end man on the line of scrimmage to the half-roll side. About 8-10 times a game, however, the running back would block the DE for a 1001 count, and then slide off and release for a screen pass as his linemen got downfield to block for him. Against an all-out blitzing team, no one covered him because he had already engaged a defender, so everyone assumed he was in the protection, they would rush upfield, and the runningback would release out into the open field.

It becomes a study in game theory and reading and reacting. So defenses responded to this tactic. They had to keep at least one safety or another defender back to spy the RB. Why does this mean no blitzing? If the RB is able to block the end man on the line of scrimmage while another player must sit back and not blitz, simply to see whether or not the RB releases on a screen. The net result was that R&S teams rarely, if ever, saw Cover 0 blitzing man defenses. They could always release four receivers, block with six (assuming their six could block the other teams' six) and not face any overload blitzes.

Enter the zone blitz. Back in his days with Texas A&M, Bob Davie was an innovator. Against run and shoot teams like the University of Houston, he would run his 3-4 defense, blitz his outside LBs (thus forcing the RB to stay in and block), and drop off defensive linemen and interior linebackers so he could still play zone with six to eight defenders. As a result the R&S's protection and formation scheme broke down. They blocked with six, had the running back on a bad matchup with a good OLB, faced an unblocked rusher, but the defense still had 6-8 guys in coverage, so the R&S's "hot reads" and breakoffs did not work either. The run and shoot finally had to adapt. Sure they could do things like certain quick breakoffs and other gadgets, but free rushers and seven guys in coverage was a losing battle for the QB.

So it was not merely "disguising coverages," (as Run and Shoot QBs and receivers were well coached and could still find the voids or the single man), or the blitzing (as shown above, Run and Shoot teams could defeat the blitz), it was the defensive combination of always being able to always get an unblocked rusher, eat the RB, and run a disguised zone that eventually rattled and slowed down the "pure" Run and Shoot.

So did the R&S die? In a sense. Even those who still swear by it, like Hawaii's June Jones, both do not run the same "Shoot" in exact form, have changed their protections, and remain bitterly secretive regarding the system, fearing another breakdown.

But in another, perhaps larger sense, the Shoot is stronger than ever. More teams and more teams use its concepts. And, for a "dead offense," it still stirs up quite a bit of discussion, no?

Passing Concepts

I've had a few questions recently regarding passing concepts. For a primer, here are a few previous posts on the subject:

Organizing Pass Plays as Concepts
Further Note on Concepts
Packaging Concepts

Q: I have some questions concerning different passing concepts. Unsurprisingly, I've found many different opinions concerning number of concepts and names for them. I've heard some coaches say that every passing play falls into one of four different concepts, including: vertical stretch, horizontal stretch (outside in, inside out), flood concept, or a single receiver concept. However, I did read the Norm Chow article on your website and saw how there are coaches who believe there are many more than that. This seems confusing. For example, some coaches have a "Quick Game" concept. How can that be a single concept when most of the plays in the quick game use a different concept? In our quick game we have a four verts play that is a vertical stretch concept. [Ed Note: Is it really a vertical stretch? Or a "deep horizontal stetch" on the F/S?] I am aware that a single play can have more than on concept in it and I understand that different coaches have different names for the same plays/routes/concepts etc. I am just looking for some more clarification on ways to tell which category a certain passing play fits.

A: Passing concepts are intended as a tool and a framework to attack defenses. I put up multiple approaches to show that there isn't one hard and fast way to go about it, and to demonstrate that it's just a way of thinking about passes that can improve your approach. I think you can keep the number of concepts fairly small.

I will note that I think there is something to Norm Chow's "oblique" or "triangle" concepts, (which really is just the combination of a hi/low and a horizontal stretch). So my advice is to just tinker with it and come up with a framework that works for you. On one level, I'm convinced that there are really only three "concepts" - vertical stretches (hi/lo), horizontal stretches (in/out or out/in), and man concepts (rubs, option routes, or just plain old routes good against man). Then from there you break them down further (two level or three level vertical stretches; 1-2 in/out reads or 1-2-3; triangles which are both 1-2 hi/lo and 1-2 in/out reads).

In the end, it's about finding a way to structure your offense so that it (a) makes sense, (b) is tight and efficient with a core set of plays, with the best way of achieving this being to eliminate duplicative concepts, and (c) gives you a quick framework to draw upon when attacking defenses.