Offensive philosophy (American football)
The approach to offense in American and Canadian football has splintered and evolved in the 100 years in which the modern form of the sport has existed. Many philosophies exist about deploying a team's 11 (or, in Canada, 12) players.
- 1 Smash Mouth
- 2 Wing T Offense
- 3 Option
- 4 Pro Style
- 5 Coryell Offense/ Air Coryell/ Vertical Offense
- 6 West Coast Offense
- 7 Run and Shoot
- 8 The Spread
- 9 Spread Option
- 10 Pistol Offense
- 11 Wildcat Offense (Single Wing)
- 12 Notes
A smash mouth offense is the more traditional style of offense. It often results in a higher time of possession by running the ball heavily. So-called "smash-mouth football" is often run out of the I-formation or wishbone, with tight ends and receivers used as blockers. Though the offense is run-oriented, pass opportunities can develop as defenses play close to the line. Play-action can be very effective for a run-oriented team.
"Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust"
"Three yards and a cloud of dust" is a type of run-heavy offense, such as the system run by Woody Hayes of Ohio State University from the 1950s to 1970s. A quarterback playing under Hayes often threw fewer than 10 passes a game. Darrell K. Royal is credited as saying, "Three things can happen when you pass the ball and two of them are bad". This is a ball control offense that relies on maximizing time of possession by running the ball inside (between the tackles) in order to systematically advance the ball down the field. Hayes relied heavily on the fullback off-tackle play.
Run to Daylight
The basic running philosophy employed by the Green Bay Packers under coach Vince Lombardi. The central two plays in this philosophy are off-tackle run and the so-called "Packer Sweep". In both plays, the offensive line works to seal off a running lane for the back to use, and the running back aims for this corridor rather than a specific presnap hole. In the off tackle run, the quarterback hands off (often to the fullback) who started running to the position between the tight end and tackle, and aims for the best hole that developed. In the sweep, the two guards pull to form the outside wall of the running lane, while the center and runside tackle form the inside wall of the lane. The fullback leads the path through the lane for the half back, who received a pitch from the quarterback.
- Seattle Seahawks
- San Francisco 49ers
- Jacksonville Jaguars
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Cleveland Browns
- Baltimore Ravens
- New York Jets
- Tennessee Titans
- Fresno State Bulldogs
- Iowa Hawkeyes
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Wisconsin Badgers
Wing T Offense
The Wing T can be grouped into two major types. The first is the "Delaware," named after the college that first used the offense. This offense generally uses two running backs and the quarterback to move the ball, with a degree of passing. The other type is the "Bay City," also named after the college that first used it. The Bay City uses three running backs and the quarterback. This offense can be used in either power running or run fakes, and passes less than the Delaware offense.
In both types of the Wing T, the key to the offense is the linemen. A large majority of the plays are done by trapping or pulling one or more of the linemen; this includes passing as well as running plays. This offense also carries out extreme fakes. The Bay City will sometimes have the QB and all three RBs carrying out run fakes well past the line of scrimmage. The Delaware, when run properly, will do the same, but only the HB and FB will do the run fakes and the QB typically fakes a pass play. Bucksweep.com is a website dedicated to the Wing-t offense.
The typical formation of the Bay City version is the Full House T with two TEs. Variations of this can be used; all have three RBs in the backfield carrying out fakes. The Delaware offense typically has a wing back, halfback, and a fullback. The full back lines up behind the QB with the wing back on the strong side of the formation a yard back and next to either the TE or OT. The HB can be located in a number of spots, typically either at the same depth as the FB behind the T, or a yard back and next to the TE or OT on the weak side of the formation.
Variations of the Wing T include having the WB move as a WR in a pro set, the WB moved next to a WR on the weak side to create a Trips look, to having two WR and the WB and HB next to the OTs. Any number of formation changes can be done as long as an HB and FB are in the backfield.
- University of Delaware (prior to 2002)
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (during the Parseghian years, they ran the Delaware Wing T)
- Kansas City Chiefs (1978-1982 when Marv Levy was the head coach of the team).
- Frisco High School Raccoons (Under coach Vance Gibson; 2004–Present)
- Auburn Tigers (2013–present, Auburn currently runs plays that are based off the Wing T formation)
- Eden High School Raiders (NY) (2009–present)
- Saint Thomas Aquinas High School (Hammond, Louisiana), ever since John White became the head coach (2005–present)
- Landon School (MD) (2009–Present)
- Iaeger High School(WV) under head coach Mitchell Estep (1979-2010)
- Lahainaluna High School (Lahaina, HI)
- Matewan High School (WV) under Head coach Danny "YOGI" Kinder (1980-2010)
- Mingo Central High School (WV) under Head Coach Danny "YOGI" Kinder (2011–present)
- Glenbrook South High School - Head Coach Mike "Batman" Noll (2005–Present)
- Westhampton Beach High School, Long Island, NY (1997-Present)
- Sherwood High School (OR) (Under head coach Greg Lawrence)
- Episcopal High School (LA) (Under Offensive Coordinator Mike Moock)
- Waldwick/Midland Park Warriors (NJ) Under head coach Greg Gruzdis
Popularized in the wishbone offense of Oklahoma, the Option is a timing-based run offense that requires a quick-thinking quarterback and running backs with blockers able to react quickly to defenses. In a typical option play, the quarterback will take the snap and, based on the defenses formation and play, can decide whether to keep the ball himself and run it around the end, or pitch it to a running back following behind him. In contrast to an audible, where the quarterback reads the defense before the snap, an option requires the quarterback to read the defense during play, often while he himself is running with the ball. By making the defense commit to stopping either him or the running back, the quarterback makes the defense show its hand first. Though the wishbone has fallen out of favor, the option offense is still used in conjunction with the flexbone, wing-T, and even spread and shotgun formations. The service academies, especially Air Force and Navy are well known for heavy use of the wishbone and flexbone formation, to great degrees of success. In high school football it is called Veer and has been used with some success over the years (De La Salle High School of California recorded the nation's longest ever winning streak, 151 games, using the veer). Although a majority of high school players typically lack the skill and talent to run it effectively, most defenses in high school are unable to stop it properly all the time.
- Air Force Falcons - multiple option
- Navy Midshipmen - flexbone formation triple option
- Georgia Southern Eagles - flexbone formation triple option
- Bethune-Cookman Wildcats - flexbone formation triple option
- Salisbury Seagulls - flexbone formation triple option
- Houston Cougars - Veer
- John Curtis Patriots - split-back Veer
- Carolina Panthers - triple option
- Georgia Tech - triple option
A pro-style offense is a broad term in American football that means any offensive scheme that resembles those predominantly used at the professional level of play in the NFL, in contrast to those typically used at the collegiate or high school level. Pro-style offenses are only run by a few college teams and virtually never run at the high school level. The term should not be confused with a pro set, which is a specific formation that is used by some offenses at the professional level. Generally, pro-style offenses are more complex than typical college or high school offenses. They are balanced, requiring offensive lines that are adept at both pass and run blocking, quarterbacks with good decision-making abilities, and running backs who are capable of running between the tackles. Offenses that fall under the pro-style category include the West Coast offense, the Air Coryell offense, and the Erhardt-Perkins offensive system. Often, Pro Style offenses utilize certain formations much more commonly than the Air Raid, Run and Shoot, Flexbone, Spread, Pistol, or Option offenses. Pro Style offenses typically utilize the FB and TEs much more commonly than offenses used at the collegiate or high school levels. Such formations usually include the following:
Ace: A standard formation with 2 or 3 WRs outside and a RB lined up behind the QB who is under center. This formation often eschews a FB for a 3rd WR or a 2nd TE.
I Formation: Another standard formation with 2 WRs on the outside and a RB lined up behind a FB and the QB who is under center. Tweaks including shifting the FB to the left or right side behind the Guard.
Shotgun: One difference is that often the Shotgun is used as a 3 WR formation with a TE lined up inside to help block in pass protection. RBs can also line up next to the QB to help pick up blitzes.
The Pro Set was the default NFL scheme for most of the 1960s to the 2000s. While it is more of a formation, the underlying philosophy of the pro set was based on becoming more successful at passing while still providing 1 or even 2 backs to help protect the QB.
The Pro Set features a TE, 2 WRs, and a Halfback and fullback, often split behind the QB. While QBs can take a snap from the center from the shotgun position, in general the pro set QB takes the ball under center to allow for better play action fakes to the running back.
The Pro Set in the 1970s and earlier was generally a running offense that used play action fakes to set up deep passing attempts when defenses stacked up vs the running game.
The Pro Set enabled NFL teams to run successfully and is structurally a sound set. So much so that even though the Coryell and West Coast Offenses were dramatic changes in view to a pass first philosophy, both have historically been executed out of the pro set formation.
- Dallas Cowboys - under former coach Tom Landry
- Miami Dolphins - with Chad Henne.
- Oregon State Beavers - with Mike Riley.
Part of the complexity of the offense is that teams at the professional level often employ multiple formations and are willing to utilize them at any point during an actual game. One example might be that a team uses a Strong I Formation run (FB lined up where the TE is located on the line of scrimmage) on 1st Down followed up by a running play out of the Ace formation on 2nd down before attempting a pass on 3rd down out of a 2 WR Shotgun formation. Another aspect of the complexity is that the running game is primarily built off Zone Blocking or involves a Power Run scheme. The passing game as a result often employs Play Action, often with the QB dropping back from under center, as a means of passing the ball while building off the running game. Coaches who make the transition from the NFL down to the NCAA level as head coaches often bring with them their Pro Style offenses. Such examples include Charlie Weis (HC at Kansas), Dave Wannstedt (former HC at Pittsburgh), Bill O'Brien (HC at Penn State). One positive aspect of employing a Pro Style offense is that it can help players make transitions from the college level to the professional level quicker as a result of their familiarity with the system's complexity.
Coryell Offense/ Air Coryell/ Vertical Offense
Pioneered by Sid Gillman in the late 60s and into the early 70s, the Coryell Offense is a combination of deep passing and power running. The offense relies on getting all five receivers out into patterns that combined stretched the field, setting up defensive backs with route technique and the Quarterback throwing to a spot on time where the receiver can catch and turn upfield. Pass protection is critical to success because at least two of the five receivers will run a deep in, skinny post, comeback, speed out, or shallow cross.
Originally it was known as the West Coast Offense until an article about San Francisco Head Coach Bill Walsh in Sports Illustrated in the early 80s incorrectly called Walsh's offense "The West Coast Offense," and this mis-labelling stuck. Subsequently, Coryell's offense scheme was referred to as "Air Coryell" --- the name announcers had assigned to his high powered Charger offenses in San Diego, featuring hall of famers QB Dan Fouts & TE Kellen Winslow, and pro bowl WR Wes Chandler & HB Chuck Muncie. Today it is mostly known as the "Coryell Offense", although the "Vertical Offense" is another accepted name.
Today the most famous and successful advocates of this system are Norv Turner, Mike Martz, Cam Cameron, Tom Moore and Al Saunders. Turner learned the offense from longtime Coryell assistant, Ernie Zampese. Turner's take on the Coryell system turned around the career of Hall of Fame QB Troy Aikman and has proven to be very successful with talented high draft picks struggling to cope with the complexities of the NFL. Turner' variant is not the most robust flavor of Coryell offense. It is a very sound, QB friendly scheme that favors taking controlled chances, like quicker midrange post passes to WRs off play action rather than slower developing passes that leave QBs exposed. It is almost exclusively run out of the pro set. Turner favors a more limited pallet of plays than Coryell and most Coryell disciples, instead insisting on precise execution. His offenses are usually towards the top of the league standings, but are often labelled predictable. His offenses tend to include a strong running game, a #1 WR who can stretch the field and catch jump balls in the end zone, a good receiving TE to attack the space the WRs create in the middle of the field and a FB who fills the role of a lead blocker and a final option as an outlet receiver. In Dallas, Turner utilized two Hall of Famers in RB Emmitt Smith & WR Michael Irvin, and five time Pro Bowler TE Jay Novacek in the Coryell offense.
The Martz variant is a much more robust offense with a more complex playbook. It is a much more aggressive passing offense with the run often forgotten. There is much less of a focus on play action. The Martz variant favors an elusive feature back who can catch the ball over the power runners the Turner scheme favors. Martz credits his influences on his variation of the offensive system to Sid Gillman and Don Coryell. Martz learned the so-called 3 digit system the offense is famous for with how the plays are called from Turner when they were both in Washington. The Rams set a new NFL record for total offensive yards in 2000, with 7,335. 5,492 of those were passing yards, also a new NFL team record. Martz tends to favor a 3 WR set with more elusive players, a third receiver and the Half back filling the role of middle receivers that TEs & FBs fulfill in the Turner offense. The Martz offense works best with two elite WRs with top speed.
Al Saunders was the former WR coach under Don Coryell in San Diego and succeeded him as head coach of the Chargers. The Al Saunders variant is heavily influenced by Coryell and Saunder's former boss, former Coryell assistant and 2 time Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who's Ace formation (single back, 2 WRs, 1 TE, and 1 H back) was immensely effective in the 1980s. The Saunders variant is a more conservative variant than the Martz version, but also quite complex. It is better suited for a veteran QB. It does not insist on size at WR or HB like the Turner variant and as such has difficulties in short yardage and red zone situations. It does not require a pair of dominant fast WRs like the Martz system and is not as aggressive attacking down the field and as such it does not score as many points as the Martz system. It is a more sound variant than the Martz scheme, offering a little more blocking and more run support for the QB. The Saunders variant pulls in many Coryell concepts that the Turner system eliminated in favor of simplicity.
Overall the goal of the Coryell offense is to have at least two downfield, fast wide receivers who adjust to the deep pass very well, combined with a sturdy pocket quarterback with a strong arm. The Coryell offense uses three key weapons. The first is a strong inside running game, the second is its ability to strike deep with two or more receivers on any play, and the third is to not only use those two attack in cooperation with each other, but to include a great deal of mid-range passing to a TE, WR, or back.
The Coryell offense has the ability to both "eat the clock" with the ground game but also to strike deep and fast without warning. Critics argue that the Coryell offense is ill-suited for coming from behind, as the deep pass attack will be predictable and therefore easy to stop. However, the fact that the offense is structured around a power running game and tall WRs who can win jump balls and have some breakaway speed make this contention hard to support. This offense is built not only for deep passing but also to defeat short yardage and red zone situations. When evenly matched, the Coryell offense can produce big drives and big scoring efficiently. If teams sit back to cover the deep field, offenses should be able to run the ball on them. If the defense tightens down to stop the run, the offense can go deep. If a defense hedges its bets by using three-deep setups with an eight-man defense up front, the QB can pick apart the defense with 10-20 yard passes.
While today, many Coryell offenses reduce the use of a tight end, except in the red zone, the Turner strain of Coryell offenses are still very reliant on a good receiving TE. Non-Turner strains sometimes feature an 'F-Back' (formerly known as an 'H-Back' in the 1980s), a hybrid tight end/wide receiver/fullback/running back. An F-Back is a multi-purpose, unpredictable tool for the offense. On any play he may carry the ball, lead block or pass block, play as a wide receiver, or run a tight end route. He is also part decoy, as his unpredictable role forces defenses to keep an eye on him, thereby opening up other opportunities for the offense.
- Michigan Wolverines(1995–2007)
- Oakland Raiders (under Head Coach Hue Jackson and Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders)
- Cincinnati Bengals(under Offensive Coordinator Bob Bratkowski 2001-2010)
- Detroit Lions (Under former Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan)
- San Diego Chargers
- Carolina Panthers (2002-2006 under Dan Henning; 2011-current under OC Rob Chudzinski)
- St. Louis Rams (1999–Present)
- Dallas Cowboys
- Kansas City Chiefs under head coach Dick Vermeil and Offensive Coordinator Al Saunders (2001–2006)
- Indianapolis Colts
- Baltimore Ravens (under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and consultant Al Saunders)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers ( Under present coach and OC, Schiano and Sullivan)
West Coast Offense
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2010)|
The West Coast Offense is a passing ball control offense. Once thought a contradiction in terms, it achieves ball control by using short, high percentage passing routes. Since the routes are relatively short, and the pass leaves the quarterback's hand quickly, there is less need for additional blockers. Thus all five eligible receivers are (typically) used extensively in the West Coast offense. Spreading the ball to all potential targets can create mismatches, often between a running back and a linebacker, or perhaps the tight end and a linebacker. By forcing tighter coverage between the safeties and offensive players, the West Coast offense can pull the safeties toward the line of scrimmage without running and thus it can set up the long pass play with shorter passes or allow a WR to break a tackle for a long gain.
By throwing lots of short passes, the West Coast offense gets the ball to the faster players in open space more frequently. The notion of yards after catch (YAC) was invented for west coast offense players. Twenty yard pass plays used to mean long deep out or deep in patterns with a strong armed quarterback but now more frequently the twenty yard play involves a six yard pass to a talented receiver who made a couple of good moves—and perhaps got a block downfield from a fellow receiver.
The West Coast offense, at its best, annoys a defense into foolishness. By consistently completing short passes, it encourages the defensive backs to move closer to the line of scrimmage, increasing the chance that a receiver will break a big play. The quarterback releases the ball so quickly that the pass rushers are tempted to complacency. Further, it gives the offense confidence. A combination of these factors afford the offense a good opportunity to throw deeper passes.
The San Francisco 49ers won their first Super Bowl under Bill Walsh despite having one of the league's worst running games due to the West Coast Offense's ability to control the clock using passing. This is not to say the West Coast offense abandons the run. Like any offense, a running game complements the West Coast Offense because short passes naturally set up situations when the run is more favorable. With the West Coast Offense, the level of commitment to the run varies by head coach, but like the run and shoot is usually not a high level of commitment.
In essence, though, the West Coast offense is more of a philosophy and approach to the game than it is a set scheme that demands exact formations, plays and reads like many of the other offenses discussed here. It stipulates that an offense should pass the ball to spread the defense horizontally to set up the run, not the other way around. This was revolutionary in the 1970s when Don Coryell and Bill Walsh began tinkering with this concept because football until then had been primarily a 'run to set up the pass' game.
Today this philosophy dominates most coaches' thinking and planning, and every team in the NFL, and most teams in college incorporate some aspects of the West Coast offense into its scheme. Though formations, play calling, pass protection packages and personnel combinations will vary wildly from team to team, the basic tenet of the West Coast Offense, the "pass to set up the run" mantra, is accepted Gospel. More and more high schools are moving towards this approach, too, though the lack of 17-year-old quarterbacks with the necessary arm strength, experience, vision and overall football maturity will keep this growth slow.
Note: although this is the current usage of the term, the actual West Coast Offense was a term applied to the Don Coryell offense run by the San Diego Chargers the late 1970s and early 1980s. More properly, the above should be called the Walsh offense, as it was perfected under Walsh in San Francisco. The misnomer arose when a wire reporter incorrectly transcribed a Paul Zimmerman article that quoted Bernie Kosar, who was referring to the roots of the 1993 Dallas Cowboys offensive philosophy. Kosar went on to explain, "Oh, you know, the West Coast Offense... Turner and Zampese and Don Coryell and Sid Gillman. That thing." This was later incorrectly attributed to Bill Walsh. The actual San Diego West Coast offense under Coryell involved much longer timing routes and bore little resemblance to the above.
Paul Brown also deserves mention in any discussion of the origins of what is now known as the "West Coast Offense." The system was developed by Brown and Walsh and implemented by the Cincinnati Bengals before Walsh's departure for San Francisco. The Walsh-Brown version found success in San Francisco, and would more aptly be named the "Ohio River Offense."
- San Francisco 49ers (Under Head Coaches Bill Walsh and George Seifert)
- Seattle Seahawks (Under Head Coach Mike Holmgren)
- Philadelphia Eagles (Under Head Coach Andy Reid and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg)
- Green Bay Packers (Under Head Coaches Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (During the Jon Gruden Era)
- Denver Broncos (Under Head Coach John Fox, former Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy and current OC Adam Gase)
- Minnesota Vikings (Under Head Coach Leslie Frazier and Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave)
- Houston Texans (Under Head Coach Gary Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison)
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Under Head Coach Charlie Weis)
- Boston College Eagles
- San Jose State Spartans
- Atlanta Falcons (Under Head Coach Mike Smith and Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey)
- Washington Redskins (Under Head Coach Mike Shanahan and Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan)
- Tennessee Volunteers
- Oakland Raiders (1998-2001 Under Head Coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan)
- Cincinnati Bengals (Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden 2011–Present)
- Cleveland Browns (Under head coach Pat Shurmur 2011–2012)
- Colorado Buffaloes (Under Head Coach Jon Embree and Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy)
- Boise State Broncos (Under Head Coach Chris Petersen and Offensive Coordinator Brent Pease)
- Ole Miss Rebels (1999-2007)
- Chicago Bears (Under head coach Marc Trestman 2013–Present)
Run and Shoot
The term 'Run and Shoot' can be traced to the book Run & Shoot Football: Offense of the Future (Parker, 1965), published by Glenn 'Tiger' Ellison. Ellison designed the system for high school football, but it was adapted into a heavy passing offense by chief advocate and refiner Darrel 'Mouse' Davis for college players in the 1970s. The approach made its way to the National Football League by the late 1980s, but went out of vogue as a primary set in the NFL in the 1990s, although concepts formerly unique to the run and shoot, like 4 WR sets and WRs having options on routes are now incorporated into every NFL team's offenses. It is still used by several[clarification needed] college programs (SMU and Portland State) as of 2008, and semi-pro teams such as the Kimberly(WI) Storm as of 2009. The 'spread' offense began as a variant of the Run & Shoot.
The basic Run and Shoot formation has five linemen for blocking, a quarterback, a running back, and four wide receivers. Run and Shoot offenses usually use motion to force defenses to tip off their coverage before the snap. This can lead that quarterback to call an audible to a running play or a quick pass to beat a blitz. At the same time, receivers read the defensive backs' coverage to determine what route to run. A good Run and Shoot quarterback will make the same read, anticipate his receivers' choices of route, and put the ball where only they can catch it, rendering coverage nearly impossible and creating the potential for long gains after the catch.
Several variants exist, but it's hard to call them "true" Run and Shoot formations. Most consider them to be Spread sets instead. This is especially true when decision-making is largely taken out of the players' hands. Many teams use a tight end instead of a fourth receiver in some formations and emphasize motion using a slot receiver. Another variant has uses two H-Backs, tight-end/fullback hybrids with solid hands and blocking skills who match up well in all aspects of the offense. They can block, run routes, or even carry the ball on any given play. Teams who use this version of the Run and Shoot usually place a wide receiver and an H-Back on each side of the ball, with the receivers lining up on the outside and the H-Backs in the slot as wingbacks. This formation not only allows the offense to send the H-Backs in motion, but also permits it to hide the strong side of the play until immediately before the snap. As a result, the quarterback can run the play in either direction with no hindrance to performance.
Teams that have employed the Run and Shoot offense include:
- Houston Gamblers (1984–1985)
- Denver Gold (1985)
- Houston Cougars (1987-1992)
- Houston Oilers (1989–1994)
- Detroit Lions (1989–1994)
- Atlanta Falcons (1990–1995)
- Portland State (1975–1980, 2007–2009)
- SMU Mustangs(2008–Present)
- Toronto Argonauts(Early 1980s)
- Hofstra University(1990s)
The "Spread Offense" is an offense that operates out of a formation with multiple wide receivers, usually out of the Shotgun,typically is 'No-Huddle", and can be run or pass oriented. One of the goals of the spread offense is to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically, and to take what are usually a teams' best defenders (linebackers) out of the game by utilizing three or more receivers.
Today variants of the spread are popular in high school and college football, with more modest versions appearing in the NFL. In college, especially, the offense often depends largely on option and misdirection runs, using all of the skill players on offense. The zone read is often a very popular play in this type of offense because of its flexibility, more so if a team has an athletic quarterback who can run the ball as well as pass. Linemen in the spread are often smaller and more agile so they can block effectively on screens, zones, options, and protect against aggressively blitzing defenses such as the 3-3-5 stack. As the defense, already spread out, begins to focus on stopping the run, the spread creates mismatches and single coverage on receivers, which creates opportunities in the passing game. Utilizing receiver motion along with jet sweeps is also an important part of creating confusion and running a balanced, yet successful, spread offense.
The success of the offense depends on creating mismatches (a linebacker covering a receiver), the ability for the quarterback and the receivers to find holes in the zone, and defensive breakdowns in the secondary (the receiver and quarterback both read that the safety will not rotate over to help the cornerback, so the receiver breaks to the outside or up the sideline with single coverage). Few defenses are able to cope with a well-executed spread run-pass threat, which is one reason why football scores have been rising in recent years.
The spread offense can also be used to benefit the running game. By splitting out three, four or five receivers (thereby spreading out covering defenders) and employing a fast, athletic offensive line, the spread opens running lanes for the tailback, fullback and quarterback. Also, linebackers may be taken off the field to cover the additional receivers, possibly resulting in a diminished ability for the defense to effectively tackle the running back. The primary responsibility of receivers in this case is downfield blocking, rather than pass-catching, as they spring backs for long runs. Spread option offenses rely on a quarterback who can call plays at the line of scrimmage, read the intentions of the defensive end, and keep the ball or pitch it to a back. The offense also uses short passes like a running plays, executing "bubble screens" that begin with a short, nearly-lateral pass to a speedy wide receiver to get him into open space. No-huddle spread attacks are also popular.
One popular variant of the spread is the "Air Raid" offense (pioneered by Hal Mumme), in which the offense may pass on over 80% of its downs. The offense is seen as being complex, though receivers need to know relatively few routes. The complexity comes from the different formations the routes are run out of. The running back in the Air Raid offense serves a useful role as well by catching passes out of the backfield, on screens, and carrying the ball on draw plays.
- Baylor Bears
- Washington State
- Purdue Boilermakers
- Oklahoma State Cowboys
- Texas Tech Red Raiders
- West Virginia Mountaineers
- Kansas Jayhawks
- Wake Forest Demon Deacons
- Houston Cougars
- Nebraska Cornhuskers
- North Texas Mean Green
- Missouri Tigers Football
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Oregon Ducks
- California Golden Bears
- Auburn Tigers}
- East Carolina Pirates
- Clemson Tigers
- UCLA Bruins
- New England Patriots during their Super Bowl run in 2007
- Kansas City Chiefs under quarterback Tyler Thigpen in 2008
- Arizona Cardinals ran a pass-heavy offense during their Super Bowl run in 2008 under Kurt Warner
- Buffalo Bills under Chan Gailey
A newer form of the option offense has emerged that is run out of a spread formation. Spread Option offenses generally run out of the shotgun formation, usually with a single running back. Depending on the quarterback's read, he will generally hand off to the running back, run the ball himself, or pass. This offense was primarily devised by Rich Rodriguez, the former head coach at West Virginia University and Michigan, and has been adopted by several other important college programs. Rodriguez's success with the spread option at WVU changed the college football landscape in the 2000s. Vince Young and the 2005 Texas Longhorns ran a version of the offense to suit Young's strengths, which ultimately culminated in a national championship in the 2006 Rose Bowl. Notably, Urban Meyer adopted the offense to add more passing elements, and has used it successfully first at Bowling Green, then at Utah (becoming the first team outside the BCS conferences to participate in a BCS bowl game), and then at Florida, where he won the 2006 national championship and the 2008 national championship while implementing the scheme. It also has fueled Appalachian State's run to 3 straight national titles in the former I-AA and now FCS subdivisions. The speed required to run the spread option is considered a main factor in ASU's upset of the University of Michigan on September 1, 2007 in which the Mountaineers used their speed to outrun the much bigger Michigan defense. After Tim Tebow replaced Kyle Orton as the Denver Broncos' starting QB in 2011, head coach John Fox added elements of the option offense to his playbook in an effort to get the best out of Tebow. Tebow had successfully run the option offense at the University of Florida under Urban Meyer but had struggled to adapt to a conventional NFL pass-orientated offense. The results have been unprecedented as many believed the offense was not suitable for the NFL, yet Tebow was 7-4 as a starter in 2011 while making extensive use of the system.
- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - flexbone formation triple option
- Ohio State Buckeyes - spread option
- Oregon Ducks-spread option
- Auburn Tigers — spread/spread option
- Arizona Wildcats — spread/spread option
- Ole Miss Rebels — spread option
- Illinois Fighting Illini - spread option
- Mississippi State Bulldogs - spread option
- Northwestern Wildcats - spread option
- Appalachian State Mountaineers - spread option
The Pistol Offense is an offense that features a quarterback in a short three yard shotgun and a running back three yards behind him. Upon the quarterback receiving the direct snap he may turn around and hand the ball off to the running back behind him, look up to pass or execute the option from the "pistol" with the running back. The advantage of this offense is that it gives the quarterback an opportunity to read the defense without the disadvantages of a normal shotgun such as signaling a pass play. It also allows the running back an opportunity to run downhill as opposed to the shotguns normal sideways angles. This offense was innovated by current Nevada head coach Chris Ault. While the Wolf Pack is the only school that uses this offense as their primary offense it has been seen throughout high school and college football.The Pistol has now even made the leap to the NFL in brief instances by some teams or regularly by the 2008 Kansas City Chiefs with Tyler Thigpen at quarterback. The Pittsburgh Steelers also briefly used the Pistol Offense in their 2010-2011 season, in an attempt to help Ben Roethlisberger perform with a broken foot. It is currently a major part of the Washington Redskins offense with Robert Griffin III at quarterback.
- Nevada Wolf Pack
- Clemson Tigers
- Texas State Bobcats
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Wildcat Offense (Single Wing)
The wildcat offense, (or wildcat formation) a variation on the single-wing formation, is an offensive American football or Canadian football scheme that has been used at every level of the game including the NFL, CFL, NCAA, NAIA, and many high schools across America. The general scheme can be instituted into many different offensive systems, but the distinguishing factor is the possibility of a direct snap to the running back.
In the pros this is often implemented in a 2 QB set. The concept is to replace a skill player with a mobile backup QB to allow a series of run and rollout passing options that pro teams do not risk with their starting QB.
- Philadelphia Eagles with Michael Vick
- Baltimore Ravens
- Miami Dolphins with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. They used to run it with quarterback Pat White as well but he was cut in the 200 off season and later signed a minor league contract with the Kansas City Royals.
- Oakland Raiders with Darren McFadden
- Cleveland Browns with Josh Cribbs
- Dallas Cowboys with Tashard Choice and Felix Jones**
- New York Jets with Tim Tebow
- Arkansas Razorbacks with Darren McFadden 2006-2007
- Ole Miss Rebels with Dexter McCluster 2008-2009
Among coaches, single-wing football denotes a formation using a long snap from center as well as a deceptive scheme that evolved from Glenn "Pop" Warner's offensive style. Traditionally, the single-wing was an offensive formation that featured a core of four backs including a tailback, a fullback, a quarterback (blocking back), and a wingback. Linemen were set "unbalanced", or simply put, there were two linemen on one side and four on the other side of the center. This was done by moving the off-side guard or tackle to the strong side. The single-wing was one of the first formations attempting to trick the defense instead of over-powering it.
The direct snap or toss from the center usually went to the tailback or fullback; however, the quarterback could also take the ball. The tailback was very important to the success of the offense because he had to run, pass, block, and even punt. Unlike today, the quarterback usually blocked at the point of attack. As with his modern day counterpart, a single-wing quarterback might also act as a field general by calling plays. The fullback was chosen for his larger size so that he could "buck" the line. This meant that the fullback blocks or carries the ball between the defensive tackles. The wingback double-team blocks with an offensive lineman at scrimmage or runs a pass route.
The single-wing formation was designed to place double-team blocks at the point of attack. Gaining this extra blocker was achieved in several ways. First, the unbalanced line placed an extra guard or tackle on one side of the center. Second, a wingback stationed outside end could quickly move to a crucial blocking position. Third, the fullback and especially the quarterback could lead the ball carrier producing interference. Finally, linemen, usually guards, pull at the snap and block at the specified hole. Line splits were always close except for ends who might move out from the tackle.
The single-wing formation depends on a center who is skilled both at blocking and at tossing the ball from between his legs to the receiving back. The center has to direct the ball to any of several moving backs, with extreme accuracy, as the play starts. Single-wing plays do not work efficiently if the back has to wait on the snap because quick defensive penetration overruns the play. The center is taught to direct the ball to give the tailback or fullback receiver a running start in the direction that the play is designed to go.  The single-wing formation is a deceptive formation with spectators, referees, and defensive players often losing sight of the ball. A backfield player, called a "spinner", might turn 360 degrees while faking the ball to the other backs, keep the ball, or pass it. Defensive players are often fooled as to which back was carrying the ball.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (July 2008)|
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- "Top Ten Nicknames: Air Coryell". NFL.com. March 19, 2008. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
- "Tight end rankings: Do Sharpe, Gonzalez deserve top spot?". USA Today. 2008-07-21. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- "The real West Coast offense". CNN. October 29, 1999. Retrieved 27 December 2012.