The Run And Shoot is an offensive scheme designed in the early 1960's in Columbus, Ohio, by high school football coach Tiger Ellison. Ellison lined his center on the line of scrimmage alone, and referred to him as the "Lonesome Polecat". Spreading the offense out forced the defense to do likewise, and resulted in quick scores. Ellison's scheme found many followers - it was employed by a number of college teams and until the mid-1990's was a staple of a number of NFL teams. The scheme has proven successful almost everywhere it has been implemented, and has helped many players and teams to set records.
Basics Of The Run And Shoot
The pure Run And Shoot has only eight plays in its playbook, but it is almost impossible for a defense to prepare for it. The reason is because every receiver on every play makes a "hot read" based on the defense, and changes their routes accordingly. At the same time, the quarterback moves away from oncoming rushers and finds a lane to throw to an open man. For the non-footballer, this simply means instead of running in a predetermined direction, they run away from the defenders, and the quarterback does the same. Because receivers are reading the coverage on the run, the defense can't simply "choose the right coverage" for a particular play. In most cases, there are four wide receivers and one running back. The spread formation keeps linebackers from overplaying the run, eliminating the need for blocking fullbacks and tight ends. At the same time, the linemen are spread out wide, often in a two- rather than a three-point stance. The object of the linemen is not to flatten the defenders, but absorb the defense with angle blocks away from the action.
Because of the nature of the Run And Shoot, it is susceptible to certain types of defenses. Defenses with good, quick blitzing schemes can get to the ball before everyone reaches their option points. Because the creation of chaos takes time to unfold, the blitzing team gains the upper hand. Teams that can disguise their defensive schemes have an advantage as well, because the Run And Shoot requires the offensive players to read the defense and react. Because the Run And Shoot also often results in quick scores, the corresponding defense ends up on the field for long periods of time with few breaks in between. So while the team is scoring loads of points on offense, they're also giving up load of points on defense.
The Rise Of The Run And Shoot
The Run And Shoot grew in popularity after Mouse Davis installed a tweaked version of it in 1975 at Portland State University for quarterback June Jones to run. Davis' teams would set the NCAA record in 1980, averaging 49.2 points per game. Quarterback Neil Lomax, an unrecruited walk-on at a Division II school, passed for 13,220 yards and 106 touchdowns, parlaying his success in the Run And Shoot to a long NFL career. Davis won with his system in college, the CFL, the USFL, and the Houston Oilers of the National Football League.
As the Houston Oilers strung together seven straight playoff appearances, other teams caught on to the scheme and started using it. The Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons went with a full Run And Shoot; other offenses implemented parts of it. In 1991, all three made the playoffs. The most successful season for a Run And Shoot offense was 1995, when the Atlanta Falcons had a 4,000 yard passer, and 1,000 yard rusher, and three 1,000 yard receivers.
The Decline Of The Run And Shoot
Despite its rampant success, the Run And Shoot has all but disappeared from the higher levels of football. The reasons for this are two-fold: misconceptions about the offense, and tangental problems that weren't the fault of the Run And Shoot.
First, the misconceptions. Although it's over thirty years old, the Run And Shoot is still considered by many to be a radical offense. It also has the reputation for being a finesse offense, and despite the fact that the NFL teams running ranked high in red zone efficiency, finesse offenses are considered unreliable inside the twenty yard line. Along the same line, the scheme is considered a passing scheme, and despite the success running backs like Barry Sanders and Craig Heyward had, the offense just isn't considered a tough, running, ball control offense.
Aside from the misconceptions about the offense, a number of events caused the downfall of the Run And Shoot. The first was the overwhelming success of the Houston Cougars. While it wouldn't seem that the overwhelming success of something would cause its downfall, it was the manner in which the Cougars acheived success that angered some. Quarterback David Klingler broke 33 NCAA records, including throwing for 11 touchdown passes in a single game. Despite having many games in hand by halftime, coach John Jenkins left his starters in and ran up the score. This cardinal sin of college football angered many in college football, slanting them against the Run And Shoot. It was considered gimmick offense run by coaches who couldn't coach as well as his peers.
The second major incident was the 1992 playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers. The Oilers blew a 35-3 lead to backup quarterback Frank Reich and the Bills, losing the game in overtime, 41-38. Buddy Ryan, the most vocal opposition of the Run And Shoot, was hired as defensive coordinator for the Oilers. Within two years all traces of the Run And Shoot were gone in Houston, and the team dropped into mediocrity before moving to Tennessee.
The Run And Shoot has failed to make a comeback due in large part to the media's bias against it. When June Jones took over head coaching duties at the University Of Hawaii and announced that he was implementing the Run And Shoot, the remainder of the press conference centered around the scheme. And when the team failed to win, it was because the Run And Shoot wasn't powerful enough and couldn't score in the red zone. Another reason for the Run And Shoot's demise was the rise of the West Coast Offense. It allows for more flexibility with personnel (fullbacks and tight ends, multiple formations) and eats more clock, with the same high scoring results.