Principles of the Run & Shoot Offense

“Our offensive system is a rather simple one and yet poses to be extremely complex to defenses.  When executed properly it is unstoppable.  And with all the position areas functioning together it is totally dominate vs. any defense structure and system.”

 “And with a proper analysis of defenses and a total understanding of what we are confronted with, the quarterback has the chance to engineer this dominate force through his own reads, decisions, and reactions.”


“The Following Principles are True of the Gambler Offense”

1.)  “Long gains are capable on any down and on any portion of the field, thus not allowing our own offense to “self-destruct” with foolish mistakes such as penalties, turnovers and busted assignments because of having to continually produce 16 play drives.  And as a result, we will force a defense to try and beat us rather than beat ourselves.  For in a defeat, four out of five games are lost because of “self-inflicted wounds” rather than wounds from the opponent.”

-The Run & Shoot offense is based around long gains.  If you are consistently gaining ten to twenty yards it won’t take you long to get down the field.  Now some people might argue that relying on the big play is either just as efficient as or even less efficient than relying on the consistent small play.  This argument is based on two faulty assumptions.  Firstly, that the big play is inconsistent.  In the Run & Shoot the big play is not inconsistent it is to be expected.  The second assumption is that the small play is consistent.  This is true until you face a penalty or make a dumb mistake and your chance of either of these happening increases with each play and if you are relying on small plays you are relying on a lot of plays.

2.)  “Our “fast break” offense “will in turn enable our defense to pin their ears back” and attack the opposition with full force.  And our fast break offense will set the stage for our special teams and defense to produce the “game breaker” and put the icing on the cake.  This will be our “Total Team Concept.””

 Because the Run & Shoot offense scores so frequently and so quickly the opposition will be forced to play a “catch up offense.”  In most cases this “catch up offense” is usually far simpler than a team’s base offense.  Therefore the defense can really “pin their ears back” and attack because they don’t have to worry about a wide variety of plays.  It is also far easier to be aggressive when your mistakes aren’t as costly (six points is six points, but six points when you are up by three is very different than six points when you are up by twenty-eight).  The Indianapolis Colts defense is based around this idea.  Their defense is built around rushing the passer and preventing the big play, a perfect defense for protecting a lead and creating a “game breaking” play.

3.)  “Our constant motioning, fluctuant, snap counts and use of audibles will commit a defense to declare to us early thus permitting us to always react properly and causing the defense to always be in a disadvantage.”

-In using constant motioning the offense forces the defense to reveal its hand.  If the defense does not reveal itself it has given leverage to the offense and this is a situation the offense should be willing to take anytime.  In using constant snap counts the offense is also forcing the defense to be passive rather than aggressive.  The defense cannot jump the snap if they cannot predict the snap.  Constant audibling achieves the same effect as constant motioning, but in a more exaggerated way.  While the defense can always identify the motioned receiver and where he lines up after motioning the defense can rarely, if ever, identify what play the offense has audibled into.

4.)  “Our numerous methods of motioning, while running the same plays, merely puts added pressure on defenses rather than added learning for us.”

 5.)  “The minimum number of assignments, techniques, and actual plays will keep mistakes to a minimum as well.”

 -This point follows directly from the previous one.  Every time an offensive player is motioned the defense must respond in order to not give up leverage.  Every time the defense adjusts the defenders must make a decision and with every decision comes a chance for a mistake.  However, if the offense keeps its play the same only one player needs to make a decision and it is a very easy preset decision (run across the field) he does not need to adjust on the fly.  The offense is greatly increasing the chance of a defensive error while barely increasing the chance of an offensive error.

6.)  Our personnel and basic alignment certainly exhibits the best formation to create the biggest and most exciting plays in all of football.  While some offenses running attacks attempt to control games our passing attack and total offense will break them wide open.”

 -The Doubles and Trips formations of the Run & Shoot offense place the largest amount of stress on a defense of all the formations in football.  The Run & Shoot offense is run almost exclusively out of doubles and trips formations with four wide receivers.  The speed of the players and spread of the players allows the offense to quickly spread and attack the entire field.  While some formations and personnel seek to overpower the defense the gains these formations and personnel expect are small and continuous.  The Run & Shoot with its formation and personnel expects gains that are large and continuous.

 7.)  ”Houston Gamblers Balanced Attack?

            While some offenses strive for 50-50 run-pass balance as far as play selection, our balance will merely be directed towards production.  And while some teams run to open up the pass, we will pass, pass & open up the run…  The emphasis of balance will merely be placed on Total Team Concept and directed to the end result WINNING.”

-Some teams approach football as a simple game of rock, paper, and scissors.  These teams will alternate between the run and the pass trying to prevent the defense from playing the defensive counter to their offensive play.  The Run & Shoot just has a fucking strong pair of scissors.  There is no need to play paper and rock and if your scissors can cut through anything and are unsmashable.  So, the Run & Shoot just passes and passes and until you completely give up and then it will run all over you.

8.)  “With the forward pass three things can happen.  And only one is bad with our offense – the interception.  For with our offense mere incompletions do not kill a drive.  One completed toss easily puts us back on schedule unlike many teams which lack the consistent capability and confidence to overcome a 3rd and long.  Therefore we control the defense rather than the defense ever being able to dictate to us.”

-While many offenses have to choose between a mad-bomber or three yards and a cloud of dust approach the Run & Shoot refuses to be pigeon holed into either of these categories.  Traditionally offenses had to decided whether they would take the consistent short yardage or the inconsistent long yardage, in theory the average amount of yards gained would even out.  The West Coast offense is suppose to provide a solution to this dilemma with a short and controlled passing game.  However, the West Coast offense solution leans more towards the three yards and a cloud of dust end of the spectrum rather than the mad bomber end.  The Run & Shoot offense, like the West Coast offense, is based on a consistent passing game, however rather than consistent short to mid-range passes the Run & Shoot is based on consistent mid-range to long passes.  Therefore, unlike most offense where 3-4 yards need to be gained each play to “stay on schedule” the Run & Shoot offense can afford to waste a play or to because it is consistently gaining upwards of 7 yards.

9.)  “It will pressure a zone defense and threaten it in the horizontal areas for 53 1/3 yards across the whole field.  With this presentable threat the defense must be conscious of defending the entire width of the field and not merely a small portion of it.  And as a result of the horizontal zone stretch, passing lanes open up inside.  If these lanes are condensed and squeezed down from outside-in defense then the defense becomes out-flanked by our outside threat on the outside.”

 10.)  “It will pressure a zone defense and threaten it in the vertical areas and lanes of completion.  And with this presentable threat for a 3 deep or 2 deep zone the stretch of vertical lanes are opened up downfield.  These lanes are generally huge when the timing is on schedule.”

 -There are only some defenders on the field and there is a lot of grass to cover.  A zone defense must choose whether it will prioritize the horizontal or vertical passing game.  A zone defense cannot have complete horizontal coverage both deep and short and rush the passer.  It is just not possible with eleven defenders.  As soon the zone defense announces its intentions (which it will because of the frequent audibles and motion and the offensive formation and personnel) the quarterback will just throw to where the defense isn’t and shred it into pieces.

  11.)  It will pressure a man under with zone up top.  (1 Cov. & 5 Cov.)  Here the threat is that of creating separation into an open area underneath vs. 5 Coverage.  The same threat exists vs. that of 1 Coverage in addition to the separation upfield away from the single freed-up safety taking some “big dirt” or ringing the schedule in one toss.

 -If zone coverage is being beating and the defense switches to a man defense the same problems are present.  A defender in man coverage cannot cover both where the receiver is and where he intends to be.  Therefore, if the defense wants to place an emphasis on defending a certain part of the field it must assign defenders to zone coverage (deep zones or robber assignments).   Unfortunately, for the defense it can only assign so many defenders to zone coverage while preserving the integrity of its pass rush and having a man assigned to every receiver.  If the defense rushes four and has two defenders in deep zones the short routes are open.  If the defense rushes four and has one defender deep and one short the defense leaves the sidelines open.

 12.)  It will pressure a combination man coverage.  Over-under man combo or Wing- (inside/outside) man combo are the obvious looks here.  Our threat now reveals double moves, crossing routes, or spliting the double coverage with disciplined routes and precise passing.

 -If a defense decides place two defenders in man coverage on one receiver rather than placing one defender in man coverage and the other defender in zone coverage the defense does not have any defenders to spare for zone coverage.  Therefore any route that allows the receiver to outrun (crossing routes) or trick (double moves) the defenders leaves the defender with nothing in front of him but grass.

 13.)  It will pressure man coverage combined with maximum pressure blitz to the quarterback.  Here the threates and execution reveals separating away from a one on one confrontation with the great possibility of going the distance in one toss.

 -If however the defense decides to neither play zone coverage, man coverage with zone coverage, nor combination man coverage, it can instead blitz the quarterback.  Again if the receiver runs a route that allows him to outrun (crossing routes) or trick (double moves) the defenders he gets the ball with nothing in front of him but grass.  However, unlike combination man coverage against the blitz the receiver only has to beat one defender rather than two.

 14.)  Screen, draws, and the traps are an integral part of our offensive attack.

 -If the defense begins to over commit to pass defense (whether blitzing or otherwise) the Run & Shoot can quickly adapts and call the perfect counter plays.

 15.)  The run plays reveal such deception and present such disillusion to the defense so often that we will break easily into the secondary because of their front structure being spread so thin or due to their being coverage conscious of the pass and thus being “soft” on the run.

 -If the defense does not respect the pass or over respects the pass it will be torn apart as described above.  However, if the defense tries to stay balanced it will be beaten by the run.  Due to formations and personnel of the Run & Shoot the defense can only remain structurally sound if it plays out of a dime package and has only five defenders in the box.  With only the five defenders in the box the offense each offensive lineman can be assigned one defender allowing a runner to get to the secondary before he is even touched.

 16.)  Our misdirection and counter run plays will take advantage of any quick, aggressive, and physical run supporting defense and in turn will neutralize what speed, quickness, and aggression that we face without having to challenge them “head-up.”  While defensive pursuit is cut down our production adds up.

 -If the defense decides to tell defenders to key on the run in order to support the box they open themselves up to over committing.  The further a defender is from the action the sooner he needs to decide how he is going to act.  If he does not decide quickly he will not have time to reach the action and affect the play.  However, if the defender is forced to make a decision quickly he can easily be tricked if a play appears to go one way and then goes another (this is what a counter run play is made to exploit).


***Everything in Quotes is from John Jenkins 1985 QB Manual, the 1985 Houston Offense Playbook, or the 1992 Houston Offense Playbook.***


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