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The Run & Shoot Offense... 
Posted on June 30, 2014 at 11:54 PM.
There's a great new thread started here on OS by MGCST5 titled Playbook Sharing and since it seems that there are some people who want to learn about the Run & Shoot offense and some that want to learn how I run the offense in the game, I decided to write this article.

MGCST5 also shared a great link to an article called the "Shootbone" by a guy named Ligerborn and how he mixes the Run & Shoot with the Wishbone to try and get an old school, original Run & Shoot offense. That link is on page 5 of the Best Schools For Rebuilding thread and I would encourage anyone interested in the Run & Shoot to read that article.

Since there is a ton of information on the web about the R&S offense, I won't go into all of the details about the offense, like how it was created, how it evolved, etc... instead I will focus on how and why I run it the way I do in the game. And since I never know when someone may read this, let me be specific here, this is how I run the offense in NCAA '14.

But first, I need to explain why and how I got to this point and what makes me run it the way that I do. This will probably be a long read, but if you have the time and the patience, I believe that you will learn some things about the offense, possibly learn a new way to play the game, and hopefully you will walk away from this gaining something of merit for yourself.

For me, it all began in the spring of 1984... I was just a young lad but I was immensely into football. The trouble was that football was really kind of boring. There were only two offenses in the NFL that were exciting to watch... Air Coryell - where Don Coryell was the head coach of the San Diego Chargers and had Dan Fouts slinging the ball all over the field to the likes of John "J.J." Jefferson, Charlie Joiner, Kellen Winslow, Ron Smith, James Brooks and later, they added Wes Chandler.

The other exciting offense was the West Coast Offense orchestrated by Bill Walsh out in San Francisco. Walsh's offense had been around prior - when he was an assistant in Cincinnati - but I wasn't around then and it wasn't until he became a head coach that the offense really took off.

But then, out of nowhere, the spring of 1984 arrived. There was a new league called the USFL and they played an exciting brand of football. The one rule the league had was that they wanted the players, coaches and fans to have fun. Considering the NFL was known as the No Fun League, this was a massive contrast and helped put the USFL on the map! They also played their games from early spring to summer, so they weren't directly competing with the NFL, instead, they filled a void for football fans during a time when there had previously been no football.

And in 1984, the second season for the USFL, they had a new team called the Houston Gamblers. The first time I saw them on ESPN was a life-changing moment. This was football unlike anything I had ever seen. To be honest, it looked more like the games my friends and I would play at the local high-school field than a pro football team. And they scored a ton of points!

Their brand of football was EXCITING!!! Since there was no Internet, no You Tube, no social media, no video football games and no forums, you really couldn't learn about the offense. You just had to watch it when they were on TV and be happy with that. But it also set me on a quest - and that quest was to find out as much as I could about the offense.

My first big break came in 1993 when I met a guy who played for Mouse Davis - the guy who brought the Run & Shoot to national attention and was the offensive co-ordinator for the Gamblers in 1984. This guy played for Davis during the 1991-92 seasons on the New York/New Jersey Knights of the World League Of American Football (WLAF).

I met him at a coaches clinic and we got to talking all things Run & Shoot - during the weekend he let me borrow and copy his Knights playbook - and for the first time I was able to dissect this offense and learn all the nuances of it. It was thrilling and a bit confusing as well. Watching the offense on TV, one would never guess that the receivers were reading the defense and adjusting their routes on the fly!

By this time - the spring of '93 - there were three teams in the NFL running the R&S - the Houston Oilers, Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. All had been basement dwellers for years and all made the play-offs using the R&S.

For me it had been 10 years since first seeing this offense and now, I could actually learn the offense. It was a huge break and really changed everything I thought I knew about football.

The Run & Shoot has two ways of scoring, and this was true for every team that ran the offense, from the Gamblers to the Oilers and every team in between... they can score quickly or... they can take their time, drive down the field using quick, short passes and make a defense slowly bleed to death.

A lot of R&S detractors would make wild accusations that the R&S would score too quickly, thus wearing their own defense out, forcing them to be on the field too long. This is most assuredly not true. In fact, the 1992 AFC Play-off game where the Oilers blew a 35-3 lead over the Bills, which is a game that I have on DVD - ( I am a collector of old games and have been recording games myself since 1985) - in this game the Oilers would control the ball for over 21 minutes of the first half as they built their lead to 28-3.

Warren Moon was 19 of 22 for 218 yards and 4 TD's at the half, and the Oilers had gone on two long, time-consuming 80-yard TD drives and also scored their 4th TD after getting the ball with only 1:15 left in the half, proving that they could make a team die a slow death or - score quickly.

So now that I've given some personal background on the offense and how it captured my attention, now let's talk about why I play the way that I do... I learned a while ago that I wasn't that good at playing defense in Madden or NCAA. I've played against people who are just amazing at defense and it always frustrated me because I knew what I wanted my guys to do - I just couldn't get them to do it! LOL

So... it was then that I returned to the R&S principals that I had seen as far back as 1984... I took the philosophy that the best defense is a great offense! Since I wasn't great at defense, but was really good on offense, I would just use a time-consuming, clock-eating offense and keep my D off the field.

And to this day, this is how I play the game. My offense gets lots of first downs, eats up lots of clock and eventually wears a D down. And I have the Run & Shoot to thank for that.

To give you some idea of my drives, here is what I do... if I lose the coin toss and the other team kicks off, I will return the kick to the 7, 8, 9 or 10 yard line. Why, you ask? Because it gives me a long field to work with and I can take a lot of time off the clock! Here are some drives in my current dynasty just to give you some examples of what I am talking about...

12 plays 91 yards 6:59 off the clock
14 plays 93 yards 7:22 off the clock
12 plays 93 yards 6:35 off the clock
14 plays 92 yards 7:52 off the clock
10 plays 90 yards 5:14 off the clock
14 plays 92 yards 6:58 off the clock
14 plays 94 yards 6:03 off the clock
14 plays 71 yards 7:39 off the clock
14 plays 91 yards 7:04 off the clock
14 plays 90 yards 6:55 off the clock
14 plays 95 yards 7:27 off the clock

Those are spread out over 7 games, and there are shorter drives and quicker drives within those games, but as I play 10-minute quarters, any drive that can take over half a quarter is a quality drive. My best drive of all time was one for the record books... I went on a 22 play drive that was 99 yards long and took 11:29 off the clock! I had intercepted a pass and was downed at my own 1-yard line. Most people would get scared being so close to their own end zone - not me - I look at it like I have the opponent right where I want them!

Before we get into the playbook that I use, I must tell you that my philosophy is very much influenced by Mike Leach. I live in Missouri and being in Big XII country, I was able to see a ton of his games when he was at Texas Tech. Mike isn't afraid to go for it on 4th down - from ANYWHERE on the field! I remember one game at Tech when his team took the opening kick-off and started at their own 20. Three plays later they were facing 4th and 5. Every coach in the country would punt in that situation. Not Leach. He went for it. And they converted. They then went down the field and scored a TD!

Now I don't go for it on 4th down a lot - but if I have a FG kicker with weak kick power, once I get inside the 50, I will always go for it on 4th down since my kicker can't make a FG over 40 yards... However, if you haven't found this out yet, you should know that in NCAA '14, you will pay for it if you fail on 4th down. The game makes you pay for going for it and failing, much like in real life. So... if you plan to go for it on 4th down... make sure you are prepared to make it... because if you don't, it could cost you a game.

Alright... so let's now get into my playbook... also very much influenced by Mike Leach... but also rooted in the R&S. Here are the formations in my playbook... you'll note that there are only 11 formations...

The first formation is 4-wide, with my QB under center, and here are the plays in that formation:

This formation has one of my two running plays - the HB Dive - and has some key pass plays. None of these are R&S pass plays, these are more more Air Raid plays - and I run them as is with just a few minor tweaks... so let's get into those...

On the pass play called Slot Cross, if the CB's are backed off I will hot route the Z receiver - or "B" on your X-Box 360 controller - to a Smoke Route. And before we get into this, I need to let you know that I will use the R&S terminology for the WR's, and they are called as such:

X.........W................LT....LG....C....RG....RT......... ......Y.....................Z

................................................QB ....SB

The "W" stands for Wing. In the Air Raid, this guy is the "H" receiver, and it's important to take note of that, because we will get into some plays where the "H" is used. Just know that "W" and "H" are the same guy. Also, in the R&S the running back is called the "Super Back." This is because he must do everything. He must be like another lineman and be able to pass block, he must be able to run and at least be able to get away from the first defender he faces - either breaking the tackle or running away from him - and he must be able to catch passes too.

So when I mention the Y receiver, refer to the diagram above... I won't be using the X-Box buttons to spotlight a receiver, I will be using the R&S and briefly, the Air Raid way of signifying the receivers.

Now that pass play, Slot Cross, I will only use this if I am on the right side of the field... the right hash, or if I am in the middle of the field. If I am on the left hash, then this play will not be called. One thing that I DON'T EVER DO is flip plays. This, again, comes from Mike Leach. Leach has said he doesn't flip plays because then when teaching a play he has to teach each receiver TWO routes to run. He says that it's easier to teach people a new place to line up as opposed to teaching them more routes to run.

So using the Leach philosophy, I never flip plays. Most of you do, and this will be something that you may have a big problem with. If you want to continue flipping plays, then that's fine. But I will tell you this... if you get used to NOT flipping them, you'll be amazed at how much easier your playbook is... you get used to plays being run one way and one way only... and it just makes things easier. Again, this is completely up to you.

On the play Slot Pivot, this can be a great play for a short gain, hitting the W on the Zig route against Man, it can be a great intermediate play, hitting X on the Dig, or it can be a great deep route, hitting Y on the Go route. Rarely - as in almost never - do I look for the Z or the SB on this play.

Z Shallow Cross is an Air Raid play and can also be great for a short pass to Z on the shallow crossing route, W on the Dig or X on the Post, you also get a little bit of the Switch concept as Y crosses Z and goes deep.

X Follow is another great play where X and W run similar routes at different depths, but you get the SB going in the opposite direction and this can cause the defense some confusion and you just may get a bit of a pick play here against Man... the W can cause the MLB some difficulty getting over to cover the SB and you can get good yards on a short, safe pass.

The other two plays, HB Dive and WR Deep Outs are good plays. The HB Dive is a good running play, sure to get you, on average, anywhere between 4-10 yards and the deep outs, I typically only throw to the two inside receivers; W on the post or Y on the crossing route. I will also hot route SB to a Blue Route on this play.

The next formation is ACE: Trips 4 WR, and now we get into some R&S plays.

I've included the HB Dive into this formation for those of you who want a running play out of something other than just 2 X 2... since I only play off-line I don't have to worry about an opponent figuring out that I only run when in 2 X 2 formations... but I know that some of you will want to use this on-line, so there's a running play out of Trips just for you.

Now, let's take a look at the R&S plays...

In typical EA fashion, they didn't get these R&S plays right. The Go route has the inside receiver on the Trips side running a flat route, but in game he will only gain a yard at best... in real life this receiver runs the route to about a 5-yard depth... so... how do we get around this?

Easy... simply hot route the Y receiver to a Zig route... and since this may get confusing, when I say the Y, I mean the "A" on the X-Box. You see, this play originally was run from a 2 X 2 formation... which means 2 WR's lined up on each side... and this play was originally called this:

Rip 60 Z Go... the Rip meant that the W would motion to the Right side, creating a Trips formation, and he would motion himself to be between the two receivers on the right, so he would he would be the "RB" receiver on your X-Box and he would have the option of running multiple routes. In game, EA only has him running 3 potential routes. In reality he would have as many six route options.

Now, once you hot route Y or "A" to the Zig, if the D is playing Man, you have to throw as soon as that receiver plants his foot. This will give you the most separation from the defender. If they're in Zone, you can still go to this receiver, but you'll probably want to check your option route receiver, because the play could go for a big gain!

Typically, when I am playing a game, this will be my first play call if I am on the left hash or in the middle of the field. If I am on the right hash I will never call this and as I stated earlier, I don't flip plays. So this is only called on the left hash or middle of the field.

I like to start a game with several quick, short passes... to get my QB warmed up and my offense into a rhythm. And this play is a good one to use. Hit Y ("A") on the Zig and pick up 4-6 yards. (It should be noted that EA didn't get this play right from a terminology stand point either. As it is in the game, with the receivers already lined up in Trips, it should be called: Early Rip 60 Z Go... sorry, but I am a very technical person and I really hate things that aren't listed as they should be)

Okay... moving on... the next play is 61 X Choice. And while EA has the X receiver as the one you should look to, this is wrong. You can hit X if you want a short gain, but hitting the W (RB) or Z (B) is the best way to go. If you see Cover 2, this play is a killer!!!

And the reason this play just destroys Cover 2 is this... you have two receivers going deep and the SS has to pick one of them to cover. He can't cover both. W will run the post while Z runs the Go and one of them WILL be open. It's also great against the Blitz, as Y ("A") runs a short In. I will hot route the SB to a Blue Route on this play as well. You'll notice that if I hot route the SB, it's almost always to a delayed route... it keeps him in to block and then he'll release and sometimes you can hit it just perfectly and get a nice gain from him.

It should be noted that 61 X Choice should be called this: Early Rip 60 X Choice. In the original R&S, when the QB was always under center and did half roll outs, he would roll to his left on this play, he would look at the X, but more often than not he went down the field to either W or Z. In the original R&S, the way the QB would roll dictated the play call... so if he rolled right, it would be a 60 or 90 call, if he rolled left, it would be a 61 or 91... in this play, with the receivers already in Trips and the QB in Shot-Gun and NOT rolling out, I would call it as listed above: Early Rip 60 X Choice. I won't blame EA for calling it the way they did... they probably didn't research the R&S enough and didn't know... so they just called it what they saw from the original R&S.

Next up is 60 Slide... or, as it should be called: Early Rip 60 Slide. This is a play that I love, although if you are not used to this, it will be very confusing at first. Here's a simple suggestion... go to Practice Mode and set the D for Cover 2 and get used to seeing this play against Cover 2... then move on to Cover 3, Cover 4, Man, Blitz and every possible defense you will see... this is the part where you have to work... it's like you're a QB and this is your film study and practice!

Once you get used to seeing these plays against ALL possible defenses, then set the D to "Random play"... now you'll have to read the D both pre-snap and post snap... and you'll get to see how good you're getting at being a R&S QB! Also, don't worry about your WR's dropping passes in Practice Mode... since EA doesn't give you the option of telling your receivers to "Focus On The Catch," they will drop a lot of passes, particularly when getting hit as the ball arrives. Don't worry about that... just make sure of two things: That YOU are making the right reads and that your QB is delivering the ball accurately.

And these R&S plays will take some work... but once you get used to seeing the D and the various plays they can be in, this will become second nature and soon you will be using these R&S plays to tear defenses apart!

One thing I should tell you... I have 60 Slide with my QB under center as an audible. I do this because once or twice a game the D will come out and will not have a DB over the Y or "A" receiver. This means they're blitzing and I will audible to 60 Slide and as soon as I get the snap, I will hit the Y or "A" with a quick pass. I press "A" and down on the left stick - (think 6:00 o'clock) - now you still have to read the linebacker, but if he doesn't move over to cover the Y or "A", then this play is deadly. And... Jim Kelly and the Gamblers did this exact thing a LOT! Try this out in Practice Mode and you will see what I mean.

Of the other plays in this formation, I'll just say this... I use the Bubble a lot, because EA finally got the Bubble right in '14, and I use the PA WR In a lot too, only I never use the PA. I will hot route the SB to a Blue Route and either hit Y or "A" on the Drag or X on the Dig... if you notice it's Cover 2 and have time to wait for Z or "B", you can hit the Post too. And while this isn't a R&S play, you do get a bit of the Switch concept on the right side, and the Drag and Dig are great routes.

The next formation is the Pistol: Spread.

Your QB is in the Pistol and your WR's are in a 2 X 2 formation. And for the first time we see some Air Raid concepts in that the W is called H... The first play is: 60 H Y Option. It's pretty simple... H and Y have Option routes while X and Z run Go routes. It's a great play against Man... hit the H... Cover 2... hit the Y or, if you read it quickly, either X or Z once they clear their man, and is also great against Blitz or any other Zone the D can throw at you. Again, use Practice Mode to get a feel for what works best against any particular defense. You can also hot route X or Z to a Hook if the CB's are playing off... this too will beat Man or Cover 3/4...

The play that I love in this formation is: RNS Vertical Read. They have the Y or "A" running an Option Route and I always hot route the Z or "B" to a Hook if the CB is playing off. This play can be deadly once you get the reads down!!!

One note on this play... this is called: Ace Rip 6 in the Air Raid offense and most of you know this play - or at least have seen it - in the famous Texas Tech vs Texas game where Michael Crabtree makes the great catch at the end of the game for the winning score. In the Air Raid all 4 receivers are supposed to do what EA has the Y or "A" receiver doing... in other words, all 4 receivers run option routes... and in that Tech game, Crabtree runs an option route, and finally does a Comeback, where Graham Harrell throws it out there and Crabtree just makes the play.

If you go to You Tube and find that play, you'll see the other 3 receivers running option routes and you'll see Crabtree running the Comeback. This is an essential play in the Air Raid and is very similar to what the R&S receivers did and still run.

The other two Option Route plays: 60 X Option and Y Cross Flood are pretty self explanatory and again, try these in Practice Mode to get a feel for these against various defenses. The other Air Raid play is Z Shallow Cross. Z or "B" and H or "Y" are the two main routes to look at, and Y or "A" runs a Go or Wheel while X runs a Post.

Next up is: Pistol Trips 4 WR

You get the same three R&S plays as well as the Jailbreak Screen or, as EA calls it: WR Mid Screen and Curl Flat Wheel. The Curl Flat Wheel is simple... as the three receivers on the Trips side run the routes in the play call... a Curl, a Flat and a Wheel, while the X runs an Option. The "Curl" is actually a Hook though and this is another play where I hot route the Flat to a Zig.

Next up is: Shotgun Spread:

You'll notice that several plays are seen again, plays that are in Pistol Spread. 60 X Y Option, 60 X Option is now 60 Streak X Option, Y Cross Flood is now Y Cross. We also now have Y Shallow Cross. And we get Y Stick. On Y Stick I always will hot route the X receiver to a Drag route. I do this because it puts all my receivers in an area where I can easily see them and easily read the defense, and X will easily pick up 3-5 yards if I have to go to him. My first read is the Y or "A" receiver on the quick hitch. If the D is in Zone, I hit him quickly, if they're in Man, then I look to the W (Y) or Z. This is a play designed to pick up a first down on 2nd or 3rd and short.

Three other plays from this formation can be really good as well: Circle... again you get a bit of the Switch concept and X will kill Cover 2 and even Man with Cover 2 over the top. The SB coming out of the backfield is a good safety net as well. RNS Post Drag... this really isn't a R&S play - there are no option routes - but it's still a good play, with W (Y) hitting the Post, X on the Drag and Y (A) doing the Hook. The other play I like is Curl Flats...

If it were up to me I would call this SB Quick - and the reason is this... you hit your SB out of the backfield and he can pick up anywhere from 7-20 yards. He'll beat Man or Zone, and if you only use this a couple times a game, the defense is never expecting it.

Next up is this: Shotgun: Spread 4WR

I only have 3 plays in this formation, but really only use one, and that is the FL Drag. I put three plays in there because I don't like formations with less than 3 plays, and the PA Read can be a good play too. Just hot route the SB so that you don't actually use play action.

Next up we have this: Shotgun: Spread Flex

This has my other running play - another HB Dive, but out of Shotgun. It used to be that running from Shotgun was pointless, but not in '14. This play can be deadly. Right now, through 7 games in my current dynasty, my two SB's have combined for over 6 yards per carry average and scored 6 TD's and all have been from this play.

For what it's worth, I don't "Slide Protect" like some people do. They have an "Aggressive" mode in there, but I don't have to use it. This play works great and my SB's have always averaged well over 4.5 yards per carry, with 99% of my running plays being this one right here.

All the other plays - all 5 of them - you've already seen before except for Z Spot. I don't call this play much, but it can be a great play against Zone and with W running the Zig, it can also be great against Man. X on the Dig can also beat Man if you have a good enough WR.

Next up: Shotgun: Spread Flex WK

Pretty simple... only three plays... You get the H Shallow Cross - and remember, H and W are the same guy - you get the SB Quick to the left side as I don't flip plays, and lastly, you get a great play in Flanker Dig. On this play, if the D is in Man, you'll need to hot route your SB to stay in and block, because your primary read will be the X on the Hook. If you don't adjust your SB to block, the linebacker will follow him in Man and he'll get in the way of your pass to X. I've hit X on the Hook and had this go for gains of 79, 74, 60, 59, 57, 54, 52... against Man, if you get the timing down and have a guy with some good speed, this play can be deadly! I throw the Hook against Man before the X even makes his cut... and always throw it low... think 6:00 again... work on your timing in Practice Mode...

Next up: Shotgun: 4WR Trio Strong

All plays that we've already talked about, except that I've added Slot Drive here. A good, safe play with W doing the Drag and Y doing a deeper In. I use this formation for my backup WR's, to get them in the game, give my starters a rest and these are all good plays that allow them to get receptions, move the chains and allows me to rest my starters.

Next up: Shotgun: Trips

Again, all plays that you've seen except for the addition of Air Raid Under. The deep Out to Y (A) is a great route/play!

And finally, we have this: Shotgun: Trips Open

Another simple, small set of plays, the Air Raid Under is now going to the left - again, since I don't switch plays - and the Slot Corner is a great play! I hit the Bubble about 90% of the time and X on the short In the rest of the time. You'll have to get used to reading this, but it's a great play once you get the reads down.

The Gambler play is also good, with W (A) on the short Out and X on a slightly deeper In. You also get a bit of the Switch concept here.

One thing you may have noticed is that I don't use any RNS Switch plays in my playbook. The reason is that these routes are unstoppable. There's a video on You Tube showing how you can beat any defense with just the two Switch routes. I like things realistic - I don't like cheese - and as you know, once you see something, you can't un-see it... Knowing that the Switch concepts are basically broken - in your favor - makes them unacceptable to me. So that's why I don't use them.

So that's my Run & Shoot playbook... 11 formations, around 54 plays, but if you take into account all the plays that repeat in different formations, the total number of plays is probably around 32 or so. I keep it simple and work on repetition... just like Mike Leach does. He installs his entire offense in just three days... and then his teams just work on those plays over and over, until they become second nature.

I hope that some of you will find something from this that you can utilize and help take your game to a new level. I know this is a LONG read... and my apologies, but one can't go through a playbook and keep it short to be effective.

Last thing, here's what I look for in players to execute my offense:

OL - I really don't care what their run blocking is since I don't run that often, but I do need them to be excellent at pass blocking and have good awareness

SB - I look for guys that can pass block, catch passes and have decent speed/power. I don't care about size... if I find a guy that has all I need and he's 5'10", then I am fine with that. If he's 6'3", I am fine with that too

WR - Speed. Speed kills. You can never have enough speed. However, before speed can kill, they must be able to catch the ball, so I always look for guys who have good hands. Awareness is another big thing since they will need to run the correct option routes. Size really doesn't matter to me... right now I have one guy who is 5'6" 155 and another who is 6'4" 225. If I had to choose between speed and hands, hands would win easily. I can always drive down the field 4-5 yards at a time, but I can't do anything if guys are dropping passes

QB - Accuracy is #1 for me. Throwing power is nice, but my current QB has 79 for throwing power... but 87 for accuracy. And he's doing great! Always take accuracy over power... what good does a strong armed QB do you if he can't hit the broad side of a barn?

So that's it... any questions, feel free to ask. And if you've read this entire thing, I thank you! Hopefully you've learned something that can help you in your game!!!
# 1 thedudescrew @ Jul 1
Awesome man! Thanks for sharing. Great job and i can honestly say i learned something today.
# 2 TarHeelbred33 @ Oct 19
What an awesome write up. Much appreciated man
# 3 return.specialist @ Dec 25
Nice write up.
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