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The Run and Shoot

Posted: December 11, 2018 at 8:22 pm   /   by   /   comments (2)

This offense has been a topic of conversation for a long time now. I grew up watching nearly every offense in the NFL run this system. The numbers were staggering and quarterbacks we launching deep bombs down the field to trio’s of receivers. It was fun football, and I grew to love watching Sunday games because of it. 

The generic idea behind the Run and Shoot is the ability to “option or choice” routes. When in reality the idea is the Run and Shoot offense was designed to overload and outflank zone coverage, and creating the one on one mismatch and breaking leverage. Before diving in deeper to this offense I felt that it was very labor heavy to install. After diving into some very old notes I procured, I found that it is a series offense full of if-then principles. That “CHOICE” (in original form) is a concept based on over rotation of the motion, and while the receivers were expected to know the coverage based on the motion. In this post I want to take a look at this offense from its creation of the double slot look. This offense in its purest form can bring forth formations that I know could be used in 10 and 11 (H-Back Personnel). ****Disclaimer****I am by no means an expert on this offense, but just a fan and novice of it. 

Let me first start out by quoting Mouse Davis:

Our pass offense will consist of four basic patterns. The patterns won’t change but with the motions used, it will give the impression of many patterns.  

All receivers should expect the ball at all times. You must read the coverage and adjust your route. Study the details and you’ll be right. The QB will throw quickly and to the open receiver. 

The run and shoot was created around the motion. Motion is used to introduce the trips formation to one side of the defense. This should force the defense to make adjustments to compensate for the over shifted offensive set. At this moment is precisely when the if-then comes alive. If you want to succeed in this offense the recognition of these points are vital. 

  • If the defense rolls the secondary to meet the trips, then they end up with one-on-one coverage to the weak side
  • If they do not adjust, the offense has a numerical advantage to the motion side. 
  • If they remove a run support player to help with the motion, then they become vulnerable to the running game. 




This is the base formation for the offense. The X and Z receiver get a max split from tackle. The W and Y are in a 3 yard split outside of the tackle. The chief idea behind the wide split is to delete the safety from being able to exchange responsibility with the corner. The logistical idea is to create space for the motioning receivers, and to maintain balance. There are only 2 motions from this formation, that have to be taught and the best part is, that are specialized to the position. 










The Rip/Liz motion is ran at full speed. This is so that the defense has to scramble to adjust. What is simple about this motion is the W only runs RIP and the Y only Runs LIZ. So in teaching the offense you only have to teach the language to the position it applies to. 










The next motion we will look at is the “tag” to Rip/Liz called Left/Right. This motion would be used to take advantage of over shifting defenses. This accounts for early rolling, from the normal Rip/Liz motion.

  • Motion is ran at full speed
  • Run to opposite guard and return
  • Acknowledge if the defense is chasing the motion, rolling or expanding force players
  • look for ball quickly on hot blitzes

This motion much like the Rip/Liz is simple The W only has to know key word “left,” and the Y only has to know “right.”


With the communication staying the say “Rip” tells the W to go right, and wide tells him to inside stack the Z receiver. The opposite of this shown below is the opposite, “Liz”  telling the Y to go left, and wide tells him to stack inside the X receiver. 


The motions that go along with this formation are similar to Ace formation. The difference is how they are built into the concept.

Liz Wide Right








This is the Liz Wide formation, shown with the “Right” motion call. This motion takes us to a Early Rip or Early Liz formation (which is the trips formation for the Run and Shoot. We will examine this motion later in the article to get receivers moving and crossing. Rip Wide Left would be the opposite.

The next motion in this formation takes us back to Rip and Liz motion we spoke about earlier in the post.


Rip Wide Liz







The next motion in this formation is Left and Right









Early Rip Formation


Early Liz Formation

The motions used out of this formation is the same as we have used in each set, Rip/Liz and Left/Right. This formation is the only really “evenly spaced” trips formation by alignment.

Go Concept

Rip Go

The first concept in the offense we will talk about is Go. This play places a quick stretch on the Strong Safety in a zone defense and attack the seam for the deep threat when facing man. The biggest idea behind this is attacking the seam/flat area the W/Y is working. By creating the vertical and horizontal stretch, the read would be the “wall” flat defender. If the defender walls the vertical throw the Y. If the defense widens with the motion look to bang throw the seam over the flat/under the safety.

Route Landmarks:

Z: MOR: Mandatory Outside Release

Y: Pre-Snap: Safeties and OLB. How will they attack your area? Run to flat building up to 5 Yards Max

W: Pre-Snap: Key safety to the side you are going to in zone. If man, key the defender that has you. 

X: MOR: Mandatory Outside Release

The qb will motion you 3-5 yards outside of Y versus zone to expand space. If man, he will motion you 1-3 yards past Y, and look for man adjustment. 

QB: movement key is who is responsible for the curl area. This varies because of the back end of coverage. How

Rip Go Read Player Vs 1 high

many safeties? Versus a 1 high look, The key would be the OSLB or the $$ walked down. In this look the defender would be your if/then player. How does he adjust to motion?  If the movement key stays deep hit the Y now. If the Movement key runs to Y, hit the W in the seam right now. 





Versus a 2 high look the movement key becomes the OSLB. How do they adjust to motion? Does the OSLB bump

Go Key versus 2 high

out? Do they rotate the secondary leaving the box the same? If no one goes out with the motion man right immediately throw it to him now!





Go Concept Man Adjustment

The man adjustment takes is designed to work against an over aggressive adjusting defense. The key is much like the adage in the Wing-T. The motion ran at (full speed) same pace every time forces the defense to adjust at the same rate, and sometimes try to over compensate from getting beat on the same play. The W receiver will turn up and then cut across the face of his man defender to return back to the open space once occupied before motion. Think of it as a down field counter or reverse. The key: everything looks the same. 

Go Concept Corner Adjustment

So the defense has adjusted to the seam flat threat of the Go concept. We need a change up, for the seam ball that is now being thrown. Attack the middle third of the outside zone. By simply tagging the W on a corner route, you are attacking over the flat player and underneath the corner. With the seam area being covered well by the defense you are now flooding the outer third and more importantly creating more space to throw the ball away from coverage. 

Go Concept Variations

Early Rip Liz Right Go


Rip Wide Left Go


Slide Concept

Slide Concept

The slide pattern is designed to force the $$ to deal with a vertical seam threat. It is best ran to the wide side of the field, because of the horizontal and vertical stretch made by the Y and W receivers. The wide splits of the receivers makes it nearly impossible to exchange routes. 

QB: Who is the adjuster? The OSLB or the Safety Rolling?

Look to see if you can hit the Y right now. If the OSLB is the adjuster you will probably be able to hit the Y immediately before the MLB can expand.

X; 3 steps upfield angle in and find open seam and throttle down in the 10-12 yard range.

Y: Key: Inside LB blitz. If he blitzes run HOT and look for ball immediately.

Widen release, look for ball and keep walling defender inside. Run seam route. If safety is over top cross his face and work to open area in middle of field.

W: If man chaser turn into wheel route. If zone look for rotation and run bubble route.


Slide Man Blitz

If the defense wanted to man up and bring the heat, this would be the adjustment. The Key is for the Z to take his man and run him right through the near safety. The Y would be the “hot” read working through the area vacated by blitz and inside of safety. 

Slide Man Adjustment

This adjustment can be used versus man coverage. This allows the defense to see an audible by the Y, inviting the wall of the seam, and then him breaking on a quick out to create separation into the vacated area. The “double” stem of the route again gets the “chaser” in a rhythm of walling the seam and late breaking on the out route. the Y should push to the point that the chasing defender opens his hips and then break to the outside. 

Slide Liz Right

In this adjustment we use the Liz motion with the Right tag. Defenses that will over roll to the motion will have to re-roll to the motion returning from where it started. this is a great way to employ a different look and force the defense to really communicate on all levels in a very small window of time. With the wide splits of the outside receivers, it would be a daunting task for the defense not the stay in man coverage on the outside for fear of giving up the short post area of the field. If they try to adjust with the LB’s the route by W opens up the middle zone area to throw the ball. The X on the backside is on a “switch route” so that allows the attacking of a safety who trails W or tries to re-roll with the return of the motion. 

Slide Y Hook

The Y hook audible can be employed versus a quarters bail team. This give the Y the option of settling in the soft spot of the mid-level zone. Many pro tight ends have made a career with this route. This allows the offense to attack a bailing safety, that is counting on his underneath linebackers to provide help. 

Slide Y Corner Post

This adjustment takes advantage of coverage reading the safety by the Y. 

Z: Run 8 yard sit route. 

Y: Read the safeties on motion. Make sure on release to stay inside the OSLB. Get to depth of corner before making the break on the route. 1 high safety break opposite of his hips, if 2 high split them. If corner sits and safety on hash break to corner.

Slide Concept Variations

Early Liz Right


Liz Right Slide


Early Wide Left Slide


Early Rip Liz SLide


Switch Concept

Switch Rip Left

The Switch concept forces the deep coverage to defend the field from sideline to sideline. The vertical stretch of the defense causes space to settle underneath and find open windows to stop in. 

QB: Movement key is the safety. Y-X

Z: MOR: Mandatory Outside Release

Y: Vertical release up the hash and look for ball. The Y is also the HOT receiver on blitz situations

W: Run at the butt of the X, and push up field reading the outside third of coverage. If you get man coverage  stay vertical, if the defense is in deep zone curl up in space, and stay outside. 

Switch Route Variations

  Switch Route Vs. 2 Deep Zone

Switch versus 2 deep Man










Switch versus 3 deep

Switch versus 3 deep Safety rolls away



Switch versus Man Free Safety Bail

Switch versus Man Free Safety Sits
















The variations of the outside receiver on the switch route is converted by reading the number of safeties and the reaction of the safety during the route. If this is ran properly then the defense will have a tough time defending the route.

Switch Concept Variations

Rip Left Switch


Early Rip Liz Switch


Early Rip Left Switch

Choice Concept

Choice Concept

This is the concept most know in the Run and Shoot offense. It is assumed that its all a “choice” route offense. While there are conversions inside each concept, some are reads and others are tags. The choice concept is really one created to keep the defense honest. The choice concept is ran to combat defenses who are overplaying the motion/field. This is the base play to combat the moving secondary to the motion. While this concept is the most popular it is strictly a part of the if/then and not a starting point or static play to be ran alone. 

QB: Identify how the safeties have been playing the rip/liz motion. See how the corner adjust to the motion away from wide out.  Look Z-Y-W

Z: Corner off 5-7 yards: 1. run a 7 step speed out or 7 steep post seam.

Run at outside of DB. 

If the corner maintains a 5 yard cushion, run an out. If the corner breaks the cushion run a post seam.

Corner is up in face run a MOR streak

Corner in 2 zone run a MOR streak

Blitz situation run a 3 step slant. 

Y: Run a seam, and always sprint through the underneath  zone. 

Route adjustments: 

  • If Free Safety is in middle of field and remains deep curl up between backers.  Free Safety in the middle of the field but shallow, run the seam
  • If the Free Safety is in the middle of the field but comes to you cross his face and take it up the middle of the field
  • If the Free Safety is in the middle but goes away stay on seam
  • If the Safeties are in 2 deep zone, run at near safety and break across to split them

Route adjustments versus man:

Take seam route past underneath defenders and allow the wall chaser to turn and then break across the field on a bender. 

W: Key the LB over you. Run a 5 yard crossing route. if zone settle between the middle backers, if man keep running across. 

Choice Even

This adjustment is used to control defenders flying out to get under the choice concept. The seam threat should hold the defense from being able to get out and under the routes.

Choice Variations

Choice Early Liz Rip


Early Liz


Liz Z Choice Special


Liz Wide Right


Liz Right Even


Early Liz Rip


Early Liz Right


Liz Wide Right Special

After looking at these basic concepts and reading some Mouse Davis notes, one can easily see  how the offense depended on how each motion, tag, and variation was used to stay one step ahead of the defenses adjustment. Maybe this is why the offense scored a ton of points at every level it has been used. It is truly a series based passing game at it core and dependent upon the ability of the play caller to counter act the defenses approach. 

The other task that has scared many potential coordinators from installing is the conversion of routes, often confused with the word “choice.” After studying this offense I have come to the understanding that you can strip it down to simple teaching. Much like in the Switch Route examples in the diagrams or the choice route concept it it really simple. Do the opposite of the person you are attacking.

Route adjustments: 

  • If Free Safety is in middle of field and remains deep curl up between backers.  Free Safety in the middle of the field but shallow, run the seam
  • If the Free Safety is in the middle of the field but comes to you cross his face and take it up the middle of the field
  • If the Free Safety is in the middle but goes away stay on seam
  • If the Safeties are in 2 deep zone, run at near safety and break across to split them

Route adjustments versus man:

Take seam route past underneath defenders and allow the wall chaser to turn and then break across the field on a bender. 

These small rules are all that is needed to be implied. What is amazing is the balancing and unbalancing of the defense by using the motions. The art of motion has been used by wing based offenses for over a century, to make defenses adjust and communicate at a very high rate. The wide “max” splits of the receivers create a man based coverage for the defenders, not allowing them to switch or match routes. We seen this small piece of the Run and Shoot used at Baylor, and now at other big programs. In today’s football where secondary and nickel defenses are the base, would this make it easier for us to exploit them by alignment? Not to mention the Run and Shoot employed a semi-roll system, and used the back as mainly protection, but what if you got the back involved with all the motion for the receivers and the running back being a pass threat away from it on the weak side? The would make linebackers have to cover running backs, because the secondary has to adjust to the motion. The 4 over 3 coverage to the motion would not become vulnerable. What about running motion to Go and then switch to the weak side with the running back?

Rip Go Switch

Over rotation work the switch side. If the defense adjust with backers, throw the Go side. These split concepts by using the back could easily be used to split the defense and allow for mismatches. 

Or how would the modern defense handle this formation?



The 3 yard split from the W receiver from the tackle poses problems for the defense to play the edge and stay leveraged with the vertical seam. Also the max split of the receivers of 15 yards from the tackle stresses coverage barriers. Now factor in the motion. The wing T once used a similar split in the offense. How does the defense protect C and D Gap. How does the secondary handle the vertical threat of the seam, and not give up the one on one throw as well as the vast amount of space to the 3 surface side? This is before factoring in any motion also. 

Dusting off this offense in its purest for has allowed me to appreciate it and embrace the simplistic difficulty it puts on the defenses. It is amazing how 4 simple pass concepts can be used with a few motions to create a massive amount of adjustments needed for a defense. 


Comments (2)

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  • December 12, 2018 at 5:13 am Steve

    EXCELLENT article on an EXCELLENT offense by an EXCELLENT Coach! I enjoyed this very much!

  • July 13, 2019 at 5:34 am Lee

    That why I love this offense! Some teams will apply banjo coverage concepts to try and defend it? It even plays more into the advantage of the run&shoot offense.
    Another concept that was missed was the 90/91 Read route.