Pistol offense

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Chris Ault's "pistol" formation Pistol green.PNG
Chris Ault's "pistol" formation

The pistol offense is an American football formation and strategy developed by coaches Michael Taylor of Mill Valley, California and popularized by Chris Ault when he was head coach at the University of Nevada, Reno. It is a hybrid of the traditional shotgun and single back offenses. [1] In the pistol offense, also commonly referred to as the "pistol formation", the quarterback lines up four yards behind the center, which is much closer than the seven-yard setback in a traditional shotgun formation. The running back then lines up three yards directly behind the quarterback, which is in contrast to the shotgun, where they are beside each other. It is argued that the position of the quarterback in the pistol formation strikes an advantageous compromise: the quarterback is close enough to the line of scrimmage to be able to read the defense, as with run situation sets such as the I formation, but far enough back to give him extra time and a better vision of the field for passing plays, as in the shotgun. [2] The pistol formation is thus very versatile, particularly if the quarterback himself is a threat to run the ball, which makes it difficult for the defense to correctly anticipate the play. [3] This flexibility is enhanced by the option, where the quarterback reads one or more defenders and reacts to their responses to the snap, then makes a rapid decision whether to hand off the ball to the running back or keep it and run himself. [4]

Contents

History

Pistol formation used by Jerry Glanville in the 1990 season with the Atlanta Falcons against the San Francisco 49ers Pistol3.png
Pistol formation used by Jerry Glanville in the 1990 season with the Atlanta Falcons against the San Francisco 49ers

Michael Taylor of Mill Valley developed the Pistol formation as a complete offense (called the "Shotgun I" at that time) in 1999 while playing softball. Taylor introduced the formation to his friend, a college football coach at Division III Ohio Northern University, and during a conversation, he mentioned that his team needed to go into a new direction because his running back was quick, but his quarterback was tall and slow. Armed with this new idea of Shotgun I, Michael spent weeks developing new formations and schemes as a way of maintaining a downhill running game, while allowing his quarterback to be comfortable in the pass game. The plays worked; the backfield set was exclusively two back and included a full complement of runs to both the I back and the offset back (aligned next to the quarterback). [5]

University of Nevada head coach Chris Ault popularized the single back alignment (and renamed it "the Pistol") in 2005. [6] While the pistol offense has been experimented with by dozens of college football teams such as LSU, Syracuse, Indiana, and Missouri, Ault's Nevada Wolf Pack is most strongly associated with the formation. Using the Pistol Offense, during the 2009 season, Nevada led the nation in rushing at 345 yards a game and were second in total offense at 506 yards. The Wolf Pack also became the first team in college football history with three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season: quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running backs Luke Lippincott and Vai Taua. [7]

Football Championship Subdivision team James Madison University used the pistol to help beat #13 ranked Virginia Tech on September 11, 2010. The pistol has also made the transition to the NFL, first used by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008 with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and Quarterback Tyler Thigpen, and became popular once used by the Carolina Panthers with Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, as well as the aforementioned Colin Kaepernick with the San Francisco 49ers, who in the NFL Playoffs versus the Green Bay Packers set the all-time single game rushing record for a quarterback with 181 yards. Along with the wildcat, the pistol has added more of a college "playmaker" aspect to the professional game.

On December 5, 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers used the Pistol offense so quarterback Ben Roethlisberger could play with a bad foot. [8]

Today, it is common in all levels of college football, and is gaining popularity among high school teams and in the NFL.

Advantages

The pistol retains the position and advantages of a shotgun formation; allowing the quarterback to see easily over the line and make downfield reads. The running back however, is positioned further back, allowing him to time to run up and build momentum similar to a play under center. The pistol offense can effectively use draw plays, counters, and options using three-wide receiver formations or multiple tight ends combined with a fullback for pass protection. In a pistol formation, handoffs occur 2-3 yards closer to the line of scrimmage than in the shotgun. In the traditional shotgun, run plays are most effectively run to the side opposite the running back, without a cutback to the other side. In the pistol, they can be effectively executed to either side of the QB, opening up more options for the offense. This can make for a more effective running game, but may limit pass efficiency due to quicker recognition of play action by linebackers and defensive backs. This formation works well with dual threat quarterbacks who can both throw and run and is also used when quarterback's mobility has been limited by injury.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shotgun formation</span> American football offensive formation

The shotgun formation is a formation used by the offensive team in gridiron football mainly for passing plays, although some teams use it as their base formation. Instead of the quarterback receiving the snap from center at the line of scrimmage, in the shotgun he stands farther back, often five to seven yards off the line. Sometimes the quarterback will have a back on one or both sides before the snap, while other times he will be the lone player in the backfield with everyone spread out as receivers.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Option offense</span> American football offense style

An option offense is an American football offensive system in which a key player has several "options" of how each play will proceed based upon the actions of the defense. Traditionally, option-based offenses rely on running plays, though most mix in forward passes from an option formation as a change of pace.

The halfback option play is an unorthodox play in American and Canadian football. It resembles a normal running play, but the running back has the option to throw a pass to another eligible receiver before crossing the line of scrimmage.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Single set back</span> American football offensive formation

Single set back is an offensive base formation in American football which requires only one running back lined up about five yards behind the quarterback. There are many variations on single back formations including two tight ends and two wide receivers, one tight end/three wide receivers, etc. The running back can line up directly behind the quarterback or offset either the weak side or the strong side.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chris Ault</span> American athletic director, football coach and former player

Christopher Thomas Ault is a former American football player, coach, and college athletics administrator. He served three stints at the head football coach at the University of Nevada, Reno, leading the Nevada Wolf Pack to a record of 234–108–1 over 28 seasons and guiding the program from the NCAA's Division II to Division I-AA in 1978 and then to Division I-A in 1992. Ault was also the athletic director at Nevada from 1986 to 2004. He was the school's starting quarterback from 1965 to 1968. He is a former consultant for the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). Ault was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2002, seven years after his first retirement from coaching in 1995. He also coached in the Italian Football League.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">T formation</span> Formation used in American football by the offensive team

In American football, a T formation is a formation used by the offensive team in which three running backs line up in a row about five yards behind the quarterback, forming the shape of a "T".

The triple option is an American football play used to offer several ways to move the football forward on the field of play. The triple option is based on the option run, but uses three players who might run with the ball instead of the two used in a standard option run.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spread offense</span> Offensive scheme in American and Canadian football

The spread offense is an offensive scheme in gridiron football that typically places the quarterback in the shotgun formation, and "spreads" the defense horizontally using three-, four-, and even five-receiver sets. Used at every level of the game including professional, college, and high school programs across the US and Canada, spread offenses often employ a no-huddle approach. Some implementations of the spread also feature wide splits between the offensive linemen.

In American football, a play is a close-to-the-ground plan of action or strategy used to move the ball down the field. A play begins at either the snap from the center or at kickoff. Most commonly, plays occur at the snap during a down. These plays range from basic to very intricate. Football players keep a record of these plays in a playbook.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Veer</span> American football play

The Veer is an option running play often associated with option offenses in American football, made famous at the collegiate level by Bill Yeoman's Houston Cougars. It is currently run primarily on the high school level, with some usage at the collegiate and the professional level where the Veer's blocking scheme has been modified as part of the zone blocking system. The Veer is an effective ball control offense that can help minimize mismatches in a game for a team. However, it can lead to turnovers with pitches and handoff option reads.

The Nevada Wolf Pack football program represents the University of Nevada, Reno in college football. The Wolf Pack competes in the Mountain West Conference at the Football Bowl Subdivision level of the NCAA Division I. It was founded on October 24, 1896, as the Sagebrushers in Reno, Nevada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pro-style offense</span> NFL-style American football offensive scheme

A pro-style offense in American football is any offensive scheme that resembles those predominantly used at the professional level of play in the National Football League (NFL), in contrast to those typically used at the collegiate or high school level. Pro-style offenses are fairly common at top-quality colleges but much less used 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.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">2008 Humanitarian Bowl</span> Annual NCAA football game

The 2008 Humanitarian Bowl was a postseason college football bowl game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Nevada Wolf Pack on December 30, 2008. It was the two teams' first meeting. The game featured two conference tie-ins: the University of Maryland represented the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the University of Nevada represented the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The game was played at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho and was the 12th edition of the Humanitarian Bowl. It was sponsored by the New Plymouth, Idaho-based company Roady's Truck Stops, which claims to be the largest chain of truck stops in the United States.

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Pistol-Flex or Pistol Double-Slot is a hybrid of two well-known American football formations: the pistol and flexbone formations. It was pioneered in 2009 by Paul Markowski, who is currently an offensive consultant for Chestnut Hill College. By combining the strengths of each offensive set, the end result is a formation that is very effective for both passing and running. The triple option can be used from this set very effectively. Markowski has developed a true quadruple option play run out of the Pistol-Flex formation.

The run and shoot offense is an offensive system for American football which emphasizes receiver motion and on-the-fly adjustments of receivers' routes in response to different defenses. It was conceived by former high school coach Glenn "Tiger" Ellison and refined and popularized by former Portland State offensive coordinator Mouse Davis.

References

  1. Charean Williams (February 1, 2013). "Read Option". Fort Worth Star-Telegram . Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  2. "Colin Kaepernick and the pistol: A marriage made in football heaven".
  3. Old Timer (February 2, 2013). "My Two Cents: Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden". silverandblackdaily.com. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  4. Tom Silverstein (February 3, 2013). "Out on video: defending the 'pistol' offense". bostonherald.com. Retrieved February 3, 2013.
  5. "Inside the Playbook: Pistol Offense". Krossover. May 6, 2016. Retrieved September 11, 2017.
  6. Pete Thamel (October 10, 2010). "Nevada's Runaway Offense". The New York Times . Retrieved December 23, 2012.
  7. "Hall of Fame to honor Nevada trio". ESPN.com. Associated Press. August 4, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
  8. "Welcome".