Run and shoot offense

The run and shoot offense (also known as Run N' Shoot) 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.


The run and shoot system uses a formation consisting of one running back and usually four wide receivers. This system makes extensive use of receiver motion (having a receiver suddenly change position by running left or right, parallel to the line of scrimmage, just before the ball is snapped), both to create advantageous mismatches with the opposing defensive players and to help reveal what coverage the defense is using. If a defender stays with the motioning receiver, it would imply man-to-man coverage.

The basic idea behind the run and shoot is a flexible offense that adjusts "on the fly," with the receivers changing their routes based on the defensive coverage and play of the defenders covering them. The quarterback then not only reads the defensive coverage to determine where to throw the ball, but must also read the defenders to determine the probable route his receivers may run. As a result, the offense is considered complex and difficult to implement due to the intelligence and communication required between quarterback and receivers.

In the purest form of the offense, the proper complement would consist of two wide receivers lined up on the outside edges of the formation and two "slotbacks" (wide receivers who line up one step back from the line of scrimmage, so as not to be considered "covered" and thus ineligible) lined up just outside and behind the two offensive tackles. The formation would look very similar to the Flexbone Offense formation.

Formation history

The original inventor of the run and shoot, Glenn "Tiger" Ellison, first started out with a formation that overloaded the left side of the offensive line for his scrambling quarterback. He called it "The Lonesome Polecat".[1]

Oftentimes, the receivers used were shorter (often ranging from 5'7" to 5'10" in height) but faster to try and win their routes by outrunning defensive backs. One of the initial concepts behind the offense was inserting a faster wide receiver in place of the slower tight end. Running backs often varied in size but were usually bigger in weight, ranging from 210 to 230 pounds, due to the requirement of blocking. The size also allowed for mismatches as defenses (usually a nickel defense or dime defense) would often include a smaller defensive back in place of a linebacker to cover that 4th wide receiver. Since the running backs were bigger, many of the runs were designed to go inside or behind the offensive guard to let the wide receivers block the defensive backs.

Many of the National Football League teams that used the run and shoot in the early 1990s used true wide receivers in all four receiving positions.


Originally, the run and shoot was set up so the quarterback would be under center with the running back lined up a few yards behind him. Later, during his tenure with the University of Hawaii, June Jones used quarterback Colt Brennan out of the shotgun. In this case the running back is usually offset to the right or left of the quarterback.

Also at Hawaii, Nick Rolovich tweaked the formation to run out of the pistol, thus creating an opportunity for a mobile quarterback to become a second running back. This led to increased success in the running game.

Another formation that can often be seen with the run and shoot is the trips formation, where three wide receivers are situated to the right or left side of the line of scrimmage. Most of the time, this formation will be created out of motion when the W or Y receiver moves to the opposite side of the formation helping force defenses to declare whether they are in man-to-man coverage or zone defense.

Professional and collegiate notability with offense

The Portland State Vikings under head coach Mouse Davis went 42–24 in his tenure installing the offense and putting the system on the map. Quarterback Neil Lomax set many records including career NCAA passing yards.[2]

At the collegiate level, the 1989 Houston Cougars football team demonstrated the scoring potential of the run and shoot offense as quarterback Andre Ware set 26 NCAA records and won the Heisman Trophy while the #14 ranked Cougars finished the season 9–2. The Cougars were disallowed from having its football games televised or playing in a Bowl Game that season due to NCAA sanctions imposed some years earlier. The following two seasons Houston quarterback David Klingler continued the success of the run and shoot throwing for 9,430 yards and 91 touchdowns, including 716 yards and 11 touchdown passes in a single game which were all records.[3][4] Quarterbacks Ware and Klingler were both drafted in the NFL first round. The success of Houston's run and shoot offense along with the inability of its record setting quarterbacks to translate their success into the NFL lead to the label of such quarterbacks in this system being "system quarterbacks".

At the University of Hawaii, June Jones went 76–41[5] including seeing quarterback Timmy Chang set a record for most NCAA completions and passing yards in 2004[6] and quarterback Colt Brennan set a record for touchdown passes in 2006 with 58[7] In 2018, Hawaii brought back the run and shoot offense under former Hawaii QB and current head coach Nick Rolovich.


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