The other details of an offense oriented
around these principles are deliberately left open, because they can
accommodate a variety of styles. You can split one or both ends,
and the fly man can be a wingback or flanker, all depending on how much
passing you'd like to do and to whom. Nothing says the line has to
be either balanced or unbalanced. As explained above, you have a
more complicated decision than usual as to whether to mirror the
However, there's a certain core of plays and series which, if you're
not going to incorporate them, there doesn't seem to be a reason to use
the system. You could conceivably dispense with the fly series, in
which case you're using the sidesaddle quarterback just as a way to help
spread the ball around as described above. If you think motion
tips the play and snap count too much, then I could see your not wanting
to run the fly. (Actually I do have such a "thing" against using
the single player in motion allowed in USAn football, but the full speed
fly is the one whose advantage overcomes it for me.)
If you're going to snap the ball back there, you might as well have
some cross-bucks. On plays going off-tackle or around end, you can
pull linemen and use a cross-bucking back to block the back side.
If you're going to snap to the QB, you might as well have at least
a sneak or a wedge; if you're playing NFL rules, sorry, no wedges
allowed; but you'll also want one or more quickie passes.
Beyond that is where the choices really start. Basically you can
concentrate on the plays available from a quarterback-under-center
formation, or on some
(but not all, because the center can't customize the snap) of the plays
from a single wing playbook, or both about equally. One approach
would be to orient around drop-back passing by the quarterback and
running passes by the deep backs; but if one of your running backs is
your best passer, nothing says hir first steps after taking the snap
have to be out of the pocket, and nothing says the quarterback can't
sprint out either.
Remember that your quarterback not only doesn't have to be your best
passer, s/he doesn't even have to be a genius at ballhandling or
footwork to run the fly series this way. So maybe aside from the
fly series you'd concentrate on hir blocking or receiving skill.
But unlike the old days, most of you are now playing under rules
that prohibit cut blocking by all but linemen, so if you're not
comfortable with your quarterback as a blocking back, that old shortcut
is no longer available to compensate for lack of skill or size.
Other than that, in the handed snap column you have a split back deuce
with a flanker or wingback. If you like wing T you can use it that
way, except that some
of the plays from that book would more effective with the snap thrown to
a deep back. The fly back goes thru so fast, you might consider
adding "second man" plays where an end or even a tackle follows around
and gets the real handoff heading into a hole opened by the fly's
If you like option plays, the QB's sideways stance means the deep back
nearer the sideline s/he's facing is in the better pitch relationship
for the speed option. That allows that back to specialize as a
trailer, because the QB's pivot to slide down the line the other way
gives that back time to get into pitch relationship. So the speed
option is asymmetric but uses the same components to both sides.
Then what do you do with the back side deep back on the speed
option to the side the QB faces? You could have hir available for
a delayed inside counter. However, the availability of the thrown
snap sets up other "look alike" moves from an extension of the series.
Either of the deep backs on taking the snap can immediately continue
"downhill" threatening the position of the opposite defensive end (or
other EMLOS) with the play-side back taking a steep trailer route.
The unblocked man knows it's an option play, but has very little
time to pick up whether it's the quarterback or the deep back who's
running the ball at hir. If it's not the quarterback with the
ball, guess who's available to kick hir out if it's a straight
off-tackle run instead of an option?
But if the QB gets the snap, triple
options are possible too. If the QB doesn't
get the snap, you
can adopt much of a single wing playbook, though certainly not all of
it. You wouldn't want to run a buck lateral or any of the buck
series involving the QB in ballhandling, because then you might as well
have snapped it to hir; it would be another case of superfluous
deception. That's not to say you couldn't work out something
worthwhile like it using the fly
as the link player, but it'd take some creativity.
Meanwhile the same type of delayed hit deception as the buck
series provides the single wing can be had by various quarterback fakes
to a diving back and then a handoff or pitch to another.
If you keep the formation balanced, sweeps and running passes to either
side would be attractive to threaten the edges. So if you have a
left handed passer, that player might be best deployed as the right
And in all this, since your center doesn't have to look between hir
legs, there's no tipping the thrown snap plays, and s/he's more quickly
available to block. Instead of the guards having to help out, the
center can more easily fill while neighboring linemen pull. You
have that sidesaddle QB available to seal block as well, although hir
stance makes it harder to disguise blocking intentions than would be the
case if s/he were crouching and could "hide" while adjusting position.
I do not see anything to be gained in terms of deception by dropping
the fly concept and playing straight sidesaddle T. The presence of
a deep back in the midline at the same depth would only complicate the
crossbucking moves, while losing the speed to the side and ball-hiding
effect of the fly back. A diamond T would get the fullback out of
the way of the halfbacks, but to keep the snap the same for all, the
fullback could pick it up only running straight ahead.
Below is shown one play of a potentially extensive series. The set for
illustration has the right end playing in a position the run-oriented
coaches call "nasty split" and the pass-oriented coaches call "flexed",
while the left end is split wide, and the fly man is a flanker, but
those details aren't essential. The deep backs will cross-buck, while
the quarterback and fly will show fly sweep and bootleg. In the play
shown the ball is snapped at the same instant for the fly man in
motion's position for the fly sweep, but in this case the snap goes to
the strong side running back who catches it chest high. The blocking
can be arranged to provide any desired combination of power and
key-breaking. This example is a long inside trap by the weak tackle on
the middle guard of the 5-2 shown. Because the weak linebacker may take
the tackle's pull as an indication of strong off-tackle, or may play the
fly sweep, hir path is unknown; in case s/he overruns the hole, an
alternative blocking path is shown for the right guard. With two bodies
coming in hir direction, the back side DE isn't going to make the play,
even if neither of them is actually assigned to block hir. The timing
will of course require some practice; the snap crosses just in front of
the fly man, the ballcarrier crosses just behind the fly, and the other
running back carrying out a fake (pretending also to take the snap)
crosses behind the QB.
Note that in captioning these diagrams I don't refer to a strong or
weak side, because the fly's motion would make such designation
arbitrary and confusing. The fly's path is pretty well fixed, but
the RBs could carry out any number of other fakes or hit other holes,
while the QB could crab a little backward on the bootleg path, and any
of them could be a passer as well. You have all four backs immediately
coming out, any of whom might have the ball, and 3 out of 4 of them get
it without a handoff. Contrast that with the full spin series in the
single wing, where the hit is delayed, you have only 3 backs who might
have the ball, and 2 of them have to get it via handoff. Also in the
single wing, with the center's head down, you'd never consider the
blocking scheme shown for this trap; admittedly it's a bit ambitious,
but at least not out of the question, for a center whose head is up to
help open the hole after making a thrown snap.
Alternatively you might forego the fly sweep on a given snap to
preserve the surprise of the timing, snapping it before or after the fly
passes the "correct" position. You'd still have 3 possible runners. You
could do the same regarding the motion in the single wing's full spin,
but then you have only 2 possible ballcarriers.
Below is illustrated a strong side off-tackle-sweep combination with no
fly motion but cross-buck action, shown against just a few defenses.
In this case the defense is to be read by the blockers, who will
decide whether it is to develop as an off-tackle or a sweep.
Alternatively, take away the blocking reads and have definite
off-tackle and sweep plays. Click on the small diagrams to link to
larger, captioned versions.
There's no end to the games you can play with the multiple threats to
the side the quarterback faces, the wing side. The play diagrammed
below against a 6-2 looks superficially like a triple option, but if you
examine closely you'll see the timing isn't right for that.
Rather, the left running back (left fullback) crosses behind
the quarterback, who
has already faked the fly handoff. What we're using is the threat
of a play of the type shown above wherein the left fullback's taking the
snap quickly threatens the same area which might've been hit by a triple
option handoff, while meanwhile the quarterback is already on the edge,
which presents a real challenge to the defense if they don't know who
got the snap. The fly man's position at the snap helps shield it
from the view of the play side defenders; in this case it didn't travel
thru the air, but do they know that?
The play side tackle is assigned to widen and allow the defensive
tackle inside, but not to allow the defensive end or linebacker to cross
his face in either direction. What you would want most is for all
of them to be drawn inside by the threat of the left running back.
If either the defensive tackle or end faces the quarterback's
face, the pitch is to be made, which means the trailer needs to be
watching for an early pitch.
It would appear the best way to play this would be for the defense,
already shown above playing 3 deep, to assign the play side linebacker
to the direct run by the back side running back/fullback, the tackle to
the quarterback, and the end to the play side running/fullback.
But even if the fly starts the motion as above, the fly could
easily load on one of them as in the off-tackle runs shown previously.
There's also no reason you couldn't have both plays like the above
and triple options, if your style and quarterback are up to it.
While I'm far from presenting full series, I can't resist stringing
together a few diagrams of look-alike plays. So to go with the
quarterback option above I have diagrammed below an option by the left
fullback/running back. In option runs on the edge of the
formation, the deep backs have the advantage of being able to start
"downhill" immediately instead of having to cut upfield. The
trailer takes almost the same path regardless of who's potentially
pitching to hir.
You have an additional blocker
in the quarterback, but this version is also loaded with the fly man.
The ball is snapped before the fly reaches position for the normal
sweep handoff, although s/he could always take a delayed handoff from
the quarterback for a quick counter. I'm showing the fly man
doubling on a defensive tackle, but then able to slide off to cut off
the backside linebacker, but if the fly sweep threat is strong enough it
may be advisable to instead run the fly man thru to draw the defense
away from the play side.
The defense has to decide whether to let the nasty split end get an
inside release, or to get outisde leverage or release. If they
knew this was coming, the defensive end, if s/he was good, would try to
pin the tight end in, both to maintain a path to the option trailer and
to keep the end from blocking the cornerback as shown. But of
course it's your job in developing a series to have enough threats that
they don't know what's coming; the two option plays would not be
sufficient alone. In addition to the off tackle runs previously
diagrammed, a quickie pass from the quarterback to an inside-releasing
tight end would help, though I haven't diagrammed one. The fly man
could constitute a quick "bunch" with the tight end and release either
inside or outside as well. Exemplary of the ways you could work
play action passes off the above option plays would be the following,
which also illustrates the sidesaddle quarterback's advantageous stance
for quick throws toward the side s/he faces:
The quarterback's first move
while cocking the ball (which is partially the same movement as for the
fly sweep handoff) is right foot, left foot, and then a lob to the tight
end. The QB's been looking in that general direction since before
the snap anyway, and should be able to see in that time whether the TE's
gotten any kind of release (enough to run onto the lobbed ball) and the
cornerback's been sufficiently drawn in to cover the option pitch.
If not, then instead of stepping forward with the right foot while
throwing off the left, the QB pulls the ball down while pushing off the
left foot to crab rightward a couple of steps before turning forward for
the remaining reads. The second look is at the play side running
back, whose path is the same as for the option, but who will probably be
covered, leaving the final look at the tight end, who after not seeing
the lob pass continues on the route shown.
To sell the run look, the center and play side guard pop block
together, while in a violation of the usual inside-out rule for pass
protection, the play side tackle widens and chooses who to block of
those who are coming. The end gets a little outside touch on the
defensive end as in, "Oops, I let the DE get inside me." This
means that if the quick throw isn't there, the QB has to immediately get
behind the block of the backside running back, who's taking the same
path as in the option plays, and if the linebacker shoots then you hope
he tries to tackle that same running back. Hopefully the play side
DT and DE will be influenced to take paths such that even if they get
their hands up in time, they won't be in the lane of the quick throw,
but it should be lobbed anyway; it should be thrown only if the
receiver's the only one headed in that direction. The back side
linemen and fly just pass protect, because there's no need to sell "run"
to the opponents on that side. However, the quarterback's a dead
duck if the back side linebacker shoots, but s/he'd have to be psychic
or lucky to know when to do that. If you're playing against such a
psychic linebacker, you could switch the center's responsibility at the
price of some of the deception. Hopefully you'll have enough
threat by the fly to delay out that you can reduce the LB's clairvoyance.
Of course if the defense is playing 3 deep it either means that's what
they're most comfortable with or that your passing threat isn't enough
to make them change. So I'll put them in a 4-3 against the next
pass play, but I've been arbitrarily diagramming the offense as double
wide. Partly that's on the suspicion that most coaches interested
in the fly series want to split receivers out, and may not even go for
two deep backs. However, reducing the deep backfield from deuce to
ace would take away the advantages of the thrown snap plays.
The option series diagrammed above could just as easily have the
fullback throw the passes, albeit not the quick pass. Below is
shown a play you probably wouldn't use often, being gimmicky and taking
advantage of your having two or more habitual passers in the formation,
of whom either might be taking the snap. The trick of the fly
motion's helping to hide the snap is extended to the motioned-toward
side of the formation, by snapping when the fly has gone a little past
the ostensible handoff point. The quarterback leisurely swings
around as if hiding the ball low and preparing to pass, while the right
fullback/running back, who has taken the snap behind the crossbucking
action of the other fullback/running back, is actually concealing the
ball bootleg style after making what appears to be a half assed sweep
fake. It helps if the right deep back is left handed especially in
Other players' moves are to help
reduce the chances of a linebacker's knocking the right end off hir
crossover route. The fly man continues out from the usual fly
sweep path, and the left deep back stops briefly in blocking position
after faking cross-buck and then delays out. The moment of truth
comes when the quarterback, who has not taken a deep drop, pump fakes
toward the fly man at an angle as shown. The right deep back times
hir action by watching the quarterback, and throws sharply as shown just
as the quarterback has completed the pump fake. The players on the
defense's right side, who were in the worst possible position to see who
got the snap, should be completely misled by the pump fake.
Defensive linemen who jumped to block a pass from the quarterback
will be unable to recover in time to affect the real throw,which comes
past them from a different direction. Covering players in a zone
defense will be similarly unable to recover in time.
If the right DE sniffs out the ball as shown, the quarterback should
call "fire", and the back who actually has the ball should sling it to
the QB to run to where the DE has vacated, as in a quick screen or
shovel pass. The LT should then pin in the DT for the QB to run
Below is the quarterback option to the side away from where the QB
faces. Because of the need for the pivot, the same trailer is used
as for the option to the side the QB faces.
I initially had the left
fullback as a lead blocker, but thought his block might be needed
against the backside defensive end, who might otherwise catch up to the
QB just as he starts to pitch. With the left RB's crossbuck fake
you not only get that block, but freeze the back side linebacker, whom
the center might not otherwise be able to cut off.
Of course the play above could as easily be drawn to option the LB as
the DE. The difficulty with these reverse pivot plays is that the
QB doesn't get a long look at the opponent being optioned off. You
might prefer the fly man to take the handoff from the QB and carry with
the same option to pitch, but in that case you lose a blocker, the QB
trailing the play after the handoff; therefore it could be made part of
your fly series, with the bootleg and a dive by the other running back.
But you don't need me to explain the fly series to you, because
you probably wouldn't be reading this if you weren't already interested
Nor do I have to diagram common wing T or other plays that you can run
just as well with the quarterback turned sideways. If all the
plays to the deep backs had to be crossover runs with the snap thrown to
them, the defense would have some easy keys to all the ones that weren't
cross-bucks. If you saw either fullback head toward hir own side,
you'd know the play was going, or at least starting, in that direction.
To break that key, here's a quick pitch to either side:
It's a type of play that was
popular at high levels 40 years ago, but seems to have gone out of
fashion there. It relies on speed and surprise, because if the
defensive tackle takes the right line, it's dead in the backfield.
Above, however, the wingback cuts that off to the strong side
(which can in this non-motion case be unambiguously called that).
The sidesaddle position makes for a step by the right foot forward
for the pitch right, backward while pivoting for the pitch left.
The ends should stalk their opponents, and otherwise much of the
offensive team can just stand around. A non-pull version can also
be run that relies on hooking the end and racing against the play side
linebacker, whom if s/he was keying on the opposite running back (as for
the thrown snap plays) may have gotten off in the wrong direction.
But, you say, you could run a single wing style offense where the
center can direct the snap to lead either runner in either direction.
But then you'd have the center's head between hir legs, which
wouldn't matter on this play where much of the team can just stand
around, but would interfere with hir blocking on other plays. And
you wouldn't want the center to tip the play by having hir head between
hir legs for some plays but not others. With a quarterback under
center and only a single-technique blind thrown snap, you can accomplish
all you need in these regards without wasting a blocker.
Here's what you can do if you have two fly men in the huddle.
Let's say the defense thinks they're adjusting to your motion when
you send the fly thru as previously shown. Below is the formation
if that fly man then settles in as an interior lineman on the other side
(blue helmet). (If the end on that side is usually tight, the fly
can line up as the new tight end outside that one.) Meanwhile the
right end has shifted into the backfield (green helmet) and is in
position to run the sweep as the new
fly man in the
formation. Note that your new right end (red helmet) is still
wearing a tackle's number, so you're sacrificing a pass receiver and
it's not even a legal formation under NFL rules, but most of you aren't
playing by those. The defense might not adjust again, and you've
outmanned them on the sweep, but if they overcompensate, then it's speed
The surprise might be even greater if you line up initially with both
fly men in the backfield on the right, wing & flanker. They
can't call illegal formation until the ball is snapped; otherwise they'd
have to flag you for huddling.
Of course there's nothing stopping you from using a normal unbalanced
line. The fly and Owen A aficionados might prefer the strong side
behind the quarterback's back, while the single wing and Schwarzwalder
fans could prefer it strong to the side the QB faces.
If s/he doesn't go too far thru with the fly motion, the fly back can
also be positioned for inside passes from either the deep back on the
same side (as in a draw or option shovel pass) or the other side
(reverse inside pass), as well as inside or outside handoffs from any
back. That's all pretty standard.
Some thought should be given as to who calls signals at the line -- the
quarterback or one of the deep backs. I'll just say that when it
comes to audibles and quick snaps, there are arguments for either.
Obviously if you plan to motion or shift one of these players, or
otherwise line up spread with one of them missing from the usual
position, that position would be a bad choice to call signals.
Now all I need is for someone to practice and play some of this system.