Evolution of the Use of the Quick Passing Game

In their book “Football’s Quick Passing Game: Fundamentals and Techniques” (1998), Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson write, “An accomplished coordinator in the NFL was recently heard to say in a clinic presentation, “I don’t know of any place I’ve been where at the end of the season, we didn’t say, we should have thrown more quicks.’”

In just about every offense, the quick passing game represents a portion of the offensive attack that is employed. It’s a high percentage passing game that takes what most defenses will initially allow. For most defenses, the philosophy is to allow a short pass and rally to it and make the tackle. Furthermore, it minimizes protection issues as the ball is usually out in 1.5 seconds or less.

I’ve employed the quick game in every offense that I have coached. In my first head coaching job, we led our conference in passing with 85% of our passing game calls coming from the quick game. It was a great supplement to what we wanted to do the most – run the ball. If the defense didn’t defend the entire field and loaded up on the run, our first answer was to throw quick. It was something we had no problem doing anywhere on the field, and we developed enough answers within the quick game to be able to attack any coverage. Much of what we employed we learned from using Robinson’s and Coverdale’s books and videos. We invested a major portion of our practice time and reps to perfecting this part of our attack.

Over time though, how I have incorporated the quick passing game has evolved. Defensive coordinators are smart. They know they aren’t going to allow you to go down the field with 6 and 7-yard completions, and that much of a pure quick game play relies on making a pre-snap decision to one side or the other. Once the play starts, the quarterback has one option – throw to the side which he picked based on his pre-snap keys. Additionally, defenders can align at five yards or less and really cloud the picture leaving the offense with the decision to convert to a fade route which is typically a lower percentage.

The point I’m really trying to make here is that what was once a simple six yard gain can get complicated. The more complicated it gets, the more an offense must practice all of the different situations and contingencies it may face. That takes practice time and repetitions which most offensive coordinators value like gold. As I pointed out before, when the quick game made up the majority of our passing game, we devoted the majority of our time to it. The choice an offense has is to allow a conversion, develop and practice a check system based on a key defender, or package the quick with something else to allow a simple read that maintains a full field attack rather than limiting the quarterback to his half field, pre-snap decision which is necessary with pure quick game calls.

Some of the various quick game calls we have used includes 3×1 stick with hitch on the back side. The quarterback working both the stick side and the hitch side can be seen in the examples below.

We also incorporate a double slant concept. This is a great tool for us to have in the red zone as vertical space disappears. In this example, we see man coverage and are able to use the slant to exploit the defense.

The quick game is still part of what we employ in our attack, though it has started to evolve in how we think about it and use it. Trends are developing that allow for the quick game on one side paired with a run, a screen, or a deeper pass combination on the other side. Quick game paired with naked is another trend that is developing.

An example of quick game paired with a run is stick/draw. For more on this effective combination click here. The idea behind the stick/draw play is to force the Mike linebacker to make a decision on whom he will defend. He can’t defend both, so a quarterback who can make this simple post-snap read can put the offense in the best situation.

In the first example, the quarterback reads the Mike vacating the middle and pulls the ball down to run the draw.

In the second example, the Mike linebacker sits, and the stick route to the inside receiver is open.

This fits into the same category of what Dan Gonzalez refers to as “read away from Mike” or “RAM” in his latest book “Recoded and Reloaded: An Updated Structure for the Passing Game at Any Level”. RAM is a great way to utilize the quick game and instead of putting the read on the flat player, which the quick game typically does, it puts the read on the Mike. To illustrate RAM, an empty play is diagrammed below. In this play, stick is executed to the three receiver side, and a double slant is executed to the other. On the snap of the ball, the quarterback simply works away from the side that the Mike linebacker drops. Obviously, the next defender is a key for either going to the receiver to the inside or the outside. In the video, the Mike opens his hips opposite the stick. This reaction is enough to give us the space to throw the stick route.

This type of read can be employed in a number of pass combinations and is not limited to the quick game. Gonzalez diagrams it using the stick with what he calls his “slide tag on the backside.” This comes available on different timing than the quick game, so the quarterback can work to the backside of the play.

Another example of what is possible with the quick game as part of the concept and an intermediate opposite are some of the things that Darin Slack and Dub Maddox are doing within R4. In their book, “From Headset to Helmet: Coaching the R4 Expert System”, Slack and Maddox discuss pairing quick game with intermediate routes. For the quarterback, the progression begins with the quick combination read on a key defender. The quarterback can then hitch up to the intermediate route coming from the backside. They do make the point that this type of combination probably works better from the shotgun. An example of this, which is a favorite of Maddox, is to pair slants with levels as shown below:

Here is an example of the quick game paired with a drop back concept from the other side. We utilize the spacing concept away from the stick/flat of the tight end and wing. Spacing is slightly longer timing than the quick game, but it allows our QB to give the quick combination a look and work his eyes back the other way. Usually pre-snap indicators will tell the quarterback whether the quick combination will be available.
In the first example, the quarterback works to the swing route on the outside that has been opened by the spot routes coming inside. The QB checks the quick combination to the TE/Wing and works his eyes across the defense to the swing.

In the second example, the quarterback works his eyes exactly the same way. This times he finds a window for the outside spot route.


Chris Brown of “Smart Football” wrote about pairing quick passes with screens a couple of years ago. This concept hasn’t caught on as quickly as the stick/draw, but it has made it’s appearance at both the pro and college level. The idea is similar to the stick/draw concept. In the example from the Green Bay Packers, the stick combination is run to the three receiver side with a screen to the running back going the other way. The quarterback makes his quick game read off of the Mike linebacker. If the Mike opens to the stick side, the QB has the numbers to work the screen to the other side. Again, this employs what Gonzalez would call a RAM type of read.
Here is a diagram from Brown:

The link below show the Packers running this play.


Though it has been around for some time now, quick game paired with a naked concept to the other side is another concept that gives the quarterback the ability to throw the quick game to one side while having a longer developing concept to the other. This was an idea I first learned of in 2001. I learned about a simple concept that paired quick game with naked at a coaches clinic at Carnegie Mellon University. Offensive Coordinator Rich Erdelyi showed how the quarterback could get a simple pre-and post-snap read for the quick game (hitch or slant) and if it wasn’t there, he could roll away to the tight end and wing slam releasing on a corner and flat.

Aurora University Offensive Coordinator Matt Kalb wrote an article in the March issue of AFM describing how the hitch combined with naked forces the defense to defend the entire field. He points out in the article that using this combination has allowed them to cut down what they needed to install in both the quick game and sprint out portions of their attack. The quarterback dropping back and looking off the hitch when the defense takes it away has the effect of moving the defenders enough to give the offense leverage the other way to the naked side.


Minnesota’s Jim Zebrowski spoke on this topic at a coaches clinic in Cleveland this past March. Minnesota employs this concept out of a number of formations on any area of the field in most situations. It’s a sound concept that allows the quarterback to have options and not force the throw. The advantage in the quick naked is that it combines what most offenses usually have installed. Installing it is very simple since neither concept is new. Cut-ups of the play can be viewed in the video below.

In this first example, the quarterback takes the hitch. He has a clean alley and the cushion necessary to complete the pass.

In the next example, the quarterback doesn’t like his access to the hitch most likely because the edge is collapsing, so he pump fakes it and rolls away to the naked side and completes the pass.

Slants are available as a quick game option as well. In the first example, the quarterback hits the outside slant, and in the second, he hits the inside slant. If the slant wasn’t thrown, that receiver would turn his route into a crossing type of route that would get him to about 15 yards on the opposite hash.

The final example is like the version I learned from Erdelyi in 2001. The backside wing slams down before going flat, and the tight end runs a corner route. The quick side is assigned to run slants. This is an effective concept inside the 10 yard line.

Quick game has been a part of offensive football for a long time, and it will continue to have its place in most teams’ array of weapons. Packaging it with deeper routes, screens, draws, and nakeds elevate its usefulness in the offense. The combinations force the defense to defend the entire field. Finding ways to allow the quarterback to have an option to either side allows for a more potent type of play.