Coach’s Corner: The Importance Of The Run Game

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Photo via John Glaser,


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You might be asking yourself after watching more and more teams throw the football around with success, “do you even need to run the football anymore?” Although there are probably a select few who would disagree with me on this, the quick answer is that yes, in fact, you do need to have a run game. There are many reasons for this, but first and foremost if you make yourself one dimensional you make yourself easier to defend (If you are fighting an army that can only go in one direction they will be much easier to figure out and defeat than an army that can move in two or three different directions).

Some teams that throw the football exclusively and are very good at it can get away with just one or two runs in the game plan each week, calling them three or four times a game. Those runs are usually a RB or QB Draw and some form of a Zone Read Concept. Conversely, a team that strictly runs the football and is good at it still needs a play action pass or drop back pass. This, as mentioned above, helps to keep a defense guessing as to what you will be calling next. The primary objective for any offense right after scoring points is to make the Defensive Coordinator guess. The more he has to guess on what you will be running, the more successful the offense usually is. If you just throw the football and don’t run it, you are making the job of the Defensive Coordinator easier.

Now that we have covered the primary reason for having a running game in your offense, let’s talk about a few more reasons why it’s important to have at least a few running plays in your playbook.


You may not have thought about this, but weather is an important factor for having some semblance of a running game. There will be times (unless you’re in San Diego) that strong winds, rain, or even snow can and will affect one’s ability to shotgun snap, throw, and/or catch the football. If you have in your offense some “under center” snaps and the ability to run the football any or all of these situations may not be a dire problem.

Short Yardage/Goal Line/Backed Up Situations

If you find yourself in any of these situations during a game you are going to want to have at least one run play that you can go under center for. Primarily when you have your backs to the opponents Goal Line. Lots of bad things have the potential to happen if you’re going out of gun or pistol and throwing it.

It’s always good in this situation to think about getting a few yards and punting it out of there to try and change field position.

When it comes to a short yardage situation, having the ability to get a few extra blockers and run it usually makes the likelihood of getting the first down a little greater. Or even running a QB sneak can get you the valuable yard or two necessary.

When faced with having your offense at the Goal Line, spreading them out and throwing it is a great way to score, but also having the ability to spread them out and run it can make things a little easier if the defense is set to defend the pass. QB runs are and have become a great weapon for running the ball, especially down at the Goal Line as a lot of defenses don’t account for the QB and running him gives the offense an extra blocker.

Time Management

Having the ability to run the football makes it easier for the offense to control the clock especially when trying to preserve a lead in a tight ball game. Everything is up tempo these days but there are also times when you’re going to play someone on your schedule who is better than you and you want to keep their offense off the field as much as possible. It’s no secret that throwing the ball doesn’t take much time off the clock. If you are going three and out with throws not much time has expired and your defense has to come back onto the field.

Quarterback Is Having a Bad Day

If you happen to have a QB who is having a bad day and you’re strictly a throwing team you could be in trouble. I have seen a few of these in my days of coaching and they are no fun to be a part of, let alone watch. Because of this you either need to have a good back-up QB or have a few runs in the game plan.

Slow Down the Pressure

Some defenses answer for lots of throwing is to man up and bring everyone else on a blitz. If you’re having a hard time picking up the pressure the best thing is to be able to run screens or run the football to get them out of this (the general rule of thumb is to throw into pressure and run away from it).

Your Team Is Tougher When You Run the Ball

Although I’m not a full subscriber to this theory, I believe that there is some truth to this especially for the Offensive Linemen. Firing off the ball and trying to move, knock down, or pancake the guy across from you develops an attitude that’s somewhat different from an Offensive Lineman who pass sets, kick slides backwards and tries to play “keep away” from that defender and your QB. You’ve got to be tough to do either of these things, but firing off the ball and coming forward is a more natural thing for a person to do. How many times in your life have you run a race by kick sliding? Getting into a stance and firing off low coming straight ahead is probably what you have done to try and win a race and beat someone.

Some would say that when you throw the ball a bunch it affects a defense mentally. When you run the ball a bunch it affects a defense physically. Why wouldn’t you want to have the ability to do both as every new opponent and weather forecast presents you with a unique challenge each and every week?


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