I don’t know why this phrase/idea bothers me so much, but sportscasters must use it 50 times a game. There’s this idea that you have to go out there every game and prove to the other team that you can run the ball - only then will they adjust their defense to try to stop you, at which point now the passing game is more open.
But there’s nothing unique or useful about “establishing the run” specifically. On any particular play, a defense will tend to be geared towards expecting a pass or a run. Obviously most defenses do both - but they’re geared towards one or the other. That’s part of why there’s so much attempt at deception as to whether or not a play will be a run or a pass.
But what you want to do the opposite of what they want you to do. If they’re in a run-oriented defense, pass. If they’re in a pass-oriented defense, run.
In that way, “establishing the pass” is just as valid as “establishing the run”, since successful passing will cause the defense up on their heels, and improve your chance at running. But no one says “you’ve got to establish the pass” even though it’s an equally valid point of view.
But neither really matter. For example, let’s say that on the first play of the game, the other team comes out with 6 D-lineman and 5 linebackers and completely stacks the line. Are you going to run right up the middle because, you know, you’ve got to establish the run before you can pass? Or maybe you have to prove how macho you are because you can run it down their throat even when they want you to? Of course not, you pass because that’s what they’re not prepared to do.
And if they’re not defending the run because they don’t fear your running game, then run because they’re gearing their defense to stop your pass. But in this case you’re not running to “establish the run”, you’re running because they’re defending against your pass and you want to do whatever they don’t want you to do to gain the advantage for that play.
I really hate non-insightful football “analysis” like this, but it has become a core idea to the very notion of what sort of strategy sportscasters talk about, so I have to hear about it every game for the rest of my life.
Anyway, random rant. Overheard “establish the run” a few times during tonight’s game and it brought me here.