"You've got to establish the run"

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.

It’s a sound football theory because if you can get a good ground gaming going you can occasionally start peppering in pass plays on a defense that is putting too many men in the box and not covering receivers. Another phrase similar to this is “keeping the defense honest”.

That said any commentator who applies this strategy to every team doesn’t know the game.

That said the West Coast offense established the PASS which makes defenses spread out and if you can get a 3 and 1 with two good passes, well that’s a running down OR IS IT? Maybe the defense is set for a run and you can fool them with a pass.

Then there’s the Eagles-Falcons game Thur where the Eagles passed, passed passed with shit results so in the 4th Quarter they just pounded the tired defense with a fresh Jay Ajayi.
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hang on, are you suggesting that sportscasters are fond of quasi-profound statements that, when analysed, don’t actually hold up?

This is an outrage sir!:smiley:

Another kernel of truth to it is that, if the defense actually believes that you can run effectively, they may actually bite on play-action passes. (I think that Cris Collinsworth actually explained this part of it during the Packers/Bears game this week.)

But, yes, it’s yet another phrase which gets used way too often.

I’m also fairly certain that I’m going to be super-sick of hearing “RPO” by October.

Sportscasters are notorious idiots, so I wouldn’t put much credence in what any of them say.

Ultimately each coach is trying to outguess the other, one play at a time. So if you can set a successful pattern, then you’re improving the odds that the other guy will try and predict what you’ll do, and you can take advantage of that.

And clearly, if one team stacks the box and the offense has an up-the-middle play planned, a smart QB will audible a pass or pitch or something. That’s kind of what the concept stems around, just at a slightly lower level. The idea being that if you can set up the run, they’ll start stacking the box, which lets you run better options or play-action passes, etc…

It’s a valid concept, but most sportscasters aren’t too bright, so they sort of mangle it and repeat it like it’s gospel or something.

Eh, not Dan Dierdorf or Dan Fouts. They’re awesome sauce.

Collinsworth most of all.

I don’t think “establishing” the run is the key, it’s just having a credible running game. If you can’t run and your offense is one-dimensional that obviously limits you to a huge degree. You don’t have a good running back, and/or have no good run blockers, you’re only going to get yards passing. So you need something there.

But I agree that running just to maintain some mystical balance between your run and pass attempts, or putting a priority over running because it’s objectively better than passing, that’s just a bad philosophy. Do what works and try to set up a play that disadvantages the offense, whatever that play is.

Lots of run plays are effective even while the D is stacking the box. Playing D is harder and takes more energy, running means the clock keeps going, so if you can average a bit over 3 yards a down you do that until they can stop you. It’s not macho posturing, you destroying the teams confidence from the beginning. A deep ball every now and again can score a touch down, sure, but running at will means you’re just better.

Won’t disagree it’s said too much, but the you won’t hear it often from announcers who have more to say about the players, say, like local announcers at high school games. NFL Monday Night has the highest tired trope to content ratio and it’s because they don’t have much else to add. Also the reason they trot out those ridiculous statistics, “this is the first time in 23 years in this franchise a quarter back with yellow shoe laces has completed a pass to a left handed fullback.”

MLB is so much worse for that kind of thing.

Yeah, it is just good to be able to have a credible threat both passing and running so your opponent is left guessing what you might do next. If you cannot get anything working on the ground the other team is a lot more comfortable protecting against you passing making life difficult for the offense.

That was my exact thought. While there are many benefits to.running the ball, one main one is how it opens up the passing game on play action. And while the phrase “establishing the run” is trite and overuzed, there is a nugget of truth.

My current pet peeve: Can someone explain to me why some of the most amazing athletes in the world are incapable of squeezing a plastic water bottle into their own mouth?

WAG: They are used to squirting water in their mouth while wearing a helmet which prevents them from actually putting their mouth on the bottle. Out of habit they do it all the time whether they need to or not.

WAG2: They share bottles and this is a polite way of not swapping spit.

I’m more concerned that a vast majority of the time that I see, the players rely on other people to squirt water in their mouth.

Couldn’t you say the same thing the opposite way? That a good passing game really opens up draw and other pass-faking plays? Which is my point - there’s nothing special that only works in one direction - being good at the one thing opens up the other thing.

Sure, being able to do both successfully keeps your opponent guessing what you might do next.

I think this harkens back to the old days (very old) of football though where the run was tried-and-true and passing was a lot less reliable than it is today. The run was your bread-and-butter and the pass an occasional flashy thing.

Even now a run is usually a guaranteed way to bang out a couple yards (usually) and control the clock. The pass is an all-or-nothing play so I think the sense is the run is still at the foundation of football. Thing is the players’ athleticism is so high these days and they are so freaking good that the pass is a lot more reliable than it once was.

Old habits die hard though.

I wonder if a preference for running is confirmation bias.

Running the ball doesn’t stop the play clock. Unless there’s a penalty, a turnover, or the runner goes out-of-bounds, the clock will continue to run at the end of the play. A pass risks stoping the clock if the pass isn’t caught.

The team with a lead (especially a comfortable one) is more inclined to want to consume time because if the game runs out of time, they win. The team that’s behind wants more time. So naturally a winning team usually wants to run more than a losing team.

This gives the erroneous appearance that winning teams are running teams, and losing teams are passing teams. Therefore to win you run more. It’s obviously a fallacy but I think some people fall for it (at least unconsciously) and so naturally favor running because of it.

It’s a total WAG but knowing human nature it wouldn’t surprise me.

I think it’s tied into the mentality of run blocking vs pass blocking on the offensive line. Pass blocking is passive, where you back up on your heels and try to hold on until the ball is thrown. Run blocking is active, where you explode out of your stance and try to assert your will on the defense.

When I hear the phrase “establish the run,” my first (and only) thought is that if you can consistently run the ball in the early part of the game, you demoralize the opposing defense (and also physically tire them out), which not only opens up the passing game but also makes running easier.

By contrast, passing the ball doesn’t have the same demoralizing effect of the defense feeling like they got owned. Successful passing tends to be viewed as the offense getting lucky as opposed to the defense getting their shit pushed in by repeated running.

The Raiders pulled an extreme example a couple years ago: One NFL team defined the meaning of “running it down their throat” on Sunday. Something similar happened to my poor Jets a few years before that, I think. It’s seriously demoralizing – almost demeaning – in a way that completing 10 passes in a row just never will be. I mean, just imagine the horror: Run for 4, run for 5, run for 2, run for 6, run for 4, run for 3, run for 9, run for 5, run for 6, run for 3, run for 8, run for 5, touchdown. That’s the stuff of nightmares.

In 2013 when the Seahawks were really dominant they used to do this and just muscled defenses behind and around Marshawn Lynch. They wore down defenses so much that teams they played against had a drop in performance the following week against their next opponent, a phenomenon that was sometimes called the “Seattle Hangover”.

Of course they also had a very physical defense as well, so they’d beat up both sides of the team, but defenses are stereotypically bruisers anyway.

I see your point, though I think if a defense is getting passed on at will by a good passing offense, it’s also demoralizing for the defense. No, they aren’t getting shoved around in the same way as they would be by a strong running game, but it’d still be a sign that the defense clearly isn’t good enough to stop the offense. Unless it’s a team that’s not known for a good passing game, I don’t think it’d be seen as “getting lucky.”