The shotgun formation is a formation used by the offensive team in American and Canadian football. This formation is used mainly for passing plays, although some teams use it as their base formation. In the shotgun, instead of the quarterback receiving the snap from center at the line of scrimmage, he stands farther behind the line of scrimmage, often five to seven yards back. Sometimes the quarterback will have a back on one or both sides before the snap, while other times he will be the lone player in the backfield with everyone spread out as receivers.
The shotgun formation can offer certain advantages but also has weaknesses. The passer has more time to set up in the pocket which gives him a second or two to locate open receivers. Standing farther back from the line before the snap gives the quarterback a better "look" at the defensive alignment. A disadvantage is that the defense knows a pass is more than likely coming up (although some running plays can be run effectively from the shotgun) and there is a higher risk of a botched snap than in a simple center/quarterback exchange.
Combining elements of the short punt and spread formations ("spread" in that it had receivers spread widely instead of close to or behind the interior line players), it was said to be like a "shotgun" in spraying receivers around the field. (The alignment of the players also suggests the shape of an actual shotgun). Formations similar or identical to the shotgun used decades previously would be called names such as "spread double wing". Short punt formations (so called because the distance between the snapper and the ostensible punter is shorter than in long punt formation) do not usually have as much emphasis on wide receivers.
The shotgun evolved from the single wing and the similar double-wing spread; famed triple threat man Sammy Baugh has claimed that the shotgun was effectively the same as the version of the double-wing he ran at Texas Christian University in the 1930s.
In the latter part of the 1940s, the Philadelphia Eagles, under Hall of Fame Coach Earl "Greasy" Neale, implemented the shotgun formation in their offensive attack with Quarterback Tommy Thompson.
The formation was named by the man who actually devised it, San Francisco 49ers coach Red Hickey, in 1960. John Brodie was the first NFL shotgun quarterback, beating out former starter Y. A. Tittle largely because he was mobile enough to effectively run the formation.
The shotgun was used by the New York Jets as they employed the formation during the latter part of the Joe Namath era, as documented in the 1971 Sporting News article "Joe and the Booyah Tribe", to give the bad-kneed, and often immobile quarterback more time to set up plays by placing him deeper in the backfield.
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