Top Ten Misused Football Terms by the Media
I recently was channel surfing and came across a Hollywood juggernaut of a movie: The Replacements, and just had to watch. Feel free in joining me in a quick laugh by fast forwarding to minute 56 of this bootleg (mirrored) version of the Replacements The scene serves as the inspiration for this piece. Hollywood sports movies aren’t too concerned with the “quality control” or realism to their movies, but I have never seen a more incorrect scene in ANY movie. Following a late TD, the Washington Sentinels line up for an onside kick, where a defender recovers it and starts running around the field (kicking team can NOT advance an onside kick), until the star QB (who somehow is on the onside kick team) tackles him to the ground, to quickly call a timeout (clock stops anyway) before lining up for a long FG. This absurd inaccuracy of a football play made me think about all the terminology actual commentators and media folk incorrectly use in football. So, whether you’re like me, and cringe at “dumb”, or you really don’t know, I decided to put together my list of most improperly used terms in football (in no particular order)…
1. Zone Read
The Zone Read is a single play, that CAN be used as a “foundation” play for a full series of complimentary plays in an offensive set/system. HOWEVER, the zone read is NOT anytime a QB lines up in the shotgun and hands the ball off across his body to a RB. The name of the play implies two things:
“Zone” means that there is a zone blocking scheme. Typically, the O-Line zone steps in unison towards the direction the RB will be taking the ball. Each O-Lineman will block an area, rather than a predetermined defender, giving the RB the ability to read the blocking scheme, put his foot in the ground and hit an undetermined hole.
The “read” aspect means the ball carrier is NOT predetermined. The QB will read (typically) the BS EMLOS, or backside end man on the line of scrimmage. If that defender crashes hard (think: can he easily catch the RB in the backfield) he will ride the hand-off (making it seem like he’s giving the ball to the RB), but pull the ball and run where that EMLOS left. If the EMLOS stays put/squeezes down the QB will give the ball and (ideally) carry out his fake like he has the ball. (See pic above, the circled defender’s actions after the snap tell the QB how to distribute the ball).
Again, its not a “zone read” if there’s simply a shotgun/pistol hand-off across the body, the 2 aspects labeled above must be part of the play.
2. Team X is a Cover 2 Defense
The issue here is not as much a function of the term, but how announcers use it, implying a team SOLEY employs this coverage. Fundamentally, “Cover 2” is a coverage, or set predetermined areas on the field, each defender will be responsible for covering if its a pass. The CBs in this coverage play hard (close to the line of scrimmage over the WR) on the outside, since they have the flats (short outside area) in this defense.
Similar to the zone read, this coverage can be a hallmark of a full defensive set, but that doesn’t mean a team ONLY plays cover 2, nor does it mean if you see a hard corner its cover 2.
3. T-Formation = named because of the look of the formation
This one’s a little old school, and frankly a bit more of a “did you know” than a misused term, but the “T” in T-formation comes from “total” in “total offense” given the scheme’s increase in moving the ball via pass, relative to the run-heavy teams in that time of the game, popularized by the Bears in the 30s/40s. The naming does NOT derive from the “look” of the formation resembling a “t”.
4. WR Screen vs. (0 route)
A screen can come in many forms, typically hallmarked by one or more O-Lineman “acting” as if they are pass protecting in a normal drop-back pass, then releasing to a predetermined spot in front of the man catching the ball. The idea is to catch an over aggressive defense that ideally will be rushing the QB hard, while you “fill” their vacated spot with a wall of blockers ready to escort the pass catcher up-field.
The WR screen can look like what I explained above (tunnel screen, jet swing screen, etc.), but its typically a 2-3 WR set to one side, where the QB quickly throws to a WR (likely) when there is an “advantage” (2 DBs vs. 3 WRs). However, if a WR simply turns to the QB, catches a quick pass and goes (typically against an overly soft coverage) that is NOT a screen route (nor is it typically even called in the huddle). Its called a “zero route”, based on a route tree since the WR is pretty much not moving before catching the ball. However, he has no preassigned blockers/so NOT a screen, but a 0 route.
5. Reverse (vs. end around)
With the “Jet game” making its mark in the NFL the past 5-10 years I hear this a lot. Whether its a direct snap to the jet guy, or him taking the ball from the QB, this is an “End Around” by definition, NOT a reverse. A simple definition to tell the difference: An end around (typically taken by a TE/man in the slot area) is a “inside” handoff, that is one taken in front of the QB. A reverse not only is taken outside (away from the LOS) but there are 2-3 players who touch and transfer the ball (including the QB), whereas the end around has 2 players who touch the ball. Ie an end around has one transfer of the ball, a reverse has two.
6. Velocity (throwing)
This is a non-football one, but either way used incorrectly regarding scientific definition, but its probably my biggest pet peeve. When pundits talk about a QB’s velocity, they are referring to power/strength. However, if you remember 5th grade science, speed or acceleration is used to denote the rate of speed an object can move, WHEREAS velocity is a function of speed AND direction. So when an announcer says “Cutler has great velocity on the ball, but lacks accuracy” it makes me cringe because velocity SHOULD denote BOTH arm strength AND accuracy.
7. Chop Block vs. Cut Block
A CUT BLOCK is a legal block below the waist (coming from the inside out and only with one blocker, not 2). A chop block is an illegal block, where an engaged DL is then blocked (double teamed) at the waist (stemming from a popular, but dangerous blocking technique from the game’s early days). Thus, when a player blocks a player LEGALLY below the waist, its NOT a chop block, its a cut block.
8. West Coast Offense
The West Coast Offense, popularized by the 1980s 49ers and single handily took down the Bear’s 46 Defense (a la Dan Marino) was an offense with pieces still very widely in play today. The hallmark difference in the scheme was using short, timing routes all over the field to stop defenses from loading the box/inside in a very run-heavy time in the league. However, its NOT every single offense that throws a lot of short passes. There are many variations, and even completely different offenses that still throw the ball short – doesn’t mean its a WCO.
9. Double (Star) WR
This may be a tad of semantics, but when you actually double team a WR you are covering him man-to-man with 2 defenders. This RARELY happens, and outside of blatant examples I’ve seen by the Patriots, when an announcer says “you need to double the WR”, this is NOT what’s actually happening. If a team is paying special attention to one particular WR they either are rotating a zone coverage, using a coverage mix (one half cover 2, one half cover 3, or what’s called sky/cover 6) or using a defender over the top in a deep half ZONE concept over the man coverage (which can look like a true double team when the ball is thrown to that WR downfield).
*10. Pass Yards…well, not really
I have to admit, this is something that bothered me since I looked at the back of my first football card. Why does the QB get credit for yards when the WR is the one advancing the ball, that is, why are RAC yards, or yards after catch, “double counted”? If you’re wondering what the real stats would look like if QBs ONLY got credit for the distance they actually passed the ball, and WRs ONLY got credit for distance they advanced the ball afterward this is how it panned out in 2016. I also included a ratio for those of you curious what teams get the most pass yards from “true passing” vs. “true receiving”.
Hope you enjoyed, feel free to add any I missed in the comment section.