Shotgun Kneel-downs

Posted on October 13, 2013

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Nick Foles just took a shotgun snap and kneeled to secure today’s victory. I wonder if this had anything to do with the Bucs’ history of rushing the snap. But let’s not forget the Bucs aren’t the only only team to do that….

(Is there an easy way to make GIFs hover- or click-activated?)

From 2010:

A few weeks ago, I was reading Chip Kelly’s Nike presentation about coaching the spread, and he said:

If you are a shotgun team, you still need to practice under-the-center snaps many times. At the end of a game when protecting a lead, you need to pass the ball from hand to hand with no air in the mist. Mistakes can happen under the center, but it is not as risky as the shotgun snap.

My “citation please” meter when off, and I set out to test this claim out. To my knowledge, no play-by-play source, including Football Outsiders’ game charting, accurately tracks aborted snaps. All sorts of plays like aborted handoffs and pitches end up being labeled aborted snaps. So I watched all plays that had “aborted” anywhere in the description to determine if each play truly was an aborted snap.

Here are my results:

2011-12, Including Playoffs
Shotgun TOs

So teams have aborted snaps at a slightly higher rate in shotgun. But teams have actually lost the ball after the snap at a lower rate on shotgun snaps. This makes sense. The ball is closer to the defense on under-center aborted snaps, whereas in the shotgun, the quarterback has more space/time to recover the ball before the defense can get to him.

The differences aren’t even statistically significant, so I don’t feel comfortable saying that teams are definitely better off using shotgun, though I do suspect it is true. After watching all the plays, a very large number of the shotgun aborted snaps came as a result of the center misinterpreting an audible as a call for the ball and snapping the ball when the QB wasn’t at all ready. This mix-up accounts for far fewer (if any) of the mishandled snaps on non-shotgun plays. So in a situation at the end of a game, where the QB won’t be audibling, that risk is eliminated, driving the shotgun aborted snap turnover rate even lower.

Knowing that, and especially since the Eagles are predominantly a shotgun team, it seems like shotgun kneel-downs are the way to go, regardless of opponent.

According to this NFL Network piece, the Eagles helped inspire the change to the modern kneel-down formation. I’d like to see the shotgun kneel-down become the new standard, with the Eagles again at the forefront.

Follow Allen Rodriguez on Twitter at @ByAJRodriguez.

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Posted in: Eagles, Uncategorized