Shotgun or Under Center (and the Pistol Offense)

pistol offense

So, we are sure you’ve noticed that uncomfortable situation in football where the quarterback gets all cozy with this center whose butt is up in the air, and the quarterback snuggles in behind like they are going to spoon for the night. But, then the quarterback gets even more familiar with the center and puts his hands up under ‘there’ and waits for the center to hike the ball to him. Dang! So what does it mean to be in a shotgun or under center?

Well, it really is not as close as it seems and although funny to giggle about like a school girl, its just not that personal.

So, why does a quarterback sometimes position himself ‘under center’ and sometimes he stands back several yards in a ‘shotgun’? Well, the simplest of answers is that under center means the offense will more thank likely run the ball and in a shotgun they will more than likely pass the ball.



shotgun or under center

Under Center

quarterback in a shotgun

Shotgun formation with a half back along side the QB

But that is REALLY oversimplifying things. To keep the defense guessing, they have to do all types of plays from both formations, including the play action.

With the quarterback further away from the line of scrimmage (in a shotgun, the QB stands 7 yards back), he can see the field better and should make a better decision on where to throw the ball. It also gives his offensive line more room to keep the defense away from him.

Pistol Offense

The Pistol Offense in football, also called the pistol formation, is essentially the same as the shotgun formation. However, instead of being 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, the quarterback stands closer at 4 yards behind the line. The rationale of the pistol offensive formation is to speed everything up (time for the snap to get to the quarterback, time for the quarterback or running back to get to the line of scrimmage (and shoot the gap), etc. It’s a different look to help provide some confusion to the defense.  A team uses the pistol often times when they are also running a Wildcat formation.

Tell us what you think!