Read Option Football (Spread Series) – The “Gift” Route

In a previous article, we reviewed adding screens to read option plays. In this article, we will discuss the “gift” route, another piece that can be added to a read option with a screen pass. Most casual viewers might assume that when the gift route is thrown a pass play has been called however that is not the case as I’ll demonstrate below.

What is a “Gift” Route

A “gift” route is not a specific route, it is actually a collection of routes that can either be signaled in from the sideline or signaled on the field between the QB and the WR running the route. The idea behind the gift route is to be able to make quick adjustments on the field to take advantage of the looks the defense is giving (hence the term “gift”) the offense. As gift routes are packaged with runs they have to be short quick routes because in most spread formations the end will be unblocked rushing the QB. Another reason gift routes need to be quick is because it is a penalty to have the OL moving upfield on a pass play. They can not go past 1 yard in the NFL and 3 yards in NCAA. The most common gift routes include a smoke or now route, 3 step slant, 5-yard hitch and a quick out route. These routes are diagrammed below.

Common Formations for Gift Routes

The most common formation to run gift routes out of is a 3×1 (Trips) set. The run play is packaged with a screen pass but now there is also front side route. This is diagrammed below:

Gift routes can be run out of 2×2 formations but a TE/Wing will have to be on the same side as the gift route. This is because they can execute the run concept and won’t get interfere with the gift route like a slot receiver on the same side would. This is diagrammed below:

The Process

The QB will read the front side alley and determine which look he is getting from the defense. It will be one of 3 looks dirty, hazy or clean. Dirty means there is an alley defender in the way of the gift route. Hazy means the ally defender could be blitzing but could also be dropping into a zone. Clean means there is no alley defender and it is 1v1 for the single side WR.

Alley read:

The next three diagrams are examples of a dirty, hazy and clean alley all with a backed off cover 3 corner

Below is a diagram of a dirty alley. There are 2 defenders for 1 WR. QB should go elsewhere with the ball.

Below is a diagram of a hazy alley. The alley defender (S) is close to the line of scrimmage. He could be blitzing or he may be bluffing and drop into zone coverage. With this look, the QB could throw a now/smoke route or the quick out. The slant or hitch is too risky as the alley defender could drop and rob the route.

Below is a diagram of a clean alley. There is no defender present in the alley. It is 1v1 between corner and WR. Clean alley, backed up corner, everything is on.

The next 2 diagrams are a dirty and a clean alley with a cover 2/man corner

Again the alley is dirty because there is a defender in it. QB should look elsewhere.

Below the alley is clean, no defender present. 1v1 between WR and CB. Down CB throw the slant.


Below are 2 examples of gift routes thrown out of 2×2 double tight formation. The play is IZ with a hitch route. The CBs are backed off, easy pitch and catch.

Below is an example of a now/smoke route. It is thrown to the front side of the play. It is packaged with full IZ and a hitch screen by the twin WR at the bottom of the screen. The CB is backed off free 1st down.

Below is Full IZ with a hitch on the back side out of 2×2 wing right.

Below is an example of a pin and pull scheme packaged with a hitch on the back side. Notice there is no alley defender. Also, the DE is left unblocked but he chases the RB hard which allows the QB time to throw. It is important to keep how the DE is playing the mesh in mind. If he was rushing the mesh point the QB wouldn’t have time to throw the ball.

As you can see utilizing gift routes is another easy way to get the ball out of the QB hands quickly and get easy completions. It also has the added benefit of keeping WRs involved on run plays. If they are executed well enough defenders may also be drawn out of the box which should make it easier for the offense to run the ball.

If you are interested in further improving your knowledge of single side receiver concepts to enhance your team’s run game, then a MUST  HAVE coaching resource is Tagging Your Run Game with Perimeter Screens by Steve Sarkisian. This is by far the BEST video detailing the simple rules and benefits of attaching single side ‘gift’ routes to your run plays. By attaching single side routes to all your run plays from 3×1 formations, you can take advantage of 1 on 1 matchups on the perimeter and get the ball out to the flanker for easy completions. This also forces the defence to cover the entire field, not just the box or perimeter. The knowledge our coaches gained from this video helped our offense break records (50+ TDs multiple seasons in a row) and dominate every opponent we faced. Every spread offense or read option team should have this coaching video in their football library.

Feature image photo credit: Keith Allison <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/36759913670″>Carson Wentz</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *