Selling the Nine

7 Feb

9 route (

In a pass play, receivers run along specific, pre-designed paths that attack the “open grass” — or soft spots — in a defense.  These paths are called “routes” and a carefully crafted mixture of them is called a “pass pattern” or “concept”.

The “9” is football’s most basic and most important pass route and, yet, it’s nothing more than a race to the end zone – or at least as far as the quarterback can throw.

Selling the nine is convincing a defensive back that he’s in that race every time a receiver releases from the line of scrimmage.

The nine — also called a “Go” or “Fly” route — is basically a straight line.  As such, it serves as the stem for many other pass routes a receiver can run.   By stem, we refer to another straight line, the one a receiver runs when he escapes the line of scrimmage and races to the breakpoint of his assigned route.

If a receiver can fool a defensive back into thinking he’s going deep, then the underneath routes that break off the nine open up.  Separation from the defender covering him – the goal of any receiver – becomes easier.

The route gets its name from the simple fact that in most passing trees, it is the number “9” route.  A passing tree is a diagram of the different pass routes assigned to specific receiver position.  The nine acts as the trunk of the tree and the routes breaking off it look like the limbs.

Passing Tree


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