Usually I post links to many of my other Football 101 articles, but this time I will just point out that in the "SECTIONS" part of the main menu you will find the technical posts such as mine under "Cowboys Playbooks: Football 101" as Dave has done an outstanding job as usual of providing a good functioning site map.
So, having said that, let's get on with the concept of the Fullback, and one of my favorite complaints about the NFL and that is the use of the Fullback in recent years.
The normal role for a Fullback was to be a big powerful running back that could get the short yardage when needed , and could block for the smaller, quicker halfback for a change of pace. Famous Fullbacks like Jim Brown were mainly used in the "Big Back That can Run" mold and seldom did any blocking for the halfback, although he did block for his eventual replacement, Leroy Kelly who was a halfback.
When Bill Walsh taught his version of the passing attack, which was later called the "West Coast" offense, it had a central theme. That theme was that ALL of the "skill" positions should be used in the passing attack. Short passes would take the place of short runs and when the defense least expected it they would run the ball. This meant that Walsh made sure that all 5 players that were available to the QB could catch the ball very well.
Now, fast forward to right after Walsh left the game. Teams were still using the Fullback in the traditional "Lead Blocker" function, and for a while the Cowboys with "Moose" were able to open big holes and then just when a LB would "show up" in the hole, there was "Moose" to take him out of the play and off went Emmitt on long runs.
However, after a few years of that, teams decided to just start sending more than one guy to where ever Moose went, because where ever he went, Emmitt would soon be right there too and teams began to be ready for him.
Now, in previous years teams like the Bears decided that they would take the concept of a "Lead Blocker" to the extreme, and just put another Offensive or even a Defensive Lineman in the back field and let him either lead the back through the hole or sometimes even carry the ball. Guys like William "The Refrigerator" Perry.
Here is the problem though. The West Coast idea of having the defense account for 5 guys in the passing lanes, was the better idea, especially in this day and age of the passing game being so prominent. So, why put a guy in the backfield who isn't really another "skill" player, but rather a small version of another Offensive Lineman? Either put another Lineman back there or put someone that can both block and do a really good job of catching the ball.
Well along came Payton Manning and the Colts, along with the offensive Coordinator or the Offensive Line Coach, Howard Mudd, one or all of them decided that with the Zone Blocking Scheme, the "one-cut" half back didn't really need nor want a slow Fullback in front of him, so the Colts stopped carrying a Fullback on their team.
Now, to the success of the New England Patriots and their use of the Two-Tightend Offense. It is more successful in my opinion because they also recognized that having a slow guy in the backfield that was not a real threat in the passing game was counter productive, so they went to the 12 package and now the rest of the league is slowly coming around.
I have complained for many years of how upset I was about several things that I thought were ridiculous, and one of those was throwing to a slow fullback that seemed to always be running east/west and getting tackled as soon as he caught the ball for a 4-5 yard loss.
Here are some other of my pet peeves:
1. If the play was a huge success.....never run it again.
2. On short yardage plays, don't run to daylight......run to where everyone knows your going to run.... up the middle where all of the "Clogging" is happening and in fact, put more guys that are not offensive linemen in the backfield and clog up the middle even more so the RB will not have a hole to run to for sure.
3. Our QB is getting killed, so instead of putting guys in the backfield out wide like the Patriots do, lets put guys that the defense would normally have to account for, and put one or two of them right next to the QB, so that the defense can send everyone to that small area and be sure to get a good shot on the QB. Oh, and we will call that...."Max Protect."
4. If it is a run on first down and it is not successful, then pass on second down.
5. If is a pass on first down and it is not successful, then run on second down. ( Maybe this is so we don't fall too far behind our goal of being "balanced" with our attack.
Well there you have it. Am I happy we seem to have gotten rid of that "slow" guy in the backfield and finally put more emphasis on zone blocking and running more 12 personnel?
You bet your Booty I'm happy.......