Vertical game (vs. West Coast offense)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 10 20:59:42 UTC 2005

At 2:36 AM -0500 1/9/05, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Sat, 8 Jan 2005 19:02:28 EST, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM> wrote:
>>I don't recall ever having heard the phrase "vertical game" (meaning long
>>passes in American football) before this year's NFL season, when the
>>commentators on the Philadelphia Eagles seemed to use it in every game.
>>However, I found what purports to be a 1999 Web site
>>which contains "If a quarterback emerges who can do anything to give the
>>Badgers a vertical game in the three important conference matchups, the
>>Badgers could shock the nation and go to the Sugar Bowl or at least
>>return to the Rose Bowl."
>Here's a 1986 cite:
>   New York Times, Aug 31, 1986, p. S1
>   "He's a guy who can catch the ball in the vertical game very
>   well," Hackett said. "He's a hand catcher, he can jump and leap
>   and catch it. He looks smooth running the routes, he flows into
>   it very easily."
>That's a quote about Herschel Walker from Paul Hackett -- then the Dallas
>  Cowboys' pass offense coordinator, now the Jets' offensive coordinator
>(whose dubious play-calling continues to give Jets fans conniptions).
>And here's an earlier NY Times cite, from a 1981 column by NBC Nightly
>News producer Henry L. Griggs complaining about the incomprehensible
>commentating on that year's Super Bowl broadcast:
>   New York Times, Feb 1, 1981, p. S2
>   Someone then added, "The vertical game is the deep game."
A related metaphor is "north-south" vs. "east-west", to describe
either offensive philosophies or, more specifically, running games.
A north-south runner basically goes into the line, using strength,
while east-west runners are evasive and slippery, using finesse or
"escapability".  And then there's "running downhill", which also
alludes to the straight-ahead style, "matriculating the ball down the
field", as Hank Stram once famously said.

I'm not sure "horizontal" is used as the opposite of "vertical" for
passing games.  If anything, the antonym of "vertical offense"
appears to be "West Coast offense" (don't ask).  In fact, I think the
popularity of "vertical" to describe styles of offensive passing
arose alongside the trendy use (since at least the 90's) of the
phrase "West Coast offense", and was especially associated with, of
all people, Al Davis's Oakland Raiders, which last time I looked are
located on the west coast.  Antedates on "West Coast" in this sense,


More information about the Ads-l mailing list