What Is A Flea Flicker In Football

A flea-flicker in football is a trick play that involves stars with a handoff to the running back only for the ball to be lateralled back to the quarterback who is waiting to throw the ball downfield.

The purpose of this play is to catch the defense off guard. The flea-flicker is one of the most famous football trick plays of all time.

The flea flicker is similar to the hook and ladder trick play which also features a lateral pass from a skill position.

How To Do A Flea Flicker

To start the play the quarterback snaps the ball and hands it off to the running back. At this point, the defense believes it is a run and begins to move toward the line of scrimmage.

The running back then laterals the ball back towards the quarterback who catches it in the pocket.

While this has been going on the receivers have been running routes looking to get open. The quarterback will then seek out an open receiver and make the throw downfield.

The specific routes run on a flea-flicker vary but they typically involve a deep pass. The long-developing nature of this play makes it a great opportunity to take a shot at a long touchdown pass.


Confusing Defensive Backs

The biggest benefit of a flea-flicker is the effect it has on the opposing team’s defensive backs. You must remember that each of these defensive backs has run responsibilities as well.

By this we mean if the offense runs the ball there is a different role they must play than if the opponent passes the ball.

By tricking the defensive backs into thinking it is a run play your receivers may be able to break free from their coverage.

If a safety takes a single step towards the line of scrimmage expecting a run, that can be enough to allow a wide receiver to get past him for a deep ball.

Great Protection

One more benefit of the flea-flicker is that your quarterback is going to get great protection. First off on a running play it is not uncommon to have a lot of players around the formation for blocking purposes.

When a flea-flicker is used all these blockers focus their effort on pass protection. And since you have the confusion of the defensive backs to your advantage you can get away with only having a few receivers running routes.

Rarely Prepared For

One more benefit we are going to cover regarding flea flickers is that this play is rarely prepared for. Though this is one of the most popular tricks plays of all-time most defenses will not face this play throughout the season.

This makes the surprise of a flea-flicker that much more effective.

Less safety help

On most passing plays safeties are going to provide help over the top in pass coverage. This means when a receiver runs a deep route down the field the cornerback will usually get some assistance from the safety.

The issue is on rushing plays safeties are expected to move towards the line of scrimmage in order to tackle the ball carrier.

If a team really wants to stop the run they are going to put eight players in the box including the safety.

When a flea-flicker starts the initial handoff to the running back is going to put the safeties into their run responsibilities.

This means they must move downhill towards the line of scrimmage in order to bring down the ball carrier.

But once the ball is passed back from the running back to the quarterback the safeties are going to be out of position.

They will not be able to get deep enough downfield in order to help out the cornerbacks.

This means the receivers will often be able to get one on one matchups deep downfield. This is tough to create as defenses are usually keen to cover wide receiver downfield with multiple players.

It is for this reason that you will often see deep passes attempted during a flea-flicker. A one on one matchup downfield is too juicy to pass up which is why quarterbacks will often go for the long touchdown on these plays.


Sacks Are a Huge Loss

One negative aspect of this play is the sacks are going to cause you to lose a lot of yards. Since the quarterback is handing the ball off and then receiving a lateral he is typically deep into his backfield.

Taking a sack at a location like this is going to leave in a long yardage situation. These are difficult to get out of but the extra protection should help mitigate this issue.

Takes A Long Time To Develop

The flea-flicker by nature takes a long time to develop which means the opposing team is going to have a lot of time to get to the quarterback.

As we stated earlier this play is going to involve a lot of blockers for your quarterback so in most situations he is going to be fine.

That being said if a defender manages to make it into the backfield around the time of the lateral then your quarterback is going to be in trouble.

Risk Of The Lateral

The other negative of this play is that it requires a lateral from the running back to the quarterback. And though quarterbacks often toss laterals to the running back it rarely happens the other way around.

Not to mention when the running back laterals the ball he is going to be close to several defenders.

The laterals on these plays typically go smoothly but the inherent risk of tossing a live ball makes this a disadvantage for the flea flicker.

Why Is It Called A Flea Flicker

The name flea-flicker arose from the idea of a dog getting rid of flees. Dogs tend to flick these fleas off as quickly as they came.

This is how Illinois football coach Bob Zuppke imagined the running back would flick the ball back to the quarterback during this play.

The play gained this name due to Zuppke’s nickname and due to the fact, he had been running this play since 1910 in oak park high school.

That is all on flea flickers in football, learn other trick plays such as the fumblerooski trick play or statue of liberty handoff.

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