What Is A Flea Flicker In Football

A flea-flicker in football is one is a trick play that involves starting with a handoff before quickly switching to a passing play with hopes of catching the defense off guard. The flea-flicker is one of the most famous football trick plays of all time.

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 towards 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 teams 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

The final 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 defense will never face this play throughout the season.

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


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 of 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.

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