Another cold, barren football offseason is now upon us. As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lifted the Lombardi trophy, the chilling realization that no NFL or college games would be played until the end of August likely saddened most pigskin fans across the country.
While the NFL and CFB are on vacation, that doesn't mean all football is. 7-on-7 has slowly surged in popularity over the past twenty years, emerging as a legitimate alternative to traditional 11-on-11 action. With the first week of the Fan Controlled Football League in the books, now is the perfect time to read up on the origins of an exciting new game that could be the future of football.
How to Play 7-on-7 Football?
Even the most knowledgable football fans can get confused by the numerous rule changes in 7-on-7. In essence, the game boils down to one thing: the passing game. Unlike the physical aspects of running the ball or the technical components of kicking it, throwing the ball around is easily the simplest part of football, and in today's game, the most important.
There are no lineman and no tacklers in 7-on-7. Instead, the sport relies on the two hand touch method, a good way to reduce injury and prevent speed demons from breaking open the game with less defenders on the field. Halves are twenty-one minutes long, with drives starting at the forty yard line and first downs at the twenty-five and ten yard markers.
Players are not allowed to run the ball, which means that offensive formations consist of a snapper and a collection of five receivers and tight ends. This makes for a quicker game than 11-on-11, with drives often ending in quick scores. Teams are given three downs rather than four, and quarterbacks have just four seconds to get rid of the ball. Failure to do so results in a sack.
How Did 7-on-7 Football Get Popular?
The true roots of 7-on-7 can be traced back to the advent of flag football, initially created by military personnel during World War II in order to prevent injury. Eventually, the game evolved into 7-on-7, with coaches from even back in the 70's realizing the game's potential as a high-energy practice drill.
Although the football variant's origins are somewhat murky, the game truly took off in Texas during the 1990's. When Baytown Lee High School head coach Dick Olin saw former Texas high school coach Bill Mumme's Air Raid offense (along with then-assistant Mike Leach) have success in college, he added it to his own program's playbook. Olin saw the spaced out format as a great way to practice his pass-heavy offense, and eventually set up the first ever 7-on-7 tournament in 1996.
Olin's embrace of 7-on-7 (he is considered by most to be a pioneer of the sport) has given birth to a new wave of quarterbacks hailing from the state of Texas, in part because of practices and tournaments now center around the bold new style of play. The NFL journeys of Pro Bowlers such as Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield can be directly linked to the style of play they were accustomed to in high school: receivers spread out across the field and enough passes to make a normal person's arm fall off.
Is 7-on-7 The Future Of Football?
By now, the influence of 7-on-7 is undeniable. As the air raid offense has seeped into just about every college coach's game plan, so too has the need to incorporate schemes from 7-on-7. Once seen as a strange, unworthy cousin of 11-on-11, coaches have now warmed up to the idea of using major tournaments as useful recruiting tools. While coaches are no longer allowed to appear at tournaments in person, highlight reels and clips are readily available, giving coaching staffs a way to 'scout' without actually attending games. With how easy it is to suit up and play, games can be played practically year-round, making 7-on-7 a legitimate offseason activity for high school prospects.
In 7-on-7, football may also find a future internationally. In taking the tackling aspect away, other nations may be able to field competitive teams since the only skills needed are speed and arm strength. Additionally, a major decrease in injury risk also eliminates many of the concerns most have with traditional football. Unlike the equipment-laden 11-on-11, a padded helmet is all that is needed to play, reducing cost and opening the game up to just about anyone. Although many college coaches still dismiss 7-on-7 as a mere training exercise, others see it as the future on the gridiron. One thing is for certain: the debate surrounding this strange, yet familiar, new game amongst football experts will not be subsiding any time soon.