Warren Moon was the starting quarterback for the Houston Oilers from 1984-1993. He would put up decent numbers in his first six seasons, but only had a win loss record of 35-49. In 1990 Moon was paired with Jack Pardee, Kevin Gilbride and the Run & Shoot offense, which maxed out his abilities, and led to four straight winning seasons and a quarterback record of 44-26.
The Run & Shoot was an offense that was first conceived by Glenn “Tiger” Ellison during the 1960’s in Middletown Ohio. His offense averaged scoring a touchdown one of every ten plays, and his squad scored 98 points in a game. The Philosophy of the Run & Shoot is to run a ball control offense utilizing high percentage pass plays. The offense was not the Air Coryell offense that threw bombs; rather the Run & Shoot was a precision offense that utilized four wide receivers.
The Run & Shoot needed to have the right personnel in order to run effectively. The first and most important component is the quarterback. The quarterback must be an accurate passer, as well as be athletic enough to throw on the run in the offenses many rollouts. The next component is at least four receivers, as the offense usually employs four receiver sets. The running back in the offense was a lone back, so the teams running this offense did not need fullbacks, and rarely used the tight end. The offense moved the receivers in motion all over the offense, and each receiver had up to four different routes that they could run, which gave the quarterback essentially 16 different routes to choose from. The quarterback would need to be able to diagnose the defense he was facing, and then it became easy to find the open receiver in the offense.
Jack Pardee was head coach at the University of Houston from 1987-1989, and he employed the Run & Shoot offense to great success. His offense produced Andre Ware, who was the first African American quarterback to ever win the Heisman Trophy. Pardee’s Houston Cougars became the first team in NCAA history to have over 1,000 yards of total offense, totaling 1,021 in a 95-21 trouncing of SMU, Southern Methodist University. Pardee’s success with the Cougars drew the attention of the Oilers, and in 1990 he was hired and installed the Run & Shoot for Warren Moon.
In 1990 Warren Moon was coming off his best season in the NFL. In 1989 Moon threw for 3,631 yards with 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He completed 60% of his passes, which was the best mark of his career. Pardee knew Warren was the perfect man to run his offense, because he had the right personnel around him. The Oilers had a wealth of talent at wide receiver with Ernest Givens, Haywood Jeffires, Curtis Duncan, Drew Hill (1990-1991) and Webster Slaughter (1992-1993). From 1990-1993 all of these receivers enjoyed success, and most of all, so did Warren Moon.
Warren Moon’s Receivers during the Run & Shoot era:
Givens Jeffires Duncan Hill Slaughter
1990 72-979-9 74-1048-8 66-785-1 74-1019-5
1991 70-996-5 100-1181-7 55-588-4 90-1109-4
1992 67-787-10 90-913-9 82-954-1 39-486-4
1993 68-887-4 66-753-6 41-456-3 77-904-5
Moon had his best statistical season in 1990. He threw for 4,689 yards, which is over 1,000 more than his career high set the year before. #1 also threw for 33 touchdowns with only 13 interceptions. Moon completed 62% of passes and was named to his third consecutive pro bowl. The following season Warren would keep the pedal to the metal, throwing for 4,690 yards with 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The NFL had not seen back to back passing seasons like #1 dropped on them, and he gave the Run & Shoot legitimacy. Moon would lead the Oilers to three straight playoff appearances from 1991-1993, but their struggles in the playoffs led to the media slamming the Run & Shoot offense as a gimmick. It also did not help that their defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan, was also a major detractor of the offense.
During his four seasons quarterbacking the Oilers and the Run & Shoot offense, Warren Moon had a 44-26 regular season record. What he did throwing the ball was even more impressive. In 70 games Moon threw for 15,385 yards, with 95 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. Moon completed 61% of his passes, 1,293 of 2,105 attempted. Those numbers may not seem great by the standards of today’s NFL, but they were amongst the best passing numbers of his era.
The Run & Shoot is no longer employed in the NFL, but the many of philosophies of the offense are still alive. In the NFL of today quarterbacks are throwing the ball more than ever. Teams are utilizing four or more options on passing plays, which was a main component of the Run & Shoot. Receivers are also able to change their patterns to take advantage of the defenses they are facing. If you look at the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers offense, you see the short high percentage passes that were paramount in the Run & Shoot.
Looking back there is no doubt that the Houston Oilers had the right personnel to employ the Run & Shoot, and they were also the most successful team to use it. Warren Moon was the main cog that made the Run & Shoot work in Houston, and it also allowed Warren to shot for the moon when it came to his stats. Houston had a tremendous amount of talent at wide receiver, and with Warren Moon leading the way were one of the most enjoyable offenses to watch on a weekly basis.