What is a handoff in football?
In football, a handoff is when the ball is snapped to a player, usually the quarterback, then handed to another player on the offense, most often the running back. A handoff is most often performed in the backfield behind the line of scrimmage to the running back, but can also be performed to a wide receiver, fullback, and even the quarterback when in the 'wildcat' formation. A handoff is not considered a forward pass, so a forward pass may occur after a handoff. A handoff leading to a lateral pass to the quarterback to throw the ball is called a 'flea flicker' and is one of the most popular trick plays in football.
A handoff is when the quarterback takes the snap and gives the football directly to a runner, allowing them to carry the ball for as many yards as possible. Handoffs are usually given to running backs, but are occasionally given to full backs or wide receivers on end arounds.
While the handoff itself might seem easy, there are many facets of the delivery that can go awry. it is imperative that the halfback and the QB to know which side the play will be taking place on. If they each turn to one side then the ball is very likely to be dropped. Moreover, the technique of letting go and grabbing the ball is important. Quarterbacks must put the ball right in between the arms of the runner, and the back must be immediately ready to squeeze the ball between his arms so that no one fumbled the football.
The "Miracle at the Meadowlands" is an example of a botched handoff leading to disaster. The transfer between New York Giants QB Joe Pisarcik and running back Larry Csonka ended up on the ground, allowing the Philadelphia Eagles to return it for a touchdown despite the Giants just needing to run the clock out to win.
Having correct handoff form is also imperative for fake handoffs such as play action plays, since lazy mechanics will lead to coughing up the football.
Types of Handoffs
Each type of run play in football requires a slightly different handoff. For halfback dives the QB just has to turn and hand the ball off, where for off-tackle runs the quarterback must take a few strides in the direction of the play to give the running back an optimal angle. For draws, the handoff is delayed, requiring precise footwork and timing.
On sweeps and pitches, the ball is not handed directly to the runner, rather thrown underhand to a moving targeted.