Mastering the Naked Bootleg Play: A Powerful Misdirection Tactic in Football


Misdirection plays are a crucial element of a well-executed offensive strategy in football. By keeping the defense off-balance and uncertain about the intended play, the offense gains a significant advantage. One highly effective misdirection play that embodies this principle is the “Naked Bootleg.” This play combines elements of a play-action pass with a complete change in the direction of play, often resulting in dynamic and game-changing plays. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the Naked Bootleg, exploring its mechanics, strategic implementation, and optimal situations for its use.

Understanding the Bootleg Play:

The bootleg play is a widely used concept in football. In this play, the quarterback, with the football in hand, moves towards either sideline while scanning for open receivers to throw a pass. The play typically begins with a fake handoff to a running back, designed to deceive the defense. The quarterback then sprints out to either the left or right, accompanied by a lead blocker, usually an offensive guard. This blocker provides additional protection to the quarterback as he moves outside the pocket and offers multiple options for passing or running.

Key Elements of the Naked Bootleg Play:

The Naked Bootleg play incorporates the fundamental principles of the bootleg while introducing a significant variation:

1. Absence of a lead blocker: Unlike the traditional bootleg, the Naked Bootleg eliminates the presence of a lead blocker for the quarterback. There are no pulling offensive linemen to tip off the defense about the play call.

2. Misdirection and deception: The Naked Bootleg relies on misdirection and deception to confuse the defense. The quarterback executes a fake handoff, creating the illusion of an opposite-direction play before sprinting out to the other side of the field.

3. Increased vulnerability: Without a lead blocker, the quarterback becomes more vulnerable to defensive pressure. However, this vulnerability is offset by the element of surprise and confusion it introduces to the defense.

Strategic Implementation of the Naked Bootleg:

To maximize the effectiveness of the Naked Bootleg play, offensive coaches strategically employ it in specific situations:

1. Situation #1: Athletic, Mobile QB: The Naked Bootleg is often called when the offense has an agile and mobile quarterback. In situations where the offense needs to gain crucial yards for a first down or score a touchdown, the quarterback can exploit their running ability. By luring the defense to focus on defending a potential running play, the offense can create opportunities for short passes or allow the quarterback to run and gain yards.

2. Situation #2: Long Pass Downfield: When the offense aims to complete a long pass downfield, the Naked Bootleg can serve as a valuable tool. By executing the play-action fake and rolling out to one side of the field, the quarterback can catch the defense off guard. This strategic maneuver allows the quarterback to set their feet and deliver a deep pass to a receiver streaking down the middle of the field, increasing the chances of a significant passing play.


The Naked Bootleg play in football capitalizes on misdirection, deception, and the element of surprise to gain an advantage over the defense. By removing the lead blocker and utilizing the agility of the quarterback, this play confuses defenders and opens up opportunities for both running and passing plays. Coaches strategically call the Naked Bootleg in situations that require a high-impact play, such as when the offense needs to gain crucial yards or execute a long pass downfield. By mastering this misdirection tactic, teams can keep their opponents guessing and maximize their offensive potential on the field.


Q: How does the Naked Bootleg play deceive the defense?

A: The Naked Bootleg play deceives the defense through misdirection and the absence of a pulling offensive lineman. The quarterback executes a fake handoff, making it appear as if the play is going in one direction while actually sprinting out to the opposite side of the field. Without a lead blocker, the defense is less likely to identify the play call until it’s too late, leading to confusion and potential openings for the offense.

Q: What is the role of the lead blocker in a traditional bootleg play?

A: In a traditional bootleg play, the lead blocker, typically an offensive guard, accompanies the quarterback as he sprints out to either side of the field. The lead blocker’s role is twofold: to provide additional protection to the quarterback as he moves outside the pocket and to offer options for the quarterback’s pass. The lead blocker can engage with defenders, giving the quarterback more time to throw or create running lanes for the quarterback.

Q: Why is the Naked Bootleg play effective?

A: The Naked Bootleg play is effective because it eliminates the telltale sign of a pulling offensive lineman, which can give away the play call to astute defenders. With no lead blocker, the defense is less likely to recognize the play as a play-action pass until it’s too late, allowing the quarterback more time and space to make a throw or find running lanes. The element of surprise and confusion created by the Naked Bootleg increases the chances of a successful play.

Q: Can the Naked Bootleg play be used in different offensive situations?

A: Yes, the Naked Bootleg play can be utilized in various offensive situations. One scenario is when the offense has an athletic and mobile quarterback who can exploit the defense’s focus on stopping the run. By faking the handoff and executing the Naked Bootleg, the quarterback can have options for short passes or run the ball to gain crucial yards. Another situation is when the offense wants to complete a long pass downfield. The Naked Bootleg allows the quarterback to roll out, set their feet, and throw a deep pass, catching the defense off guard and potentially resulting in a big play.

Q: Are there any risks associated with the Naked Bootleg play?

A: While the Naked Bootleg play can be highly effective, it also carries some risks. Without a lead blocker, the quarterback is more vulnerable to defensive pressure, as there is less protection in front of them. If the defense quickly identifies the play and applies pressure, the quarterback may face challenges in executing the pass or be susceptible to sacks or forced throws. However, the element of surprise and the potential rewards often outweigh the risks, making the Naked Bootleg a valuable tool in offensive strategies.

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