Gadget play

What is the Definition of Gadget Play in American Football?

American Football is a game of strategy, strength, and quick decision-making. One key element that adds excitement to the game is the use of innovative and deceptive tactics, often in the form of “gadget plays.” These plays, also known as trick plays or gimmick plays, leverage unconventional and unorthodox approaches in an effort to outsmart the opponent and create opportunities for big gains or even touchdowns.

Gadget plays are specially designed to deceive the defense by concealing the intended target or disguising the actual play. It is not uncommon for coaches to introduce these plays sparingly in games, as they can be high risk but potentially high reward. These plays often involve unusual formations or unexpected actions by certain players, such as a wide receiver throwing a pass or a quarterback making a surprise run.

Key Takeaways

  • Gadget plays are unorthodox tactics in American Football used to deceive the opposing team.
  • These plays can lead to significant gains or touchdowns, but also carry risks, such as turnovers or losses in yardage.
  • Gadget plays can involve various positions and often require versatile players to execute them successfully.

Definition and Purpose of Gadget Play

A gadget play in American Football is a type of play that relies on deception and unconventional tactics to deceive and confuse the opposing team’s defense. Gadget plays are not routine strategies but are employed to keep the opposition guessing and create a unique scoring opportunity.

The purpose of a gadget play is to catch the opposing defense off guard by utilizing an unexpected sequence of actions or involving a player in a position they typically would not participate in. This is usually achieved by a combination of unusual alignments, movements, and players in unconventional roles. Common gadget plays include reverses, double reverses, flea flickers, and fake punts or field goals.

Gadget plays may feature players deemed as gadget guys, who are skilled in multiple positions and can perform various roles on the field. A gadget guy is typically a wide receiver who can also return punts, kicks, or participate in rushing plays, adding unexpected dimensions to the offense.

In summary, a gadget play in American Football is designed to surprise and trick the defense through unconventional tactics and deceptive movements. The primary goal of these plays is to exploit vulnerabilities in the opposing team’s defense and create unique opportunities for the offense to advance and potentially score. Although these strategies come with some risk, when executed well, gadget plays can result in significant gains and momentum shifts for the team employing them.

Types of Gadget Plays

Trick Pass

A gadget play involving the Trick Pass is meant to deceive the defense by making them expect a running play or a short pass. In this type of play, a non-quarterback player, such as a running back or wide receiver, initially appears to run with the ball but then surprisingly passes it downfield to a teammate. This unconventional tactic can catch the defense off guard and potentially result in significant yardage gains.

Reverse Run

The Reverse Run is another type of gadget play that aims to misdirect the defense and exploit their pursuit of the play. In a reverse run, a player, typically a wide receiver or a running back, receives a handoff from the quarterback and reverses direction, running back across the field. The offensive line must quickly adapt to block for the reversing player. This play can be highly successful in catching the defense off balance, but it also carries the risk of significant yardage loss if the defense reads it well.

Double Pass

In a Double Pass, the quarterback throws a short, lateral pass to a wide receiver or running back, who then throws a second pass downfield to a teammate. This deceptive play relies on the element of surprise, as the defense expects the first receiver to run with the ball. However, accuracy and timing are crucial for the success of this play because the secondary pass must be thrown before the defense reacts and covers the intended target.

Flea Flicker

The Flea Flicker is a classic gadget play where the quarterback hands off the ball to a running back, who then laterals it back to the quarterback. This play aims to fool the defense into committing to defending a run. Once the ball is back in the hands of the quarterback, they look for a downfield pass opportunity. Although it can be an exciting play when executed well, the flea flicker requires precise timing and coordination between the quarterback and the running back, and it can be risky if the defense does not fully commit to stopping the run.

Strategic Uses of Gadget Plays

Exploiting Defensive Vulnerabilities

Gadget plays in American Football are designed to deceive and confuse the opposing team’s defense. By using unorthodox tactics and formations, offenses can identify and exploit weaknesses in the opposing team’s defensive strategies. For example, the offense may use double reverses or flea flickers that involve multiple handoffs or pitches to confuse defenders and open up space for big gains down the field.

In addition, gadget plays can take advantage of specific defensive personnel matchups or formations. For instance, if the defense is playing aggressively and expecting a run, a well-executed gadget play can capitalize on this overcommitment and create opportunities for the offense to make big plays through the air.

Shifting Momentum

Another strategic use of gadget plays is to shift the momentum of the game in favor of the offense. When executed successfully, a gadget play can energize a team and create a sense of excitement and confidence. This can be particularly effective in crucial situations or when the offense is struggling to find a rhythm.

However, gadget plays come with a certain level of risk. Failure to execute a gadget play properly can lead to turnovers or negative yardage. Therefore, it’s crucial for teams to practice these plays regularly and use them sparingly in game situations to maximize their potential for success. As a result, the element of surprise can play a significant role in the effectiveness of gadget plays in American Football.

In summary, gadget plays offer unique strategic benefits that can help an offense exploit defensive vulnerabilities and shift the momentum of a game. By using trickery and unorthodox tactics, these plays can create opportunities for big gains and energize a team when used effectively.

Risks Associated with Gadget Plays

Gadget plays, also known as trick plays or gimmick plays, are designed to deceive the opposing team in American football. While these plays can result in significant gains or even touchdowns, they come with inherent risks.

Potential Loss of Yards

Gadget plays often involve complex and unorthodox strategies, which can confuse not only the opposing team but also the offensive team executing the play. As a result, these plays have a higher likelihood of breaking down and leading to significant losses in yardage, negating any positive gains that may have been achieved otherwise.

For example, a gadget play might involve a wide receiver throwing the ball instead of the quarterback, or multiple handoffs before a pass is thrown. In both cases, the offensive players must execute their roles perfectly to successfully execute the play. If a single player misses their assignment or mistimes their action, the play can quickly unravel, with defenders tackling the ball carrier for a loss of yards.


In addition to the potential loss of yards, gadget plays also come with an increased risk of turnovers. These plays often involve unconventional tactics, such as pitching the ball backward or laterally, which can lead to a greater chance of mishandling the ball or allowing defenders to intercept a pass.

Turnovers are particularly detrimental in American football, as they not only bring the offensive team’s possession to an abrupt end but also provide the opposing team an opportunity to score. As such, coaches and players must carefully weigh the potential reward of a successful gadget play against the risks associated with turnovers before deciding to implement them in a game.

In conclusion, while gadget plays can provide teams with an additional weapon in their arsenal to catch opponents off guard, they carry inherent risks like potential loss of yards and increased chances of turnovers. Coaches and players must balance the potential rewards and risks when deciding to utilize these plays in their game plan.

Famous Gadget Plays in NFL History

The Miami Dolphins’ Hook and Ladder play in their 1982 playoff battle against the San Diego Chargers remains one of the most memorable gadget plays in NFL history. Despite ultimately losing the game, the Dolphins successfully executed this play, resulting in a significant gain and showcasing their innovative and deceptive tactics.

The Music City Miracle is another iconic gadget play. In the 1999 AFC Wild Card game, the Tennessee Titans executed a remarkable lateral pass during a kickoff return for a touchdown, turning the game around and leading to their victory. This play is an example of how impeccable timing, surprise, and execution can make a significant impact in a game.

While gadget plays may be risky, they often result in impressive yardage gains and game-changing momentum shifts, making them an exciting part of American football history.


A gadget play in American Football, also known as a trick play or gimmick play, involves using deception and unorthodox tactics to fool the opposing team. These plays typically require a high level of skill and versatility from the players involved. Often, gadget plays involve wide receivers, who may also return punts, kicks, and contribute in rushing plays.

Incorporating gadget plays into a team’s game plan can create unpredictability and confusion for the opposing defense. Utilizing these plays at the right time can lead to significant gains and even game-changing moments. However, it’s important to use them judiciously, as they can also backfire if not executed properly.

Critics who argue that gadget plays are gimmicky or lacking in sportsmanship should consider their place within the overall strategy of the game. When used effectively, they can showcase a team’s creativity and ability to think outside the box, attributes that can prove vital in securing victories on the field.