Terminology: “Selling the Nine”

9 Jan
The nine is football’s most basic and most important pass route and, yet, it’s nothing more than a race to the end zone – or at least as far as the Quarterback can throw.
                                                                                        
Selling the nine is convincing a defensive back that he’s in that race every time a receiver releases from the line of scrimmage.
                                                                 
The nine is basically a straight line.  As such, it’s the stem for many of the other routes a receiver can run.  By stem, we refer to another straight line, the one a receiver runs when he escapes the line of scrimmage and races to the breakpoint of his assigned route. 
                                                            
If a receiver can fool a defensive back into thinking he’s going deep, then the underneath routes that break off the nine open up.  Separation – the goal of any receiver – becomes easier.
                                                                 
This example of a passing tree is fairly simple, but it shows how the “9” is strictly vertical and other routes break off it. Note how even-numbered routes work inside, and odd-numbered routes work outside. 
                                                                  

Sample Passing Tree

The deception succeeds because the nine is a defensive back’s worst nightmare.   “Don’t get beat deep” is the mantra he hears in his head each time a receiver lines up.
                                                          
The way, then, a receiver deceives a defensive back is by being consistent.  Each time he runs a route that comes off the nine, he mimics the actions of a nine which derives its name from the passing trees found in offensive playbooks.  

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