The Pro Football Hall of Fame traces the origin of the shotgun to the San Francisco 49ers and Coach Red Hickey, who in 1960 unveiled a version of the formation to help stage a series of upsets late that season and again in 1961.
At the time, the shotgun was viewed as an updated offshoot of Pop Warner's Double B-formation used at Stanford in the 1930s. The 49ers new success at throwing the football took teams by surprise, but equally stunning to the likes of the Baltimore Colts, Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears was that Niners' ability to run so successfully out of what many viewed as a shrunken punt formation.
Quarterbacks Bob Waters, John Brodie and rookie Billy Kilmer alternated at the position, all with relative success. It wasn't until a game against the Bears in October '61 -- after San Francisco had rolled to a 4-1 start -- that defensive coordinator George Allen found a flaw in the formation and shut down the shotgun. Allen had one of his linebackers, Bill George, move up onto the center's nose and blitz him relentlessly. The 49ers quarterbacks were killed in a 31-0 defeat.Hickey retired the shotgun after the game.
Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry brought it back with a far more refined version in the 1970s, with future Hall of Famer Roger Staubach as the trigger. Again, it was a novelty, but Staubach's success opened a lot of eyes of coaches at a time when the game was moving from the ground to the air. The shotgun became the signature formation in Dallas and ultimately spread throughout the league over the next two decades.
Today, just about every team runs some variation of the shotgun.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times