The bootleg play in football is one in which the quarterback runs towards either sideline but initially stays behind the line of scrimmage. In many cases, the bootleg is set up by faking a hand off to a running back headed in the opposite direction.
The bootleg play was invented by Frankie Albert, a quarterback for Stanford University, in 1940. The name originated from the fact that quarterbacks running a bootleg play will often hide the ball by their thigh to try and fool the defense into thinking they no longer have possession. This is considered similar to the way that bootleggers would hide alcohol in their trousers during the Prohibition era.
After rolling out on the bootleg play, the quarterback is often accompanied by offensive lineman. If the quarterback runs without the protection of linemen, then the play is known as a naked bootleg.
The quarterback has the option to throw a pass or turn up field and continue running. A mobile quarterback is especially skilled at executing this play, and players such as Steve Young, Michael Vick and Vince Young have all used it to great effect.
There are many versions of the bootleg, but all are designed to confuse the defense and catch them off balance. For example, a defensive back might expect the quarterback to run, thus drawing him away from one of the team�s wide receivers. Some bootleg plays utilize multiple linemen as blockers, while other variations may include multiple false handoffs.