The Illusion of The Fade Route

Writer: Anthony Aleman

The fade route; one of the biggest illusions in the game of football is still commonly used today in many team’s playbook, but why? The fade route has been long believed to be the toss up play many teams use near the goal line. Teams have their quarterback drop back and quickly fire to the back shoulder of one of the outside receivers in hopes that the receiver will win the 50/50 battle against the cornerback. These receivers are typically the tallest on the team so they (receiver) can use their height and reach as an advantage of the cornerback defending the pass on the play. The truth to the fade route is this is the worst route a receiver can run, and in reality, it is rarely ever completed 50% of the plays. The fade route has typically a 25% success rate in most years of NFL games. Think about that number, it means your favorite NFL team would have to drive down the field four times and throw four different fade routes and they may complete one. These odds are awful and are truly wasting 25% of the chances you have for successfully scoring a touchdown. The mirage of this success rate also helps hide the idea that the fade route is awful.


Quarterback-receiver tandems such as Tom Brady and Randy Moss were elite duos who raised the fade route success rate exponentially. These future hall of fame stars made the fade route success rate rise and gave many future offensive play callers a false sense of hope with this route. Moving forward the fade route should be fizzled out of play calling, only really being used if a huge mismatch such as a 5’8 Corner covering a 6’6 receiver is available on the play. Teams will start to go with more slants, screens, run plays that are more likely than the fade route to end up in the end zone. Teams will stop falling for the illusion and start calling the higher success rate plays.