The Future, or a Fad?

The scheme that overran the NFL last year, the read-option is simple in its conception and devastating when executed right. This season we’ll see if it’s built to last

wordstk
The read-option makes defensive ends look like basketball defenders trying to stop a pick-and-roll without any help. (John Middlebrook/CSM/Landov)

ASHBURN, Va. — The defining play of the read-option craze happened last season at Washington, on a Monday night in Week 13. The country was just learning about the pistol formation and the mesh point, when the quarterback sticks the ball in the running back’s gut but doesn’t let go right away. He instead waits, watching the unblocked defensive end, and then decides either to let the tailback take the handoff or to pull the ball back and run it himself.

On this defining play, the quarterback was Washington’s Robert Griffin III. The Giants led 13-10 midway through the third quarter as Griffin brought the offense to the line, in the pistol. Third-and-1. Big moment. And here it is, months later coming to life on the big screen in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s office.

“This is what I used to joke about,’’ Shanahan says. “Look at Jason Pierre-Paul here.’’

I look: Griffin takes the snap, plants the ball in Alfred Morris’ gut but still holds on, riding Morris while staring at Pierre-Paul. Washington doesn’t block the All-Pro end, who charges hard at the RG3-Morris tandem. Tight end Logan Paulsen started the play across from Pierre-Paul, and in most universes where logic reigns, Paulsen would have blocked (or at least tried to block) one of the most dangerous rush ends in football. But Paulsen skips past Pierre-Paul and locks on to safety Kenny Phillips, who has come down into the box and is playing a faux outside linebacker position behind Pierre-Paul.

Mind-boggling. Washington has chosen to block a safety with a 268-pound tight end while giving Pierre-Paul a free run at the men with the ball. There is something reckless about this. But the way Shanahan explains it, the decision makes perfect sense.

TK
Once the biggest concern of Washington’s offense, Jason Pierre-Paul was simply left unblocked and became a non-factor against the read-option. (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

“Think about it this way: This guy’s the biggest freak I’ve ever seen, Pierre-Paul. Him and [Cowboys defensive end] DeMarcus Ware are the biggest freaks I see every year,” Shanahan says. “So when I prepare for these guys, I have to sit all week thinking, How are we going to handle this guy that nobody in the NFL is capable of handling on his own? What’s going to be our plan? Normally we put two or three [blockers] on him. Now, you know what my plan is with the zone read? Let’s put nobody on him. Let’s have not one person on our field touch their best player, and let’s just have him sit there. Let him do whatever he wants. If he wants to go get Robert, Alf [Morris] takes it. Go get Alf? Robert takes it. We used to wrack our brains all week, wondering how many guys have to help block him. Now all of a sudden, we’re not going to put anyone on him. That sounds stupid, but …”

The play rolls on. Eyes locked on Pierre-Paul, Griffin sees him steaming toward Morris. When Pierre-Paul is two steps away from Morris, Griffin snatches the ball back, pivots, and begins sprinting around the left end. Where, conveniently, there is no one. Bad play here by Phillips. This offseason, two Giants who were on the field that night—Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora—said Pierre-Paul’s responsibility on that play was to attack the running back. Pierre-Paul did his job. Phillips should have had the outside rush lane covered, but he was too far inside, neutralized by Paulsen. Griffin had 30 yards of open field in front of him, and he gained 46 on the play.

I counted five times in this game—out of Pierre-Paul’s 34 defensive snaps (he was limited with an aching back)—that Washington left him unblocked. “That’s disrespectful to a player,’’ Pierre-Paul said this summer. “It’s saying, ‘Look, we don’t need to worry about that guy.’ ”

On the contrary.

The more we learn about the read-option, the more interesting it becomes. A fad? Maybe. “Nothing is here to stay,’’ Shanahan says. “Everything’s evolving.” Maybe when quarterbacks get beat up a few times outside the pocket, coordinators will have second thoughts about using the scheme. But I don’t think Washington is going to handle Robert Griffin III much differently this season—except to emphasize over and over and over the importance of sliding to avoid direct hits, and running out of bounds instead of lowering a shoulder to pick up two or three extra yards. We’ll see if Griffin can play that way. He’s saying all the right things now about avoiding contact, but we’re not in the middle of a pennant race, nor is it the fourth quarter when he desperately needs a first down.

At 23, the future of Washington’s offense has already had two knee reconstructions, at Baylor in 2009 and then in January after shredding his right knee in a wild-card loss to the Seahawks. Griffin took his three biggest hits last year on non-read-option plays. Often, he got hit because he was trying to play like he did in college—with no fear of injury. The most damaging hit came six days after the Giants game when Griffin, trying to dive forward to gain a few extra yards against Baltimore, collided with 335-pound defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and hyperextended his right knee. There’s no way Griffin should be lunging for three extra yards against a strong safety, never mind a behemoth who has 110 pounds on him.

But … and this is a very big but … we also have to keep the hits in perspective. Last season, the pocket-preferring Andrew Luck led all NFL quarterbacks in significant hits taken behind the line. Pro Football Focus charted 138 sacks or knockdowns for Luck while throwing, a gaudy 26 more than the second-most-hit passer, Sam Bradford. This doesn’t count hits taken in the open field, so the Ngata shot on Griffin wouldn’t be included. But in significant hits behind the line, Griffin was 14th, with 90 knockdowns.

Listen to Shanahan and you get the firm idea that he’s not changing the playbook; it sounds like he’s embracing it even more, as long as the quarterback runs smarter. “When Robert runs the ball,” Shanahan says, “I want it to be a track race. I do not want to have him sit there and break a tackle. I don’t want him to sit there and dance and make somebody miss. That’s why we don’t call runs for him. We call them for Alf. If everyone gets Alf, we want Robert to run a 40-yard dash to the sideline, where nobody else is. We don’t want to subject him to the free hitters.”

On Monday night, we’ll start to find out. Griffin will open his second season at home against Philadelphia, playing football in pads for the first time since that fateful day at FedEx Field 34 weeks ago. The crowd will be at a fever pitch. Griffin will be as excited as the fans, but he knows maturity, and only careful risk-taking, will lead to long-term NFL greatness.

“It’s ingrained in my head now,’’ Griffin said on Thursday. “I’ll be getting down on Monday night.”

* * *

wordstk
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan wants Robert Griffin III to remain a mobile threat, but avoid hits instead of fighting for extra yards. (Rich Lipski/AP)

Kyle Shanahan is an idea man. When his father coached the Broncos in their late-’90s glory years, he and his high school buddy, Darnell McDonald, a running back who chose baseball over football after being a first-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in ’97, went to Broncos practices on Saturdays—McDonald to learn from his hero, Terrell Davis, and Kyle to hang around the coaches. “Kyle always wanted to know why,’’ McDonald said. Another friend, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley, describes him the same way.

After finishing at the University of Texas in 2003, Kyle became a grad assistant at UCLA and then served as a quality control coach on Jon Gruden’s staff in Tampa in 2004 and ’05. “I’m OCD,’’ the 33-year-old Shanahan says, “in that I think things are very easy to stop if you know they’re coming. Everything I do, I try to think of how people are going to try to stop things. I feel like maybe I was raised that way. When I got into coaching, my dad always told me when I worked for Gruden to soak up everything he said. He wanted me to always learn defense. If you want to be a good coordinator, you always want to make sure you know good defense. Maybe that’s how that seed was planted, but I’ve always studied defense harder than offense.’’

wordstk
Kyle Shanahan embraces his dad after the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII on Jan. 25, 1998. (Ed Reinke/AP)

Washington took Griffin with the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. What excited Kyle Shanahan when he started thinking about running the read-option with Griffin was that he could also run the regular offense from the pistol formation, which he was mulling as an alternative to the shotgun. The shotgun has the quarterback seven yards behind center, the Pistol about four and a half. The pistol, Shanahan thought, made it possible to run 100% of the playbook from that formation because the running back was close enough to the line of scrimmage. The offense’s most effective running play, 18, a power run outside the right tackle, works equally as well with Griffin under center or in the pistol.

And when Washington began introducing the read-option out of the pistol, there was an unintended consequence: Defenses started getting more vanilla. There was less blitzing and less risk-taking, because defensive coordinators didn’t want to be undressed by a scheme that was so unpredictable. Griffin could execute the team’s favorite running play—Morris over the right side, to capitalize on the back’s powerful one-cut style—and by doing so out of the pistol, he could also run the read-option without opponents knowing the difference.

“That’s why I grew to believe in this so much,’’ Shanahan says. “I know how many issues it causes. No one’s really stopped it, so you have to think about how they’re going to try to stop it. They can stop something, but in order stop something, it opens up so many different holes for so many different things. What excites me is when people ask, ‘What do you do when people stop it?’ We’ll do what we’ve always done—play football like we always have. We’re going to do our offense. This is just another weapon we have that people have to worry about. All that does is help us use our other weapons. You better worry about it.

“Defenses can get confused on how to set their strengths. Defenses have to know what the strength of an offense is, so they can say it’s right or left, so they know where to set the front, set the three-technique [the pass-rushing defensive tackle], set the rotation of the safeties. You show them a weird formation, so they don’t know where to do the blitz from, so they check out of it. So when you give them weird stuff, it’s just an illusion of complexity. But they have to respect the formation you’re in.”

Mandatory Reading

Defensive coordinators around the league went back to school this offseason looking for ways to stop the read-option. Greg Bedard breaks down The NFL’s Knowledge Gap.

 

There's more to Washington’s success this season than RG3’s knee. Andy Benoit dives deep into the team’s prospects.

Empowered by his head coach/father, Kyle Shanahan is what the future of football is all about—a young coach willing to take chances, during the season no less. In Griffin, Mike and Kyle Shanahan knew they had a quarterback with the rarest of talents: a very good downfield arm, and Olympic hurdler’s speed. The last thing they wanted to do was chain him to the pocket. So Kyle studied the pistol and the read-option, spoon-feeding it to the team as the season went on … and who knows what would have happened if Griffin hadn’t been hurt against Baltimore in Week 14, leading to his deteriorated health in the final weeks of the season, and to the team’s demise in the wild-card round. The Shanahans had an offensive staff—keyed by line coach Chris Foerster, who had to re-do most of the blocking schemes—that taught new concepts last season instead of reinforcing ones that had been in the playbook since April. And they had a quarterback who wanted to soak in a dynamic new way of playing, who wanted to buy in.

The game today is an amalgam of styles, but there’s little question that the league will set a record for plays run in 2013 for the fifth straight season. Philadelphia, Buffalo, Jacksonville and the Giants are all going to play faster on offense—particularly the Eagles, because Chip Kelly has never met a huddle he liked. These new fast-paced offenses are run by coaches who aren’t married to the past.

A head coach (and Washington’s success could drive Kyle Shanahan’s market value up) has to be three things. One: smart and able to earn the respect of players who believe he’s helping them get better. Two: malleable, able to adjust to the talent instead of demanding the players adjust to him. Three: Well, let one current coach explain the last trait. “A coach today cannot be pigeonholed,’’ this head coach told me on my summer tour of training camps. “What makes [Bill] Belichick so good is that his game plans each week, on each side of the ball, can be totally different from what you’ve just seen. I’m convinced now that with all the different concepts we’re seeing in the game every year, a coach has to be an experimenter. He has to know when to take some risks.’’

Such as adding new elements of the pistol and the read-option … during the season. “First, the read-option is so far on the edge it’s almost unthinkable,” says Cooley, who retired in July and now does games on the team’s radio network. “And to install it during the season … I was cut before Week 1 last year, then re-signed in Week 8—and I didn’t recognize the playbook when I got back, at least in the running game.”

Finally, and this is a little corny, there has to be a love of learning involved. You’ve got to love football, and be confident in your ability to teach the game, for a crew of players to think you’re leading them down the right path. “Learning’s huge in football,” says Cooley. “I have to say I was excited every day to get a cup of coffee and sit in on Kyle’s offensive meetings for two hours. He taught the game so well.”

* * *

wordstk
Expect defensive ends like the Rams’ Chris Long (right) to start to punish read-option QBs at the mesh point this season. (Simon Bruty/SI :: Jeff Lewis/Icon SMI)

Let me be the 946th person to suggest how defenses might neutralize the read-option this season. When I asked coaches and players that question this summer, two things stuck out in their responses: punishment of the quarterback, and simple defensive discipline. The NFL didn’t let defenders hit quarterbacks freely when they held the ball in a running back’s gut last year; this year, a QB with his hands on the ball in read-option mode is fair game. I believe defensive players will attack the quarterback more, even if they incur an unnecessary roughness penalty or three along the way.

But discipline is big, too. If Kenny Phillips had held the edge and forced Griffin inside on that 46-yard run, would the play have worked? I doubt it. The Rams have had success against the read-option, and St. Louis defensive end Chris Long says: “The key is, don’t try to do too much. If someone tells me to just tackle the dive [the running back], I am going to relish the opportunity to just tackle the ballcarrier. That’s fine.”

Long, who’ll see heavy doses of read-option from San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson in the NFC West this season, thinks the scheme has been overblown. “I know it’s kind of a hysteria right now,’’ he said of the read-option this summer. “We don’t talk about it a lot in the locker room. We’re not out here in training camp trying to think about only this situation. I really think with people buckling down and playing their assignments, it’ll slowly settle down and people will learn how to play it. I don’t think it’s going to go away. But it’s not going to take over the league either.”

Kyle Shanahan agrees: “Robert averaged pulling [the ball back] about four or five times per game. That’s what is entertaining to hear—that we ran a different offense. We didn’t run a different offense; we ran the same offense that I’ve been running here for three years. But we added another part. We added the zone-read, and it opened up everything else.”

Now we’ll get to see what Washington, and opposing defensive coordinators, do for an encore. It’ll be one of the great strategic stories of the NFL’s 94th season.

More from The MMQB
72 comments
randomdeletion
randomdeletion

From reading comments below, this idiot has said openly at some point that he refuses to call the Redskins by their name?  Really?  When did he say that?  That is such a joke it is mind boggling.  I really didn't even notice it, but he said Washington every time he referred to the team.  What an idiot.  

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

What a stupid article.  Uh, last year JPP went after the running back as this whole read option stuff was new and no defenders had any habits to properly play it.  That won't be happening this year.  Rest assured the defenders will be targeting the QB.  He will get hit.  Screw the running back, maybe he gets 7 yards, but if you get a lick on the QB every time the defense will trade that every time.  

Gs1
Gs1

I haven't had a chance to see much of the Redskins Read-Option but have with the 49ers. Here's something most of the NFL analysts are clueless about: Kaepernick's biggest scoring plays in the season & the play-offs weren't done from the read-option, it was on regular scrambles & traditional QB keeper type plays when he saw man-to-man coverage and he decided to take off running because no one was looking. Those scrambling plays are safer for him as a QB than standing in the pocket getting drilled when he is not looking. He can get yardage & safely step put of bounds or slide.

ChrisAitken
ChrisAitken

The name Washington Redskins has been defined (not re defined) as something good & decent for almost a century. 

 I  know of fans buried in their Redskins gear. As a child bed ridden for a couple of years (many  years ago) The Redskins were one of my few pleasures. Fans of the Redskins have made this name something to be proud of, why do you, and others persist to pervert it?

 Why should a professional activist like Suzanne Harjo, and  self aggrandizing journalists determine what others should believe, or interpret? Why can't Redskin fans be left alone to enjoy something they enjoy out of love, not bigotry & hatred? From the articles I have read the hatred, intolerance, and ignorance is from the other side. 

 If you can answer this question in the affirmative, then by all means continue to proceed w/ your crusade.

What person, place, or thing today can bring more people together, create more smiles, manifest good will amongst all AND I MEAN ALL (African, Asian, Mexican, Native, Euro American, Straight, Gay, Bi, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, believers, and non believers, young, middle aged, and old anyone else if I missed I apologize) than The Washington Redskins ? 

Come on Peter look in the stands, talk to the people, this is something that is good, something based in love, & loyalty, not hatred. 



so
so

Peter, you avoid using REDSKINS but make sure to use it as an SEO tag? You're a fraud.

Dan66
Dan66

Great so fast forward to this year.  The NFL just announced that a QB running the read-option is considered to be a runner and can be tackled whether he has the ball or not until he removes himself from the play.  The logical thing for Pierre-Paul to do every time is target the QB instead of the running back. The RB presumably is moving forward towards the line toward Pierre-Paul's teammates.  The QB is the runner in position to exploit the hole left on Pierre-Paul's side.  Therefore target the QB and let the RB run at the rest of the defense. 

Stephen H
Stephen H

Peter King's self righteous, attention seeking decision to not say Redskins throughout this article actually draws more attention to those of us who are pro Redskins. His unintended consequences work in favor of those of us who haven't caved into political correctness. Way to go Peter.

Jonjoe1959
Jonjoe1959

No, the "Read Option" isn't the NFL future.

"Flag Football" is though !!

LilPicture
LilPicture

I think Kyle Shanahan has it right -- and it's the thing that the 'NAWT REEL NFL FUTBAWL" crowd isn't getting:  the read option is just another weapon that compliments existing running and passing attacks.  It's neither the goal or the intent of these teams to replace everything that's gone before with this concept -- it's too enhance them.

_BobHayes_
_BobHayes_

Why is everyone acting like this is a new thing? It's been going on in college for two decades. This article heralds Shanahan like he's a complete genius. All he is doing is taking the exact play Griffin ran two hundred times in college and trying it in the NFL. Don't get me wrong, I know the NFL is a different game and it's the first time we are really seeing it in the NFL, but it's not like Shanahan invented anything at all and no coach has ever seen it before so he can't scheme against it. This is the kind of thing that seems to be captivating to NFL-only fans, but to college fans, it's nothing new.

LilPicture
LilPicture

Two thoughts:

1.)  A lot of NFL people seem to WANT the read-option to be a fad rather than going out and stopping it.

2.)  I keep hearing a lot about how to stop the Zone Read.  This is the first article that's talked about the real challenge:  stopping the Zone Read with a lead blocker.  The college guys are already an iteration ahead on this -- there is more than just one kind of read option.  I see the NFL defensive guys coming back from summer on campus looking excited about trying to run scrape-exchanges like an H-back isn't going to take the LB's head off . . . or that selling out to stop this play opens your defense up to so much more because it takes away the defenses usual 11 vs. 10 advantage.  Anyone really want to play pass defense in the NFL without a free safety?

Redskinsbaby
Redskinsbaby

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beekay31
beekay31

I'm not sure how "Redskins" is politically incorrect while "white" and "black" aren't, considering those also refer to skin color.  Either way, everyone needs to lighten up.

Marchoir
Marchoir

Forty-six Super Bowls. Scoreboard says 46-0 against read option QB's.

goosegeese
goosegeese

Why wouldn't you embed a video of the play you're discussing here? It's extremely easy to do and would make the article way better. Just hire a few smart 25 year olds and they'll figure shit like this out for you.

jminnerk
jminnerk


A modest proposal...


1. Change the name of the team to the Washington Americans

.
2.  Keep the logo.  
It would honor Native Americans, while removing an offensive (to many) team name.

RealJLord
RealJLord

Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

 Hail to the REDSKINS

exnicios
exnicios

Why are you using "Washington Redskins" as a tag? Doing so makes it seem like you care more about SEO (and its financial benefits) than the ethical stand you've taken on not using the name.

BY
BY

I attended a clinic in 1986 about attacking the 46 defense. Homer Smith (long time college OC) said "the first play I'd run is the weak side option...they can't defend it.' He also said "Of course, against the Bears you'll need another qb because that is Richard Dent."

Mark20
Mark20

Read Option: quickest way to shorten an NFL QB's career. Watch.

joe.george
joe.george

It will fade once the unblocked, optioned people start injuring the people who they commit to hitting. The will crash on the running back AND have a linebacker or strong safety ready to knock the crap out of the QB in case he keeps it. Yes, that will lead to more one-on-one coverage in the secondary; however, it is no less dangerous than a blitz and allows for the QB shadow to fully commit to the QB on pass or run, basically blitzing on any down the defense suspects a run.

tundey
tundey

You know what's funny? I read the entire article without once realizing he didn't use the team's offensive name. I guess it can be done.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@Gs1 That is true, but rest assured defenses will do a much better job containing the pocket.  Randall Cunningham was a great scrambler and defenses over time did a much better job containing him, same with all scrambling QB's.  They will still get their big runs from time to time, though.  They can't be shut down game in and game out.  With the sliding rule it is stupid for a QB to ever take a hit downfield.  I don't think I saw Russell Wilson ever take a hit downfield.  

LilPicture
LilPicture

@Dan66 and the guy not blocking Pierre-Paul is now free to block someone else for the RB . . . because the QB is essentially 'blocking' P-P i.e. taking him out of the play.  

7 man D front - 1 unblocked DE taking QB - 5 OL - 1 FB = ZERO defenders for RB (assuming TE releases into pattern with WR's) . . . tackled by secondary after good to great gain.

ratay1
ratay1

@Dan66 the thing you're missing, dan, is that the QB is typically the lone player unaccounted for by a defense.  that's typically ok if he's standing in the pocket and delivering passes, but if you're accounting for him now by sending a DL at him, then you're making the RB (now the guy with the ball) unaccounted for.  the OFF actually WANTS the DL to go at the QB (read: take himself out of the play)...which necessarily means one fewer guy at the point of attack to stop the ball carrier.


simply put, the DEF typically is going to rush 4-5...the zone read not only takes the DEF's best player out of the play, but it also now gives the OFF an additional blocker on the rest of the defenders...in this case, Paulsen taking the Safety out of the play.

ratay1
ratay1

@LilPicture ...which is exactly why the Redskins offense piled up so many yards and points as a unit last year.  well said.

ratay1
ratay1

@Marchoir actually, the first time i ever saw it run with any regularity in the NFL, vince young was the QB for TEN.  big time gap until we saw cam push these same buttons in his '11 rookie campaign.  that said, saw vick gobble up tons of yards on his way to the most career rushing yds for a QB, but believe much of that was unscripted scrambling and taking advantage of DEFs when plays broke down v. designed runs on option plays.  if you recall, ATL had steve young coaching vick on the side trying to get him to be a better WCO QB...

carroll admitted SEA didn't really turn the page on this until they watched film of the WAS attack & installed it for dangerruss and kaep didn't get the opportunity to start an NFL game until smith went down in the middle of last season...you can be sure that harbaugh saw what was going on in CAR, WAS & SEA and recognized it as a core component of kaep's strengths as a player.  ran it with great success and the rest is history.

toddnbrown
toddnbrown

@Marchoir So, in 46 Super Bowls, every losing team had a read option quarterback? I don't think anybody even ran the read option on the regular before Michael Vick in 2004. Your ridiculous argument is so flawed, especially since a read option QB almost won last year's SB.  

You hate RG3. I get it. 

Stephen H
Stephen H

@jminnerk That is insulting to everyone involved. Keep the name, and stop patronizing people who you think you are better than.

TheVon
TheVon

@exnicios They've continued using the name; Klemko publicized something that was never meant to see the light of day.  Obviously, you didn't read Tuesday's column because Redskins was used a lot.  Get over it.  

msilich2
msilich2

@Mark20 There's actually a negative correlation between designed QB runs and the frequency of injuries. The more QBs run intentionally instead of sit in the pocket and/or scramble, the less they get injured. It's just slightly negative, but it's been shown in a couple studies.

beekay31
beekay31

@joe.george It would work better if the contain end just blindly crashed the QB and the MLBs run-blitzed play-side.

Hendo
Hendo

@tundey Why are you offended by the team's name?

LilPicture
LilPicture

@ratay1 @Dan66 

Yup.  After decades of the defense being given the opportunity to essentially play 11 vs. 10 they now have to prepare to play 11 vs. 11.  They call the standard NFL offense a 'Pro' offense because, frankly, most look exactly the same.  'The League' hasn't been a fertile ground for truly original thinking in a long time.  Hence, the impact of something 'new' (yet a decade old in the 'amateur' leagues they get their players from) last season.  Interestingly, prior to the 70's most original thought and development on both sides of the ball filtered from the AFL/NFL down . . . now it's coming from the h.s. and college ranks up.  Times change . . .

beekay31
beekay31

@toddnbrown @Marchoir Todd is right but he defeats the purpose of his own argument.  It only worked so well last year because defenses were so unfamiliar with it.  Expect the read option to return to the mean in coming years.

Mark20
Mark20

@msilich2 @Mark20 I believe you. But, I think if more QBs start running this offense, then injuries for QBs will skyrocket. Others have mentioned "scrambling" QBs not getting hurt. The difference with a designed offense like the R/O you can design a defense against it. Not like scrambling. Just a gut feeling. After what happened to RGIII last year, it makes me wonder about the intelligence of using your QB like that. But that was Shanahan, who in my mind, is a vastly over rated, and not particularly bright head coach.

ratay1
ratay1

@msilich2 @Mark20 nobody remembers just how successful players like mcnabb, elway, and young actually were running the football.

to mark's point, the numbers in terms of relative safety of the pocket v. scrambling are clear.  but that said, this is a violent game.  people are going to get hit...and people will get hurt.

beyond that, rush def is entirely a numbers game.  numbers have traditionally been in a DEF's favor, but the zone read flips the advantage to the OFF.  that, and once a QB has decided to keep the ball, ALL of the defenders are actually in front of him and visible.  powerful stuff.

joe.george
joe.george

@beekay31 @joe.george It depends on which hole is being blitzed and which hole the end is assigned to watch. I suspect coaches will just do the same thing they used to do to stop option teams, knocking the snot out of both the RB and QB, by the DE and SS/ OLB (whichever has outside contain), and then gambling with one-on-one coverage. Yes, the offense will get some big plays, but they also might lose both their top RB and QB. 

ratay1
ratay1

@beekay31 @toddnbrown @Marchoir only agree with this in that the teams who try to run the exact same thing this year that they succeeded with last year will be stopped effectively.

teams that evolve on the same basic concept, recognize the adjustments the DEFs are making and then make them pay for those adjustments?  they will continue to eat healthy lunches on sundays...

ratay1
ratay1

@Mark20@msilich2hmmm...i think it's incorrect to state that RGIII was hurt running the zone read.  he wasn't.  every injury that cost him playing time (the concussion v. ATL, the initial hit by ngata in the BAL game and the final knee injury v SEA in the playoffs) came on broken pass plays where he scrambled.

the primary issue for RGIII isn't how many times he's a ball carrier on designed runs (the zone read provides significant benefits to the QB as the ball carrier -- he can see all the defenders, no blindside hits, he's running to an open part of the field, etc), but his inability or unwillingness to get down safely or get out of bounds at the end of those plays.

ratay1
ratay1

@joe.george @beekay31 what happens when the OFF decides to option the 3TECH?

what if you replace your TE with Helu in the pistol trio and mesh with him while running Morris as a pitch option to the off side?

again, if OCs attempt to execute the same flavors repeatedly, DEFs will catch up.  But, introducing addl wrinkles will keep them off-balance and ensure PA off the zone read opens up routes on the play side and behind interior LBs.

btw, review the film, no defender reaches the QB fast enough to actually hit both players during a mesh...  if it were realistic, that would've been the FIRST wrinkle DCs would've installed to stop it.

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