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Grantland: Defending the Read-Option


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Must read article from Chris Brown at smartfootball. Brown has a big proponent of the read option and goes into great detail about how defenses may try and stop it this year

 

Offenses attack; defenses react. This is a truism, but it's a truism on which almost all sports strategy is built. In the NFL today, no tactic more pressingly requires a swift, strong reaction than the so-called "read-option."

Last fall, these plays — common in college football but relatively new to the NFL — brought havoc. As one SEC offensive line coach put it, watching NFL teams try to defend the read-option was like stepping into a time machine: The poor technique, naive tactics, and ugly results were like seeing college defenses try to defend these plays, but a decade ago.1

The solace for the league's defensive coordinators is that the history of football is littered with strategies that were unstoppable one day and obsolete the next. And, despite last season's missteps, the NFL's premier defensive coaches aren't being shy about the future of the read-option: They don't think it has one. "That's the flavor of the month," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin declared, adding, "We look forward to eliminating it." Their reasoning is simple: Stopping the read-option is mission-critical for every coaching staff. "Everybody, like us, is going to do their due diligence in the offseason," said Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano at the NFL owners meetings. "We feel very confident from a defensive perspective that we can come up with some scheme and we can get those schemes taught."

These pronouncements are bold, but, until they're backed up on the field, they're empty. NFL coaches have been understandably vague about just how they plan to stop the read-option. Even with all of last fall to focus on answers, teams still struggled, which led to the question of where solutions could be found.

 

 

http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9508313/after-offseason-searching-nfl-coaches-know-how-defend-read-option

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The problem is that  when the defense attempts to stop the read option this way, they are doing exactly what I want them to do, at least at the pro-level.  Remember, at the college and lower levels, there are almost alway several weak links.  The QB is almost always deficient at least in one aspect and sometimes in several.  College and lower level teams are usually read-option based while a team like the Redskins (and maybe SFO) is more of a multiple offense.  Also, there is a reason that a 4.7 running back pops a 40+, 80+ and several other long runs and it is not because the defense is slow.

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really good read.. the only problem i have with the "defenses will do their homework and will eventually stop it", is that - you don't think offenses that run the R.O. won't likewise do their homework to build on the concepts and make adjustments?

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Very good article. It seems like everyone is beginning to understand that (on paper, at least) you cannot take away the read-option without making yourself vulnerable somewhere else. Hopefully our offense can take that next step to the point where we are able to just take what is given to us.

 

Looking forward to seeing year two of this offense!

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Eh.

 

Schemes work when you have players that can run them. The West Coast offense works when you have a QB who can make quick decisions and WRs who can run after the catch. New England's offense worked because they had two elite TEs that created all sorts of mismatches. 

 

The read-option works when you have a RB that can freeze a defense as well as QB that can identify the defensive point of attack, decide where the ball is going to go, and then get the ball there. A QB that not only has to be able to throw the ball but stuff it into the RBs chest well enough to fake out the defense and, most importantly, be able to run effectively enough to make defenses respect that option. VERY few teams will have the personnel capable of running this offense at the pro level. Right now there are three. Maybe four if Carolina ever finds a RB.

 

Defenses aren't ever going to 'stop' the read-option, just like they will never 'stop' the West Coast offense or New England's two TE set or the Greatest Show On Turf. What will keep the read-option from becoming all the rage in the NFL is the fact that it's very hard to find the personnel to effectively use it. 

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really good read.. the only problem i have with the "defenses will do their homework and will eventually stop it", is that - you don't think offenses that run the R.O. won't likewise do their homework to build on the concepts and make adjustments?

 

I try to tell my buddies that, like defensive coordinators are laboring into the wee hours on stopping it and offensive coordinators are resting on their laurels drinking ****tails by the pool.  

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One more excellent article about what DC's were trying to do this offseason.

 

You can already see where DC's are going to still have serious issues

 

http://mmqb.si.com/2013/07/26/derek-mason-stanford-read-option/

 

STANFORD, Calif. — After learning the hard way that dual-threat quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson can’t be spied with a linebacker or bull-rushed by an end, defensive coaches across the league went back to school this offseason seeking an enlightenment that would make Aristotle proud.

A few landed at the usual college football factories, like Alabama, Clemson and Texas A&M, looking for a blueprint on how to stop the read-option. But a sizeable cluster sought counsel at an institution better known for addressing problems in fields such as climate change, molecular genetics and computational science. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the campus likely has more students with perfect SAT scores than football players who can run a sub 4.4 40. Yet at least a half dozen NFL teams, including the Vikings and Raiders, signed up for a lecture at Stanford.

Across the way from the Graduate School of Business, go up two shiny wooden staircases in the Arrillaga Family Sports Center, turn right at the tree mural, meander through two hallways framed with floor-to-ceiling glass and arrive at the school’s modest football offices. Here sits 43-year-old defensive coordinator Derek Mason, a onetime undersized cornerback at Northern Arizona who still looks like he could take a few nickel snaps. Close the door, dim the lights, fire up the game-film computer program. The professor has a lot to cram in during this two-hour session.

 

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Henry is right. You can defend something nearly as perfectly as possible, but if an offense uses its personnel to execute it will always succeed. The reason is, the offense dictates and the defense reacts. 

 

For the RO, that means that offenses with QBs like Griffin and Wilson have an advantage. Now, they might make the wrong read/decision at times or coaches might start trying to avoid hits on their QBs. But, if a team with the right personnel wants to use the RO, it will move the ball more often than not.

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Henry is right. You can defend something nearly as perfectly as possible, but if an offense uses its personnel to execute it will always succeed. The reason is, the offense dictates and the defense reacts. 

 

For the RO, that means that offenses with QBs like Griffin and Wilson have an advantage. Now, they might make the wrong read/decision at times or coaches might start trying to avoid hits on their QBs. But, if a team with the right personnel wants to use the RO, it will move the ball more often than not.

 

Agree.

 

And in the college ranks it is still very tough to stop. Minus that Stanford-Oregon game (which honestly was a bit of a fluke as well) read option offenses churn up yards in college. They don't when they have to face an SEC D such as Alabama or LSU that has an overwhelming talent advantage on the d-line, and thus blows up the play in the backfield 

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One more excellent article about what DC's were trying to do this offseason.

 

You can already see where DC's are going to still have serious issues

 

http://mmqb.si.com/2013/07/26/derek-mason-stanford-read-option/

 

 

STANFORD, Calif. — After learning the hard way that dual-threat quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson can’t be spied with a linebacker or bull-rushed by an end, defensive coaches across the league went back to school this offseason seeking an enlightenment that would make Aristotle proud.

A few landed at the usual college football factories, like Alabama, Clemson and Texas A&M, looking for a blueprint on how to stop the read-option. But a sizeable cluster sought counsel at an institution better known for addressing problems in fields such as climate change, molecular genetics and computational science. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the campus likely has more students with perfect SAT scores than football players who can run a sub 4.4 40. Yet at least a half dozen NFL teams, including the Vikings and Raiders, signed up for a lecture at Stanford.

Across the way from the Graduate School of Business, go up two shiny wooden staircases in the Arrillaga Family Sports Center, turn right at the tree mural, meander through two hallways framed with floor-to-ceiling glass and arrive at the school’s modest football offices. Here sits 43-year-old defensive coordinator Derek Mason, a onetime undersized cornerback at Northern Arizona who still looks like he could take a few nickel snaps. Close the door, dim the lights, fire up the game-film computer program. The professor has a lot to cram in during this two-hour session.

WOW this is the best breakdown I have every seen!!!!! great job for the find!!!!! 

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I think one problem with the article in the OP is that there is no mention of the play-action part of the offense that plays off of this.  As the defense gets more and more of its players to change techniques & tactics to help out against the run, more and more holes open up for the passing game.  For example, the solution proposed by the article seems to be to get one of the safeties to help out in the running game.  But if it's actually a play-action fake and not the read-option, then the good old 15 yard post to Logan Paulsen is going to be wide open, if not the fly to Garçon or Hankerson.

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I am looking forward to the chess game. The media focus now is on DC's adjusting to the RO as manifested last year etc...but one expects a range of offensive counter-moves just waiting for those most likely adjustments...the summation of last year's impact is going to go well beyond some "flavor of the year" event...it will evolve, there will be shifts, but the game is going to be significantly affected in continuing manner for some time and we will see see more athletes from college honing the related skills...

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I've said before, and I'll say it again...opposing defenses might figure out a way to control the RO, but they will never figure out a way to control Kyle Shanahan.  The man could have three WRs riding tricycles, and he would still design a play to get them open.

 

I have faith that Kyle will keep us ahead of the curve.  All the way until he takes over as HC of our beloved Skins.

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