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Future of the Read Option


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Poll: The Read Option: (87 member(s) have cast votes)

Will it last?

  1. No. It's a gimmick and will soon go the way of the wildcat. (7 votes [8.05%])

    Percentage of vote: 8.05%

  2. Sort of. It won't go away entirely but it won't have much long-term success. (53 votes [60.92%])

    Percentage of vote: 60.92%

  3. Yes, it will be a viable offense for years to come. (21 votes [24.14%])

    Percentage of vote: 24.14%

  4. Yes, and it will drastically change football and the quarterback position. (6 votes [6.90%])

    Percentage of vote: 6.90%

Do you hope it lasts?

  1. No, It's horrible. (3 votes [3.45%])

    Percentage of vote: 3.45%

  2. Not really, it's subpar. (8 votes [9.20%])

    Percentage of vote: 9.20%

  3. I'm indifferent. (26 votes [29.89%])

    Percentage of vote: 29.89%

  4. Yes, just for the sake of variety. (38 votes [43.68%])

    Percentage of vote: 43.68%

  5. Yes, it has superior entertainment value. (12 votes [13.79%])

    Percentage of vote: 13.79%

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#1 Turrable

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 04:52 PM

One of the biggest storylines of the year, no time like the present to get a discussion going.



#2 Shelterdog


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:04 PM

Doesn't the RGIII injury kind of answer the question?  Teams will run it for a while but if you have a good QB you're going to stop using it once you see your QB getting killed.



#3 wutang112878


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:07 PM

How did RG3 originally hurt the knee though?  I dont remember, but I didnt think it was a play where the running style put him in danger.

 

Found it, he did hurt it on a scramble


Edited by wutang112878, 05 February 2013 - 05:15 PM.


#4 bowiac


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:14 PM

Doesn't the RGIII injury kind of answer the question?  Teams will run it for a while but if you have a good QB you're going to stop using it once you see your QB getting killed.

There's not too much data on this yet, but the one study I've seen shows injury rates for running QBs as being comparable to those for traditional passers.

 

I think the advantages are so great that you'll see most teams running it sooner rather than later. It's like not using the three point shot in basketball. It's just trapping yourself in the dark ages for the sake of tradition. It took 20 years in the NBA, I suspect widespread adoption will be quicker in the NFL. We'll see.



#5 Turrable

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:15 PM

How did RG3 originally hurt the knee though?  I dont remember, but I didnt think it was a play where the running style put him in danger.

 

Baltimore game. He probably should have slid.

rg3hurt.gif


#6 Rudi Fingers

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:19 PM

Doesn't the RGIII injury kind of answer the question?  Teams will run it for a while but if you have a good QB you're going to stop using it once you see your QB getting killed.

 

With the new rookie wage scale, the relative risk of losing an option QB to injury for a year has decreased. 



#7 Dogman2


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:22 PM

How did RG3 originally hurt the knee though?  I dont remember, but I didnt think it was a play where the running style put him in danger.

Chased down from behind while sliding late by a Baltimore D lineman.  His leg was in the air when he was hit and his knee was bent the wrong way.

 

The video is up.


Edited by Dogman2, 05 February 2013 - 05:23 PM.


#8 Morgan's Magic Snowplow


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:35 PM

Chased down from behind while sliding late by a Baltimore D lineman.  His leg was in the air when he was hit and his knee was bent the wrong way.

 

The video is up.

 

Not just any D lineman, but 330 pounds of Haloti Ngata moving at high speed.



#9 dcmissle


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:49 PM

The Ngata hit was only one aspect of the problem. Earlier in the season, RGIII was drilled into the middle of the following week on several occasions. It became obvious -- even to one-kidney Shanahan -- that they had to back off, so they did.

I won't speak for all QBs on all teams. I feel pretty confident speaking about this one. They continue going to this well down here, it will likely be a pretty brief career for him. Which would be a damn shame because he doesn't need this in his arsenal on a regular basis to be very successful.

Edited by dcmissle, 05 February 2013 - 05:50 PM.


#10 Morgan's Magic Snowplow


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 05:54 PM

There's not too much data on this yet, but the one study I've seen shows injury rates for running QBs as being comparable to those for traditional passers.

 

I think the advantages are so great that you'll see most teams running it sooner rather than later. It's like not using the three point shot in basketball. It's just trapping yourself in the dark ages for the sake of tradition. It took 20 years in the NBA, I suspect widespread adoption will be quicker in the NFL. We'll see.

 

I can see the read option becoming a standard part of the arsenal for any team with a QB capable of posing some kind of running threat in that context.  But its hard to imagine this being enough of a gamechanger that teams will consciously move away from otherwise talented pocket passers without those skills, just because they can't run a read option.  That's where the parallel to the three point shot really doesn't hold.



#11 Spacemans Bong


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 06:31 PM

I don't even remember Kaepernick being hit all that hard - the Niners have a great O line and he seems to pick his spots pretty well.

 

Of course it only takes one hit and nobody can make a career out of the read option, just because the legs will go eventually (and for a horse like Kaepernick, it makes sense to think the legs will go later rather than sooner - the old Bill James theory applied to footbal).



#12 bowiac


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 06:36 PM

I can see the read option becoming a standard part of the arsenal for any team with a QB capable of posing some kind of running threat in that context.  But its hard to imagine this being enough of a gamechanger that teams will consciously move away from otherwise talented pocket passers without those skills, just because they can't run a read option.  That's where the parallel to the three point shot really doesn't hold.

Well, they won't move away from them, but I think they're just going to be selecting for QBs who can run the zone read in the first place. The Kaepernicks of the world will be first round talents, while the Tannehill/Ponder guys will drop to the third round. As with everything, there are going to be exceptions, but I do expect this to be a massive game changer. In college, because of recruiting disparities, some teams are just so dominant that they can afford to run pro-style QBs out there. With a salary cap in the NFL, I think teams' ability to do so will be significantly lessened.

 

I think the three point shot parallel does hold. It'll be a weird oddity if a team doesn't have a running threat at QB, the result of otherworldly abilities in other facets of the game. 



#13 Morgan's Magic Snowplow


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 06:54 PM

Well, they won't move away from them, but I think they're just going to be selecting for QBs who can run the zone read in the first place. The Kaepernicks of the world will be first round talents, while the Tannehill/Ponder guys will drop to the third round. As with everything, there are going to be exceptions, but I do expect this to be a massive game changer. In college, because of recruiting disparities, some teams are just so dominant that they can afford to run pro-style QBs out there. With a salary cap in the NFL, I think teams' ability to do so will be significantly lessened.

 

I think the three point shot parallel does hold. It'll be a weird oddity if a team doesn't have a running threat at QB, the result of otherworldly abilities in other facets of the game. 

 

I guess we'll see.  In my view,tThe relative value of the Kaepernicks of the world may indeed go up, and the Tannehill/Ponders of the world, go down.  But the most important quality - by far - for any QB will still be his ability to throw the ball from the pocket when the other teams knows that he is going to throw the ball.  The threat to run is like a very tasty cherry on top of a sundae composed of the ability to read defenses, make quick decisions, and make strong accurate throws out of the pocket under high levels of stress.



#14 crystalline

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:09 PM

If RGIII starts to slide instead of taking hits he may be able to run the option. The main problem in Washington is the idea that he can take hits like an RB.

#15 bowiac


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:23 PM

I guess we'll see.  In my view,tThe relative value of the Kaepernicks of the world may indeed go up, and the Tannehill/Ponders of the world, go down.  But the most important quality - by far - for any QB will still be his ability to throw the ball from the pocket when the other teams knows that he is going to throw the ball.  The threat to run is like a very tasty cherry on top of a sundae composed of the ability to read defenses, make quick decisions, and make strong accurate throws out of the pocket under high levels of stress.

I think it's important not to think of these skills as being binary. It's not like Kaepernick can't do the pocket passer things at all. He's just not quite as good at them as other guys drafted higher than him. What made him so successful, in large part at least, was that the running threat he presents opens up so many elements of the passing game that even his passing numbers appear stellar.

 

That's been the lesson of college football. The best passing numbers in college football are often put up by teams without strong passing QBs. The running threat is just such a game changer that they overcome their shortcomings passing the ball to put up video game numbers anyway.

 

But yeah, we'll see. I definitely don't think of it as being merely a cherry on top. 


Edited by bowiac, 05 February 2013 - 07:24 PM.


#16 ShaneTrot

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:25 PM

I am old enough to remember Steve Grogan, he was a fantastic running QB. He became a full time starting QB in 1976. In his first four years as the starting QB (76-79), he rushed for 1628 yards behind a fabulous run blocking offensive line with the greatest guard in the history of the game so far, John Hannah. In the other 12 years of his career, he ran for 548 yards. Now, he wasn't a starter the remainder of his career.

Randall Cunningham rushed for 4,928 yards on 775 carries and 35 TDs. He was fabulous and fun to watch. After he turned 31, and only starting 34 of 64 games between the ages of 28-31, he had one good year with MN in 1998 then he was a back up.

I don't think you can let your money maker get hit this much. Kaepernick does a good job of avoiding hits but it's only a matter of time, NFL defensive players break every offensive player eventually. He doesn't have to be killed, he just needs to be hit enough that his shoulder gets screwed up.


Edited by ShaneTrot, 05 February 2013 - 07:27 PM.


#17 bowiac


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:40 PM

1) I'm pretty unconvinced that there's all that much bigger an injury risk. Mobile QBs are probably less likely to take "bone crushing sacks" for instance than others. The one study I've seen backs this up, but it's certainly not open/shut or anything.

 

2) I suspect there are more QBs capable of running a zone read offense competently than there are capable of running a pro style set. It's less about intangibles, and more about learning a comparatively simple read and taking advantage of the downfield options it gives you. If this is true, then it's easier to find multiple guys per team, and thus teams can just carry multiple QBs in case of injury. It'll be like any other position. You have a real depth chart, not a starter and a complete joke backing up him up.



#18 dcmissle


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:47 PM

[quote name="crystalline" post="4541060" timestamp="1360109372"]
If RGIII starts to slide instead of taking hits he may be able to run the option. The main problem in Washington is the idea that he can take hits like an RB.[/quote/]

That's his idea as well as Shanny's. But assuming he gets past this -- and assuming he comes back as close to the same guy -- there is another problem. On every read option play -- whether he ultimately carries the ball or not -- opponents will blast the shit out him. Especially divisional opponents. It's already happened and it is well within the rules.

#19 Alternate34

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:47 PM

I think it's important not to think of these skills as being binary. It's not like Kaepernick can't do the pocket passer things at all. He's just not quite as good at them as other guys drafted higher than him. What made him so successful, in large part at least, was that the running threat he presents opens up so many elements of the passing game that even his passing numbers appear stellar.

 

That's been the lesson of college football. The best passing numbers in college football are often put up by teams without strong passing QBs. The running threat is just such a game changer that they overcome their shortcomings passing the ball to put up video game numbers anyway.

 

But yeah, we'll see. I definitely don't think of it as being merely a cherry on top. 

 

I'm still not completely convinced, the main reason being that I don't see the read option offenses as obviously better than the non-read option offenses.

 

I suppose the counter is that these read option offenses are both nascent and with rookie QBs that could become even better at the read option and calling audibles as they improve. If Wilson and RG3 are this good now, than they will be even better later. This could be true, but I honestly don't know enough about the read option to know if the offense has that much room for growth.

 

I think two scenarios are more likely, though I am unsure as to their relative likelihood:

 

(1) The read option is seen as a stepping stone to traditional pocket passing for mobile QBs that allow rookies to make immediate impact and then transition to more efficient offenses with the read option a consistent threat. To some degree, this is based on the perception that a running QB will eventually break down sooner rather than later. I understand that the stats may not bear this out (I haven't taken a close look). However, it does not matter because the perceived risk of losing your read option guy halfway into a career versus holding onto a traditional QB for a much longer career seems more palatable for teams. There are not enough contemporary samples that are not injured for teams to break this perception. Each read option QB injured outside the pocket will have a greater effect on teams decision to run it as opposed to those QBs injured inside the pocket. It's faulty reasoning, but it is subtle enough in its faultiness as to keep teams away.

 

(2) The read option becomes a viable offensive strategy for teams that decide on that route, but there will be just as many pocket passers out there. This would be the best outcome to me. I love watching a variety of offensive strategies.

 

As noted above, I just don't see the read-option as becoming the dominant offense. It may become one of a plurality of offenses that we see.



#20 Alternate34

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 07:52 PM

1) I'm pretty unconvinced that there's all that much bigger an injury risk. Mobile QBs are probably less likely to take "bone crushing sacks" for instance than others. The one study I've seen backs this up, but it's certainly not open/shut or anything.

 

2) I suspect there are more QBs capable of running a zone read offense competently than there are capable of running a pro style set. It's less about intangibles, and more about learning a comparatively simple read and taking advantage of the downfield options it gives you. If this is true, then it's easier to find multiple guys per team, and thus teams can just carry multiple QBs in case of injury. It'll be like any other position. You have a real depth chart, not a starter and a complete joke backing up him up.

 

I am not sure #2 is true. We will have to see. You trade in the intelligence, timing and reflex for speed and agility. However, it's not a complete trade off as noted. Additionally, as the demand for read option QBs, the quality will go down. Unless pocket QBs become a complete relic, that means some teams will get better deals on great pocket passers in the draft and have some really awesome offenses. As I noted above, I would love to see this, a whole bunch of read option teams and a whole bunch of pocket passers. I find that much more likely than a complete overhaul of NFL offenses.



#21 wutang112878


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 08:14 PM

2) I suspect there are more QBs capable of running a zone read offense competently than there are capable of running a pro style set. It's less about intangibles, and more about learning a comparatively simple read and taking advantage of the downfield options it gives you. If this is true, then it's easier to find multiple guys per team, and thus teams can just carry multiple QBs in case of injury. It'll be like any other position. You have a real depth chart, not a starter and a complete joke backing up him up.

 

This is what makes it intriguing to me and gives its a chance to not be a fad.  The Wildcat was interesting, but once teams saw the backfield setup for it, they could pretty much eliminate having to defend the pass.  The read option doesnt have this flaw.  What the scheme allows for is a QB to have easier reads, and because of the constant rush/pass threat you can have a sum is greater than the whole of its parts situation.  And the reads arent just easier on read option plays, on regular passing plays, if the LBs get anxious about the run, a simple dip of the ball faking a handoff by the QB and the LBs can become less effective in coverage.

 

Washington is the prime example of this.  Morris proved to be a great back this year, RG3 proved to be the real deal in this system.  But they were 4th in the league in scoring, and they did this with some subpar receivers: Garcon, Moss, Hankerson and Morgan.  Considering the lack of receiving threats, you would think teams would have been able to focus on the run and stop it, but it just didnt happen.



#22 wade boggs chicken dinner


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 09:18 PM

1) I'm pretty unconvinced that there's all that much bigger an injury risk. Mobile QBs are probably less likely to take "bone crushing sacks" for instance than others. The one study I've seen backs this up, but it's certainly not open/shut or anything.

How can you say this?  As the Ravens showed, you can hit the QB on almost every read option play.  Early season game, divisional opponent, I suspect that opposing teams will be willing to take more than one unnecessary roughness penalties to try to knock Kaepernick out.  Maybe owners and GMs will be okay with this when their QB is on a rookie wage scale, but once you start paying the guy $20M a year, the calculus changes.  Teams don't want to let their QBs play BBball on the offseason, much less regularly expose them to free running NFL defenders.



#23 Shelterdog


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 09:52 PM

There's not too much data on this yet, but the one study I've seen shows injury rates for running QBs as being comparable to those for traditional passers.

 

I think the advantages are so great that you'll see most teams running it sooner rather than later. It's like not using the three point shot in basketball. It's just trapping yourself in the dark ages for the sake of tradition. It took 20 years in the NBA, I suspect widespread adoption will be quicker in the NFL. We'll see.

 

 

Could you find that study? 



#24 bowiac


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 10:16 PM

Could you find that study? 

Ask and ye shall receive.

 

 Top line result:

 

In sum, it seems that standing in the pocket is just as dangerous as scrambling around. Yes, RGIII left the Redskins’ playoff game with his knee twisted so badly that you hoped Fox was experimenting with in-game CGI. But when we take the long view, serious injury doesn’t discriminate based on one’s ability to race.

At least one puzzle remains, though. Since sacks are the only significant predictor of injury other than prior medical history, it is tempting to tell a story in which mobile quarterbacks evade sacks more successfully, thus compensating for the injury risk inherent in rushing upfield. Yet the dataset reveals that mobile quarterbacks are sacked slightly more often than are conventional QBs. We can show that mobility doesn’t have a negative effect on health, but we can’t explain exactly how running quarterbacks are able to avoid additional risk.



#25 teddykgb

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Posted 05 February 2013 - 10:18 PM

How can you say this?  As the Ravens showed, you can hit the QB on almost every read option play.  Early season game, divisional opponent, I suspect that opposing teams will be willing to take more than one unnecessary roughness penalties to try to knock Kaepernick out.  Maybe owners and GMs will be okay with this when their QB is on a rookie wage scale, but once you start paying the guy $20M a year, the calculus changes.  Teams don't want to let their QBs play BBball on the offseason, much less regularly expose them to free running NFL defenders.

 

This may be the reason why the read option offense is gaining traction, though.  10 years ago defenses would definitely have overcome this style of offense by pummeling the QB at every occasion, but with the increased protection for QBs, slide rules, helmet to helmet hits, etc.... a mobile QB probably has a much better chance of staying on the field than he ever has had.  

 

I think that there's an evolution here.  I literally don't know if the read option isn't too simple to be beaten by some sort of defensive tweak, but I think as someone stated earlier there's going to be some serious momentum into dual threat QBs like we haven't seen before.  In many ways, it makes a ton of sense, as the passing game has become more prominent the CBs are playing farther off the line and turning their backs to the play, plus all the cover 2/cover 3 systems with deep safeties creating big gaps that the massive linebackers just can't cover.  It's such an exploitable situation right now.



#26 bowiac


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 10:28 PM

I think that there's an evolution here.  I literally don't know if the read option isn't too simple to be beaten by some sort of defensive tweak, but I think as someone stated earlier there's going to be some serious momentum into dual threat QBs like we haven't seen before.  In many ways, it makes a ton of sense, as the passing game has become more prominent the CBs are playing farther off the line and turning their backs to the play, plus all the cover 2/cover 3 systems with deep safeties creating big gaps that the massive linebackers just can't cover.  It's such an exploitable situation right now.

I don't think the average top level college defensive coordinate is as good as NFL guys, but there are 120ish D1 schools facing this problem, and they haven't solved it. That's why I don't think it's a fad. It's just the way to run a college offense these days unless you're recruiting at such a high level that you don't need schematic advantages.

 

I do think the read option/zone read/running QB is a significant edge, and not just because defenses aren't ready for it. If you read much of Chris Brown over at Smart Football, you see why. Ultimately, it has advantages of both unpredictability (which opens the passing game), and of providing an extra blocker (for when you're running the ball).



#27 Super Nomario


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Posted 05 February 2013 - 10:48 PM

1) I'm pretty unconvinced that there's all that much bigger an injury risk. Mobile QBs are probably less likely to take "bone crushing sacks" for instance than others. The one study I've seen backs this up, but it's certainly not open/shut or anything.

 

2) I suspect there are more QBs capable of running a zone read offense competently than there are capable of running a pro style set. It's less about intangibles, and more about learning a comparatively simple read and taking advantage of the downfield options it gives you. If this is true, then it's easier to find multiple guys per team, and thus teams can just carry multiple QBs in case of injury. It'll be like any other position. You have a real depth chart, not a starter and a complete joke backing up him up.

1) Mobile quarterbacks take more hits, between usually taking more sacks and also getting hit more on rushing plays. Put it this way: if Tom Brady could run a 4.4 40, how many times would the Patriots have run the read option last year? How many times did Andrew Luck (who had a faster 40 time than Russell Wilson) run the read option? I don't think QBs are made of glass and should never run designed runs, but I think from a practical perspective if you have a quarterback who can run the read option and has the skills to run a conventional offense, he's going to do the latter way, way more often than the former.

 

2) I think as the defenses become more accustomed to dealing with the read option, the "just make the simple keep / hand off read" element is going to go away. Defenses will throw different looks at read option teams and force the coaches to adjust and the quarterbacks to make more sophisticated reads. If you're an offensive coordinator and you know your QB is shaky at reading defenses, are you going to give him the keys to audible to a bunch of different plays at the line based on what he sees? If he's a brilliant runner but an inaccurate thrower, or has a weak arm, are you going to let him audible to that skinny post? How many deficiencies can the read option sandpaper over? And if, at the end of the day, you need to be able to be smart, a good runner, and a strong and accurate thrower, you can be successful in pretty much any offense, right?

 

There are two more issues I see: one, leaving a defensive lineman unblocked becomes more dangerous the faster, smarter, and harder-hitting that player is, and that's a concern with any option offense at the pro level. And two, if you fall behind by 14 points you have to start passing anyway, and any run-based offense is going to have problems.

 

I think "can the read option work at the NFL level?" is one of the most interesting questions for the next five years of football, and I hope someone tries it so we can get a real answer. I'm skeptical, but I could certainly be wrong.



#28 simplyeric


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:11 AM

 
This may be the reason why the read option offense is gaining traction, though.  10 years ago defenses would definitely have overcome this style of offense by pummeling the QB at every occasion, but with the increased protection for QBs, slide rules, helmet to helmet hits, etc.... a mobile QB probably has a much better chance of staying on the field than he ever has had.  
 
I think that there's an evolution here.  I literally don't know if the read option isn't too simple to be beaten by some sort of defensive tweak, but I think as someone stated earlier there's going to be some serious momentum into dual threat QBs like we haven't seen before.  In many ways, it makes a ton of sense, as the passing game has become more prominent the CBs are playing farther off the line and turning their backs to the play, plus all the cover 2/cover 3 systems with deep safeties creating big gaps that the massive linebackers just can't cover.  It's such an exploitable situation right now.


It's interesting:
The passing game makes QB's more valuable.
NFL protects QBs through rule changes.
People complain that the new rules soften the game... "it's not football without the hits!"
Passing game becomes dominant.
Defenses adjust to focus on passing.
Dual threat qb's are thus the new market inefficiency.
Dual threat qb's can be hit harder (as runners).
The game doesn't become as 'soft' nor as one-dimensional as people complained it would be.

The domestication of the dog continues unabated...

#29 LondonSox


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 02:18 AM

The read option will stay IMO

The read option allows the quarterback to eliminate a chosen defender from the play, that's just too useful.
However, the pro defence next year will change to defend the read option like college does. Namely the read option defender forces the ball inside to the running back. This will see, no doubt, moron commentary saying it is over, especially as qb running numbers will decrease significantly.
The reason for this is that the running back is running into the defence and is less likely to run for huge huge gains. The qb holding the ball on a properly executed read option is running to the backside of the play and if he is fast enough there may be no one even able to make a play, especially if the defence is in man or the wr block the corners. See green bay vs San Fran for details.
The read option when handed off to the rb is not the explosive game changing running qb exploding into the blind side, but it does mean that (with no contact) the qb has accounted for a chosen defender and eliminated him from the play. The offense is now playing with even numbers with the defence and should improve the average run and the big play ability of a good running game.

If the pros insist on crashing inside and releasing the qb to the backside of the play then there is no chance the read option goes away.

If you look at some read option offences in college the qb runs a lot less than you might think. The qb inside run like say Colin Klein or Tebow and that kind of offence is very different and seemingly much higher risk IMO. This won't translate. Bottom line the read option isn't a high impact play for the qb. He should hand it off or be running to the backside of the play where the big boys shouldn't be. Unless they start playing the safeties wide, the main players hitting the qb, assuming he doesn't go out of bounds or slide, is a cornerback. If the safeties are wide to stop that and hit the qb then power run it up the middle where the extra men aren't.

So yes in short I strongly believe it will continue in one form or another, and I don't agree with the injury risk. Scrambles and qb pre called runs are far more likely to result in a big hit, read option shouldn't, it's not much more dangerous than a pass attempt sack etc.

#30 Infield Infidel


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 03:35 AM

I think it's more important to have multiple good running backs, because they really take the brunt of the beating in this offense
Look at the running backs Oregon throughout Kelly's run.


2007 - Jeremiah Johnson, Jonathan Stewart
2008 - Legarrett Blount, LaMichael James, Johnson (Blount and Johnson both ran for 1000 yards)
2009 - James, Kenyon Barner
2010 - James, Barner
2011 - James, Barner, DeAnthony Thomas
2012 - Barner, Thomas

They were factors in the passing game as well. You need to rotate or these guys will lose effectiveness later in the game

The difficulty of stopping the read option is the multiple post-snap options built on the mesh read, but there are still pre-snap reads that the defense can influence, and that can affect the mesh read. The offense is doing the same things as a pre-snap read offense does, just keeping all four options (RB run, QB run, short/flat pass, deep/intermediate pass) available by reading post snap. (I guess you could put WR run under RB run, since that's the mesh)


If the safety is back at the snap, the QB is inclined handoff inside, or run outside, or throw flat


If the safety is up at the snap, the QB is inclined to fake the hand-off and throw over the top or to the outside, because with the safety up, if the QB runs it the defense can stretch the field east-west, and force the QB run out of bounds. and of course the safety up should clog the middle handoff read

if the safety is doubling the WR, or outside the DE showing blitz, the QB really wants to hand off so the RB can run to the open space in the middle. He can also throw over the top or short to the TE. That Florida misdirection TE shuffle pass works really well if the WR is doubled in this situation

You can attack the read option the same way you attack any pre-snap read offense, by disguising coverage, but now you have to involve the run reads. You want to reduce those options above from four options to one or two, which could be covered by the player(s) playing coy.

In a pro-style offense, the QB makes pre and post snap reads of the safety; where is he at the snap, and where does he go. But he is really only reading one guy (unless it's Tampa 2, where the MLB is also read)


in the read option, the QB makes a pre-snap read of the safety, but a post snap read of the read defender, the guy who isn't blocked (usually DE or OLB but sometimes DT or MLB). Post-snap, If the QB is too focused reading the read defender, he could lose track of the safety. If he fakes the hand-off, he has to find the safety again, just like a play-action

Bring a safety up to influence the QB pre-snap read, then at the snap move the safety back or to the sideline for coverage; at the mesh, you are hoping the QB thinks the safety is still near the line like he was pre-snap and throws it into full coverage. And also hoping the front seven can make a play if the QB catches the disguise and goes with a run read, either QB or RB.  CK a couple times faked the handoff, looked up and saw everyone covered, and then ran it. There isn't much you can do about that, but at least he couldn't throw deep like he wanted too.

The goal here is to have full coverage on a pass play, and to avoid the handoff.  It's the same concept as getting a pro-style Qb to audible from run to pass by having 8 in the box pre-snap, then only rushing four


Or keep the safety back and then run to the line at the snap, and hope the QB still thinks the safety is downfield and hands off to the RB who runs into a surprisingly crowded line. And hope the other DBs can cover man-to-man if the QB sees the disguise and throws it. The goal here is to get 8 into the box when the QB thinks there will only be 7, and to avoid a deep pass. The Ravens did this all first half to stop the run up the middle; SF countered in the second half by running misdirection or throwing to Davis or Crabtree over the middle.


Edited by Infield Infidel, 06 February 2013 - 04:15 AM.


#31 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 08:17 AM

2) I think as the defenses become more accustomed to dealing with the read option, the "just make the simple keep / hand off read" element is going to go away. Defenses will throw different looks at read option teams and force the coaches to adjust and the quarterbacks to make more sophisticated reads. If you're an offensive coordinator and you know your QB is shaky at reading defenses, are you going to give him the keys to audible to a bunch of different plays at the line based on what he sees? If he's a brilliant runner but an inaccurate thrower, or has a weak arm, are you going to let him audible to that skinny post? How many deficiencies can the read option sandpaper over? And if, at the end of the day, you need to be able to be smart, a good runner, and a strong and accurate thrower, you can be successful in pretty much any offense, right?

 

This is what I mean by not treating these things as being binary. I'm saying someone like Kaepernick will become the new norm. He doesn't have a perfect 10 in passing accuracy and wasn't though to be able to run a pro style offense at a top level either. But he's good enough there, and his legs more than make up the difference. It's not about replacing QBs with Frank Gore at QB. It's about replacing statue pocket passers like Bradford, Stafford and Tannehill with more mobile options who can still pass, just not quite as well.

 

The lesson of college football is that there are more guys like Kaepernick out there, who are pretty good at all these things than there are guys like Sam Bradford (who is fast obviously, but doesn't use it the same way). 



#32 Super Nomario


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:36 AM

This is what I mean by not treating these things as being binary. I'm saying someone like Kaepernick will become the new norm. He doesn't have a perfect 10 in passing accuracy and wasn't though to be able to run a pro style offense at a top level either. But he's good enough there, and his legs more than make up the difference. It's not about replacing QBs with Frank Gore at QB. It's about replacing statue pocket passers like Bradford, Stafford and Tannehill with more mobile options who can still pass, just not quite as well.

 

The lesson of college football is that there are more guys like Kaepernick out there, who are pretty good at all these things than there are guys like Sam Bradford (who is fast obviously, but doesn't use it the same way). 

I think the read option could work for a guy like Kaepernick, but I think what we're more likely to see is that as he gets older, he runs less, partially by design to limit his hits, partially because he's more adept at reading defenses and doesn't need to scramble as much, partially as age / injuries limit his speed a bit. That's what we've seen with most of the other fast QBs, like Steve McNair and Randall Cunningham. I think eventually he will end up using his speed more like Aaron Rodgers does. The teams that ran the read option this year (Seattle, Washington, San Francisco) were doing so with first-year starters. I suspect that was partially as a "bridge" for them to a pro-style offense, and once they can handle more the read option will largely phase out. Luck is just as fast as these guys (excepting RGIII), but I didn't see Indy using the read option. Even Kaepernick ran the read option more before he became the starting QB; they used it as a change-of-pace play when Smith was the starter, probably in an effort to get his playmaking into the lineup. Since he's taken over as starter, they scaled it back, just picking their spots or certain matchups (did they run it all against the Patriots? I don't recall).

 

I think the interesting test case is if the read option could save the career of a guy like Christian Ponder, who's bad but not especially bad in any one area (unlike Tebow, for instance) and has pretty good speed / athleticism. Can you turn Christian Ponder into an above-average quarterback by running this sort of offense?

 

Minor point: Tannehill shouldn't be lumped in with the immobile pocket guys. He played receiver his first two years in college.



#33 Shelterdog


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:03 PM

One difference between the read option and a generally mobile quarterback is that the quarterback can routinely get pasted on read option plays where they don't have the ball.  If memory serves Mark Anderson absolutely drilled Tebow on a read-option play in the regular season game against the Pats and Tebow wasn't the same (perhaps bruising a rib bone) after that. 



#34 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:06 PM

I think the read option could work for a guy like Kaepernick, but I think what we're more likely to see is that as he gets older, he runs less, partially by design to limit his hits, partially because he's more adept at reading defenses and doesn't need to scramble as much, partially as age / injuries limit his speed a bit. That's what we've seen with most of the other fast QBs, like Steve McNair and Randall Cunningham. I think eventually he will end up using his speed more like Aaron Rodgers does. The teams that ran the read option this year (Seattle, Washington, San Francisco) were doing so with first-year starters. I suspect that was partially as a "bridge" for them to a pro-style offense, and once they can handle more the read option will largely phase out. Luck is just as fast as these guys (excepting RGIII), but I didn't see Indy using the read option. Even Kaepernick ran the read option more before he became the starting QB; they used it as a change-of-pace play when Smith was the starter, probably in an effort to get his playmaking into the lineup. Since he's taken over as starter, they scaled it back, just picking their spots or certain matchups (did they run it all against the Patriots? I don't recall).

 

I think the interesting test case is if the read option could save the career of a guy like Christian Ponder, who's bad but not especially bad in any one area (unlike Tebow, for instance) and has pretty good speed / athleticism. Can you turn Christian Ponder into an above-average quarterback by running this sort of offense?

 

Minor point: Tannehill shouldn't be lumped in with the immobile pocket guys. He played receiver his first two years in college.

 

You don't think its interesting that the team that didn't use the read option had by far the worst offense of the four teams that played a first year starter QB? By DVOA, Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco ranked as the 4th, 5th, and 6th best offenses in the league respectively. Indy ranked 18th. As you say, Luck is just as fast as everyone but Griffin, and he's thought to have significantly better passing tools than the other guys. And yet, his was the only offense that didn't shine.

 

It's hardly dispositive given how complex football is. But that's a decent indicator of why I think the read option is the future of football. It works better than the alternatives. 


Edited by bowiac, 06 February 2013 - 12:10 PM.


#35 wade boggs chicken dinner


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:11 PM

I think the interesting test case is if the read option could save the career of a guy like Christian Ponder, who's bad but not especially bad in any one area (unlike Tebow, for instance) and has pretty good speed / athleticism. Can you turn Christian Ponder into an above-average quarterback by running this sort of offense?

 

Will be interesting to find out as Dennis Dixon is rumoured to be going back to Chip Kelly in Philly. 

 

Maybe the upside with the read-option is taking all of the athletic QBs who don't have a future as a pocket passer - Dixon, Tyrod Taylor, Gabbert, Locker, Ponder, etc. - and let them have a productive NFL career that may be shortened due to the hits. 



#36 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:22 PM

I think that'll certainly be part of it, yes. My sense is that it's just easier to run this system than a traditional pro set. Here's a list of the teams that had first/second year QBs this year along with their DVOA ranking:

 

4th: Seattle

5th: Washington

6th. San Francisco

10th: Carolina

15th: Minnesota

18th: Indianapolis

22nd: Miami

27th: Cleveland

28th: Jacksonville

29th: Tennessee

 

I think it's interesting that the top 4 all featured the read option extensively. This list is obviously imperfect, and maybe it will all reverse next year, but for now, that seems to be the way the wind is blowing.



#37 Super Nomario


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:39 PM

You don't think its interesting that the team that didn't use the read option had by far the worst offense of the four teams that played a first year starter QB? By DVOA, Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco ranked as the 4th, 5th, and 6th best offenses in the league respectively. Indy ranked 18th. As you say, Luck is just as fast as everyone but Griffin, and he's thought to have significantly better passing tools than the other guys. And yet, his was the only offense that didn't shine.

 

It's hardly dispositive given how complex football is. But that's a decent indicator of why I think the read option is the future of football. It works better than the alternatives. 

Obviously it's a simplistic reading to just look at the four-team sample size and note that the teams who ran the read option were better. First, Washington was the only team that ran the read option a lot; San Francisco and Seattle used it as a change-of-pace or matchup play. Second, I don't think you can isolate the read option as the reason for success. The 49ers were 5th in offensive DVOA through the 8 weeks Alex Smith was QB (though Kaepernick did sometimes run read option as a change-of-pace). The Redskins scored 38 points in the game Kirk Cousins started (OK, it was against the Browns).

 

Third, I think the fact that Indy chose to let Luck take his lumps running a pro-style offense is part of my point. Seattle, Washington, and Indianapolis all tried to protect their rookie QBs. Seattle and Washington protected RGIII's and Wilson's unfamiliarity with pro-style systems by deploying run-heavy offenses that asked them to attempt relatively few passes. Indy let Luck take his lumps in this regard, but protected him physically by not exposing him to as many hits as those guys. They probably could have scored more points this year introducing more read option concepts, but were willing to exchange offensive mediocrity for protecting their asset long-term. That's a tough decision to second-guess in light of how RGIII's season ended.

 

Incidentally, as for supporting cast, Reggie Wayne is a better receiver than anyone else had, but Donnie Avery hasn't done anything in years. And remarkably, the #3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 on the Colts in receptions were all rookies. That was a crazy young team.



#38 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:50 PM

I agree a 4 team (or even the 10 team sample) isn't super meaningful. However, it's at least a small data point in favor of the read option.

 

Overall, I don't find it hard to second guess Indy's decision honestly. RG3's season ended on a freakshow incident where his coach let an already injured guy go out there when he was hobbled and ineffective. That doesn't tell me much about injury rates for these guys - it tells me about Shanahan.

 

We'll see how Luck's career goes. If he's Peyton Manning, he'll succeed in any system. But the arithmetic and game theoretic advantages that the read option gives you are so great I suspect that a team's odds are greater going in that direction. Should be an interesting next 15 years.



#39 Shelterdog


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:01 PM

I agree a 4 team (or even the 10 team sample) isn't super meaningful. However, it's at least a small data point in favor of the read option.

 

Overall, I don't find it hard to second guess Indy's decision honestly. RG3's season ended on a freakshow incident where his coach let an already injured guy go out there when he was hobbled and ineffective. That doesn't tell me much about injury rates for these guys - it tells me about Shanahan.

 

We'll see how Luck's career goes. If he's Peyton Manning, he'll succeed in any system. But the arithmetic and game theoretic advantages that the read option gives you are so great I suspect that a team's odds are greater going in that direction. Should be an interesting next 15 years.

 

What in the heck do you mean by this?

 

I know you have the study about injury rates but I just don't see how a QB who runs, say, 8x a game, drops back 25, and runs the read option without running it another 10 or so isn't going to get hit (and hurt) a crapload more than a guy who runs 3x a game and drops back 35. 



#40 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:24 PM

By game theoretic, I mean that when you add another element for the defense to worry about, it makes every other element more effective. That's why the zone read guys often have better passing attacks than the pure pocket passers (as well as better rushing attacks). They may be less gifted passers, but when the defense is also worrying about the run element, the passing game becomes so much more effective that it overcomes that, and then some.

 

To take an extreme example, right now, you put Brady out there 5 wide, you know it's going to be a pass. You put Cam Newton back there 5 wide, and the defense needs to be ready to defend both. That's the game theoretic advantage I'm talking about. Mixed strategies tend to be more effective.



#41 Super Nomario


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 01:45 PM

Overall, I don't find it hard to second guess Indy's decision honestly. RG3's season ended on a freakshow incident where his coach let an already injured guy go out there when he was hobbled and ineffective. That doesn't tell me much about injury rates for these guys - it tells me about Shanahan.

If that was RGIII's only injury last year, I'd agree, but it was what, his fourth? I suspect the Shanahans are scheming right now on how they can keep the threat of the read option but cut back significantly how much they actually run it so Griffin isn't as exposed when he returns from injury.

 

By game theoretic, I mean that when you add another element for the defense to worry about, it makes every other element more effective. That's why the zone read guys often have better passing attacks than the pure pocket passers (as well as better rushing attacks). They may be less gifted passers, but when the defense is also worrying about the run element, the passing game becomes so much more effective that it overcomes that, and then some.

 

To take an extreme example, right now, you put Brady out there 5 wide, you know it's going to be a pass. You put Cam Newton back there 5 wide, and the defense needs to be ready to defend both. That's the game theoretic advantage I'm talking about. Mixed strategies tend to be more effective.

This is why I think the end result for the read option will be as a constraint play (I know you read Chris Brown but I'll link it for anyone who doesn't). If you put Wilson or RGIII in the shotgun and the defense counters with just six in the box, the read option is a better attack to keep them honest than a conventional draw play or similar. Running it a few times will keep defenses honest against the run even from conventional passing formations. But I think for asset preservation reasons (partially valid, partially overly conservative), offenses will try to limit how much they actually run the read option. I don't think teams are going to build their offenses around it, ultimately.



#42 dcmissle


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 02:29 PM

If that was RGIII's only injury last year, I'd agree, but it was what, his fourth? I suspect the Shanahans are scheming right now on how they can keep the threat of the read option but cut back significantly how much they actually run it so Griffin isn't as exposed when he returns from injury.


The almost willful blindness regarding RGIII's likely career trajectory if he continues to play as he played last year is, at least, curious:




Edited by dcmissle, 06 February 2013 - 08:37 PM.


#43 Super Nomario


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 03:26 PM

I don't think the average top level college defensive coordinate is as good as NFL guys, but there are 120ish D1 schools facing this problem, and they haven't solved it. That's why I don't think it's a fad. It's just the way to run a college offense these days unless you're recruiting at such a high level that you don't need schematic advantages.

 

I do think the read option/zone read/running QB is a significant edge, and not just because defenses aren't ready for it. If you read much of Chris Brown over at Smart Football, you see why. Ultimately, it has advantages of both unpredictability (which opens the passing game), and of providing an extra blocker (for when you're running the ball).

I think you have to be realistic about what the success at the Division I level means. Two of the top seven teams in rushing yards per game were Oregon and Nevada, run by two of the most interesting and innovative minds in college football. The other five were teams running option and triple-option offenses out of the 1950's and 1960's. The quality of talent in NCAA is not as good and parity is not nearly as close as in the NFL. There are strategies that will work in college football that will not work in the pros; the success of a scheme at the college level is mild evidence of its potential effectiveness in the NFL.



#44 bakahump

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:26 PM

I think the big problem with the R/O will be that Defenses have the choice of who "hurts them".

 

I think every time they will make the QB carry the ball by "defending the RB option".

 

1. That gets the QB legally hit on pretty much every play, reducing his effectiveness Running AND passing as the game/season wears on.

2. It makes a less specialized player (the QB who must be able to proficiently pass and run) perform the function of carrying the ball instead of the more specialized (RB) player. 95 times out of 100 an NFL RB would be "more dangerous" carrying the ball then even some of the best R/O Qbs. Given that Choice defenses will choose to let the one who is (probably) a little slower and a little less compact (thus unable to absorb blows like RBs do) carry the ball. Especially when combined with #1.

3. In the NFL you have the ability to inflict punishment consistently. Perhaps its the second game against a division opponent. Perhaps its a second meeting in the playoffs.  That gives them more opportunities to put the QB out.  In college teams often face their toughest opponents only once.

 

In College, Teams (especially the recruiting Power houses) can stock up on QBs who are athletic and physical equals to their RB corp and the defenses they face. In the NFL teams will be unable to have QB who is physically "Better" then their RBs and the defenses.  Additionally the will not have an "equally as talented injury replacement QB" (which they will need based on the beating the starter will take) waiting in the wings who is athletic enough to pull off the offense.



#45 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:27 PM

I think you have to be realistic about what the success at the Division I level means. Two of the top seven teams in rushing yards per game were Oregon and Nevada, run by two of the most interesting and innovative minds in college football. The other five were teams running option and triple-option offenses out of the 1950's and 1960's. The quality of talent in NCAA is not as good and parity is not nearly as close as in the NFL. There are strategies that will work in college football that will not work in the pros; the success of a scheme at the college level is mild evidence of its potential effectiveness in the NFL.

That's why I'm not basing this purely on the "it works in college" principle. The other two data points are "it's working so far in the NFL" and "it's schematically better because of the mixed strategy and arithmetic advantages." Also, you're talking about the best rushing offenses there, which is hardly the same as the best offenses. A big part of the success of the spread option is how it opens up the passing attack as well. The goal isn't simply to create a premier rushing attack. 

 

I don't know it'll work, no. But so far, most of the data of data, and every piece of logic is telling me it should. 



#46 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:30 PM

Additionally the will not have an "equally as talented injury replacement QB" (which they will need based on the beating the starter will take) waiting in the wings who is athletic enough to pull off the offense.

 

Ignoring the fact that there isn't much data to support the proposition that mobile QBs are more prone to injury than other QBs, why won't teams be able to have quality backups?



#47 bakahump

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 04:36 PM

There are maybe a handful of current "star" NCAA QBs who can run the offense and beat NCAA Defenses.  Why would you think that 1 team would be able to accrue 2 of them?  Especially if the offense gets popular and 10+ teams are trying to run it? Also keeping in mind that NFL defenses are basically NCAA Super All Star teams.

 

They cant supply enough talented Pocket Passers who can beat NFL teams even though they destroyed NCAA defenses...why do you think they can supply enough R/O QBs who can run enough to avoid faster NFL Defenses, are tough enough to withstand the pounding a RB takes and can make NFL quality passes.



#48 bowiac


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 05:19 PM

There are maybe a handful of current "star" NCAA QBs who can run the offense and beat NCAA Defenses.  Why would you think that 1 team would be able to accrue 2 of them?  Especially if the offense gets popular and 10+ teams are trying to run it? Also keeping in mind that NFL defenses are basically NCAA Super All Star teams.

 

They cant supply enough talented Pocket Passers who can beat NFL teams even though they destroyed NCAA defenses...why do you think they can supply enough R/O QBs who can run enough to avoid faster NFL Defenses, are tough enough to withstand the pounding a RB takes and can make NFL quality passes.

 

College is pumping out more spread option talent than it is pro style talent, so I expect it will be easier to find those guys. I don't think Russell Wilson and Kaepernick being available later in the draft is an accident. Spread option guys are mostly the ones tearing up college football these days. I don't think either of those guys are unique. There are more than a handful of similar talents available.

 

The reason they're succeeding I think is because the spread option is less demanding than convention pro-style sets are. It's easier to find guys with some athleticism who are pretty good passers than it is to find guys who are pure 10s on the passing scale. That's partly why all the best first/second year QBs in the this year ran NFL the spread option and the guys who weren't as good didn't.



#49 wutang112878


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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:32 PM

Ignoring the fact that there isn't much data to support the proposition that mobile QBs are more prone to injury than other QBs, why won't teams be able to have quality backups?

 

The backup QB thing might actually be an advantage for read option teams as well.  Take Denard Robinson, he isnt going to be a traditional drop back QB in the NFL, and it seems like the plan everyone has for him is to convert him to WR.  But he has amazing speed, and was an amazing running QB in college.  SF or Seattle could grab him in the 4th round or later and have a backup QB who could possibly be very good in their particular system but unattractive to most of the other teams in the league.  I think for the time being, until more teams get interested in these types of QBs, there is probably value to be found in the Denard Robinsons of the world.

 

 

Edit - I didnt read down far enough and realize you basically wrote the exact same thing, didnt mean to be repetitive.


Edited by wutang112878, 06 February 2013 - 11:33 PM.


#50 Gunfighter 09


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Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:41 AM

Taking the question at face value, rather than a debate on whether mobile quarterbacks will have more of a role going forward, I answered that read options schemes will last and I hope they last. 
 
The use of the read options strikes me more a reaction to the incredible defensive end and 3-4 OLB talent that has emerged in the league rather than some realization about mobile QBs. I think more and more coaches at the highest level are being forced to adopt a maxim that previously only applied to overmatched college and high school coaches: "if you can't block them, read them."  
 
 Right now a league full of offensive coordinators are watching tape of RGIII and Kaepernick make top tier talents like Demarcus Ware and Clay Matthews look silly/completely ineffective without dedicating a single blocker to them and realizing that getting a qb on the edges for isolated reads is the way to take away what defenses do best.  I think smart OCs, and Joshsyboy McDaniel could certainly be one of them, will find away to use these types of fakes/reads/actions even with less mobile QBs. I think how the Bob McKitrick cut blocking zone schemes became really popular in the late 80s and early 90s is a great parallel to what is happening with read plays now. 

Edited by Gunfighter 09, 07 February 2013 - 12:45 AM.





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