Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Read Option Craze

The guys that led the read option revolution

The Read Option/Pistol phenomenon took over the NFL this past year and is considered to be the new trick for offenses to stay ahead of defenses. It's not. It will never be a staple of an NFL offense. Look at the poster boys for this craze: Robert Griffin III of the Redskins, Carlton Banks of the Seattle Seahawks, and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers. What is the thing they all have in common? They are superb quarterbacks with dominant rushing attacks. Now i'm not saying the pistol cannot be an ingredient of an offense, i am saying the read option cannot be the foundation. This is not the Pac 12 where Oregon's zone read can outflank the Benny Hills of the conference. We're talking about the NFL where grown men that weigh 250 pounds can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds and deflect bullets off their chest (Patrick Willis). It is the home of brilliant coaches who have seen it all and commit a mind numbing of hours during each week looking at film for the slightest weakness in their opponent to exploit. The read option cannot be a staple. Don't get it twisted, i'm not saying it cannot be a part of the offense as a change of pace but if you're a team reliant on it you either don't care about your quarterback or are blinded by the flash. Look at Tim Tebow in Denver. 1, John Fox changed his whole offensive scheme mid season for him because he couldn't execute a pro-style offense, which for those who don't know is an offense based on basic formations but with variation from team to team. 2, you need a passing attack to win and you can't go too far when you're quarterback is throwing 2 for 6 in a game. And don't give me the "they won the division and then beat the steelers in a playoff game" bullshit. They won the division at 8-8 only because the Raiders of all teams who only have been relevant because of how much they have sucked the last decade couldn't beat the biggest choke team of the last decade, the San Diego Chargers, in a Week 17 home game. Then they play the Steelers who have one of the most brilliant defensive minds in football history with Dick Lebeau treating the Denver offense like it's freshmen high school football and playing 10 guys in the box meaning a missed tackle on a slant route led to the game winning touchdown. Look what happened when they played a real team the next week. Yeah the read option offense isn't too successful when you're down 5 touchdowns and the quarterback is getting blasted every play. That was only done out of necessity because my filipino brother Tim can't throw the football to save his life. Just put the ego away and change positions dude. You'll get more respect anyway.

Now let's look at the three poster boys for the trend last year. First up is Robert Griffin III, better known as RG3, Bob, or Thrizzle. He was the one to really put the pistol offense/read option/SUCCESSFUL new type of quarterback on the map. Coming out of Baylor i was skeptical he would be good in the League because, again he wasn't going up against the vaunted Rice Owls, he was now in a Man's league and joining what was once the NFL's manliest division, NFC West now has that title. He isn't that big of a guy when looking at him either so durability i thought would be a big issue. Injuries wound up being a big issue but they were freak injuries. He missed time with a concussion that i'm not sure was the result of a pounding or one big hit but concussions happen to everyone. Then he tore his MCL on a freak play against Baltimore when the 350 pound Samoan cat Ngata launched his gut into the knee of the 220 pound QB, shit i wonder who won that battle. Then he tore his ACL in the playoff game and ACL injuries as we know are freak injuries that can happen at the oddest times. So i wouldn't say he is injury prone just yet but having Thrizzle exposed to hits in the open field isn't going to help his chances of staying healthy. He needs to take a page out of Kaep's book and learn how to slide because yeah it's cool trying to prove how much of a man you are by running headfirst and not sliding but how smart is it to gain an extra hard or two at the expense of your career. What Thrizzle has going for him is that he is an excellent pocket passer. I was surprised at how well and comfortable he was in the pocket because usually guys that come from spread offenses in college need at least some kind of transition period to get acclimated to NFL defenses but no, Bob tore it up right away. His running ability isn't what makes him special. It adds to a rush heavy offense and is another weapon but Thrizzle can win the Redskins games if he throws it 50 times a game. Again not advisable because Mike Shanahan and his zone blocking scheme always churn out top rushing attacks, Olandis Gary/Reuben Droughns, but Griffin's ability to run and his speed shouldn't be the focal point. If i were a Redskins opponent i know all i have to do is knock Thrizzle out of the game to win. If Alfred Morris gets knocked out of the game there's three other dudes who fit Shanahan's system ready to go right after behind him. Now when Griffin takes enough hits he will eventually get injured and Kirk Cousins comes into the game. Now i like Kirk as a passer and think he will be a starter in the league one day but he can't run. He can't run the read option so the offense would have to change the gameplan in the middle of the game. That's the main reason why that shit wouldn't be successful. A team is only as good as their backup plan.

Now on to the Seachickens and one of only two dudes i actually like on the team Russell Wilson (Marshawn Lynch is the other one for those who don't care). If he was a rapper he would be Will Smith. The guy just has a clean cut image and seems like he sings to newborn babies in the hospital. He's a good person from what it seems. Seattle was the last team i wanted Russell Wilson to go to because i figured he would be a steal of a draft pick. He was good for three years at NC State, go figure, and then good for that one year at Wisconsin. I never understood why draft scouts made such a big deal about his height, saying he is going to get passes tipped and can't see over his own lineman when he only had something like two pass deflections in his year at Wisconsin, which plays juventud football in the Big 10, and seemed to see perfectly over his offensive lineman that were bigger than an average NFL o-line. I don't have the number of his passes that were tipped in his rookie year but they couldn't have been too much since no one talks about them. Now Russell being some some option quarterback is over blown. He came into the league without having run it in college and it took until the second half of the season for Seattle to implement it. The reason why Seattle can do it is because, like Washington, they have a punishing rushing attack. Marshawn Lynch is the hardest running running back in the NFL, shout out to Oakland, so Seahawk opponents really have to play their assignments when they run the option or else Lynch will run over the defense. Although i love Lynch and his playing style he is most likely on his last contract because there is no way his body can hold up with how he runs. Russell is a smart quarterback too. He never seems to take a big hit ever so when he is in the open field he knows when to get down and in the pocket he has some spidey sense that allows him to avoid sacks. Wilson is built like a running back too so he can absorb punishment, obviously he can't take too much but he is a stocky looking dude. Also like Thrizzle, Wilson can win a game solely on his arm so his running ability is just gravy on top. These two guys are first and foremost quarterbacks rather than athletes disguised as quarterbacks, Terrelle Pryor/Joe Webb.

Next up is the new posterboy for the NFL Colin Kaepernick. I guarantee he will be the cover athlete for ESPN the Magazine's Next issue which isn't really sayin much since he'll join the likes of Joba Chamberlain and Jozy Altidore but the difference is that Kaep is actually good. I'm not really going to go much into Kaep's game because if you watched the playoffs you know how much publicity dude got and it was well deserved. Much like Thrizzle and Wilson the thing Kaepernick has going for him is the 49ers have the best o-line in the game and an elite rushing attack led by Frank Gore who is the most underappreciated player over the last decade. They have running backs for days with LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, and the great Boobie Dixon aka the 49ers Kent Bazemore. This means when the niners do run the read option if defenses are focused on stopping Kaepernick these running backs are going to spring free for a big gain. The 49ers offense became so much more explosive once Kaepernick became the Man and that is no fluke. They still pounded the ball but Kaepernicks arm and deep ball accuracy prevented teams from stacking the box making their already potent running game that much more lethal and i didn't even mention the guys running ability. He is a smart open field runner because he doesn't try to play hero ball and knows when to either get down or get out of bounds. The thing i would like to see him do better is extend plays in the pocket. He isn't that elusive when he is standing back there but i do give him credit for keeping his head up and looking for the open receiver before taking off. And like the first two he can win games with his arm. If you think Tebow could have brought his team back from a 17-0 deficit on the road in a dome for the NFC Championship then you must be smoking Katt Williams's Oakland crack. And for those who didn't watch the game The 49ers were able to come back by pounding the football and letting Kaepernick throw the ball. He has the best arm out of the three QB's and is the second most dangerous runner after Griffin. I also believe Kaeppernick has the highest ceiling out of the three and could be making the jump into the elite category very soon. 

A young quarterback with a similar skill set is Cam Newton. Now i hate this motherfucker because i think he is as fake as Creed Bratton's $3 bill but the guy has talent. He surprised the hell out of me when he didn't wet the bed his rookie year and was setting records left and right. The problem is he was setting records that look cool but don't really matter at all. Most rushing touchdown in a year for a quarterback, nice way to top off your 6-10 year. He seems like a numbers guy to me who would rather get his then do what it takes to help the team win like learn how to be a quarterback and be a leader of your team. No one cares that you do your stupid superman celebrations after garbage time touchdown or that you do your first down shimmies when you outrun Gerald McCoy to the first down marker...just do your goddam job. The thing that separates Cam from Wilson, Kaep, and Thrizzle is that i'm not convinced Cam can win you a game solely by throwing the football. There is a reason why Carolina has called all those run plays the past two years and 1) yeah it's to utilize his unique skill set but 2) it's because they feel they have a better shot at a positive play of Cam is running with the football than if he were to throw it, you know the number 1 qualification for a quarterback in the NFL. Obviously he is only in his third year but is Cam doesn't develop by his 4th year at the latest then he is going to be what he has been the first two years which is a bigger version of Mike Vick.

I think you guy get the point that in order for the Read Option to be a successful component for an NFL offense the quarterback has to be able to be a passer first. Without the threat of the pass teams can load the box and stuff any run no matter what. That why guys like Pat White, Mike Vick (to a lesser degree), Tavaris Jackson, Matt Moore, Tim Tebow, and Armanti Edwards weren't cut out to be NFL quarterbacks. So if you're a fan of the read option and you want your team to implement it beware of what you wish for. For every Colin Kaepernick there is a Jake Locker.

Sade- Smooth Operator

One of the greatest songs ever made

MF Doom- Who You Think I Am?

Legend. Your favorite rapper's rapper.

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