Different perspectives on the read-option

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
10:12
AM ET
One of the hot topics at the NFL owners meetings earlier this week in Phoenix was the proliferation of the read-option offense -- specifically, whether it was the latest fad or whether it was here to stay. Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, along with Seattle's Russell Wilson and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick, burst onto the scene last year as speedy, athletic young quarterbacks around whom their teams feel they can run an option offense, and there's some thought that it could be the wave of the future. But not everyone is so sure. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, for one, thinks it's going to lead to quarterbacks taking too many hits.

[+] EnlargeMark Barron
Matt Stamey/USA TODAY SportsThe read-option offense gives defenses more to think about but it also exposes quarterbacks to more punishment.
"It's still risky business," Coughlin said. "I don't care if you hit him in the pocket or if he's running with the ball after he comes out of the pocket or if it's designed. Now, some of these kids are great athletes and it's hard to get a real shot at them, but they are cumulative in our business. We play 16 games."

The idea being that, if teams want to keep their quarterbacks on the move, eventually they're going to take hits. And even if you do your absolute best to protect your guy, every hit ends up counting against him in the long run.

"Let's give it five years and then evaluate," Coughlin said. "Let's not rush to judgment on anything. Obviously it's very effective and has been. But some of these defensive coaches, they're not sitting around looking out the window and having coffee. They're into it. You've also stimulated an awful lot of that, and that's a good thing. The energy level in the defensive end of the hall in most buildings has been perked up by what's happened."

Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin spoke to that issue the day before when he said he "looked forward to eliminating" the option from these teams' playbooks, and surely the defensive coaches around the league are spending a good chunk of this offseason focused on ways to counteract the new looks that gave them so much trouble in 2012. But Washington coach Mike Shanahan thinks that's the whole point.

"If you've got to change your defense to stop the read option, which I think everybody will, then what you've done is, you may not run the read option one time in a game, but you're taking away their preparation to stop the normal offense," Shanahan said. "So I love to talk about the read option. We may run it twice during a game. We may run it nine or 10 times during a game. But what it does, it slows the defense down. Or it changes their responsibilities and opens up some passing game options. So yeah, I love that type of talk."

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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