Inside Slant: A sliver of read-option

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
9:00
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Here's an educated guess: We've heard the phrase "read-option" over the past eight months more times than we've seen it in the NFL. Ever.

The scheme tweak that caught storm late last season, helping three teams secure playoff berths, has been what coaches might call the "flavor of the week" ever since. Teams sent their coaching staffs to college campuses, hoping to learn how to use and defend it. College scouts evaluated the mobility of draft-eligible quarterbacks in a new light.

And for what? While we can't predict its 2013 frequency, what we can say is that the read-option comprised only a sliver of NFL play last season.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, there were 415 identifiable read-option snaps in 2012. That works out to about 1.2 percent of the season when you realize there were nearly 33,000 total offensive plays. Half the league -- 16 teams -- tried it at least once, but only six did it at least five times. Those teams are listed in the chart.

Three of the four-most frequent users -- the Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers -- made the playoffs. All three had young and highly-mobile quarterbacks whose skills matched the scheme well. And as @ffootballjunkie noted this week during a Twitter discussion, the threat of the read option can impact defenses just as much as running the play itself.

In a copycat league, it's quite possible we'll see more read-option use early this season -- at least until defenses catch up. But to this point, the whole discussion has been much ado about very little.

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