Last season with the success of RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson the read-option was the newest craze set to take over the league and have defensive coordinators scratching their heads for seasons. It was supposed to be the “wild cat” but better. With the first quarter of the season in the books already it’s pretty clear that the read-option fad didn’t last that long at all.
It started with the Sunday afternoon shut-down number the Green Bay Packer defense put on Kaepernick and the 49er read-option in Week 1 and then was really nailed into the ground when RGIII and the Redskins offense couldn’t muster up any production out of the read-option in their first week matchup against the Eagles. Since then the read-option barely shows up in the offenses that used it so very successfully last season.
Could it be the potential injuries to the quarterbacks that is limiting the read-option so far this season? If you ask 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, he’s probably go into a long, (most likely unreasonably overheated) conversation about how unfair the NFL rule is to read-option quarterbacks. The NFL says that those quarterbacks will be treated and hit like runners.
Jim Harbaugh, who has a read-option quarterback with Colin Kaepernick, thinks that rule is “flawed and a bit biased.” Of course he does. If he were going against a team with a read-option quarterback he’d have his defense go at their knees all game long though.
According to NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino, read-option quarterbacks aren’t afforded the protection of being considered defenseless because they are treated like a runner until they are clearly out of the play. But all us NFL fans know that all it would take for this rule to change is for Kaepernick or Wilson to go down on some brutal-looking hit in the pocket and for Bob Costas to hop up on his soap box to complain about it on NBC’s Football Night in America.
The most obvious reason for why the read-option has so quickly disappeared is that defensive coordinators just figured it out already. It’s not like it was an entirely new scheme to emerge because it’s basically how the majority of college offenses run. Not like there’s a shortage of tape available on the offense. Defensive coordinators across the league had the entire summer to call up their buddies down in the college ranks and check out some game tape. Seems like the read-option was more like the wild-cat after all.
The read-option, like the wild-cat, isn’t going to disappear completely from the NFL. It works best when its least expected, so it will make an appearance from time to time. But most likely when RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, and Russell Wilson fake a handoff now; they’re going for play-action as opposed to read option.