The read-option has taken a hit

The great deterrent -- QBs getting hit -- is taking hold in 2013

Updated: October 11, 2013, 1:47 PM ET
By Scott Kacsmar | Football Outsiders

Griffin III/MatthewsAP Photo/Tom LynnRobert Griffin III hasn't run the ball much in 2013.

Last season the read-option became the NFL's biggest trend since the Wildcat. It's not that it was anything new. Just watch the 2006 Atlanta Falcons or the 2011 Denver Broncos with Tim Tebow or Cam Newton's rookie season in Carolina, and you will see the offensive look predating its 2012 "breakout."

The difference last season was the read-option was being used by successful teams that made the playoffs. And it was being executed by exciting new quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson.

Washington unveiled it right away in Week 1 last season, and Griffin and rookie running back Alfred Morris had historic rookie seasons. Meanwhile, the 49ers and Seahawks mixed it in later as Wilson's numbers (both passing and running) exploded and San Francisco reached the Super Bowl. These three teams had the most efficient rushing offenses in 2012 according to Football Outsiders' DVOA system (explained here).

Expectations were high coming into 2013 for these "read-option teams," as some have called them. Beyond that, the big question was also: Who else would incorporate more of the read-option in 2013? Surely, it couldn't be limited to that trio.

But through five weeks, it's hard to say any of these quarterbacks -- all three have experienced a double-digit drop in their QBR -- and offenses are having the results expected of them. And when it comes to the read-option, they are not alone. The league-wide average yards gained on read-option runs has dropped from 6.4 in 2012 to 4.6 this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Teams are using it more -- on 3.7 percent of all plays compared to 1.4 percent last season -- but the effectiveness has not been the same, at least in the run game.

Knowing every defensive coordinator likely watched all 490 of the zone-read runs from 2012, is it simply that coaches have successfully devised a way to defeat the read-option now that the element of surprise is gone?


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Scott Kacsmar

Football Outsiders
Scott Kacsmar is an Assistant Editor at Football Outsiders.