General Question

2davidc8's avatar

In football, what exactly is the "read option"?

Asked by 2davidc8 (7778points) January 24th, 2013

Been hearing a lot about this lately. How does the offense carry out this play, and who is credited with originally devising this play?

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6 Answers

tedd's avatar

Your QB gets the ball and he runs an option play with a running back or a wide receiver in motion or whoever.

The quarter back can read the defense and decide whether or not he wants to keep the ball, pitch it to his option, or even pass down the field to an open receiver.

Before the play is hiked and the defense seen/read, the QB doesn’t necessarily know for sure what he will be doing, and since all 3 plays give the defense a totally different thing to defend, it’s extremely difficult to defend if you have a talented QB running it.

If you line your defense up to defend against the pass, the QB will read that and keep the ball or pitch it. If you move up close to defend the run, the QB will read it and pass to a receiver behind you. The only really solid way to beat it is to put a spy on the QB who can keep up with him, and then man up on at least his option player. It really makes it about who the better athlete/player is.

You see it much more in college (and it’s far less effective in the NFL) because the QB’s in college are often the best athletes on the field, vs the NFL where the QB is rarely the best athlete.

ragingloli's avatar

There is no such thing in football. Do you mean offside?

ETpro's avatar

@tedd has it exactly right. If you have a running quarterback that is really good at reading the defense, it’s incredibly hard to to defend against.

2davidc8's avatar

@tedd and @ETpro Ah, but didn’t the quarterback always have the option of either keeping the ball, pitching it to his running back or throwing it downfield? I don’t understand what is so innovative with the “read option”, except that here you have a quarterback who also happens to be a good runner, so that keeping the ball and running it himself is a legitimate threat. I recall that, way back, Steve Young of the 49ers used to do this. So, my point is, it doesn’t seem like the read option is anything new.

And, by the way, who is credited with coming up with the “read option”?

tedd's avatar

@2davidc8 In classic football, no. In the college game most QB’s are given a play from the head coach (called in from the sideline) and they run it. In some cases the coach will allow a seasoned QB to “audible” at the line of scrimmage before he hikes the ball. That is just changing the play to match what he thinks the defense is going to do based on how they’re lined up (IE if he thinks the play called won’t work well). But for the vast majority of QB’s, especially on the college level, they know exactly what they’re doing before they hike the ball.

The read option allows the QB to change his mind about what he’s doing during the play.

In essence, many QB’s have been doing it for decades. But rarely, if ever, was it designed that way. Steve Young would get out of the pocket (the offensive linemen defending him) and do basically a read option, but his plays weren’t designed that way. It was just a matter of what was supposed to happen fell apart, and he used his tremendous athleticism to make a play. Now many coaches are designing plays to be this way from the get go, probably inspired by the likes of Steve Young and how well it worked for him.

FWIW, the regular option play has existed since the 50’s or 60’s. In that play the QB has no option of passing and simply runs the ball with another back, and he has the option to pitch it to the other guy if he thinks he’s going to get more yards than him. But it’s different than the read option in that the QB is for sure going to run the ball to one side with his back, and very rarely would there even be a receiver down field.

I dunno that any one person is credited with “inventing” the read option. Several prominent coaches started running it around the same time.

2davidc8's avatar

Thanks, @tedd for your wonderful explanation.

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