Redskins' Kyle Shanahan: Read-option no longer shocking people

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Kyle Shanahan (left) admits that defenses weren't ready for the read-option last season. (USATSI)
Back in June, when we were all convinced that Robert Griffin III would return from offseason knee surgery stronger than ever, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said this about the new (old)-fangled read-option offense that the Redskins had so much success with in 2012.

“He stayed healthy last year running the zone read,” Shanahan said at the time. “So I feel pretty good about that. You really hope no one gets hurt. It's hard to control injuries. … When you do the zone read, everyone [on the opposing defense] is accounted for. There's not many free hitters in it.”

On Thursday, Shanahan conceded that the read-option hasn't been quite the boon in 2013 that it was last season.

"When you have something that was that successful ... guys are too smart," Shanahan said, referring to opposing defensive coordinators (via NFL.com). "They are going to work all offseason and find a way to stop it. And when that happens you got to better at the other stuff. And I think we do have other stuff. And I think we're getting better at it. …

"The thing about last year: A lot of people weren't ready for it at all," Shanahan said. "It was easy at times. Now, it doesn't mean that it doesn't work. You just aren't shocking people like you were last year."

The NFL, as the cliche goes, is a copycat league, so this makes sense. SmartFootball.com's Chris Brown confirmed as much Thursday in a series of tweets.

"NFL defenses were so incompetent last year [and] that couldn't last. … Biggest things [teams] are doing is just putting extra guy in box and playing man. Seattle, Kansas City others have secondary to do it. … But it's not like that's some kind of magical 'scheme' concept going on. Fundamentals are more important now."

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan sounded a lot like Kyle (who happens to be his son) during the offseason.

“When most people take a look and they take a look at Robert, they're thinking, ‘Oh, you can't run the option,' ” Shanahan said back in April. “People don't realize that the option protects the quarterback. The thing I have to get with Robert is when to slide, when not to take a hit. These quarterbacks are so competitive but they don't realize sometimes how valuable they are to your franchise.”

Brown, meanwhile, tweeted this important read-option distinction: "[The] purpose of read option is not for the quarterback to keep the ball; it's to keep the backside defensive end/outside linebacker/defensive tackle from making a play."

So is this the end of the read-option? Hardly. It just means that as defenses adapt offenses will have to tweak their strategy accordingly. Guys like Griffin, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson aren't suddenly obsolete; instead, coaches will need to find more inventive ways to use them.

 
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