Lions defensive coordinator thinks read-option QBs could get hurt

Gunther Cunningham has been coaching in the NFL for three decades. (USATSI)
Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham is the latest person outside the Redskins organization to suggest that the read-option offense might end up getting the quarterback maimed or worse.

“The problem is for those quarterbacks, one of these days one of them is not going to walk off,” Cunningham told the Lions’ website recently. “It’s a lot of pressure on him to physically do that.”

Cunningham, who has been coaching NFL defenses for three decades -- and in college before that -- doesn't expect the read option to present much of a problem in terms of game-planning.

“I think we all understand what the issues are and how to play it,” he said. “I reflect back on my college days, and it wasn’t that hard to remember all that stuff because it put a lot of pressure on me in those days and it does in this league, too.

"The key is you need extra people to stop the run because they spread you out," Cunningham continued. "So, you end up playing some man-to-man or shorten your safeties down. And if the quarterback can really throw the ball, that's where we get into trouble. Miami couldn't do that with Ricky [Williams] and the other kid that was running the option [Ronnie Brown]. But their design was as good as I've ever seen in my life, and then it got away from them for whatever reason. Bill Belichick can tell you they killed them in the first game, came back in the second and beat them worse. So, it's an issue and we have to be on top of it."

Last month, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Robert Griffin III "stayed healthy last year running the zone read," sentiments echoed by Shanahan's father and Redskins coach, Mike Shanahan.

And RG3's backup, Kirk Cousins, recently said in a radio interview that sometimes it is safer for a quarterback to run.

"… I believe a lot of times it’s just as dangerous to be a drop-back passer -- thinking of a defensive end sprinting at you and a left tackle who happens to miss the guy -- than it is when you’re running the read-option and you have a chance to actually see who’s coming to hit you and step out of bounds in front of him," Cousins said, via the Washington Post. Sometimes, I would say running the ball is actually a safer play call than taking a seven-step drop.”

Fair enough, although we're guessing Sonny Jurgensen -- like many Redskins fans -- still prefers that RG3 "quit running."

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CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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