For the last few days I’ve been engaged in a pretty good conversation at SportsHoopla, a good sports forum for those of you that like forums, about the possibility of Chip Kelly making the jump to the pros and where he would be best suited. For those of you that are familiar with my opinions on the spread option you can probably guess how I feel about Kelly’s possible move. The spread option has a limited lifespan in at the pro level and if Kelly wants to try it out then he will need a situation where he can capitalize on it right away.
One of the gentlemen in the forum was trying to defend the spread option by saying it forces the defense to account for an additional runner, meaning the QB. This belief is technically inaccurate. Football has developed from a strictly running game like rugby to the game we see today with teams passing far more than they run. The option has been a staple of football for as long as any of us can remember so defenses have developed with that in mind. This means that they have also developed with the mind set that the QB can run the ball. So, if this offense isn’t new and should be account for with good fundamentals then why does it seem to be working? Professional athletes need to impress in order to keep their jobs and stats need to be good in order to impress.
Fundamentally speaking, the backside defensive end isn’t supposed to pursue running plays
that are going away from him. He is supposed to get to the depth of the QB to prevent a bootleg run and/or an attempt at a reverse. This means that the QB is considered as a running threat by the defense on every running play. The read option is a running play in which the dive is in which a defensive end is unblocked and is the player being read. If he breaks from his fundamentals a chases the dive then the QB keeps the ball and runs to the area that the end vacated. If the end sticks with his fundamentals then the QB hands the ball off just like any other run play. The goal for the defense should be to force the hand off on every play.
The option itself is designed to attack an unblocked defensive end. The QB runs right at him and if he plays the QB then a pitch to a running back is supposed to occur. The defensive end is supposed to force the pitch every time. This means his job is to attack the QB and hit him on every option play. This is meant to get the QB to pitch the ball earlier than he should by trying to avoid the hit. This can cause a bad pitch sometimes, but always messes up the timing of the play. The base option is supposed to be a late pitch that forces a defender out of the play (the defensive end) and if the pitch happens to early then the offense no longer has a numbers advantage on the edge.
The reason we are seeing this success for the spread option is because the option in general has taken a back seat in the NFL because it was no longer effective. That caused defenses to change their mindsets and forget their fundamentals. With the growing trend of this “new” offense emerging in the NFL, the defenses will be reminded of their individual responsibilities and how they need to forget about stats and stick to their fundamentals in order to help the team. Once this transformation happens, and I give it 2 years, the option in all of its forms will be reduced to a gimmick rather than a full on offensive philosophy.
Now, with a 2 year window for the offenses success in the pros, where should Kelly go in order to take advantage of this. There are really only two options, Philly and Buffalo. Buffalo has the supporting cast to implement the offense and be successful fairly quickly. They would need to draft a QB to run the system, but with the great deal of spread option QB’s in college it should be a fairly easy spot to full. Philly is the best location though. It has everything Kelly would need. Vick as your QB and McCoy as the running back would be a great combination for Kelly’s system. For the 2 seasons the spread option will have it will be entertaining with the Eagles running it.