Category Archives: Wishbone

Another 5 Myths about Option Offenses

Another 5 Myths about Option Offenses

Bad Weather Option Offense by Kiyotaka Okami Crop
Option offenses are often associated with a number of myths that have become conventional wisdom. Most of them, however, are easily busted.

In my last post I started a top 10 myths about option offenses list and have finally found the time to wrap it up. In the last post, I argued against commonly held beliefs that option offenses are risky, gimmicky, and vulnerable against defensive speed. Today I will talk about option football in bad weather, long yardage situations, and efficacy in the NFL. So once again, lets wade through the B.S. and get on with some mythbusting.

Myth #6 – Option Offenses Don’t Work in Bad Weather

Option offenses have been used in all types of weather and are no more susceptible to the elements than any other offense. A wet ball is hard to handle whether you are engaging in a mesh and pitching it, or if you are trying to throw the ball down field. In bad weather, just getting the snap to the quarterback can be a challenge. Once again, this is just a function of being prepared and working on the fundamentals. Incorporating wet ball drills, and practicing in inclement weather will help prepare any team to handle poor playing conditions when necessary.

This myth is a function of relativity. Obviously an offense that just takes a snap and hands the ball off to a running back will probably have fewer problems with ball security than other offenses, but they will also be predictable and will have to face a stacked box without the advantage of a horizontal space. As usual, execution is more relevant than scheme.

Myth #7 – Option Offenses Struggle with 3rd and Long

All offenses struggle with 3rd and long. It doesn’t matter if you are throwing the ball, running a power scheme, or optioning the defensive end. The numbers don’t lie. If you need to gain a larger number of yards in one attempt, your odds of converting go down. The problem here is perception. People believe that throwing the ball on 3rd and long is more effective than running the ball. This comes from average yards per play. People see that a pass, on average, will gain more yards than a run. What is rarely considered is that the chance for a completion is also reduced and you also run the risk of throwing an interception. Another overlooked aspect of this myth is that option teams tend to average more yards per carry than more conventional offenses. Football is a complicated game with many variables. As such, one-off statements about effectiveness are problematic and not easily verified. Conventional wisdom isn’t always true.

Myth #8 – Option offenses can’t play from behind

This myth is similar to the idea that option offenses struggle on 3rd and long, and are run-only offenses. The truth is nobody wants to play from behind and all offenses face certain challenges when trying to overcome a large lead. Again, the problem is one of perception. Conventional wisdom states that running teams are less likely to mount a comeback and that passing the football is more likely to result in quick scores. In reality option offenses often lead statistical categories such as points scored, total yardage, and explosive plays. When playing from behind, the game changes in many ways. I assert that defensive stops and turnovers are far more relevant to staging a comeback than the style of offensive play involved.

I will concede, however, that clock management are a bit tricky when running an option bases system. Additionally, when throwing the ball, a team can attack the defense nearer the sideline and an incomplete pass kills the clock. I again assert (a theme perhaps?) that option teams can be efficient as a 2-minute offense if they drill tempo and fundamentals like getting out-of-bounds and ball security.

Myth #9 – Option Offenses are Easy to Defend if a Long Prep Period is Involved

This is another idea that has firmly rooted itself in the conventional wisdom of commentators. I could spend some time laying this one out, but TBuzz over at SB Nation has done an excellent job of it in his excellent article on dispelling the extra time to prepare myth. In this article he breaks down the statistics for Georgia Tech games and finds that length of prep time has a “weak to negligible” correlation to winning and losing games. The article also offers further anecdotal evidence from when Tom Osborne used an option offense to dominate college football and win several national titles. The article pretty much sums up the idea that, in general, good rushing defenses slow down option football, not the amount of time for preparation.

Myth #10 – Option offenses won’t work in the NFL

RG3 by Keith Allison
Until recently, conventional wisdom held that option offenses wouldn’t work in the NFL. Over the last two seasons we have seen evidence to the contrary. Photo by Keith Allison.

Finally we come to Myth #10. We’ve all heard this one. Option football will never work in the NFL. The defenses are just too fast and the scheme is too gimmicky to really be viable in the League. The past couple of seasons have seen some very successful implementation of option football with athletic quarterbacks like RG3, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Russel Wilson. The reality is option football can work in the NFL. Just like any offense, with proper execution, can work in the NFL.

Finally there is a lot of talk about whether the read option is just a fad, or if it is the “offense of the future.” Additionally, many are saying defenses will be more effective after studying the offense in the off-season. So once again, it comes down to execution. Is option football here to stay in the NFL? The answer is easy. If teams can execute the offense better than opponents can execute a defense for it, it will continue to thrive. In other words, some teams will run it and run it well, while other teams will be shut down by good run defenses.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Agree, disagree, or have something to share? Please join in the conversation and thanks for reading.