I was listening to ESPN’s Mike & Mike discuss the possibility of the read-option run by RG3, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick to change the way the game is play, and I got to wondering… is that a change you would like to see?
This could be a moot question in a year or two. We are on the early side of the development of the read-option. If defenses figure out an effective way to counter this style of play, then it will go the way of the wildcat. And those style of QBs may become a mere footnote in the greater history of the NFL (much like Pat White).
I don’t see the read-option being that kind of flash-in-the-pan phenomenon, though.
So, let’s say defenses continue to struggle with the read-option. In a copy-cat league like the NFL, we know at least a few teams will try to integrate it into their playbook next season. If they find some success with it, and if Wilson and Kaepernick chew through the NFC South and AFC South in 2013, we could be sitting on the cusp of a major shift in the way the NFL game is played.
The balance will quickly shift toward offense. That means points. And the viewing public loves points, right? Games that now end in 20-17 scores will jump because the read-option (at least right now) has one more threat than the defense can cover. For example, the 49ers were 11th in points scored this year (had they scored all season at the 28.6 pts/game that they have with Kaepernick at QB, they would have been 4th in the league), while the Seahawks were 9th and the Redskins were 4th. The read-option allowed novice QBs to keep pace with many of the games elite gunslingers in terms of points scored.
Fantasy leagues would thrive on the infusion of points. Do you want to watch high-scoring shootouts every Sunday? Would the NFL end up feeling like arena football?
The counter-shift on defense will be an even higher priority on speed across the board. Smaller defensive linemen who are fast and can get off of blocks will become an ultra-premium because they will have to react quickly to what the QB is doing. Linebackers will also need to be smaller and faster. And defensive assignments will evolve, with someone–a safety or a backer–becoming responsible for the rushing QB. I see those changes translating easier to a 3-4 defense. (Of course the Bengals run a 4-3.)
So, do you see this potential evolution in the game as a good thing? Would you welcome a shift toward speed and offense that the read-option may bring? Or do you want to leave the blend of the hard-hitting, power game and the speed play that we have now just the way it is?