Football Fundamentals: The Offensive "Read" Concepts

Alright, fine, let's talk the concept du jour. What's the concept du jour? It's the play of the day.

But really it's about RPO - Run-Pass Option. Ever since the 2018 Super Bowl football has been all about the RPO. I've talked about it a little bit in the past, first with Illinois, and then tagged onto an OSU post recently. But I want to provide a little more depth because there still seems to be some confusion and misconceptions. And to do that, I want to first lay the ground work for the basics. This first post is going to try to set a foundation with explaining "the read game".

Lets start with the basic origins of the "Option" play, made famous in the 1960s with the Veer. The Veer basically laid the groundwork for all that would come after it. You first had inside veer and outside veer. You then had the addition of the pitch option to create the triple option offense. And then it took off from there: counter option, speed option, midline, sprint, trap, wall, etc. etc.

Read Option
The story of Rich Rod's "read option" origins go something along the lines of: They were having success in their two-minute offense (origins of HUNH), and they called a zone run from shotgun. But the QB noticed that the backside DE kept cheating down on the run and chasing it down from behind. One time, he either bobbled the snap or deliberately pulled the ball from the gut of the RB, and he himself ran for a big gain.

You can run read option with Inside Zone, Outside Zone, multiple RBs, Power Read, etc.

Run-Pass Option
Who invented the RPO? Well, apparently Knute Rockne as early as 1912.

And then Princeton used it in their 1940s single wing

Which Michigan thought was pretty cool, because by 1947 they had a version of it

Woody Hayes seemed to think it was a good idea... and so forth. Please, go read this twitter thread, because it's great.

Also, apparently Brett Favre accidentally reinvented it.

And that's led to what it currently is, a run play packaged with a quick read pass play. We will expand on this in future articles.

The current iteration of RPO is often credited to Rich Rod as well, and leads to one of the primary misconceptions: that it requires a mobile QB. Rich Rod took the read option and basically wanted to figure out how to advance from a simple read option to a triple option, and as such, incorporated the bubble screen as a second read. Most teams that utilize RPOs, however, limit the read to a single read, and often times don't maintain a true QB run threat.

Double Screen
The double screen is much like a standard RPO. It utilized a quick screen to one side (acting as the run play), and then a slow screen in the other direction. There is a pre-snap read of the numbers, along with a post snap read of flow. This allows the offense to attack both sides of the field.

Pass-Run Option
This is just another term for run-pass option, but now it's a PRO, but I wanted to give it it's own section. This became a thing around 2010 with the stick draw, with the difference being that the "quick" option is the pass, followed by a draw play if the quick pass isn't open. In recent years, this has expanded to fit the rollout game, as well as the shovel pass.

Smart Football

Pass-Pass Option
This term always gets knickers in a bind. I get it, basically every pass play is a has multiple pass options, how is this any different? You can complain about the name (I promise I didn't invent it), but then we can talk about naming conventions throughout football and go on for days. The basic idea here though is different from your basic pass play.

The Pass-Pass Option (another link) typically combines a quick/rhythm pass route to one side of the formation, followed by a rollout concept to the other side of the formation. If the initial route is open, you throw it, if it's not, you continue to progression to the backside. This eliminates what is often a wasted receiver away from rollout packages.

Pro Style Spread

Some people also consider pre-snap reads RPOs. In my personal lingo, RPOs are post-snap reads, not pre-snap reads. Pre-snap tags onto run plays I term either "tags" or "alerts", they include smoke screens, go tags, etc. They depend on numbers and leverage pre-snap to read and make the decision to throw, not post snap.

Next, we are going to look at quite a few of the route combinations associated with RPOs, and then get into the blocking schemes utilized in RPO schemes.