If you’re a coach who is thinking of installing the option for next season, you may want to read the following.
First, let me say that I think that without a doubt, the one offensive system that gives most teams an edge over their opponents year in and year out is the option. If you ask defensive coordinators any time any where what the most difficult offense is to defend, nine out of ten will reply, “the option.” The main reasons seem to be the difficulty in preparing for it… forcing the defense to play assignment football… forcing the defense into fewer and simpler coverages – making them susceptible to the play action pass. The reasons are many… yet few coaches opt to run the option - even as teams like Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern, Navy, Army, and Air Force rack up the wins running various flavors of it. I found myself asking why this is the case and came up with the following:
1. It’s not the Spread Gun, The Wing T, or the Power I. As coaches, we know what we know and not many head coaches are familiar with the system. Many guys just don’t know enough about the offense to stick their necks out for it.
2. It’s hard to teach. This is a deceptive statement, as I strongly feel that once a good coach is familiar with the offense and the drills and skills necessary to become proficient, the option is no harder to teach than the Spread Gun or the Wing T systems. But until you are proficient, there is a danger of “getting in over your head” with the offense… and there are many misconceptions and pitfalls that can trip-up a rookie option staff.
3. Coaches don’t want to sell-out to the option. No other system is predicated on making the defense stop one play as is the option offense. Almost all the supplementary plays take advantage of the defense “robbing Peter to pay Paul” in order to stop your base play – be it the Inside Veer, the Midline, or even the Outside Veer. You have to commit to learning – and running- your base play over and over and over again until it is ran to perfection – each player knowing what do do and every adjustment needed to counter defensive tactics used to stop it. But many coaches insist on hedging their bets – spending hours of practice time getting in the Gun, or Power I, or whatever they turn to when things just aren’t going their way.
4. Knowledge. With the advent of several option groups springing up on the Net (and even sites like this one) finding our specifics on running the option has never been as easy as it is today. That said, like any offense, there is much detail and expert knowledge that goes with coaching it well- and there simply is no substitute for experience. Since the option isn’t ran half as much as any of the other popular systems of today, finding coaches that have spent time coaching the option can be a challenge. A line coach that has spend half a career coaching zone blocking and pass setting is facing a huge paradigm shift when switching to the option. Size and heft take a backseat to quickness off the ball and knowing who to block. An OC that’s used to running the Tony Franklin system is no doubt mystified when he sees an option QB has thrown for over 1,000 yards in a season – mostly using simple two -and sometimes single- receiver routes. And what’s keeping them from being eaten alive by the blitz – look at how small that O-line is! Heh… I’ve heard all that… and more. Those of us that have run the option know the reasons why, but to a novice option OC, all this can seem like a mystery.
5. It takes athletes. Many coaches like to use the excuse, “well, I just don’t have the kind of hosses it takes to run the option.” While it’s true that great athletes can make almost any coach look like a genius (well, almost any), No other offense has the potential of spreading the ball around like the option. The fact that the option coach can truthfully claim not to know who’s going to get the ball each time he calls the bread and butter play is the single best argument I can make. And if great athletes are all it takes to win, how can Navy and the other service academies manage to play with so many teams where their players couldn’t even get a scholarship?
So having given you 5 good(?) reasons NOT to make the Triple Option the linchpin of your offense, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to start telling you to drop everything you know and start running it. And that would be the funny part.
(to be continued)