The Packers have every reason in the world to believe in the power of the read option, after watching 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick dismantle them in the playoffs.
But Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is willing to take a longer view, that the suddenly hot system isn’t going to be a staple of NFL offenses forever.
“I think the league is cyclical and things can come back around that were being used 20, 30 years ago. But this too will pass,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com. “Some of the pistol read-option stuff will eventually pass. Now, that may not be for 10 more years.
“The athletic quarterback I don’t think is going to pass at all. I think you’ve seen a trend of more and more guys who can make plays when the pocket breaks down and extend plays, who are also good passers. I think you’re going to continue to see that; we’ve seen a lot of that the last few years especially. . . .
“But I think that as we saw five years ago with the wildcat stuff – it had its success and less and less people are doing it and now. It’s more of the zone-read stuff – reading the end or keeping it and pulling it with a quarterback who has some athleticism. At some point, on some level, they’re going to figure out how to consistently stop that, and then that will make its way up to the NFL. Or, enough for these (quarterbacks), who are going to be franchise guys if they’re not already, may take some unnecessary shots or decide that they’d rather stay in the pocket and throw it then rush the ball 15 times a game. And then you can kind of see it gradually go in the other direction, I think.”
Rodgers is certainly athletic enough to run when he needs to, but the Packers are smart enough to know that the best use of their resource is to keep him throwing the ball rather than running. The knee injury suffered by Washington’s Robert Griffin III is a concern for anyone considering such a move, as the quarterback is at more risk than one who stays in the pocket and throws.
But with Chip Kelly taking the Eagles job — and the success of the 49ers and Redskins and Seahawks — the number of teams incorporating spread and read-option elements is only growing. And that puts the pressure on NFL defenses to adjust, and they’ll certainly spend the offseason doing so.