As defenses throughout the league become obsessed with stopping the read-option offense in 2013, the coach of one of the teams that used it extensively (relatively speaking) in 2012 has a plan for countering efforts to shut it down.
Shut it down.
“You don’t have to run it,” Shanahan told Pro Football Talk on Wednesday, from the league meetings in Arizona. “That’s the big factor that the offense has. You may not run it one time in a game. We got a base offense that we run you know with the spread option, the pistol, whatever you want to call it. You know, that’s just one phase of what we do, so if they’re going to spend a lot of time stopping that, then we think our other offense will be able to be executed very well.”
Still, when quarterback Robert Griffin III opts to run, whether as part of the read-option attack or when he can’t find an open receiver down the field, Shanahan wants him to be more careful.
“You always want to keep your quarterback healthy,” Shanahan said. “I think there’s such a learning curve from your first year to the second year. Any time you do run the option, we believe that it takes a lot of pressure off that quarterback and slows down that pass rush. In the open field you’ve got to slide, you’ve got to throw the football away. So our priority is going to be protecting him, we’re going to learn from our experience from last year, but the great part about it not only can he run but he can sit back and drop back as well. We may only run the option once or twice a game, we may run it 10 times a game, quarterback may run it twice but when he does we slide and we slide a lot sooner than we did a year ago.”
Many quarterbacks have professed in the offseason an intention to slide more when the games are played, but all too often the instinct to gain every available yard takes over. So how will the Redskins change Griffin’s instincts?
“I think what you do is you go back and look at the film for this year,” Shanahan said. “You take a look at every option play we ran, drop back play, when do you throw the football away, when do you slide. But you know he’s such a competitive guy and you go from the collegiate level to the professional level you don’t realize the speed of these guys and he took a lot of unnecessary hits. But he’ll look at film and protect himself and I think it will be a drastic change from one year to the next.”
Of course, before Griffin can slide, he needs to be able to play. In order to play, he needs to recover from a torn ACL.
“He’s down there every day,” Shanahan said. “He’s working six-to-eight hours a day. You know, he’s a guy that does everything he possibly can to be the best player he can be, and if rehab has anything to do with it he should be ready to go. . . . He’s so young, he’s so strong; you know, he’s very flexible. He’s got unbelievable strength already and so if anybody can do it he can do it.”
For now, we believe Griffin will be able to recover from the torn ACL. When it comes to changing the way he plays, however, history tells us that the spirit is willing but the flesh is stubborn.