Nick Saban: NFL coaches are asking for read-option advice

Reuters

Nick Saban didn’t last long as an NFL head coach, but there are still plenty of NFL coaches who think he has some knowledge they’d like to tap.

Saban, whose Alabama team is the defending NCAA champion, said on ESPN that NFL teams have been beating a path to his office this offseason because they want to brainstorm about how to stop the read-option offense, which was primarily seen in college football until it took off in the NFL last year.

“Several NFL coaches have come to visit this year to say, ‘How do you stop these guys?’ Because they’re not accustomed to seeing that,” Saban said.

Saban says NFL defenses are built around the idea of rushing the quarterback, but a lot of those pass rushers find that mobile quarterbacks who are good at running the read-option can blow right past them.

“That’s a pass-rush oriented league,” Saban said. “People getting up the field to pass rush is what it’s all about because of the type of quarterbacks — the Tom Bradys of the world, Drew Brees, that’s what you’ve got to stop. You’ve got to put pressure on the quarterback. Well, that’s just what you don’t want to do against [read-option quarterbacks]. You have to play on the line of scrimmage just like old option football.”

According to Saban, it’s particularly difficult for NFL defenses to stop teams like the 49ers, who will run read-option plays out of multiple formations.

“I think the teams that do a really good job like the 49ers, they do it from multiple formation looks, so they make more defensive players have to understand how to do it, and I think that’s the biggest challenge that they have right now,” Saban said.

It may be the biggest challenge for NFL defensive coordinators. And it’s a challenge they’re trying to tackle by going back to college.

72 responses to “Nick Saban: NFL coaches are asking for read-option advice

  1. I had several college coaches tell me that blitzing an option team is usually not a good idea. I don’t know if that’s true and may not apply to the high quality athletes of the NFL is it is

  2. So tired of this gimmick crap! How do you stop it? Keep hitting the QB, patience and discipline. Just like the Seahawks did. Whether he hands off or passes .. HIT HIM! This is not college and RGKnee can tell you that a running QB can’t run forever.

    GO COWBOYS!

  3. Mark my words .. no QB running this offense will win a super bowl. Why? They won’t finish a season!!!

  4. longislandcowboysfan, really? that’s your answer?
    If it was that simple, everyone would do it.

    You have to get to the QB first to hit him.
    How many times did you see Kaepernick hit on a run?
    Russell Wilson is extremely elusive as well.
    These QBs know when to go down and avoid contact.

  5. Yup Saban is right MY NINERS are even beyond the simple “read-option” strategy, it would seem they have been and will continue to be 2 steps ahead of all Defenses from here on out.

    Hit the QB??

    Kaepernick is 6’5 230 and only getting bigger. Good luck giving him a papercut.

    Cam Newton has now 32 full games with ONLY a paper cut happening to him over the 2 years.

    In comparison Blaine Gabbert hasn’t even played 1 full season.

  6. They are also looking for advice on how to stack their teams with all the best players so they can look like football geniuses.

  7. Kaepernick is gonna go crazy this year and even Saban knows it. Basically he’s saying “good luck”

  8. The read option will fade away as soon as the first QB tears his knee up or breaks his leg running the football. Until then though you’ll see more teams add some play sets. but it will never take over the league.

  9. It’s not complicated. Put a backside linebacker or safety on the QB, play the off tackle carry.

    Hit the QB every play, challenge him to keep it. If he wants to go 1v1 with a safety, let that happen. If your safety can’t make an open field tackle at the line of scrimmage, you just need better players.

  10. I think he is confusing all the knocks on his door from NFL coaches seeking advice with the Oscillating fan I left running outside his door. Sorry Nick, it won’t happen again.

  11. A young Raider fan saw Owner Mark Davis one day and said Mr. Davis, “What is the difference between theory and reality?”

    “Well son, the best way to explain this is a practical exercise. Go and ask our General Manager Reggie McKenzie how he plans to return this team to greatness.”

    The fan returned and shared, “He said first he wanted his own guys; his own scouting staff, his own coaches, & his own players. He also planned to sign Free Agents to 1 year deals. He closed by saying that you would be patient with the results”

    Davis replied, “Now go ask Dennis Allen the same question”

    The fan returned and said “Coach Allen explained that although the Zone Blocking Scheme didn’t work in his first season, that he would learn from it and try something new this year. Defensively, his team would be one of the most disciplined in the league. He also said that you would be patient with the results”

    The fan then asked, “What does this have to do with theory and reality?”

    Mark replied, “It’s simple, in theory our organization is only a couple years away from our 4th Super Bowl title. In reality I’m going to fire them both following this next season.”

  12. Saban is, as you’d expect, entirely correct about the concept of stopping the read option.

    One thing most non-Redskin/49er/Seahawk fans don’t seem to realize is that these teams did not actually run the read option very often (usually only 4 -7 times per game). The problem for defenses is that the constant threat means the DE cannot do what they’re ‘supposed’ to do — ie, crash down the line.

    This is why each of the teams listed — the Redskins, 49ers, and Seahawks — had excellent rushing attacks. Morris, Gore, and Lynch are great running backs, but when you can virtually guarantee that the DE will not be crashing down on them, they get a LOT better. I don’t mind saying, too, that this system works well for teams with subpar lines (the Redskins being the clearest case, with Trent Williams being the only OL starter who excels).

    The read option CAN be stopped with gap-sound defensive play. The only problem is that accounting for each gap requires 6 men, not counting the DEs who have to stay home (so, 8 total). The question then becomes, “Can RG3/Kaep/Wilson use the extra second they get from the frozen DEs to hit the wide open receivers?”

    Based on last year, I think the answer is obvious. I would not want to be a D-coordinator in the NFL against those 3 QBs.

  13. I can see a team loading up read option QB’s and using them in rotations in the next few years. The seasons are long and the QB’s take a beating. Rotations will confuse the defenses and keep the QB’s healthier.

  14. Sorry to break the news but the zone read is here to stay, just as the play-action fake has been a staple of NFL offenses for several decades. Both use the simple concept of decption to freeze the edges and create confusion and pause over the middle of the field. That does not mean that every offense will have success with the zone read, just as not every offense will be explosive using the play-fake.

    The teams that will have success long-term using the zone read will have the requisite personnel, coaching, understanding of and commitment to read-option principles and be sufficiently innovative to adjust as other teams become more familiar with it.

    There were many times this year when the Redskins, Seattle and San Francisco were virtually unstoppable. In the second half of the Super Bowl, Baltimore had no answer for San Francisco’s offense and moved the ball at will.

  15. @longislandcowboysfan33 –
    why are you posting this?

    you know the “secret” call up Jerry and let him know – he needs your help.

  16. longislandcowboysfan33 says: Apr 10, 2013 2:35 PM

    So tired of this gimmick crap! How do you stop it? Keep hitting the QB, patience and discipline. Just like the Seahawks did. Whether he hands off or passes .. HIT HIM! This is not college and RGKnee can tell you that a running QB can’t run forever.

    He was already hurt going into the game. Nothing the Seattle did. Might want to watch more football before commenting next time.

  17. The Hawks had a major threat last year when they started using the read-option. Defenders suddenly had to ask, “Lynch runs it?, five different guys could all catch it?, or Wilson keeps it and runs? HOW do we cover all of them?

    Love it Darrell! Keep it rolling. And this year, we’ll add Harvin to the mix. Sheer ecstasy.

    GO HAWKS!!!

  18. longislandcowboysfan33 says:
    Apr 10, 2013 2:35 PM
    So tired of this gimmick crap! How do you stop it? Keep hitting the QB, patience and discipline. Just like the Seahawks did. Whether he hands off or passes .. HIT HIM! This is not college and RGKnee can tell you that a running QB can’t run forever.

    GO COWBOYS!

    ______________________________

    Well first of all RGIII didn’t get hurt running the read option, he was scrambling from a traditional drop back and the pocket collapsed so he took off on both times he got hurt…the concussion and original knee injury against the Ravens, my other point why is Saban constantly referencing the 49ers? The Skins were the first to use this offense in the NFL and also run it from multiple formations, as a matter of fact it’s the Denver Broncos offense Shanahan ran when in Denver they just added the pistol and read option to it…actually the read option is just another version pretty much of the play action as it freezes defenders and fools them into believing the ball is one place when it actually isn’t…

    Now back to Longislandcowboysfan: you guys had 2 cracks at it and still couldn’t do anything with it…as a matter of fact the second game RGIII ran for a TD on a gimpy knee on that Rob Ryan the Great led defense…

  19. Why ask Saban? He can’t stop it either. Johnny Football tore him up, so did Cam Newton, so did Utah in a bowl loss a few years earlier.

    Saban’s real advice is to join the SEC. That way you can lose a game and it doesn’t count against you because the polls are rigged.

    If the Broncos were in the SEC, they would have still played in the Super Bowl after the Ravens beat them.

  20. longislandcowboysfan33 says:
    Apr 10, 2013 2:40 PM
    Mark my words .. no QB running this offense will win a super bowl. Why? They won’t finish a season!!!
    ___________________________________
    I am a Cowboys fan as well but you are just a great example of the uninformed that comment on this site. A QB running the read option did just finish the season and go to the Superbowl and could have easily won it. Did you watch the NFL games last season or even know who the 49ers QB is?

    Your words were already tarnished before they hit the keyboard.

  21. Self admitted Ram’s homer here and without trying to sound too biased I thought they did a pretty good job adjusting to it. They played the Skins in week 2 and basically had no answer for RGIII but did quite well in keeping Kap and Wilson in check for the most part. They basically brought pressure from both DE’s and forced the pocket to collapse.

  22. rgtre10 says:
    Apr 10, 2013 3:12 PM
    ____________________________________
    Keep living in the past my man. We’ve enjoyed doing it since 1995. I look forward to the rivalry between the Cowboys and The Redskins/Kirk Cousins in the coming years, he is a smart guy and will be a great NFL QB once he establishes himself in that starting role which is pretty inevitable, we all know it.

  23. The read-option is a very effective defense as long as there is a guy who can pass AND throw. Lose one and the offense goes down the toilet.

    Also, run it perfectly for 99% of the plays in a game and all it takes is one play for the QB to get blown up. Get more than a few seasons into the read-option and we will have a much better idea of how durable these QB’s are.

    For all the crap some of the pocket passers get, most of the top flight guys are incredibly durable. We have seen Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Manning, etc. take big hits and get up. They stay in the pocket and know when to fold. Running around you are more likely to take a hard blindside shot or land akwardly. Pocket guys figured this out long ago.

    It might do some damage in the short term, but most of these guys will get weeded out pretty quickly.

  24. longislandcowboysfan33 says:
    Apr 10, 2013 2:35 PM
    So tired of this gimmick crap! How do you stop it? Keep hitting the QB, patience and discipline. Just like the Seahawks did. Whether he hands off or passes .. HIT HIM! This is not college and RGKnee can tell you that a running QB can’t run forever.

    GO COWBOYS!

    —————–

    And if you are playing the Cowboys just keep letting Romo throw; eventually he will throw the devastating pick…

  25. The 49er Defence might have had a small part to play in the run to the superbowl. They got to the nfc championship game with Smith at QB… give me a pocket passer any day

  26. 49ers6rings says: Apr 10, 2013 2:45 PM

    Yup Saban is right MY NINERS are even beyond the simple “read-option” strategy, it would seem they have been and will continue to be 2 steps ahead of all Defenses from here on out.

    Hit the QB??

    Kaepernick is 6’5 230 and only getting bigger. Good luck giving him a papercut.

    Cam Newton has now 32 full games with ONLY a paper cut happening to him over the 2 years.

    In comparison Blaine Gabbert hasn’t even played 1 full season.

    __________________

    You do realize that Tom Brady is 6’4″, 225-230, right? Also, the average Dlineman outweighs them by 50 lbs?

    Cute post, though!

  27. rbhttr says:
    Apr 10, 2013 3:02 PM
    ___________________________________
    You also might want to follow more closely because he was not hurt one bit going into the Seattle game. I think you are confusing the play where Bruce Irvin twisted his knee (when you weren’t watching the game), w/ something that happened the week before.

    “Shanahan told Kremer that upon studying game film, it appeared Griffin hurt his knee on the previous play, when Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin sacked the rookie quarterback.”

    It’s too easy.

  28. Wow .. some of you guys are really stupid. Kaepernick did not start and end the season as a starter and he won’t this year either. Mr. HGH will get blown up easily. Ok, best running and passing QB in my opinion from a talent perspective was Randall Cunningham. Eventually he had to stop running, because of all the hits.

    So, according to all you smart people the read options if the best thing smoking now huh? Well I guess REAL QB’s like Brady, Brees and Rogers should just retire then huh? Cam is a joke and will never do anything. Kaepernick is the beneficiary of a solid D and a running game. A read options QB healthy for a full season and playoffs .. I’d LOVE to see that!

  29. The 9ners played well in the sb because they stopped running the option. The Ravens shut them down in the first half, just like the falcons did to the seahawks and they came back in the second half by running the ball and traditional offense. The option is a joke, good for a few plays here and there but not going to win a sb from it. A full off season to study tape will fix this real quick.

  30. @longislandbestcoachever —

    You know the secret but coaches making millions – including the cowboys DC – don’t know what you know.

    Why are you giving it away for free?

  31. I’m starting to get frustrated with the people saying “Just keep hitting the QB”. Do you think they are just going to let you clobber the QB after he hands the ball off to the RB just because you’re pissed about defending the read option? Please stop saying this is a way to stop the read option. I’m pretty sure most defensive coordinators for the last decade go with the strategy of “Just keep hitting the QB”. Stop.

  32. Showing the Cowboys love and hate – how many times did u guys quote longislandcowboy33?
    LOL! We love it! Go Cowboys!

    As for the read option it caught alot by surprise last year. This year teams are schooling up and rebuilding to deal with it. Gonna be a different year for the Skins, Wilson and Kaep now that they are known quantitites. I think thats why they talk about the second year slump for QBs. We shall see!

    Go Cowboys!!

  33. I’m assuming everyone saying its here to stay are 49ers, Redskins, Seahawks and Ducks I mean Eagle fans. It wasn’t used in the NFL for years it was forgotten how to defend. High School kids defend against this every Friday. Every comment that got a thumbs down probably should’ve got a thumbs up because that’s what the coaches teach you. It’s like half you people never played a down of organized football in your lives. Like Mike Tomlin said flavor of the month. The read option will end when one of those QB’s has there head taken clean off their shoulders by a big nasty d-end that stayed at home.

  34. This won’t last. QB’s will get destroyed. The easiest way to stop it is having the Linebacker take the RB everytime and have the D-End stay home and take the QB every play, with the Strong Side safety ready to take the angle on the QB in case he gets away from the D-End.
    I learned this in High School and it’ll translate to the NFL. If you can get your LB to THUMP that RB every play fake and stick him in his face, the RB is not going to carry out that fake as well, cause the RB will know, they’re going to get STUCK LIKE A FISH, without the ball, so when the RB doesn’t have the ball, he’ll protect himself, which in turn, will look much different, and in turn, will give the safety a better read on the QB.
    The thing about the read-option this year is that the RB’s never took a hit after the play fake and the same goes for the QB. If the QB wants to put a play-fake out there, I’m telling my D-End to PLANT HIM IN THE GROUND EVERY PLAY. Pretty soon, the QB is going to go to coach and say, I’m getting smashed, let’s get away from this.
    I think if teams did that, then it would come to an end after week 5!!

  35. cmoney20 says:
    Apr 10, 2013 3:51 PM
    I’m starting to get frustrated with the people saying “Just keep hitting the QB”. Do you think they are just going to let you clobber the QB after he hands the ball off to the RB just because you’re pissed about defending the read option? Please stop saying this is a way to stop the read option. I’m pretty sure most defensive coordinators for the last decade go with the strategy of “Just keep hitting the QB”. Stop.
    ___________________________________
    Rather than flat out claiming this isn’t a good tactic, tell us when you have seen this fail. I think the Eagles have struggled mightily since Vicks break-out season once teams started pounding him on drop-backs, scrambles, and hand-offs (and its clearly affected his confidence as well).

    Yes some hits were late but he still hasn’t gotten many calls ever after the team complaining and it being obvious to the above-average fan, what teams are trying to do.

    Same way Brady gets out of whack but he has the refs to bail him out at least.

  36. longislandcowboysfan33. Man, you make even the people that think the way you do feel stupid. Just shut up.

  37. phinfan says:

    You mean BELICHEAT has visited you…

    ____________

    Says the guy who had Saban as a coach. LOL

  38. What’s better then a pocket passer, someone who can do both. When your slow like Brady, you have no choice. Not that he’s struggled with that, but I believe the more athletic QB’s are here to stay. Tebow was a gimmick because he couldn’t throw, but QB’s like Kap have no problem beating teams with there arm. All those people saying a running QB can’t win the superbowl are forgetting it’s already been done. Steve Young!

  39. You do understand that they don’t run the option that much. Kap and RGIII have great arms and could stand in the pocket just as well as the rest. The media makes it sound like that’s all they do…it’s just another thing the defense has to think about. Why would you not want to have that option on your team?

  40. A running qb can last as long as he wants to. Its the difference between gouging the defense and getting down or out of bounds instead of diving head first for that first down (RG3, Vick). Also, its not gimmicky, the niners actually have a pretty complex offense and the read option is just part of it. Kap has the potential to be the most dangerous player in the leage if he isnt already, his ability to run is a luxury ability and will not define him.

  41. longislandcowboysfan33 says:
    Apr 10, 2013 2:40 PM
    Mark my words .. no QB running this offense will win a super bowl. Why? They won’t finish a season!!!

    Like RGIII, Russel Wilson and Colin Kaepernick? The 3 MOST known for running the read option pistol O? Yeah ALL 3 made the playoffs while Romo and your Boys languished at home watching! Oh Yeah! RGIII was the one who SENT you back to Texas!

  42. You know what people should stop doing, saying Steve young running qb who won the superbowl and comparing him to kaep and wilson and rg3, Steve young was a qb who ran when he needed to, he didn’t run the option. Stop with the comparison and wishful thinking that just because Steve young was mobile and won a sb that today’s option qb’s will have the same success, it’s completely different.

  43. They said Bill Walsh ran a gimmick offense and we all know how that turned out. QB playing in the pro style read option only run the ball 6 times a game on average. It is the threat of the run that keeps down hill rush the QB attacks at bay. Remember QB’s also get hurt playing in the static pocket as well. In fact they get the crap knocked out of them standing still.

  44. Another way to stop the fancy read-option style offenses is …. to not have Aj Hawk/Erik Walden in your starting lineup.

    The 49ers didn’t need a read option to be productive running it at Walden’s side… they could’ve just ran normal stretch plays at the guy like the vikings did with Peterson.

    Colin/Russel/RG3 are good QBs regardless of their gimmicks – they’re accurate strong armed and smart – Good QBs are gonna get their stats and put up their points, best you can hope for against guys like Brady/Rodgers/Brees is that your defense holds ’em under 30 points.

  45. “Several NFL coaches have come to visit this year to say, ‘How do you stop these guys?’ Because they’re not accustomed to seeing that,” Saban said.

    Then Saban hangs his head and says, “Did you see us play A&M? Why are you asking me for advice?”

  46. @soundsofsuccess7 says:
    Apr 10, 2013 2:50 PM
    It’s not complicated. Put a backside linebacker or safety on the QB, play the off tackle carry.

    Hit the QB every play, challenge him to keep it. If he wants to go 1v1 with a safety, let that happen. If your safety can’t make an open field tackle at the line of scrimmage, you just need better players.

    —————
    How come you are here. Should’t you be parlaying your tremendous knowledge into $$.

    All three read option guys (Kaep, Wilson, RG3) are also excellent passers. Just the threat of them running is enough to freeze the D. They don’t actually have to use it a lot.

  47. Two thoughts to share with you good folks: the 49er offense was indeed complex as heck under Colin. And showed no mercy to defenses. This off season, this same offense will have the time, experience AND the weapons to finally REALLY evolve. Along with everything else you saw them do this past season, get ready now for things they could NOT do then, but CAN and will do now – every type of screen known to man; no huddle, hurry up and more reverses than should be allowed.

    And they still have GRo (G Roman, O Coord) as the Mad genius who is now plotting upcoming opponents as we speak. Hang on World!

  48. Ah, weren’t the Seahawks and Redskins in the playoffs?

    What percentage of teams run the read-option? What if it were 50-50? Think 2 would ever meet in the SB?

    Yes, it’s coming, it works, and it will for along time to come.

    Don’t QBs get hit when they are sacked or is that just my imagination?

  49. The read option is combinations of the Wishbone, Wing T, Flexbone, I option, and spread offenses. Variations of these offenses have been around for a 100 years so those calling it a gimmick are clueless. It still comes down to execution and players making plays no matter what system you run.

  50. Savant hasn’t had much luck stopping the read option/spread attack against talented teams. Texas A&M this year and Auburn 2010 both beat Saban.

  51. I’d love to have a Kaepernick with speed, elusiveness to go along with his wicked fast and accurate throws. The 9ers have a legit franchise QB, talent, excellent coaching and a LOT of draft picks. They have the potential to win multiple SB’s ala the Cowboys of the early 90’s.

  52. I think most of the “experts” here are just watching the highlights. Kaepernick ran on designed rushes less than 3% of the time last season. Wilson’s number was about 4.5%. Both of these players, and especially Kaepernick, excel at throwing from the pocket. In the Packers game, when he ran for 181 yards, there were only two significant runs that were designed. Most of his runs were sidestepping the Packer blitz and taking off for 20-25 yards.

    Here’s a thought: try actually watching the games.

  53. Read option is here to stay but for some reason fans like to throw it in with wildcat. These are mobile QB who can hit the play action out of that exact same formation- so the defense play has to be sound from support to your safeties to the line/linebackers holding their gaps. Ravens did it to 49ers. Seattle stopped 49ers/Panthers…Redskins actually were effective in read option/ play action from pistol formations because of Morris being hot so that Cowboy fan used a terrible example. Gonzo from the 49ers is pretty smart about getting out of bounds and protecting himself. Wilson slides and is out of bounds- only time I watched him get touched was the playoffs.

  54. I think this is the first time reading the comments section has paid off.

    I now believe the read-option will have a longer shelf life than we realize because it follows so many other sound football concepts. I like the comparison to the play action fake, which only works with a strong running attack, which will come back in style now that every defense is geared to stop the passing attack.

    All of these “simple” prescriptions for how to stop it like “hit the QB” and “hit the RB” ignore the fact that the hitter will be leaving a space open downfield that a shifty QB (what Kap, Wilson and Griffin are really good at) can exploit with the pass. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point of the read-option attack: to create spaces somewhere on the field so the offense can react and take what’s being given to them.

  55. I love this topic.

    College coaches can stop the read-option because most college read-option Qb’s are not efficient passers. But the RG3’s, Russell Wilson’s and Colin Keapernick’s of the world dominated defenses in college not only because they were superior athletes, but they were also superior passers too. Their talents transform to the NFL and in 6-7 years, when their athletic skills diminish, they will still be efficient drop back passers.

    Tom Brady would be a great Read-option QB if he ran a 4.5 40. The fact is, you still have to be a good passer, be accurate, and read defenses, to be successful in the NFL whether you run the pistol or run the West Coast offense. It does not hurt to be mobile and fast.

  56. Pocket QBs get hurt just like mobile ones. One might make the argument that a pocket QB has more of a chance getting hurt because he can’t run away from big hits

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