Read Option Football (Spread Series) – Philosophy Behind the Read Option

The spread read option offense has spread through college football offenses like a pandemic flu since it’s inception in the mid 2000s. It has even been implemented into offenses at the highest level in the NFL. The spread option offense is continually developing and consists of many components. The following series of articles on spread read option football will discuss different components segmentally. This article will discuss the philosophy behind the read option.

What is the Read Option

Well if you are interested in football its hard to imagine you haven’t heard about the read option. In layman’s terms a read option is when the QB reads a defender and executes one of two options. Sounds simple right? However, as the spread read option has evolved the options that are paired together have become more complex, putting greater stress on defenses. By the end of reading this series of articles you will understand all the different types of read options and how they are executed.

Why Implement the Read Option

The best thing about the read option is that it allows you to gain a number on offense and stack the odds in your favor. For example, an offense aligns in a 4 wide set with 1 RB in the backfield, the defense aligns in a 1 high structure with 6 defenders in the box. If it was a “dialed in” (no read) run play the offense would only be able to block 5 defenders with their 5 lineman, leaving a 6th defender unblocked to tackle the RB. Now if you take that same run play and add a read option, the offense can now read the 6th unblocked defender and he is no longer free to just run after the RB. That 6th defender is now in conflict and the play will be dictated by his actions. That’s the beauty of the read option, you can block an extra defender without actually blocking him.

So simply put, two reasons to run the read option are:

  1. You gain a numbers advantage
  2. You put defenders in conflict

Types of Read Options

I like to break down the types of read options into levels which correspond to the defense. In essence their are really 3 levels to a defense, the first is the defenders on the line of scrimmage, the second is the LBs behind them and the third is the safeties.

First level reads are performed on a defender who is on the line of scrimmage and consists of 2 running options. Either the ball will be handed off to the RB or kept by the QB. Second level reads are typically performed on LBs and the options can consist of 2 running options or 1 running option and 1 passing option. Read options that have 1 running option and 1 passing option are known as RPOs (run-pass options). RPOs will be covered in more detail in a later post. Third level reads consist of reading a safety and are RPOs. So read options can be organized into 3 levels (first, second and third) and into 2 types (run-run and run-pass).

What and Why, Check, but How?

Now you have an understanding of the what and why behind the read option we can move on to the how. How are read option plays executed? The following articles in this series aim to answer that very question. They will be broken down into the following topics:

  1. First level reads
  2. Second level reads
  3. Third level reads
  4. Inverting backfield actions
  5. “Toss” backfield actions
  6. Using a Wing
  7. Perimeter screens and single side attachments
  8. Triple option variations


Feature image photo credit: acase1968 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/60035031@N06/37318936860″>Michael Roots</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>:




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