Film Sessions: Did Robert Griffin III Get Hurt Running The Read-Option?

| June 8, 2013 | 14 Comments

It has always been Mike Shanahan’s assertion that the read-option actually protects the quarterback, rather than put him in harms way. I, personally have agreed with Mike Shanahan. In the passing game, the read-option slows the pass rush, effectively making the defense have to read and react instead of rush upfield right at the quarterback. It’s why the continued insistence that the best way to stop the read-option is to hit the quarterback makes so little sense; if you are overly aggressive (as Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick all proved) in a rush to hit the quarterback, either the quarterback can get a huge play, or the ball gets handed off the back, and you probably get flagged.

 

In the run game, the read-option protects the quarterback for creating cleaner, more defined rush lanes than you would on a typical scramble. On a scramble, you likely don’t have the same level of protection; in the read option, you get more in the way of offensive linemen, wide receivers and tight ends blocking down field.

 

Still, that hasn’t stopped people from insisting, despite everything, that the reason Robert Griffin III got hurt last season was because the Redskins ran the read-option. Not to mention the continued speculation that RGIII didn’t like how he was being used, and that he took an abnormal amount of shots running it.

 

While I don’t expect the Redskins to have their quarterback have 120 rushing attempts next season, I do know that the read-option will always be a wrinkle in this offense, as long as RGIII can run it and as long as defenses still can’t manage to figure it out. But that does beg the question; did running the read-option expose Robert Griffin III to more injury?

 

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My immediate thoughts compiling this video were simple; no. No, running the read-option did not expose RGIII to more injury. As I’ve rewatched the games, some of the biggest, hardest shots RGIII has taken in his career have been blind side shots in the pocket. That’s not to say that he didn’t occasionally get popped running the football. But on the whole, I found that Robert Griffin III was far better about getting down, and getting out of bounds and protecting himself on the read-option runs, than he was on the scrambles.

The times when Robert did get hit, I found it to be a result of Robert’s own hubris rather than the design of the play. Griffin is an incredible athlete, but he, as most athletes do, has to learn to protect himself, read-option or not.

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The concussion Robert suffered versus Atlanta is a key example of this. The Redskins are in the 3rd quarter of a 7-7 game on 3rd and goal. Off the snap, right tackle Tyler Polumbus gets blown up off the ball. Chris Chester tries to get over and help, but by that point, Robert has already sensed the pressure and rolls out to his right. Which is fine. But the mistake Robert makes here is not knowing when to let a dead play go.

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From the All-22, you can see that as Robert rolls, no one is open. At that point, the ball should’ve been thrown away. Robert has the sideline to get out of bounds, or he has the option to throw it away once he leaves the pocket. Instead, he breaks it upfield. There are three men in white shirts all with their eyes on the quarterback, and again, no one comes open. He makes the decision to get down and out of bounds far too late, getting drilled in the head and having to leave the game.

This is a case of the rookie not taking the game situation into account. The Redskins still took a 3 point lead after this when Billy Cundiff made a short field goal. Mike Shanahan used to tell Jay Cutler “don’t make it happen, let it happen.” This is a case of Griffin trying to make something happen, with there was no play to be made, and it wasn’t a game situation that called for a play to have to be made.

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The Baltimore game is another example of Robert Griffin III not taking what the defense gives him.The situation is slightly different, as the Redskins did need a touchdown to tie it up. But, they’re also in four down territory with all three time outs. He didn’t have to cut this ball back inside in this case, especially since the defense essentially gave him the sideline.

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RGIII gets pressure off the left side. When he rolls out, he has a lot of green grass towards the sideline. Robert gained 13-yards on this play after cutting up field. It’s hard to believe Griffin wouldn’t have gained at least that if he took the ball up the sideline and used it as his personal protector. He would still put the Redskins in a reasonable down and distance situation, and most importantly he’d be healthy.

It also brings up another nitpick; diving head first. RGIII has insisted that he was trying to get down on this play. Even so, his decision to dive head first instead of slide is a bad one, and a decision Griffin makes too often. Granted, he’s not the best slider in the world (can someone call Bryce Harper to give him some lessons?), but this is another case of not protecting himself. The difference in yards if he slides feet first is likely negligible, and again; he gets the team in a reasonable down and distance and gets to stay in the game.

The same could be said when he re-aggravated his injury in the playoff game versus the Seahawks.

You have to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. When it comes to next year, the big question won’t be “will the Redskins keep running this dangerous read-option”. The read-option isn’t as dangerous as people pretend it is.

The question will be, can RGIII become a smarter football player when it comes to protecting himself. His competitive drive and his belief in his ability is part of what makes him special, but the great quarterbacks learn to contain that belief in themselves and channel it into becoming better all around players. When you need that extra yard, you can go for it. But when you don’t, you have to have the wherewithal to live to see another down.

RGIII is a smart guy. I have no doubt he will learn those lessons, and the team will be all the better for it, now and in the future. The team ran the read option, a designed quarterback run, or triple option 50 times before the bye week; they ran it 20 times after the bye, basically abandoning the triple option after Robert Griffin III asked Kyle and Mike Shanahan to open up the offense. And the bulk of those carries came late versus Philadelphia when the team was running time off the clock, and in the Dallas game. That leaves an additional 50 times that Robert Griffin III scrambled on his own, without it being the called play.

120 carries is a lot for any quarterback, and that number of carries won’t likely be eclipsed again. But the read-option and elements of the triple option will continue to be parts of our offense as long as Robert’s able to run them. And given the fact that RGIII apparently has Wolverine’s healing factor that should be for a while to come. (Ha! Nerd jokes.)

Follow KC on Twitter @kcclyburn.

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5 comments
Greg
Greg

100% agree with the thrust of this post. The true headline should be "RGIII Gets Hurt When he Scrambles." I thought this all year, the discussion about the zone read getting him hurt is nonsense.

My follow-up is this: Why does Rob scramble? Is it truly that no one is open? Is that on the WRs or the playcall? Or does Rob not get through his reads as he should? I know the latter will improve as he develops, and I think his propensity to scramble will naturally decline as he becomes more and more comfortable being an NFL QB, and throws the ball away more.

If there is one thing I think Rob can improve on, it is keeping his eyes downfield when he feels pressure and stepping up in the pocket to get the ball out there. There were a handful of TDs left on the field last year when he dropped his eyes and ran. Excited to see that happen.

ThedigitalScene
ThedigitalScene

@Greg From what I saw last season it's two things that lead to Griff tucking and running as much as he did. 1)our Oline stinks when it comes to standard pass plays (no play action) and 2) I believe he was told to read and go as a way to protect him from that leaky line. Watching the first game of the year shows you a qb scrambling to extend the play. After that you saw the one or two read and go...unless the game was on the line. Then the QB from game one would suddenly reappear.

Avbanig
Avbanig

Good post man. The only thing I'd say is, I'd like to see RG3 run less. He ran the ball more than any other QB in history last year and yes, the cumulative hits took a toll on his body. He was best up like a running back all year.

I totally, totally agree with you guys about the passing game though. He needs to get more comfortable and patient in the pocket and not look to scramble to much. His problem is he tries to do too much, which is admirable, we all like that about him but sometimes you have to be patient, trust in your teammates to make you look good and make plays also.

Avbanig
Avbanig

*beat up like a running back* people are right when they say he won't make it into his 30s if he keeps playing the way he did last year, he must adjust and be smarter. Get down, slide, get out of bounds, throw the ball away! If I was the Shanahans I'd be working like crazy with RG3 on those 4 things. Sometimes the what play is to throw it away, slide or get out of bounds

Avbanig
Avbanig

Great write up. I'll say this. I believe the Redskins need to use the read option less and throw the ball more than they did last year especially because if the multiple serious injuries RG3's right knee has now endured. I do not believe the read option protects a qb. When a qb chooses to run, he is then a running back and is open o mor injury.

I definitely agree that RG3 needs to learn to protect himself better. He needs to get out of bounds and slide, just like Kapernick and Wilson do more often than he does. He needs to quit trying to make every play a splash play and try to get things that aren't there. I think he's learned that he's not invincible and not super man now.

So the Shanahan's can protect him by not making him a ball carrier 120 times a year and Griffin needs to get out of bounds, slide and get down sooner. He also needs to start thrown in the ball away when people aren't open instead of running around a lot behind the line of scrimmage.

I believe it will happen, it's a collective effort. I expect Griffin to carry the ball less than 100 times in 2013 and throw the ball at least 50 times more.

Jason Campbell in 2008 and 2009 threw the ball 506 & 507 times.

Rg3 threw the ball only 393 times. Thy need to throw more.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Griffin suffered, and how both were (very!) easily avoided if Griffin made a different decision: Film Sessions: Did Robert Griffin III Get Hurt Running The Read-Option? I hope he watched these tapes, and continues to learn about letting a play [...]

  2. [...] Film Sessions: Did Robert Griffin III Get Hurt Running The Read-Option?It has always been Mike Shanahan’s assertion that the read-option actually protects the quarterback, rather than put him in harms way. [...]

  3. [...] Film Sessions: Did Robert Griffin III Get Hurt Running The Read-Option? – httr24-7.comKC Clyburn writes that it has always been Mike Shanahan’s assertion that the read-option actually protects the quarterback, rather than put him in harms way, and he goes out and tests that hypothesis with some film work. His conclusion: [...]

  4. [...] Film Sessions: Did Robert Griffin III Get Hurt Running The Read-Option? – httr24-7.comKC Clyburn writes that it has always been Mike Shanahan’s assertion that the read-option actually protects the quarterback, rather than put him in harms way, and he goes out and tests that hypothesis with some film work. His conclusion: [...]

  5. [...] Film Sessions: Did Robert Griffin III Get Hurt Running The Read-Option? – httr24-7.comKC Clyburn writes that it has always been Mike Shanahan’s assertion that the read-option actually protects the quarterback, rather than put him in harms way, and he goes out and tests that hypothesis with some film work. His conclusion: [...]

  6. [...] A study of Redskins tape by a Redskins blog confirmed Shanahan’s statement, and author KC Clyborn concluded “some of the biggest, hardest shots RGIII [took were on] blind-side shots in the pocket. That’s not to say that he didn’t occasionally get popped running the football. But on the whole, I found that Robert Griffin III was far better about getting down, and getting out of bounds and protecting himself on the read-option runs, than he was on the scrambles.” [...]

  7. [...] A study of Redskins tape by a Redskins blog confirmed Shanahan’s statement, and author KC Clyborn concluded “some of the biggest, hardest shots RGIII [took were on] blind-side shots in the pocket. That’s not to say that he didn’t occasionally get popped running the football. But on the whole, I found that Robert Griffin III was far better about getting down, and getting out of bounds and protecting himself on the read-option runs, than he was on the scrambles.” [...]

  8. [...] Clyburn similarly concluded that the read option doesn’t expose a quarterback to danger, and compiled an excellent video of Griffin’s designed [...]

  9. […] I’m not going to go into a diatribe about the effectiveness of the read-option and how that system had nothing to do with any of the three plays above. For a good read on that you can go to this piece by HTTR24-7. […]

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