Why Running the Read-Option with Andrew Luck Would Be Disastrous for Colts

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 13, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD - JANUARY 06: Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts is hit by linebacker Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

After watching the likes of Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers run variations of the read-option offense with great success, it's no surprise that teams across the NFL are scrambling to find ways to implement it into their own schemes.

However, what may be a good idea in general terms loses some of its luster when you consider each club's individual future. In the case of the Indianapolis Colts, running the read-option sounds like a fantastic way to get the face of their franchise hurt.

Still, it appears that new Indianapolis offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has just that in mind, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk reports that the Colts are planning to mix things up offensively in 2013.

“We’ll do a great job of mixing in some power runs, mixing in the downfield passing game, maybe even mixing in some wildcat plays, mix in some read-option, pistol-type schemes. Just really try and present once again a lot of conflicts for our opponents,” Hamilton said, in comments distributed by the Colts’ PR staff.

I'm all for keeping defenses guessing. That's part and parcel of being a good offensive coordinator. With that said though, at some point, trying to jam a square peg into a round hole is going to get you in trouble.

That's what the Colts would be doing with the read-option.

This isn't to say that Andrew Luck isn't a mobile quarterback In fact, the 23-year-old is actually quite a bit more agile than he's often given credit for, having rushed for 255 yards and five touchdowns as a rookie.

However, Luck just doesn't possess the speed that a Kaepernick or Griffin does. According to Chris Chase of Yahoo! Sports Luck ran a 4.69 second 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.

Respectable? Sure. But not fast enough to get around the edge or outrun linebackers on read-option keepers.

Then there's the not insignificant matter of the punishment that read-option quarterbacks take.

Washington's Griffin was forced from three games with injuries last year and saw his season ended by a torn ACL. Granted, those injuries can't be "blamed" on the read option necessarily, but there's no denying that quarterbacks who run the read-option take more hits because of it. It's just the nature of the offense.

Luck was sacked 41 times last year. He's taking plenty of whacks already without adding to the pile.

In fact, it's upgrading the offensive line that allowed those sacks that should be the team's top priority this season. To Hamilton's credit, he apparently realizes that's an essential part of the Colts improving on last year's surprising 11-5 campaign.

“You start upfront with the offensive line,” Hamilton said. “We’ll continue to work and develop that continuity. I mean that’s where it all starts. I think it’s important that we have balance in our offense. We’re not just a one-dimensional football team. We want to create conflicts for our opponents. We want to have the ability to not only push the ball downfield and hit the big play in the passing game but we’ve got to be able to run the football.”

Hamilton will get no argument here that the Colts need to run the ball more effectively in 2013. The Colts were 22nd in the NFL in that regard in 2012, averaging just over 104 yards a game. Vick Ballard, who will likely enter 2013 as the starter at tailback, averaged less than four yards a pop.

It all still comes back to that offensive line though. Improve the line and Ballard (or another back should the Colts decide to upgrade at the position) has bigger lanes to rumble through.

That leads to Luck being put into fewer 3rd-and-long situations, as well as having more time to throw when he is, which will cut down on his interceptions.

That's what the Colts should be focused on right now. Not the Wildcat, or the read-option or the pistol.

Indianapolis went 11-5 in 2012. There's no need to change their offensive identity.

The read-option works in San Francisco because Colin Kaepernick is an incredibly athletic quarterback with extensive experience in the formation, playing behind the best offensive line in the NFL.

Andrew Luck is an agile dropback passer playing behind an average offensive line (at best), who has played in a "pro-style" offense his entire career.

Fix what's broken, but don't try to fix what isn't.

Otherwise, you may end up with a broken quarterback.


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