Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Read-option: Is it a fad or is it here to stay?

Posted by: Mark Craig under NFC Updated: August 22, 2013 - 7:22 AM

Redskins quarterback Pat White was running Washington's read-option pistol formation offense so well against the Steelers' scrubs late Monday night that ESPN's play-by-play guy, Mike Tirico, and analyst, Jon Gruden, began discussing whether or not the newest offensive trend will become long-lasting or end up next to the 1980s run-and-shoot on the trash heap of NFL copycat fads.

Gruden said he thinks it's here to stay. Others have argued otherwise. At last year's Super Bowl media day, Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome predicted a quick demise for the read-option once the NFL's defensive masterminds have enough time to adjust to it.

On Monday, we asked Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams for his thoughts on the subject. He'll get a peek at the read-option/pistol when the Vikings travel to San Francisco to play the NFC champion 49ers in the third preseason game. The 49ers aren't likely to overdo it with Colin Kaepernick keeping the ball on the read-option, but the Vikings probably will get a glimpse considering the third preseason game is the only one NFL teams take seriously when it comes to their starters.

Here was Williams' take, which is interesting in that he thinks the shelf life for the read-option might not be determined by coaches, but by the big bosses who write the checks. After the pounding and torn ACL that Redskins quarterback/superstar/ticket office bonanza Robert Griffin III absorbed a year ago, Williams might have hit on something.

"I’m not quite sure [how long it will last]," Williams said. "I think the owners will take care of that to see how much they’ll let their quarterbacks get hit and to see if the quarterbacks can sustain a full year of running the ball and being able to pass it. We’ll see."

Meanwhile, watching White try to resurrect his career after being out of the league for three years has been interesting. Monday night, the Steelers' second- and third-stringers had no idea what to do with the read-option. White, who's trying to beat out Rex Grossman for the Redskins' third quarterback spot (and was helped when No. 2 guy Kirk Cousins hurt his foot), ran four times for 24 easy yards. This came a week after he helped beat the Titans with a rushing touchdown and a two-point conversion pass.

An outsider has to wonder how much time it would take to implement some basic form of the pistol formation read-option. If it's doable, one then wonders if perhaps the Vikings' Joe Webb-to-receiver experiment would look better if it included a pinch or two of the read-option sprinkled in.

The Vikings would never show anything like that in the preseason. Of course, if Webb truly is being evaluated strictly on his receiver skills, he still has to scrap to make the team first.

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