Head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin pulls no punches when he answers questions he deems to be nonsensical.
Recently, Tomlin was asked about the run-option offense's place in the NFL. He replied swiftly and succinctly. He called it a "flavor of the month" passing fad. He declared his team's interest in bringing it to a quick and decisive end.
While Tomlin's assessment may hold true in the long run, the success of the offense in 2012 is undeniable. The San Francisco 49ers ran it all the way to the Super Bowl. The Washington Redskins found the future of their franchise in Robert Griffin III, and the Seattle Seahawks were suddenly spectacular behind rookie sensation Russell Wilson.
Wilson was asked by the Tacoma News-Tribune about Tomlin's comments. Evidently, Wilson disagrees with Tomlin.
"To be honest with you, people try to take away from the ability that guys have in terms of what Colin Kaepernick and other guys like him can do, for whatever reason, because they're young, or they're different; but I think it brings excitement to the game. It brings a challenge to the defense. It doesn't matter what style of offense, I'm ready to play any time, anywhere, anyplace. I just want to play football. Some people try to take away from our ability to throw the football because we can run, but I think it just adds another dimension to what we do."
To be fair to Wilson's argument, the Seahawks did not rely on the run-option all season; but when they did, they were awfully good at it. However, to be fair to Tomlin's point, Wilson hit the nail on the head.
"It brings a challenge to the defense."
Like many unorthodox or non-traditional systems, success is usually found in early stages due to no precedents on which to base defensive gameplans. Also, teams are currently built to defend the modern NFL offense as it was prior to the run-option explosion of 2012. As more and more teams begin to jump on the systematic bandwagon, more teams will begin building defenses out of athleticism to counteract the offensive advantage. Teams have already began compiling tape on the new looks, and will not find themselves as unprepared as they were last season.
Tomlin undoubtedly believes his team is up to Wilson's challenge. As he said in defense of his flavor comments, "Let's see how committed these guys are to getting their guys hit." As the loss of Redskins Griffin proves, the scheme exposes passers to even more contact.
The read-option offense may have a leg to stand on now, but its lifespan relies on the durability of those legs. An inability to run, creates inability for option. The longevity of the offensive scheme will be defined by the performances of quarterbacks who start running out of options due to swelling injury reports.