On a per-play basis, options were very successful. The average NFL rushing play gains 4.3 yards. Option plays fare 38 percent better than typical rushes. In fact, rushing averages are at their highest point in decades and up about one-tenth of a yard in the last two seasons. There are multiple factors causing that, but the rise of the option is one of them.
Team Yards Per Play Redskins 5.77 Panthers 6.21 Seahawks 7.04 49ers 6.12
The Panthers were the most successful on a yards-per-play basis, and ran nearly as many option plays. The Panthers have been running options for two years, and opponents were very wary of their option package after the team averaged more than 25 points per game in 2011, so the evidence that defenses can quickly adjust to stamp out the option is not very strong.
Last week I discussed my trepidation over the Panthers supposedly de-emphasizing the read option. Understandably, this has Cam Newton owners worried, but as you can see from Mike Tanier and Football Outsider’s superb work, the Panthers were one of the most successful teams in the league running the read option. Add this to the list of reasons why Carolina will not run fewer read-option plays and ultimately why it’s best to not overreact to offseason coach-speak.