The read-option overreaction

System used far less -- 1.4 percent of offensive snaps -- than hype suggests

Updated: September 7, 2013, 7:39 PM ET
By Mike Sando | ESPN Insider

An offseason spent fixating over the zone-read option led the Green Bay Packers to a blunt conclusion. To deter the San Francisco 49ers from revisiting the tactics quarterback Colin Kaepernick had used to embarrass them in the playoffs last season, they would have to hit him. They would have to hit him even after Kaepernick had handed off or pitched to a teammate.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews affirmed the plan publicly, leading 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to protest in stark language. Next came a video from the NFL backing the Packers' interpretation of the rules, followed by more protestations from Harbaugh, who used the phrasing "flawed and a bit biased" to describe the rules interpretation. All this for a tactic NFL teams used on 1.4 percent of offensive snaps last season. That's right, the zone-read plays taking the league by storm did not happen 98.6 percent of the time. Counting playoffs, the 49ers had more penalties for offensive holding (26) than Kaepernick had rushing attempts on zone-read plays (21). League-wide, these plays accounted for 1.7 percent of yards and 1.8 percent of touchdowns, counting playoffs.