The Run Pass Option (RPO)

Offence has always been about deceptive simplicity. The key is making things simple enough for your players to understand and run whilst keeping a defence off balance. It’s difficult as an offence that is too simple will get analysed, dissected and closed down by a capable defence but a team that tries to do too much will master nothing, especially in Britball where practice attendance can be sporadic. Packaged plays or RPO’s solve this by combining simple plays that on the face of it any team can run in such a way that provided the quarterback makes the right decision means the offence has the advantage as a defender cannot be in two places at once.

If you have never heard of packaged plays or RPO’s firstly where have you been? they have swept college football for years and years and most NFL’s run some version of them now, secondly you need to consider experimenting with them in a basic package because done right they can seriously add to a defences problems. RPO’s at their core combine run and pass concepts on the same play. So while your line may block for a run the receivers will run pass routes or screens and it’s up to the quarterback to either hand the ball off or throw it to a receiver. This decision can be made as a pre snap read for the run or pass and after the snap for which of the run or pass options he will go with.


So let’s examine an example of a run pass option play

So in this play there are two run options and two pass options. First option number one is to throw the 5 yard hitch pass, second option is the inside zone handoff which is what the offensive line will block, third option is for the quarterback to read the backside end and keep the ball on a zone read and the fourth option is to throw the wide receiver screen.

The quarterback’s first job is to count the defenders in the box to determine if the defence has enough numbers to stop the run, if not then he will run the inside zone read and the read the backside defensive end post snap to determine if he will handoff the ball to the running back or take it upfield himself. If the defence has enough numbers to cover the run in the box then the quarterback will throw either the hitch route or the screen pass. It should be noted however that it is essential that the quarterback gets that ball away quickly if he’s passing as the offensive line can be only 3 yards downfield before a penalty will be called. That’s a far bit of leeway for the line to block the run and it’s the same in NCAA which is where RPO’s have really taken off however in the NFL its only one yard so it’s more difficult to execute these plays.



When designing your own RPO’s focus on a particular defensive player in a lot of cases that’s probably going to be a linebacker and take advantage of his dual responsibility to stop the run and a pass.. from there design a play that will make that player wrong. Force him to play either the run or the pass and when he does the quarterback if he makes the correct decision will deliver the ball to the opposite of what the linebacker plays and there you have your yards. See an example of the stick-draw concept below that does just that by focusing on a linebacker.

The RPO concept can help to simplify a playbook no end as instead of having 40 different plays you can now have 10 RPO’s that cover all those concepts. This allows RPO’s to be combined with another trend in football and can cause defences all kinds of problems and that is the up tempo no huddle offence. The advantages of RPO’s in the no huddle are readily apparent and will only help to keep defences off balance. I remember Chip Kelly’s Oregon team that took an average of 18 seconds between snaps thanks to this system, they gave defences no break at all to get set and were an offensive juggernaut as a result.

In Britball the key is to drill the quarterback well enough to make the correct reads pre and after the snap and to get the ball away quick enough so you don’t get a penalty for having an offensive lineman illegally downfield. The zone run game actually helps you out here as the double team blocks will keep the offensive line from progressing to the second level straight away and being too far down field.

Do you run RPO’s? Please leave a comment telling us what RPO’s you run and how you drill your QB’s to make the reads …as ever any questions please leave a comment below.

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