The date is still unknown, but a Round 2 showdown with the 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick awaits the Green Bay Packers next season. As if that meeting won’t produce enough read-option offense for Green Bay’s coaching staff to think about, the Packers will also have to deal with Robert Griffin III, assuming the Washington Redskins’ star quarterback is recovered in time from offseason knee surgery.
After surrendering 181 rushing yards to Kaepernick during a demoralizing postseason exit in mid-January, Green Bay needed a new perspective on how to stop the NFL’s latest successful offensive movement.
With that in mind, coach Mike McCarthy recently sent his defensive coaching staff back to college. During the Scouting Combine, McCarthy revealed that the Packers were learning how to better defend read-option offenses from Texas A&M’s staff.
“Definitely, there’s a lot of conversation about the read option – rightfully so,” McCarthy said in Indianapolis. “(Allowing) 579 (total yards to San Francisco), that’s a number that will stick in our focus as a defense throughout the offseason.
“We’re studying the read option, the teams that are doing it in the NFL. We’re even going to the college ranks. We’ll have a couple college coaches come in, spend some time with our staff. Actually, our defensive staff is going to take a trip to Texas A&M; (head coach) Kevin Sumlin is someone I have great respect for, and with his ability to share from both the offensive side and the defensive side his experience in the read option.
“It’s something from an education, preparation standpoint that we will grow as a staff and be better prepared for in the future.”
McCarthy got to know Sumlin through Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. Sumlin and Slocum coached together at Texas A&M in 2001.
“Just the fact what (Texas A&M) has done on offense and the ability to face it on defense all the time in the SEC,” McCarthy said. “We thought this would be a great opportunity. We’ve very thankful for him to bring our staff in.”
When McCarthy first made these comments, it raised some questions about whether — despite his connection to Sumlin — it made sense for Green Bay to learn more about read-option from Texas A&M.
One national analyst suggested that teams in the SEC (Texas A&M’s conference) don’t see as much read-option offense as teams in the Pac-12 or Big 12. It was noted that Sumlin, who’s only been Texas A&M’s coach for one season, didn’t use much read-option in his offense until very late in the 2012 season. Also mentioned was that, though Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel ran for 1,410 yards as a freshman, he was primarily a scrambler and not a read-option player like Kaepernick or Carolina’s Cam Newton. And Sumlin, who coached from 2008-11 at Houston, is known for running a pass-happy “Air-Raid” offense, not a read-option.
If Sumlin — a pass-first type of offensive coach — let his defensive coaches handle more of the read-option training for the Packers’ staff, it’s not as though Texas A&M’s defense faced it very often recently, either. Missouri, Ole Miss and to a lesser extent Mississippi State were the only SEC teams to use much read-type offense.
Regardless, McCarthy and his coaching staff are clearly committed to learn more about how to stop Kaepernick and Griffin next season.
“It’s about getting better, it’s about improvement, and we need to do a better job stopping the read-option,” McCarthy said. “That’s definitely something we’re focused on.”