The theory? The geniuses devising NFL defenses have “figured out” the read-option attack, so it’s pretty much dead. It was a passing fad to begin with, we’re told, and now it’s truly passed.
Don’t get me wrong: There’s plenty of evidence to support the theory, and the most compelling bit is right in our backyard. The most devastating weapon in the 49ers’ 2012 arsenal has shot blanks for much of 2013 and appears to have been holstered.
“Holstered,” however, doesn’t mean ditched altogether. And the read-option shouldn’t be, and is not being, ditched. Altogether or otherwise.
It’s called sports, people. What’s new is old. What’s old is new. Adjust, adjust, adjust. That’s the game. EVERY game.
This is sports — the game — too: If something works, wear it out until it doesn’t work. Dirty back-door slider, step-back jumper off a hard dribble from the elbow to the block, read-option, Wildcat, whatever. If there’s gold in them thar hills, mine that bad boy till it’s bare.
Or, in the specific case of the 49ers’ offense, till defenses make an adjustment. And again, that’s part of sports. That’s the great fun of it, really. It’s what keeps things fresh, and just as important, it’s what separates the good or merely creative and the truly great.
The good or merely creative devise a scheme, develop a move, perfect a pitch and absolutely crush the competition with it for a while. That’s what Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers did when they realized what Colin Kaepernick’s unique skill set could help them accomplish.
The true test of greatness, in any sport, comes after the aforementioned adjustment. After the nonverbal, “Holy crap. They figured it out. Now what?” Make a counter-adjustment, and away you go. If it works, you’ve got a shot at greatness. If it doesn’t, you’re Dexys Midnight Runners and “Come On, Eileen.”
And guess what? If the counter-adjustment works, and you can counter the adjustment that will surely follow that, and succeed throughout those never-ending cycles, in time you’ll probably be able to go back to them thar hills, and presto! There will be more gold.
The read-option isn’t dead. It’s taking a nap. It’ll be back sooner than you think.
BILLY BALL: A’s GM Billy Beane was just named Executive of the Year in recognition of the masterful rebuild that started with the trading of three young All-Star pitchers after the 2011 season and immediately produced consecutive against-all-odds division titles.
That news dropped Monday, which struck me as a tad ironic in conjunction with Beane’s same-day maneuvering that brought to Oakland an All-Star closer in Jim Johnson and a highly intriguing, once-dynamic starting pitcher in Scott Kazmir.
Why? Because I covered Beane’s A’s on a daily basis for nearly a decade, and it seems to me that moves like Monday’s aren’t really his best suit. Both additions are being generally lauded, but immediate gratification is not what gets Beane off. What gets him off is making moves that people hate, then sitting back with the slightest trace of smugness as the moves pay off way bigger than anyone expected.
Like those 2011 trades. And the moves that prompted his previous Exec of the Year Award, in 2002. That was the “Moneyball” sweet spot, and if memory serves those moves were generally hated, too.
SWEET SIGNING: Oh, and Tim Hudson? God, yes. Sleeper deal of the year by the Giants.
Mychael Urban has covered Bay Area sports for more than 22 years as a contributor to Comcast SportsNet, CSNBayArea.com, KNBR, MLB.com, ESPN The Magazine and various newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @BigUrbSports.