Let’s Talk X’s & O’s: Run Pass Option

How the Run Pass Option (RPO) puts defenders on the horns of a dilemma!

The last of the four courses I recorded at the Arizona Cardinal’s Training Center for USA Football is entitled Run Pass Option (RPO).  We begin by recognizing that football is a cyclical game.  The “new” shoulder tackling we are now teaching is the same technique players used while wearing leather helmets.  The “new” RPO is the old option football.  The basis of the offense is to put a defending player in conflict. The conflict is ideally a confounding choice where either decision creates a  defensive vulnerability, and in a perfect world the defender’s dilemma results in confusion and indecision leaving your quarterback to decide between the best of 2 good alternatives.


The RPO is also not a new concept.  Teams have been giving the quarterback a Run or Pass Option in a pre-snap read at the line of scrimmage for more than 25 years with the Run or Bubble Screen Option.  Today’s RPO has evolved into a Post-Snap option and incorporates a downfield pass.  Both “old” and “new” lead to a number of concerns we address for the longevity of RPOs in football.

The Old RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 1

RPO Concerns:

  1. QB Post-Snap option read is expensive
  2. Illegal man downfield can almost always be called
  3. To avoid illegal man downfield or to allow for protection, the run blocking scheme must be altered
  4. If not altered, it is not a good pass protection screen, especially against the blitz
  5. Man coverage does not allow for a conflict player. You cannot throw and there is an unblocked player in the box

Today’s RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 2

The suggestion of using a Pin & Pull scheme to one side with the pass option to the other side is a recommendation to answer he aforementioned concerns:

Solving the Concerns:

  1. The Pin & Pull exchange is a lateral shuffle that allows for more time to read
  2. The pullers will not cross the line of scrimmage before 2 seconds.
  3. The scheme does not need to be altered for protection or illegal man downfield
  4. It is not a good pass protection scheme but it is better due to the change of launch point with the lateral shuffle exchange.
  5. Man coverage does not effect since it is an outside run away from the Pass side.

Pin & Pull RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 3

A next step in the evolution of RPOs is suggested with a QB Pin & Pull to the same side as the pass option with the similar solutions to the concerns:

The Next Step:

  1. Allowing the QB to be on the run provides ample time to decide to run or pass
  2. Ball is thrown long before pullers go downfield
  3. No change of scheme
  4. Great pass protection as it works as a Sprint Out protection.
  5. Man coverage is not an issue as it only makes the read easier to keep and the extra player is accounted for by pullers and the Running Back.

QB Pin & Pull RPO

2017-08-09 RPO 4

We conclude with offering another option…SPO or Screen Pass Option.  It is the philosophically the same but the conflict player is in a coverage conflict with a pass on one side or a RB screen on the other.

Screen Pass Option (SPO)

2017-08-09 RPO 5

I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing a little more about my trip to Arizona and the chance to help other coaches through USA Football’s Coaches Academy. Summer OTAs continue and while August summer days are hot, the cool nights here in Vermont remind us the Fall football season is only short few weeks away. I hope many of the topics we’ve covered since last January have been helpful and i look forward to continuing the conversation through the Fall. Best wishes to you and yours in the upcoming season!

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss summer OTAs, coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for your time!

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