The RPO Revolution and How it Put Andy Reid in the Super Bowl

The hot topic in the NFL for the past few years has been the prevalence of the RPO, or run/pass option. The play has experienced exponential growth in popularity around the league for the past couple of years. It can work to a team’s benefit especially those with a mobile quarterback.

What is an RPO?

The RPO is simple. The play begins with a quarterback needing to make one decision, run the ball or pass it. Because this question isn’t answered when the play starts, the quarterback can react to the defense in real-time.

Today, there are many different variations of the RPO. Some give the quarterback the option of handing the ball off to the running back or throwing a short pass. Others have the quarterback running it one way himself or throwing a pass. Most of the time these decisions are made due to one defender’s movements. If a linebacker drops back into coverage, the quarterback will choose the run play. If a linebacker blitzes, the quarterback hits a receiver on a slant route. The possibilities are endless.

Who Ran the RPO the Most in 2018?

Over the course of the 2018 season, the 3 teams that ran the RPO the most were the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, and Philadelphia Eagles. All 3 of these teams made the playoffs and saw success with young quarterbacks.

The RPO helped Patrick Mahomes find success and win MVP. It also helped Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky lead a quality season. And both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles saw better production with the RPO as a part of their offense.

What else do those three teams have in common? All have coaches that come from the Andy Reid coaching tree or, in the Chiefs’ case, is Andy Reid. Bears coach Matt Nagy and Eagles coach Doug Pederson both acted as assistants under Reid and clearly adopted some of his tendencies.

Andy Reid has been the poster child for RPOs over the past couple of years. That’s because he has the perfect quarterback for it. Mahomes is a quarterback that is mobile. He can extend plays with his legs as well as throw on the run and he’s always looking downfield. Mobility is essential to the RPO because it adds an extra threat for the defense to worry about.

The RPO’s Success in 2019

In 2019, there were five teams that ran the RPO more often than the Chiefs and all of them saw a relative level of success on offense. Three of the five made the playoffs: the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, and Philadelphia Eagles. The Arizona Cardinals averaged 6.2 yards per RPO play with young quarterback Kyler Murray.

The only team that wasn’t as successful in the record column despite an offense with a lot of RPOs was the Cleveland Browns. This is significantly more RPOs in the NFL than the season before. The way the game is played is constantly evolving and the RPO is no different and it’s in large part thanks to Reid and the Chiefs.

Closing Thoughts

For years, Andy Reid has been the pioneer of an RPO offense and other teams have followed suit and found similar results. And this weekend, he will have the opportunity to add a Lombardi Trophy to his resume using the very type of offense his team helped to popularize.

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