PHOENIX — Super Bowl LVII has been a long time coming for Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
As the Chiefs prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles, the most recent head-to-head matchup between the two teams was in October 2021 when the Chiefs beat the Eagles 42-30 on the road.
Most of the core pieces for both teams returned, including the Eagles’ read option and run-pass option based offense.
The read option and RPO concepts were popularized in the early 2010s of college football and entered NFL playbooks near the end of the decade.
Spagnuolo saw how the offensive concept was going to make its way to the NFL before it happened and sought out the help of college coaches like then-Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.
“I was just trying to do research because I knew this kind of football was coming, and you wanted to be ahead of it. And now I think NFL coaches defensively are figuring out ways to at least slow it down,” Spagnuolo said Thursday.
“There’s a reason why in college they put up the numbers they do.”
Read options involve the quarterback reading the defensive end to determine whether he gives the ball to the running back or keeps it himself and runs the ball.
Run pass option involves the quarterback reading a linebacker to determine whether he gives to the running back or throws the ball. The QB also has the option to run the ball as well.
While some of the concepts were executed in the teams’ prior meeting, the Eagles’ offense is heavily based on them this season and has contributed to quarterback Jalen Hurts’ rising stardom.
Spagnuolo said Philly’s offense features more plays that have linemen pulling from their position to make a block elsewhere in the play.
“I think that makes it challenging because you get a little bit too aggressive and they pull and kick out,” he said. “There’s a big seam there if you don’t have anybody to step up and replace them.”
“I think those look a little bit unique to me in some ways. I mean we’ve seen them along the way, but I think Philadelphia uses them quite a bit.”
When the Chiefs and Eagles faced off in 2021, both teams totaled 450+ yards but the Eagles only ran for 103 yards.
Their average of 147 rushing yards per game in 2022 shows they might surpass that mark in the Super Bowl — or at least try to.
But the Chiefs’ 63-year-old defensive coordinator sounds like he’s done the research to establish a proper game plan. He just need his players to execute.
And he’ll be ready for whatever the next phase of football offensive philosophy shifts to.
“I mean, things go in cycles, right?” Spagnuolo said. “So I guess if we research deep enough, we probably find out that they were doing it back in the ’40s or something, you know what I mean? But it puts a lot of stress on the defense that’s for sure.”