Mackinations: Identifying Anthony Brown’s decision-making shortcomings


The last two RPO reads are the worst of the game. Both happen in the first half, one of which has already sprouted its infamous legend on a place called Twitter.com.

Going out of chronological order for a second, I'm starting with the no-pitch, fourth-down call on the goal line. There has been skepticism that this play was an RPO, but in rewatching the game, it clearly was a designed option look.

Mackinations: Identifying Anthony Brown’s decision-making shortcomings

In this screenshot, the ball has just been snapped. Jones, from right guard, begins his pull to the right side of the field to take on a lead defensive end. Brown can pitch to Verdell out of the backfield now or sell the fake even more. He chooses neither.

Mackinations: Identifying Anthony Brown’s decision-making shortcomings

Jones completes his pull, leaving an island with Verdell and a cornerback in a race to the endzone. Verdell is an overwhelming supporter of collisions, so I feel confident in his ability to get a touchdown. Brown's money is on himself. As a viewer, you can tell that Oregon's offensive line is not getting a push up the middle, as both Bass and center Ryan Walk are standing nearly straight up. Brown moves forward, hoping to find a seam and score to cut the Stanford lead to three at the half.

Mackinations: Identifying Anthony Brown’s decision-making shortcomings

He's stood up. The drive falters at the goal line, and Stanford takes over at the one-yard line. Yet, there's Verdell, with a pulling guard and one man to beat to score. Another costly mistake.

Finally, the most egregious RPO mistake happened on a play that few may recognize as an RPO.

Mackinations: Identifying Anthony Brown’s decision-making shortcomings

Running out of a shotgun, Moliki Matavao is late on a block assignment. Again, Brown's responsibility on an RPO is to make the decision based on a defender. The play features three options. A run up the middle, a QB keeper, or a pass. Behold, the Run Pass Option (RPO) in all its mystical glory. So, Stanford has a surging linebacker going right up the middle to tackle Verdell, which takes away the run option. Well, in theory, that should happen.

Mackinations: Identifying Anthony Brown’s decision-making shortcomings

Instead, Verdell becomes the sacrificial lamb and takes the brute of a five-yard loss. Brown remains behind the hit, as the linebacker didn't stop to think of Brown potentially keeping the ball.

At the top of the screen, Johnson is still running his route, not blocking, a clear indicator of the "option" part of RPO.

Mackinations: Identifying Anthony Brown’s decision-making shortcomings

If Brown elects to keep the ball, he has Johnson wide open for a first down gain, on first down. Instead, the Ducks lose five yards.

The reason for me as to why this was the worst read of the first half is simple. This type of play is precisely the reason the RPO has success when run correctly. Because of Brown's inability to run the system correctly, Oregon loses yards when they should have moved the chains and continued their drive.

There is no more perfect example of the evident lack of execution from the quarterback in Oregon's offensive play-calling scheme. If the Ducks could run these plays correctly, the playbook opens up, the defenses remain off-balanced, and the Ducks can easily move down the field. Instead, Oregon must remain two-dimensional. A designed run, or a designed pass.

Now, about those designed passes...