In American football, on read-option plays, how does the RB know when to fully grasp the ball and when not to because the QB "pulls" the ball?

Commentators praise the QB on plays where he sticks the ball in the belly of the RB, only to pull the ball at the very last second and keeps it for a huge gain. In slow motion, it really looks like the ball is in the stomach of the RB with the RB's hands almost around the ball when the QB pulls it.

They have also blamed the QB/RB when there's a fumble because of miscommunication due to:

  1. the QB deciding to handoff the ball but the RB doesn't grasp the ball and it gets fumbled away or
  2. the QB tries to pull the ball but the RB has already fully grasped the ball and the ball gets knocked/pulled out by the QB and is fumbled.

I know teams who run a read-option offense probably practice these plays a lot so they "know", but as a layman, I'd like to know how the RB "knows" what the QB is going to do. Does the QB bark some code word before handing/keeping the ball or they both "know" because they both read the DE and know what the other is going to do and the fumbles are just unfortunate mistakes?



Unlike most running plays, he does not immediately grab the ball; he keeps his arms open, ready to have the ball taken away.

The quarterback will pull the ball while the running back has his arms open. If the quarterback realizes he does not want to pull the ball, he will let go. If he lets go, the ball will fall into the running back's hands, and the running back will secure the ball. If it gets very late and the quarterback (who is responsible for "reading" the defense) has not made a decision, fumbles are more likely to occur. When a quarterback pulls the ball very late, it is usually because he has not read the defense quickly and not by design.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.