Okay - read through all the threads on the Pistol. There is confusion in the Forum.
1. Pistol = FORMATION -- The primary benefits of the formation are
a.) the run game can be highly varied from this formation,
b.) the tightness of the formation makes the run action very quick hitting, and
c.) motioning a player out of this formation (like any other motion) allows you to get a read on the defensive scheme for that play.
But it still leaves 2 players in the backfield with a huge amount of running play variation possible. Secondly, the motion man becomes a receiver (or edge blocker) like the slot receiver with a free release at the snap of the ball. The ideal motion man is a run/receiver threat - LMJ, Walker, maybe VD next year.
2. Read Option = A PLAY -- It's a simple isolation run with optionality of hand-off to the RB or keeper by the QB on the isolation target - typically the DE. This is the part that is questionable for long-term viability in the NFL. REGARDLESS, if you have a running capable QB, the very motion of the option freezes the DE and helps the RB.
The Pistol is a good formation for PLAY-ACTION PASSING because of the multiple run fakes possible, and the fact that you naturally have some protection in the backfield after the fake. BUT, it leaves fewer receivers for the perimeter. Also, the run fake transitions easily to a pocket.
The Read-Option is not so great for PLAY-ACTION PASSING because the QB has to sell the QB threat by bringing his eyes down to the DE to freeze him. This means the pass play has to be relatively simple and almost ALWAYS to the side of the read option play is going.
Almost all Play-Action has the QB take his eyes off the secondary momentarily and then coming back to a specific pass as the first read that the run fake should have helped open up. But the read option requires a longer time with eyes off the coverage.
The DEFENSIVE KEYS are different for the Pistol and Read Option from typical Pro-Style offenses. That is what makes them so problematic for a defense. They have to change their keys and instincts when facing the new style of offense. BUT, a well schooled defense obviously can defeat both.
NFL Read Option -- To me, the Pistol is just an interesting formation that can create some good plays. The bigger question is the read option's viability. To me, the Read-Option is diffent in the NFL than the typical college game. In college, the typical read-option QB is NOT a huge threat to throw the ball. By selecting only the best college players to run it at the NFL level, you really have a dual threat QB that can actually kill you with his arm - RGIII, Cam, and Kap. Other NFL QBs can run the read option just fine and pick up run yards, but lack the elite speed to make it such an outsized threat - eg Tebow, Rodgers, even Alex Smith.
IMHO, the key for the long-term viability of the read option in the NFL is to incorporate a passing threat into the QB's options after he keeps the ball.
1. A key way for the defense to kill the read option is to have the corner and safety react down to the running play to shut off the QB's run lane if he gets outside the DE.
2. But a pass threat means if the CB and/or safety over committ, then they get gouged by a pass play.
So at the NFL level, I think the read option will survive only if it becomes a triple threat - which is possible with Kap and a select few others.
The issue of QB durability and back-up QB's is a separate issue all together.