How Have NFL Teams Called Plays Over the Last 15 Years?
Sometimes teams pass because they want to. That's what the Saints have done with Drew Brees under center, and what the Lions, with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, loved to do with Matthew Stafford.
Sometimes teams pass because they have to. In 2013, despite having one of the worst starting quarterback situations in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns threw more passes than any other team in the league.
Scheme, personnel and game flow all dictate how certain teams will call plays. And this often gives teams a certain reputation. The Colts have seemed to always air it out, while the Ravens and Steelers play ground-and-pound, smash-mouth football. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick's Patriots are typically all about balance.
But how true are these perceptions? Do the Steelers really run the ball a lot? Are the Saints one of the pass-happiest teams of this era? Is part of Cleveland's 15-year problem due to play-calling?
To answer, I looked at the number of passing plays (drop backs) and rushes each team has run since the turn of the century. The results really aren't all that surprising.
|St. Louis Rams||9160||6030||1.52|
|New Orleans Saints||9403||6327||1.49|
|Green Bay Packers||8921||6440||1.39|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8538||6249||1.37|
|New York Giants||8690||6684||1.30|
|New England Patriots||8951||6980||1.28|
|San Diego Chargers||8340||6695||1.25|
|Kansas City Chiefs||8323||6862||1.21|
|San Francisco 49ers||8014||6675||1.20|
|New York Jets||7991||7018||1.14|
Generally speaking, a lot of the reputations that teams have are justified. The Steelers have run the ball at a higher rate than any other team over the last 15 years, with the Jets and Ravens close by. Two of the top-three teams in pass-to-run ratio had gunslinger Kurt Warner at one point, while the other, Detroit, helped change the NFL landscape into a passing machine.
Perhaps the biggest surprises you'll find above surrounds Cleveland and Oakland. Despite having the second- and third-worst passing offenses over the last 15 years, the Browns and Raiders have been top 10 in the league in pass-to-run ratio. Much of this, I'm sure, can be credited to trailing in games. Like, all the time.
Do you see any surprises? Let us know in the comments section below.