How Have NFL Teams Called Plays Over the Last 15 Years?

The Steelers have a reputation for pounding the rock, but is it warranted?

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.

TeamPassesRunsPass-to-Run Ratio
Detroit Lions944257241.65
Arizona Cardinals916057941.58
St. Louis Rams916060301.52
New Orleans Saints940363271.49
Indianapolis Colts905163081.43
Philadelphia Eagles902563541.42
Green Bay Packers892164401.39
Tampa Bay Buccaneers853862491.37
Cleveland Browns830461611.35
Oakland Raiders855263771.34
New York Giants869066841.30
Chicago Bears838864531.30
New England Patriots895169801.28
Buffalo Bills825965141.27
Dallas Cowboys839466251.27
Cincinnati Bengals857367961.26
Miami Dolphins838566561.26
Minnesota Vikings836766641.26
Washington Redskins847767721.25
Atlanta Falcons840967501.25
San Diego Chargers834066951.25
Jacksonville Jaguars834767361.24
Kansas City Chiefs832368621.21
San Francisco 49ers801466751.20
Denver Broncos855771381.20
Seattle Seahawks819768601.19
Tennessee Titans809868191.19
Carolina Panthers804067841.19
Baltimore Ravens831971491.16
New York Jets799170181.14
Pittsburgh Steelers812372241.12

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.