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 Post subject: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:29 am 
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I was listening to some preseason talk last week and someone (Jim Kelly?) was asked about whether they thought there would be any 6000 yard passers in the future, and at first I dismissed it, but then thought about actually how it could be accomplished.

An elite QB could average 8.5 Yds/Att., which for 6000 yards works out to be about 705 attempts. Given the Lions threw 666 times last year, that is not that far off.

Then when I read this article on Advanced NFL Stats, it made me think about how that evolution or elevation of the passing game would have that happen. I'm thinking with 3-5 years, you're going to see a team adopt a very pass-heavy offense, and probably run it similarly to how Chip Kelly runs Oregon's offense. In fact, it'll probably be Chip Kelly being the one bringing that up-tempo spread attack to the NFL.

And I think it can work, and work well enough that it will very quickly become the norm in the league due it being a copycat league and all. So perhaps in 10 years, 75% of the NFL will be running offenses that are now common in college football.





http://www.advancednflstats.com/2012/09 ... d-why.html

Expect Even More Passing Yards, and Why It Matters

Remember the passing explosion to start the NFL season last year? Get ready for even more. 2011 was not a one-year blip but instead was part of an accelerating trend toward more potent and more frequent passing. This isn't statistical trivia either, as this trend has dramatic implications for how the game should be played.

Take a look at Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt (courtesy of PFR), which with just one number incorporates passing efficiency, interceptions, and sacks. Since the dawn of the modern passing era, passing has become steadily more lucrative. But since 2004, the rate of increase in average ANY/A has accelerated. The 2011 season featured the most successful passing game ever.


For context, compare the graph above with the next one. This shows the same trend but for rushing yards per carry. There is a very shallow increasing trend since a trough in the mid 1990s, but it pales in comparison. The jump in net passing last year alone is larger than the increase in rushing over the entire period. (I've kept the scales of both graphs identical for a pure comparison.)


Looking a little deeper at the stats that comprise ANY/A, we see that they all favor more a successful passing game. Simple raw yards per attempt has steadily increased by a half yard over the past decade. (Note the scale is magnified in this graph.)


The risks associated with passing are declining as well. Sack percentage is declining and becoming less variable from season to season.


Interception rate is also steadily declining.


These trends mean that, yes, the trite notions that today's football is a passing game and the NFL is a quarterback's league are undeniably true. It's been that way since the days of Joe Montana. The more important implication is that the game should be played very differently than conventional wisdom traditionally dictates.

First, offenses should be passing much more often than they do. The league's run pass balance should probably be closer to 15% run 85% pass than the 40/60 split it's been in recent years. It's impossible to know the optimum league-wide ratio until teams start pushing toward the true equilibrium, but basic game theory makes it clear we're far away from the optimum. Of course, game situations dictate a bias toward run or pass in specific games, but overall, the baseline rate should be much more pass heavy.

Second, the more and more successful offenses become at moving the ball, the less important field position becomes and the more important possession becomes. When teams punt, they are making a trade-off. They are purchasing field possession at the cost of some probability of possession. The easier offenses can advance down field, the less important field position becomes and the more valuable possession becomes. Turnovers of any kind become more costly. Sacks become less damaging because it's easier to make up the ground lost. Going for it on 4th down and occasional onside kicks make more sense every year that offense continues to gain a bigger edge.

Teams have yet to truly exploit this shift in the sport. The run pass ratio has barely crept toward more passing over the years. Although the run/pass balance has shifted about two percentage points in the past decade, it's been relatively constant since the mid 1990s. It almost seems like there is a ceiling at 56%.


Run/pass balance should be moving toward passing far faster given the relative strength of each play type.

There are practical considerations that may mitigate a pass-heavy strategy mix. Coaches don't want to expose their high-priced QBs to injury. There are also arm-fatigue and receiver-fatigue considerations. These are real concerns, but they may be exaggerated. Consider our friends from the Great White North who defy these worries. Due in large part to its three-down format, the CFL's run/pass balance in 2011 was 36/64, much more pass-heavy than the NFL, and no one's arm fell off that I'm aware of. Plus, the CFL plays an 18-game schedule, which means more total passes.

There are also strategic arguments for running. Offenses need to run to constrain the defense, keeping linebackers and pass rushers honest, and offenses need to run to set up the play action pass. I have no doubt these arguments are true, but it appears offenses are running far more often than needed to keep defenses on their heels.

published on 9/05/2012 in game theory, research, run-pass balance, strategy
By Brian Burke

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:07 am 
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I don't think that we'll see a repeat of last year's passing onslaught, if week 1 is any indication. In week 1 last year, we saw 14 QB's break 300 yards, four people break 400 yards passing, and one break 500. This year, no one broke 400 yards, and only 9 QBs broke 300. That's more in line with previous years.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:02 pm 
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Hat tip to dwmyers and his blog Code and Football, for linking to this article that I missed at Grantland (another site that don't read as frequently as I should). But it just another example of the fact that I think the way the college game is being played today, is going to be the way the NFL game is played within the next decade.

And IMHO, the team that is the forerunner of this, basically the innovative that basically says screw the traditional NFL offense (particularly in regards to the running game) is going to have a couple of Lombardi Trophies on their shelf by the time the rest of the league catches up.



http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/828 ... ay-calling



Brett Deering/Getty Images
The Total Package
How modern offenses are rethinking the most fundamental elements of football "plays"
By Chris Brown on August 21, 2012

PRINT

During the first quarter of last season's Week 16 game against the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers faced a second down with seven yards to go. The Packers were lined up in the shotgun, with two receivers and a tight end to the left, and a single receiver to Rodgers's right. Rodgers took the snap and immediately looked to his left and set his feet to throw that way. After staring down the oncoming Bears defenders, he quickly turned back to his right and floated a screen pass to running back Ryan Grant. Following an envoy of blockers, Grant burst up the field before finally being tackled after a 32-yard gain. A few plays later, Rodgers threw a short touchdown pass to Jermichael Finley, and Green Bay's 35-21 victory was in the works.

Initially, the play appeared to be nothing more than a simple screen pass. Look a bit further, though, and it's much more. That little toss to Ryan Grant was nothing less than a portent of the complete upheaval in thinking about modern play calling, and to understand why, we will start with a video game.

And not just any video game. Still the greatest football video game of all time, Tecmo Bowl had an extremely basic but intuitive play-calling system. Each team had four plays to choose from on offense — usually two passes and two runs. There were also four choices on defense, but rather than choosing from the set of sophisticated coverages, blitzes, and fronts available in today's games, players chose what play they thought the offense would run. If the guess was correct, the offense's failure was preordained; the quarterback would be sacked or the runner tackled for no gain. If wrong, two of the options might only go for a moderate gain, but the third meant catastrophe for the defense.

Admittedly or not, most fans think of real-world play calling as a slightly more complicated version of this "Tecmo Bowl model." The offense's job is to "keep the defense guessing," and the defense must "guess right" to make a stop. On some level, even with their lengthy play sheets and reams of data, professional coordinators are engaged in a version of this same psychological battle, employing little more than educated guesses about the opponent's tactics. Until recently, even the best, from Bill Walsh to Bill Belichick, have been playing what amounts to a complex game of Tecmo Bowl, improved only by the marginal differences coming in the form of various checks or audibles by the quarterbacks.

That seemingly straightforward screen pass to Ryan Grant suggests that now things are no longer so simple. There's a new game, and it takes those time-tested plays and blends them into something new. It blends them so seamlessly that it threatens to upend the very idea of "run" and "pass." These are the "packaged plays," and because of them real football is ahead of the video games — both old and new. The answer to "What play was that?" is no longer so simple, because it's increasingly "All of them."

Last season, Oklahoma State's offense dominated nearly every defense on its schedule. Brandon Weeden & Co. averaged more than 48 points and 549 yards per game and finished third in the nation in yards per play. The Cowboys finished 12-1 — their best finish in school history — and closed the season with a shoot-out win over an Andrew Luck–led Stanford team in the Fiesta Bowl. The marquee players on offense were future first-round picks — Weeden would go to the Browns and receiver Justin Blackmon to the Jaguars — and each put up video-game-type numbers. Even with that duo, the Cowboys weren't merely an air-it-out team. They averaged more than 160 rushing yards per game, and in last fall's Bedlam game against Oklahoma, the Cowboys ran for 278 yards and four touchdowns en route to crushing their rivals, 44-10. At times, it seemed Oklahoma State could merely decide, at their whim, whether or not they would throw or run, regardless of the defense's response.

Yet head coach Mike Gundy's actual strategy was the complete inverse. It was the defense, and not the offense, that dictated where the ball went. Using a no-huddle approach, Oklahoma State often called the same, simple play repeatedly as they marched up and down the field, with Weeden as point guard for their dynamic attack. The basis was simple: "It's all runs or throws on the perimeter, all built into one," explained Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator, Todd Monken. "[Against Texas] A&M, we ended up with a lot of throws on the perimeter that were built-in runs, so that [Weeden] gets all the stats, but they're really just part of your run package."

Oklahoma State's favorite "run package" was to combine an inside running play, like the inside zone, with both a quick receiver screen to one side and an individual route to a singled-up Justin Blackmon. It made for a kind of three-on-one fast break adapted to football.
Playcalling
Courtesy of Chris Brown

Combining a receiver screen with a running play is not new, but it remains an important method to ensure that individual defenders play honest. If a linebacker or nickelback cheats in to stop a run, the quick screen to the outside equals free yards while punishing the defender for playing out of position. Once he is back in position to defend the screen, the running play has a better chance of success.

What made Oklahoma State's version of this system truly deadly was not only that Weeden could decide whether to run or throw, but where he could throw. Depending on how the defense played Blackmon, Weeden flashed him a signal to run a fade up the sideline or a quick slant underneath, putting pressure on an entirely different set of defenders. And it was up to Weeden — and the defense — to decide where the ball would go.

As Monken observed following Oklahoma State's 59-24 blowout of Baylor, "Two of the fade throws to [Justin Blackmon] were run plays." Other than Weeden and Blackmon, everyone on the offense — including the offensive line — went about the play as if it were a run. At their customary warp speed, Oklahoma State could move the ball at will using only this one packaged play again and again.1

It's understandable that most fans (and even many coaches) think of football plays in terms of the strict run-pass dichotomy of the Tecmo Bowl model. Fantasy football is founded on the difference between passes and rushes, and even recent scholarly articles about football are built upon the distinction. And, at least on some level, the idea of "packaging" multiple options for the quarterback based on the movements of defenders is not entirely new. But the trend of combining entirely different categories of plays — runs and passes, screens and passes, runs and screens — is new, and these ideas are at the forefront of thinking about football. The challenge is undoing what we think a football play is without entirely disregarding fundamental, classic football thinking.

"The basic premise is to make a key defender be in two places at the same time," Keith Grabowski, the cutting-edge offensive coordinator at Baldwin Wallace University, explained to me in a recent conversation. "This is an area of offense where we're only scratching the surface of what's possible."

One of the most interesting packaged concepts — and the play that's helped many begin to rethink the very nature of a "football play" — is known as "stick-draw," which combines a delayed run, or "draw" play, with the "stick" quick-passing concept. Grabowski is among the many who now use this simple little play, but the first coach I saw put it in action was Dana Holgorsen, the current head coach at West Virginia and Monken's predecessor at Oklahoma State. Like all of the best package concepts, nothing about the play is particularly new. It's the elegance of assembly that is important.

The combination of plays is designed to focus on a key defender. In this case, it's a linebacker, who stands as an unchecked threat to stop the draw and the quick inside pass route. One solution is the one Peyton Manning has made famous — calling an audible before the snap based on where that "key defender" lined up. The problem with that is we only care about what that defender does after the play begins. The better answer is to build the play itself around the key defender, and to read him. Enter the stick-draw.
Playcalling
Courtesy of Chris Brown

As the offensive line and running back execute one play and the wide receivers another, it's up to the quarterback to be the fulcrum. Here, he's the one hitting the Tecmo Bowl button, but it's done after the play has begun, and so he's no longer guessing — the defender has committed and the right play is obvious. If the key linebacker flies out for a pass route, the quarterback hands the ball to his running back; if the key linebacker steps up for the run, the QB fires the ball to the receiver for a quick, ball-control pass.2

The power of this concept is evident in its quick adoption by the rest of college football. Two years ago, Oklahoma State was the only team employing it. Now, teams all across college football are using it. The top four offenses in college football last season by nearly every statistical measure — Oregon, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Houston — made extensive use of packaged concepts. And the idea had become such an ingrained part of the Cowboys offense that it was the subject of a conversation Weeden had with John Gruden for an ESPN segment.3

And packaged plays have hit the NFL, too. This brings us back to the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. On the play against the Bears that was discussed earlier, what had looked like a simple screen pass was actually a variant of the stick-draw; it was the "stick-screen" — a quick passing play combined with a running back screen.
Playcalling
Courtesy of Chris Brown

When Rodgers peeked to his left, he was not merely trying to draw the defense that direction. He was actually looking to throw a quick pass to his tight end. Because the man covering the stick, linebacker Lance Briggs, was taken completely across the field, the Packers had a significant numbers advantage to throw the screen. There would be no way to know how the Bears would defend the play based on their pre-snap alignment, and that's why it's the packaging and post-snap read that made it all go.

The rise of "packaged plays" is important on its own, but it becomes essential when combined with the other trend in football — the up-tempo no-huddle. The no-huddle, especially when operated by quarterbacks like Rodgers or Tom Brady, is an invaluable weapon when combating modern defenses that rely on constant movement to maximize confusion. "In the no-huddle context, the advantage of packaged plays becomes particularly acute," says Grabowski, adding, "An offense that can run these packaged plays at the fastest tempos can get a vanilla look that further simplifies the read on a key defender." If you're going to go fast-paced no-huddle to prevent defenses from substituting or setting up in something exotic, you have to do it, well, fast, and slow audibles with lots of words and gyrations at the line are not that.

The rise of no-huddle offense means that these package plays will no doubt become more popular at every level, but the difference between this trend and other offensive evolutions is in how packaged plays represent a complete rethinking of the nature of the play. The Tecmo Bowl model has been the dominant model since long before Tecmo Bowl, but this new approach is an opportunity to take the old, trusted tactics and adapt them for the modern game. And, as Grabowski points out, we've only just begun: "The only limits to packaging plays seems to be a coach's creativity in finding different ways to make a single defender wrong, every time." The innovation here is seemingly small but the advantage is huge: Like some obnoxious friend, quarterbacks are now looking over your shoulder, watching to see which buttons you've pressed before selecting their play. Get used to it.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:08 pm 
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I can't say that this is the evolution of the passing more as the tweaking of the passing game via the rules.

Today's NFL rules more or less dictate that if you touch/breath on the receiver or quarterback you will get a 15 yard penalty.

Any team in the NFL that hasn't switched to a pass first offense clearly isn't evaluating the rules to take advantage of this huge cushion that has been provided for receivers and quarterbacks.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:02 pm 
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Throwing for 6000 yards in a 16 game season means averaging 375.00 yards a game. That's a pretty tall task. One bad game and you have to average 400.00 yards per game to compensate.

I'll never say never, but even with the NFL pansy-fying itself, 6000 is a stretch. 21 teams didn't even average 375.00 yards per game last year total, never mind throw for it.


Last edited by AngryJohnny51 on Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 11:16 am 
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It's not that tall an order AJ51.

An elite QB is going to average more than 8 yards per attempt, so if you throw the ball on average 45+ times per game, you should get close to that number every week. An above average to good QB will average about 7.5 yards per attempt, about 50 attempts to equal 375.

I think it's going to be possible because at some point in the future someone is going to go with a 75/25 or 80/20 run-pass balance in the near future.

The reason why some teams have yet to switch is because of who they have at QB. Not all 32 starters are capable of sitting back and dropping back 35-40 times per week and throwing the football, and those teams being able to win games. The Chiefs are a good example of this. That style of offense does not suit Matt Cassel, and thus for teams that have those caliber of QBs, running the football well is extremely valuable. Had the Jaguars not had MJD on their roster last year, there's no way they would have won 5 games.

Running the ball won't disappear in the NFL, because you're always going to have coaches like Mike Smith, etc. that got their starts in the 60s, 70s, and/or 80s when the league was by far a run-first league, and will always be committed to the notion of running the ball and playing good defense as a recipe for success.

But IMO, what will happen is one of these college coaches is going to get an opportunity (Chip Kelly?) and will bring an up-tempo, pure spread attack to the NFL and if he happens to get the right QB and personnel to run it, it's going to be highly successful. And then you're going to have more teams dabble with it. We're already seeing it now with the spread and the no-huddle offense. It's just taking it to another extreme. And at some point, for teams now like the Falcons, Bears, Saints, etc. that have good QBs in the future will shift towards that style of offense in the future.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:35 pm 
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Quote:
It's not that tall an order AJ51.



:roll:


As I stated, a QB would have to average 375 yards per game, against NFL defenses. No one threw for that the first week, which means that the average per games goes up for the next 15 and so on.

So, shockingly, I disagree with your claim that throwing for 6000 is not a tall task.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:26 pm 
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Like I said, I'm not saying someone is giong to throw for 6000 this year. I'm saying that in the future, it's not an impossible task and the leap to get there, we're already not that far oof.

Brees averaged 342 last year, Brady 327, and Stafford 315 last year. Just by their average yards per attempt, had Brees just thrown 4 more passes per game, he would have hit 375. And it's only about 8 more pass attempts per game for Stafford. Stafford averaged 357 in the final 8 games of last year largely because the Lions stopped trying to run the ball once Best was out and they stopped trying to make Mo Morris/Keiland Williams work.

And had the Lions had Nate Washington instead of Nate Burleson as the No. 2, and had decided to play that style of football for 16 games instead of just 8, then you'd be right there.

Is that circumstance going to happen this year, or next year? Probably not. But IMO, all that is going to require is a team that is willing to throw the ball 700-750 times in a season. We got 666 from the Lions last year, and only 3 more per game would have gotten us to 715.

Yes, it would be a tall order for most NFL teams and/or your typical NFL team. What people also don't realize that along with the passing yards, the overall number of offensive plays that teams run per game is also going up thanks to these high-powered passing attacks using more no huddle as well as the fact that when you pass the ball, you tend to get more stoppages of clock.

Last year, the league average for offensive plays ran last year was 63.6, I believe the highest ever. The Saints led the league with 69.8. The Lions had the lowest run/pass balance with passing the ball on 66.3% of plays. The Saints were at 61.4% passes. The Bucs threw the ball 64% of the time last year.

Now in the future, where there is a team that runs 70+ plays per game, and is going to throw the ball 67-70% of the time, and if that team happens to have one of the Top 5 or 6 QBs in the league, then it's going to happen. And it'll be sooner than people think.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2012 3:34 pm 
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I'm going to put my avatar where my mouth is. I will state that no QB in the NFL will throw for over 5400 yards this year. I would be surprised if more than one went over 5000 yards. But I'm not going to stake my avatar on something that will surprise me.

If a QB throws for over 5400 yards in 2012, Pudge can pick my avatar for the off-season. If Matt Ryan does it, I will make Matt Ryan my avatar for as long as FalcFans exists.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 1:48 am 
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So far, we have one QB who is on pace for 5,400+, Drew Brees. No one else is close. Eli Manning is on pace for about 5,000. Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are on pace for about 4,800. I still don't think that we'll see Brees break 5,400.

Another thing, with Brees running away with this at this point, it's kind of telling that his team is 1-4. Even though the game might be more pass happy, that doesn't automatically translate into W's.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2012 12:24 pm 
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RobertAP wrote:
Another thing, with Brees running away with this at this point, it's kind of telling that his team is 1-4. Even though the game might be more pass happy, that doesn't automatically translate into W's.

I agree, and I think that is one of the reasons why in the NFL we have yet to see anybody really embrace a pass-pass-pass attack. Whether right or wrong, in the NFL the perception is balance. I think a lot of that perception is based around the belief that that there aren't enough good QBs to play that style of offense that is designed to throw the ball 50 or so times per game.

We all know that balance is ideal/preferred because it means you're two-dimensional. But I do think it's possible that the pass, run n' shoot style of offense could make a resurgence in the NFL, and have some degree of success.

But I also know that it requires certain things that not every team is going to have. First you need a heady, smart, accurate QB. It'll work better with a Brees/Ryan type that has a quick trigger, won't take sacks, can win pre-snap, and then deliver accurate passes. A Brees is even more ideal because of his pocket mobility and thus taking pressure off the O-line. You also need a good O-line, probably better than what the Falcons have, particularly one that is strong in the middle. You also need to have a deep set of WRs and TEs, and some of those guys are giong to have to be top-level playmakers. And you're also going to need to probably run a zone-blocking scheme on the ground. And of course you're going to need a defense that can hold a lead and be able to get after the QB.

It's not a set of circumstances that you'll likely come across in the NFL. If you were able to put those things together you could really make waves. But most teams would probably be missing a lot of those key elements. Maybe their O-line isn't good enough. Maybe their defense can't stop the run, or rush the QB.

I think Atlanta has some of the elements, but we don't have enough depth at WR/TE, a good enough O-line, coupled with a lacking pass rush and run defense to really make it work.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 2:26 am 
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Of course Belichick is the "innovator." The Patriots are beginning to run the up-tempo offense. So far this year, they've run 67, 78, 76, 76, 89, and 85 offensive plays each week. Now they've run a very balanced offensive attack this year with a run/pass balance of 46/54.

Unless you're a team like Seattle or Arizona that can control the line of scrimmage against them, that style of offense is going to be very difficult to beat.

Taking pages from basketball, when you can control the tempo of the game, you're more likely to win. Whether that's to speed it up or slow it down, as we've seen here in the past and currently in San Fran, they try to slow it down.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:15 pm 
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I've always preferred up tempo offense. The problem with doing that is that if you're not getting first downs, you don't give your defense any rest.

IMHO, the Falcons can run an up tempo offense if we wanted to. We certainly have the tools. The line is, of course, a big weakness, but if our offense was based on quick plays, we could wear out the DL and hit them for deeper plays as the game progresses.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:35 am 
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Through 8 weeks of football, Drew Brees is the only one in the NFL on pace to break 5000 yards. However, he had a pretty off week, and is no longer on pace for over 5400 yards.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:56 am 
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10 weeks in the books. Brees is down to 316.3 yards per game. He's on pace for 5060 for the season. Matt Ryan (holy cow) is #2 with 307.9 yards per game. Ryan might actually hit 5000 yards this year.

My prediction is looking pretty good so far.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 10:03 pm 
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14 weeks are behind us. Drew Brees is still leading the league in passing yards with 4,335. Anyone think that he's going to get 1065 yards passing over the next couple of weeks?

Brees needs 665 yards to break 5,000 over the next couple of weeks. I think that there's a pretty good chance of that happening. Next up is Tom Brady, who needs about 750 to break 5,000. I don't see that happening.

I'm going to take this opportunity to toot my own horn... Toot toot. Where's my cookie?


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:09 pm 
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Stafford needs to throw 7 more passes next week to break the all-time record for single season attempts at 691 (set by Bledsoe in 1994). He's on pace to throw the ball 731 times this year. His YPA is 6.9, which is slightly below the league average of 7.1. At his current YPA, he's on pace to throw for about 5040 yards. If he had the league average YPA, that number would be closer to 5190.

The league last year average about 544 attempts per team last year. This year, they are on pace to hit about 558 per team.

If similar growth continues, it's forseeable that in 4 or 5 years the average NFL offense will throw around 600 times per year and approach 4500 yards of passing. Compare that to nearly 5 years ago back in '08, when the average offense threw about 515 times for about 3400 yards.

What's going to be interesting to see develop is the dichotomy between the "haves and have nots" as far as QB goes. We're in a golden age of QB play currently, but 5 years from now many of the current elite players will be on their last legs or retired (e.g. Manning, Brady, Brees, Roethlisberger). And thus a new generation of QBs will inherit, including Eli, Ryan, Luck, RG3, Rodgers.

It'll be interesting to see which of the "mid-tier" QBs like Stafford, Freeman, Newton, Cutler, Tannehill, Bradford, Dalton, etc. ascend to the upper levels and/or if any rising college prospects enter the league and take it by storm.

What is going to be interesting is that you currently have the "haves" that currently have one of the 1st/2nd tier QBs, and the "have nots" that are desperately searching for them. It'll be interesting to see the quality of QB in the NFL 7 or 8 years from now, and if you see a "push back" against passing at that point from some teams that sort of follow the 49ers model.

For example, a team like Minnesota while they should make some investments in their passing game (getting a WR not named Harvin that can get open consistently), they should not put too much investment there because ultimately even at his best Christian Ponder is going to be a slightly above average passer. Instead, going forward, the majority of what they should invest in is beefing up their O-line, solidifying their defense, and finding a suitable replacement for Peterson 3 or so years down the line. So if the Vikings have 9 Day 1-2 picks over the next 3 years, they probably don't want to spend more than 2 of them on WRs. It's more important for them to use those picks to find replacements for Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Chad Greenway, and Antoine Winfield than finding a great group of WRs because you lack the QB that is going to take advantage of it.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:36 pm 
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When we talk about a golden age of QBs I wonder how much of that is stat driven and those stats being driven by rule changes. Are the present guys so much better than the predecessors? Last night's record being shattered by Johnson is a perfect example of numbers lying. I don't take anything away form CJ as being an excellent player but, as JG pointed out in the telecast, these numbers are fluffed up by being gotten on a team that is often playing from behind like last night where a team is in a soft prevent and are also on a team that is breaking league records in attempts. It does not diminish that he is arguably the lone weapon on offense which makes getting the yards harder. Week after week we can look at stats and were we not to know how the game actually turned out we might make a synopsis that the losing team won. As championship baseball teams say, "It isn't how many hits you get it is when you get your hits."

But this is the NFL world we now live in and I don't see it going back the other way. When you think of Stafford recently breaking Bobby Layne's attempts or single season yardage records--or whatever it was--that makes you really marvel at what BL must have been doing in the context of the times.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 1:19 pm 
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I think the idea of a golden age is driven from the perception that you have an inordinate amount of future HOF QBs playing at once. We saw this in the 80s and early 90s where we had Moon, Kelly, Aikman, Young, Marino, Montana, Elway, etc. which left good QBs like Esiason and Simms out of the cold.

Now, you have Brady, Manning, Brees, Favre. Then you have Roethlisberger, Eli, Rodgers that will certainly be in the conversation. Then guys like Rivers, Ryan, Flacco, among others that are in that Esiason/Simms category.

There was that "lull" in the late 90s/early 00s where the 80s QBs were retiring and before the rise of Peyton & Brady, where it was basically Brett Favre and not a whole lot else. Kurt Warner, Daunte Culpepper, Drew Bledsoe, Trent Green, Chris Chandler, Mark Brunell, Steve McNair, Jeff Garcia, etc. were some of the top QBs of this era. And I think that period gave rise to the notion of "game manager" due to the fact that for most of the previous 20 years the league was heavily populated with good/great QBs. You just had fewer of the so-called elite QBs.

I've stated in the past that I think having the primes of their careers coincide with that "lull" makes Favre and Warner in a historical context appear better than they actually were.

Like now we have the "Big 6" who are basically the consensus 6 best Qbs in the league, and majority of people would say belong in the Hall of Fame (or at least would have to think long and hard about). The question becomes come 2018 will there be a different Big 6 then? Is it going to be Rodgers, Eli, Ryan, Luck, RG3, Rivers, or whoever?

I don't think it'll be like it was a few years ago where you had 4 future 1st ballot HOFers (Brees, Brady, Manning, and Favre) all playing against each other. But if the Matt Ryans, Philip Rivers, etc. are ultimately viewed to be on the same level of the Warren Moon, Jim Kelly, Kurt Warner (yes I'm resigned to the fact that Warner will be in Canton one day despite my disagreement), etc. then I think that relatively speaking you continue with the golden age.

Especailly if the Sam Bradford, Matt Stafford, and Cam Newtons of the world sort of live up to their potential.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:59 pm 
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My argument remains, I don't think that things will continue to go in this direction. We have learned a VERY important lesson this year from two different teams... The Lions have been pass happy, and they're out of it. The Saints have been pass happy, and they're pretty much out of it. Passing a lot doesn't = wins, and the entire NFL is going to realize that. The more teams shift to pass heavy offenses, the more they end up with their defense on the field, which puts them at risk of getting worn out. The Falcons have experienced this a few times this year. It is painfully apparent with the Saints and Lions. They were talking about how often the Lions have lost games in the waning moments last night. Well, that's a product of too much passing. By the end of the game, their defense is checked out.

On the flip side, we see Adrian Peterson about to break the single season rushing record. He has his team in the playoffs. There's some folks talking about giving him the MVP. (And they should be)

The NFL is about balance. The balance has certainly shifted to passing, but I don't think that it will continue to do so. Teams that continue to show both a solid run and pass game will be more consistent than teams that rely on one or the other too heavily.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:11 am 
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While I agree that balance is the superior strategy, I don't necessarily believe that it means that being pass-heavy is a bad thing. I believe that any thing works on the NFL if you have the right coaches and personnel to run it.

You say the Lions and Saints are out of it, which is true. But when you look at the most pass-centric offenses in the league, the Cowboys are right up there with them.

You look at the 11 teams that went into Sunday passing the ball on over 60% of plays, 4 of them were in the playoff hunt (Dallas, Atlanta, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh). And New Orleans has a chance to finish .500 with a 2nd string head coach.

And as for the other 6 teams' (Detroit, Arizona, Oakland, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Philly) issues has less to do with the fact that they throw the ball the ball so much, but who is actually throwing the ball.

Which is the key, there are only a finite number of QBs that could handle being in such one-dimensional pass heavy offenses.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:25 pm 
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Quote:
Which is the key, there are only a finite number of QBs that could handle being in such one-dimensional pass heavy offenses.

And to me, that's the key to why this trend will not continue. We have an abundance of highly talented passing QBs dominating the league right now. But there's not a lot more of those waiting in the wings. The newer QBs, with the exception of Luck, all seem to be hybrid QBs. I think that trend will go away rather quickly, but that's a discussion for another thread.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:59 pm 
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RobertAP wrote:
Quote:
Which is the key, there are only a finite number of QBs that could handle being in such one-dimensional pass heavy offenses.

And to me, that's the key to why this trend will not continue. We have an abundance of highly talented passing QBs dominating the league right now. But there's not a lot more of those waiting in the wings. The newer QBs, with the exception of Luck, all seem to be hybrid QBs. I think that trend will go away rather quickly, but that's a discussion for another thread.

I think it's much too premature to make that statement. When Drew Brees was in San Diego, he was considered a very good game manager, as the crux of that team was centered around Tomlinson. Then we saw what happened when he went to New Orleans with Sean Payton.

I wouldn't completely write off players like Stafford, Bradford, Flacco, Tannehill, Dalton, etc. if they got the right coach as Brees did. Every now and then a Tony Romo or Matt Schaub rises through the cracks. And while I'm not particularly high on many of the QBs entering this year's draft class, I wouldn't say it's impossible that some of them rise to become pretty good NFL quarterbacks. We also know that every 3-4 years we have a couple of prime QB prospects come through college because it's happened consistently for more than a decade.

We're seeing the Patriots adopt the Chip Kelly-centered "speed no huddle" and have a great deal of success with it. If/when Kelly comes into the league, and if he also success, then you could very well see a number of teams adopting it.

I think you're going to have a lot of these offenses around players like Newton, Kaerpernick, Ponder, etc. be built around run-based offenses. But that doesn't preclude others from going the opposite direction and being more pass-heavy.

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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:21 am 
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Pudge wrote:
I think you're going to have a lot of these offenses around players like Newton, Kaerpernick, Ponder, etc. be built around run-based offenses. But that doesn't preclude others from going the opposite direction and being more pass-heavy.

You continue to make the point for me... The evolution of the NFL will continue to be diverse. It isn't going to become, pass pass pass. If it starts to get that way, more teams will adopt defenses like the Falcons. Nolan seems to have figured out how to stop those kinds of offenses. He's been doing it with backups for a good part of the season.

Looking around the league, passing is suffering this year. Stafford is throwing the ball more than anyone ever has, but his team isn't finding success. Brees isn't too far behind, and has the same situation on his hands. Pass pass pass isn't a recipe for consistent success. You still have to be able to run the ball.


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 Post subject: Re: NFR: Evolution of Offense = More Passing
PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:29 pm 
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Again at no point in this thread have I suggested there would be unilateral pass heavy offenses in the NFL. The arms race that occurs weekly/yearly in the NFL precludes this as teams devise ways to defend things it often incurs teams doing the opposite.

But I do think the trend of pass heavy offenses will continue going forward. not everyone will be pass heavy, but the evidence is clear that passing is more beneficial than running. It will reach a point very soon where the average NFL team will throw the ball more than 67% of the time. It may never reach more than 75%.

Unless there is a major shift in rules, that is inevitable, which was the original point I was trying to make in this thread.

What we will consider to be run-based offenses will be adjusted. For example, in 2011 we were considered a "run first" team yet threw the ball 57% of the time. For the Can Newtons of the world, they will operate similar offenses going forward. But 10 years from now they will be "run based" yet throw 60-65% of the time.

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