Ty Schalter/Bleacher Report
A further explanation is necessary before proceeding. The actual question is, Can an offense that runs the ball more often than it passes succeed in today’s NFL?
The chart above would indicate that may not be the case. It was taken from Ty Schalter’s article in Bleacher Report published on May 30 titled “How Pass-Heavy Offenses Continue to Reshape NFL Operations.”
It indicates the ratio of pass to run is tilting more heavily in the pass direction than ever before. When comparing 2003 to 2012, the number of rushing attempts decreased by nearly 600, while the passing attempts increased by almost 1,300.
Schalter's ultimate conclusion is the emphasis on throwing the ball is being reflected in personnel decisions. Teams are devoting more draft selections than ever before to acquiring quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen in the first four rounds.
There is no dispute about the importance being placed on these resources. According to Tony Pauline of Draft Insider, quarterback Blake Bortles could have just as easily been the first overall choice of the Texans in this year’s draft. As it was, he went two picks later to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The chart lumps together all 32 teams in the league and does not provide for any consideration of the outliers. And those aberrations demonstrate that the correlation between passing and winning is not definitive.
In 2013 five teams ran the ball more than they passed it: the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. The 49ers and Panthers made the playoffs, and the Seahawks captured the Lombardi Trophy. These three teams had quality quarterbacks who could scramble and complete enough passes to keep the offense humming along.
The Bills and Jets were both breaking in rookie quarterbacks, which partially contributed to them finishing 6-10 and 8-8, respectively. Without breaking down their seasons into great detail, suffice to say EJ Manuel and Geno Smith did not have inaugural campaigns approaching the one enjoyed by Russell Wilson in 2012.
Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network takes the point even further by stating “nine of the top 12 teams in terms of rushing attempts made the (2013) postseason.”
To prove that was not an outlier of its own, eight of the top 12 made the playoffs in 2012. For added measure, the number of top-12 rushing teams that played in the 2011 postseason was nine.
When the Texans did not trade up into the first round of the 2014 draft in pursuit of Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater, many observers thought Jimmy Garoppolo, Zach Mettenberger or Aaron Murray must be in their plans for the second or third. Once they took offensive guard Xavier Su’a-Filo at the top of the second round, their intentions became clearer.
When power-blocking tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz was taken in the third, then running back Alfred Blue and fullback Jay Prosch in the sixth, the overall plan crystallized. The Texans would look to be a run-first team, at least in the short term.
And why not? Recent history has shown it is vital part of the path to success in today’s NFL.