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    clarasDK is offline Registered User
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    Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    Long but interesting article from Rams on Demand - St Louis Rams Message Board • Index page
    Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?
    Filed in St Louis Rams on Oct.29, 2010
    By: Joey Bittick
    Week 8 of the NFL season is nearly upon us, and the Rams will enter Sunday after a painful loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming off of what I believe will go down as a landmark victory for the boys in blue and gold against the San Diego Chargers in Week 6, the Rams lost in confounding fashion to the Bucs. Entering the second half with a 17-3 lead against the Buccaneers, the Rams were shutout following halftime and lost 18-17 on a last-second touchdown throw by Tampa’s Josh Freeman. I must admit my spirits have been down all week following such an exasperating loss by the Rams, and I know I am not alone. So I will refrain from examining that game, but what I do want to look at are some of the criticisms being discussed ad nauseam by Rams fans. These criticisms are mainly aimed at Rams second-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo, and more specifically, his offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur.

    Thus far in the Spagnuolo era, the Rams have simply struggled to put points on the scoreboard. Last season, the Rams offense was historically bad due mainly to injuries and poor play at the quarterback position, which led to the drafting of Sam Bradford. Bradford entered the season with rather low expectations; people mainly just wanted him to get through the season healthy and show a few small signs that he is the man to help the Rams reclaim their former glory. However, with Bradford and the Rams looking good in the preseason and getting a few regular season wins under their belt in the early matchups, Rams fans have gotten a bit greedy. We want to see wins…and now please.

    However, being fanatics (defined as “a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal”), we tend to… well not so much forget, but overlook the fact that this is a team that went 1-15 in 2009 and was just dreadful on both sides of the ball. But due to some key offseason acquisitions, this team is suddenly in the race in the weak NFC West, and people are already expecting them to win games. One thing that has not changed, though, since last season is the condemnation of the Pat Shurmur offense. Coordinating an offense that scored less than 11 points per game in 2009 will certainly not endear a coach to fans, especially fans that were treated to the greatest offensive juggernaut in NFL history just a few short seasons ago during the Greatest Show on Turf.

    Some are not willing to accept the fact that Shurmur had almost nothing to work with in ’09. To say that team was short of playmakers would be a major understatement. Outside of Steven Jackson, I truly believe there were NCAA offenses out there that would have fared better in the NFL than the Rams. Shurmur has better pieces to work with in 2010, but this is not a team of All-Pros by any stretch. Still, fans want to see more, and while this team’s offense has improved statistically, many still bemoan the lack of big plays. This offense is just not very explosive, and much of that lack of explosiveness has been blamed on the OC and his offensive game planning.

    I, too, watched the second half of that Tampa Bay game in awe of the complete ineptitude of the Rams offense – an offense that looked absolutely incompetent at times. Though Sam Bradford threw 2 touchdown passes, he only managed to complete 13 passes for 126 in the entire game and looked like…well, a rookie QB. The Rams running game shined, but that was not enough to hold the lead. After a brief respite due to the Rams win against San Diego, Spagnuolo’s offense is once again under fire, and people are fed up with Shurmur, but is the criticism of the coordinator fair?

    People have called Shurmur’s offense bland and predictable, claiming that adjustments are rarely made and that once the opposition does begin to adjust to what the Rams play caller is doing, he is hapless to counter and regain an edge. Many, myself included, believe that once the Rams go into the locker room for halftime, they come out playing timid, trying only to hold on rather than going for the kill shot. But is this belief truly reality? I decided to look at some numbers to try and figure out if Shurmur’s play calling truly is to blame for the Rams inability to light up the scoreboard or if the Rams are truly just undermanned and ill-equipped to do much other than grind games out.

    Rams Passing Stats
    Passing Attempts
    Completion %
    Yards per Attempt
    QB Rating
    In Wins 109 58.7 6.6 83.2
    In Losses 151 54.3 5.0 62.8
    1st Half 136 59.6 6.4 86.5
    2nd Half 124 52.4 4.9 54.8
    1st Down 89 52.8 5.3 44.8
    2nd Down 86 60.5 5.5 81.3
    3rd Down 81 56.8 6.6 93.4
    When Leading 107 57.0 6.0 79.3
    When Trailing 110 52.7 5.1 54.4
    No Motion 145 55.9 6.0 60.4
    With Motion 114 57.0 5.4 85.9
    0-1 WR Set 9 77.8 7.0 132.9
    2 WR Set 66 54.5 5.0 70.7
    3 WR Set 107 57.9 6.0 70.0
    4+ WR Set 77 53.2 5.8 67.5

    Rams Rushing Stats
    (Jackson, Darby, Toston)
    Rushes
    Yards
    Yards per Carry
    In Wins 89 312 3.51
    In Losses 100 422 4.22
    1st Half 89 410 4.61
    2nd Half 100 324 3.24
    1st Down 104 394 3.79
    2nd Down 65 285 4.38
    3rd Down 18 50 2.78
    When Leading 104 311 2.99
    When Trailing 51 233 4.57
    With Motion 66 223 3.38
    No Motion 121 508 4.20
    0-1 WR Set 19 78 4.11
    2 WR Set 81 293 3.62
    3 WR Set 82 343 4.18
    4 WR Set 7 38 5.43

    I decided to compile stats in some key categories to try and determine how the Rams mix up the run and pass; if there is a discernable pattern to when the run is called versus when the OC dials up a passing play; and whether or not the Rams call plays differently in the second half or with a lead. I also wanted to look at how the Rams utilize different personnel sets and if they line up trying to spread the field on the defense by using formations with more wide receivers and to look at how the players perform in these different sets.

    It is an old football adage that one of the keys to a successful offense is balance. Meaning, successful offenses try to balance out the frequency with which they run the ball versus pass the ball (don’t tell Mike Martz that though!). The Rams have run an average of 69.6 offensive plays per game. Of those, about 37.14 have been passing plays, and 29.36 have been running plays. That comes out to a pass/run ratio of 54/46. Recently, though, many experts have been proclaiming that the NFL is a ‘passer’s league’ and that the days of pounding the rock on the ground are all but gone. But they are wrong… well, at least this season the numbers say they are.

    The top 5 offenses by points scored on offense (meaning I subtracted any points scored by defense or special teams) are as follows: the Tennessee Titans (26.43 points per game), the Indianapolis Colts (26 PPG), the Houston Texans (25.5 PPG), the New York Jets (25.33 PPG), and the New York Giants (25 PPG). Of those top five teams, only Indianapolis is in the top 5 in passing attempts per game, with Peyton Manning slinging the ball 42.3 times per game (second most in the NFL). The only other top 5 scoring offense in the top half of the league in pass attempts per game is the team led by Peyton’s brother, the Giants, coming in at 16th with 34.1 passing attempts per game.

    When I saw the Tennessee Titans sitting atop the list of NFL offensive scoring leaders, I was shocked. They are 31st in the NFL in passing attempts per game at 24.7. How are they scoring? They just keep running the ball down teams’ throats almost 31 times per game (6th in the NFL). The New York Jets and New York Giants are also in the top 10 when it comes to rushing attempts (at 4th and 9th respectively), and Houston has the 14th most rushing attempts in the league. Of these teams in the top 5 in offensive scoring, only Indy passes the ball more than 55% of the time, and Tennessee is the only team to run it more than 55% of the time. Balance is still a major part of offensive success, despite what ESPN says. The Rams have remained balanced thus far into the season, and I believe that will eventually lead them to putting points on the board with more consistency.

    I was certain that a major issue when the Rams lose was conservative play calling; when watching the games it seemed obvious. They seemed to be unwilling to pass the ball and like they were content to just hand the ball off 3 times and then punt. We know what they say about assumption, and the numbers have proven me wrong. In fact, the Rams have run the ball less in their losses. In their 3 wins, the Rams have passed the ball on average 36.33 times and run the ball 29.66 times. Again, balance seemed to be a key. In their 4 losses, they have allowed their rookie QB to toss the ball around 37.75 times per game and only put the ball into the hands of a running back 25 times per game. They were not as balanced and passed the ball 60% of the time. So, if anything, Shurmur passing the ball too often may have contributed to the losses.

    I also included the stats for how they call plays with a lead and when trailing. I admit the stat is a bit flawed, as I did not take into account how much time they possessed a lead (I just looked at the plays run), but the play calling is pretty similar. They have passed the ball just about as many times as they have run it while leading. However, they tend to abandon the run when trailing, though this is pretty common with most teams, as they have to try to gain yardage in chunks to take the lead. They are also remarkably balanced with how they call pass plays according to game situation. They have called 89 pass plays on first down, 86 on second down, and 81 on third down. The majority of their running plays come on 1st down, but their yards-per-carry average is much better on second down.

    I have criticized the Rams for seemingly refusing to line up in 4 WR sets; I was wrong. The Rams have called a total of 77 passing plays while in 4+ WR sets. To give you an idea of what that number means, the Indianapolis Colts (the team that passes more than any team in the NFL outside of Detroit) have passed the ball 43 times in 6 games with four or more wide receivers on the field. I would like to see the Rams run a bit more with four or more wideouts on the field. They have only run the ball 7 times in 4+ WR sets. Steven Jackson is hard enough for defenses to tackle when they stack the box; I can only imagine he would be near impossible to bring down if the defense had to spread out a bit and put more defensive backs on the field, and the 5.43 YPC number on those 7 carries helps backs that up.

    Another thing the Rams could do more of is run motion before the ball is snapped. Before looking this up, I assumed that would cause Sam Bradford trouble because it would be more for the rookie to take in and digest. On the contrary, though, young Bradford has had his greatest success when the Rams move guys around before the snap, compiling an 86.5 QB rating (as opposed to 60.4 without motion). The Rams don’t seem to run as well with motion, though, so that may be a reason for them using less of it. The Colts hardly ever use motion, and they are doing just fine passing the ball, so it is hardly essential, but Bradford does seem to benefit from it, and anything that helps the young gun play a better ballgame deserves more of a look.
    After looking at all of these stats, I honestly do not think much of blame should fall on Pat Shurmur’s shoulders. The Rams run a very balanced offense, and the play calling seems be less conservative than many assume.

    The problem is that while the Rams run a lot of plays on offense, they do not gain a lot of yards with those plays. The Rams are 30th in yards gained per play. They average an anemic 4.5 yards per play. I know that many will point to that and say, “See? That is Shurmur being way too conservative,” but I think they should remember that number does not indicate the type of plays being called. If Shurmur calls a play where the receivers run deep routes but Bradford does not get the ball to them, how is that the coordinator’s fault? Shurmur cannot control the execution on the field. If the offensive line does not hold up long enough to allow the QB to throw deep, or the wideout does not get separation from his defender, or Bradford simply does not see the deep target, the offensive coordinator is not responsible. I think the high number of plays the Rams run, coupled with the poor yards-per-play average, indicates that Shurmur is actually doing an admirable job calling plays that keep the chains moving despite the Rams lack of talent on offense.

    I know this is not a popular thing to say, but I think Pat Shurmur is getting way too much blame for something he simply cannot control. As much as I like the players on this team, the Rams just lack talent at too many positions to put on the Greatest Show on Turf Part 2. I think as our players grow together and a few pieces are added, this team will start blowing our hair back once again. Steven Jackson is doing his best to fill Marshall Faulk’s cleats, but he just does not have the speed or explosiveness of Faulk. But there is no Isaac Bruce on this team. There is no Torry Holt to be found. And the 2010 edition of Kurt Warner isn’t on the field… yet. It is blasphemy to say this (my dad may kill me when he reads this), but if Bradford continues to develop and lives up to his enormous potential, he will be the greatest QB in Rams history. He is already the most physically gifted, but physical gifts are only part of what it takes.

    So, when I am watching the great Bruuuuuuuuce get his number retired against the Carolina Panthers, and I am reminded of the GSOT, it will make me a bit sad. Those days are gone. But if Bradford keeps developing…well, the Rams will be going back to work soon enough. And that makes me very, very happy.


    *edit gave the format a little love
    Last edited by Nick; -10-30-2010 at 03:06 PM. Reason: Removed the link


  2. #2
    Nick_Weasel's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    There are a few issues with the way he presents the numbers (which he acknowledges) but nonetheless they manage to tell a story. I agree with the author that Shurmur is taking too much blame, and crucify me if you'd like but I'm not yet convinced there's anything to our 2nd half 'collapses' other than variance. I could be wrong about that, perhaps the next few games we'll see (hopefully we have the luxury of playing with a lead again).

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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    I highly recommend following the link because the formatting here makes my eyes hurt.

    Anyway, I respect his analysis, but I don't agree with his final conclusion. I do not think it is the case that Shurmur calls a run play in an obvious passing situation, he seems to call passes when the situation dictates. When it is 2nd or 3rd and long, passes tend to be called, none of that suprises anyone.

    The problem is not that Shurmur runs the ball too much, its that almost every pass called since Clayton went down was a screen, quick slant, or a throw to the flats. Shurmur does call alot of passes, but many are simply an extension of the runnning game. That is where the stats can mislead. Yes, many passes are called, but they are almost all conservative. According to the game log of the Tampa game, aside from the fades Bradford called at the line, only two passes were attempted beyond 10-12 yards.

    I am sure Bradford has to check down at times, but many called passes look obviously designed to extend the running game. Im not against that, not at all. BUT when the opposing defenses shut that down, they need to adapt. And I will throw Shurmur a bone and concede our WRs suck. At the same time, you cannot surrender the deep part of the field to the defense.

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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    Quote Originally Posted by clarasDK View Post
    People have called Shurmur’s offense bland and predictable, claiming that adjustments are rarely made and that once the opposition does begin to adjust to what the Rams play caller is doing, he is hapless to counter and regain an edge. Many, myself included, believe that once the Rams go into the locker room for halftime, they come out playing timid, trying only to hold on rather than going for the kill shot.[/I]
    I didn't see anything in Mr. Bittick's argument that says this statement above is not true. It's such a glaring flaw with Shurmur that it seems to overshadow all his other successes. My mom visited me last Sunday, and while watching the game with me I found it funny how even she had commented on it, and she's so much a football novice that I have to keep explaining to her what a first-down means...

    After I saw some improvement in this area in games against the Redskins and Seahawks, Shurmur's second-half creativity and ability to adjust to defenses seems to have severely relapsed.

    As a fan, I'm willing to give him until the rest of the season to nip this problem in the bud for good. Otherwise, Spags would be smart to seek out a new OC.

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    Truth's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    There is a lot more to take into account than just what plays are being called. The facts are pretty obvious (except to those with rose colored glasses), this is a team that is rebuilding. We lack WR talent, our lines are getting better, but still need work/help, and we have almost no depth at most positions. Our QB is a ROOKIE. Although he has a great deal of physical talent, and he seems to be quite bright as well, he is still learning. I believe that he doesn't throw the long ball much for a few of reasons, 1) we lack talent at the WR position; bad route running means the receivers are covered a majority of the time. 2) He is being taught to get rid of the ball quickly. This means he will most often find guys underneath. This will hopefully help him to make better reads in a quicker fashion, as well as keep him off the turf, which brings us to, 3) our line still has difficulty protecting the QB for more than a few seconds. Dropping back and waiting for an average-at-best receiver to get open will get our QB sacked and hurt.

    I think the team is doing fairly well with the talent they have. Better talent at the skill positions, and better line play will allow this team to open it up more. A bit of patience by the fans would be a good thing (albeit frustrating at times). We won't get anywhere with knee-jerk reactions to every bump in the road. Slow down, take a deep breath. I'd rather have a few frustrating losses on the way to helping Bradford grow into the QB we all hope he'll be, than going all "Martz" on the guy and severely hampering his confidence with INTs, or worse, getting him killed behind a marginal line.
    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    I can agree with most of what you said, Truth. The thing is that we seem to be ceding the deep part of the field to the defenses. Even if it results in occasional picks, we need to stretch the field in order to better play to our strengths.

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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    I agree with most of the points shown by the OP except for this one.

    Quote Originally Posted by clarasDK View Post
    Steven Jackson is doing his best to fill Marshall Faulk’s cleats, but he just does not have the speed or explosiveness of Faulk.
    Faulk had the pass happy offense that made him an explosive playmaker in the GSOT running game. Compared to Jackson, he had the burden of having to constantly charge his way through a stacked up D-line yet still use every ounce of his energy to gain as bit of yardage as he could.

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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    There is a lot working against him, so Shurmur should not shoulder all the blame. However, he is the guy pulling the strings and IMO, he hasn't been making good situational decisions, especially in the second half of games. When the offense struggles, he just doesn't seem to be able to find the right plays to get things on track.

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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    wouldn't say that so much he's definitely a right wing though

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    Re: Is Pat Shumur a Bad Offensive Coordinator?

    Quote Originally Posted by swatter555 View Post
    I can agree with most of what you said, Truth. The thing is that we seem to be ceding the deep part of the field to the defenses. Even if it results in occasional picks, we need to stretch the field in order to better play to our strengths.
    I actually think that the coaching staff is more concerned with keeping Bradford healthy than the INTs. I'm also not sure they trust our current batch of receivers to get open. However, I wouldn't mind the occassional "field-stretcher" myself. Just not at the expense of our new QB.
    That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!!

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