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  • Debunking An NFL Myth

    Debunking An NFL Myth



    By Barry Waller

    Gridiron Gateway





    It’s something NFL fans hear constantly. Right now it seems to be on the lips of every Rams fan and those who cover the NFL. In fact, in may be the “first commandment” of the football bible. One even hears head football coaches reciting the age-old adage when discussing football strategy. Wouldn’t it seem like someone, at some time, should actually take a bit of time to prove that “Running the football helps your defense by keeping them off the field, and running the clock.”



    I guess, like all too many long held beliefs, people simply believe because so many people say it over and over and over. One thing I love most about writing my opinions on NFL football is that I have the burning desire to hold such tenets up to the light. This one falls flat on its face.



    The NFL has changed drastically in the last 35 years, since the AFL-NFL merger brought the idea of high scoring offenses into a league that stubbornly clinged to their old ways, and that old imperative about the ground game.



    Sid Gillman and his San Diego Chargers were employing an offensive machine in 1968 that was years ahead of its time, one that has flowed through Bill Walsh, Don Coryell, and Dick Vermeil; to Sam Wyche, Hank Stram, Ernie Zampese, Norv Turner, and Joe Gibbs; and finally to Steve Marriucci, Mike Martz, Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, and Andy Reid, as well as hundreds of other college and professional coaches.



    Gillman’s scheme has mutated many different ways as it branches off the trunk of his coaching “family tree”, but the pass patterns, and the philosophy that accurate short passing is better than a running attack, are alive and well. Once old school coaches like Vince Lombardi, George Halas, George Allen, and the rest of their peers were history, unable to win against the new pass-happy NFL offenses, all the NFL organizations upgraded their playbooks to the modern game.



    The NFL helped the change by amending rule after rule to make the passing game a better option, even a far more advantageous one. The advent of a national TV deal now worth billions made for a good reason for the league to ignore the caterwauling of NFL “purists” whining about messing up the game, and remake their game. It was commissioner Pete Rozelle’s vision, and that Chargers team that Rozelle, then Rams GM, saw plenty of when they were in Los Angeles, influenced it greatly.



    Yet, now, so many years later, NFL fans and analysts are still not convinced that teams should not return to the days of Lombardi to win consistently, even with the rule changes that include when the game clock starts and stops.



    Players no longer play both ways, or even every play on one side of the ball, which along with frequent TV timeouts greatly reduces the fatigue element of the game. In these days when 70% completion rates are becoming commonplace, the numbers simply do not support the popular outcry against a team passing 75% of the snaps.



    When examining the five playoff teams from 2003 that feature the run the most, and the five playoff clubs that fill the ball with footballs, the numbers should at least make fans re-examine their own stubbornly held beliefs like the NFL has done.



    Now, if running the football is supposed to “keep the defense” off the field, how can we quantify that opinion? How about the average time of possession for these top echelon teams?



    The Ravens, Broncos, Panthers, Packers, and Cowboys were the only playoff clubs that ran more than they passed, mostly because they either had great runners and offensive lines, or lousy passers, and also play outdoors. The Ravens led the way, rushing 137 times more than they passed in 2003. Those teams averaged 31:00 on offense last year.



    The Rams, Colts, Chiefs, Seahawks, and Eagles threw a total of 530 more times than they ran last year, yet their time of possession was still 29:48, a negligible difference from those clubs with top ground games.



    If wide-open passing teams are more “high risk”, as everyone says, why were those five run-first teams were –10 in turnover differential, while the five air attacks finished +36, and were more adept at taking the ball away, which they made more likely by taking big early leads with their aggressive approach. That’s when the other team has to take chances to come back.



    What about number of plays a team’s defense has to defend, possibly a better indication of “keeping the defense off the field”?



    The five rushing offenses put their defense on the field for an average of 58.8 offensive plays per game by their opponents. That number for the five passing offenses is 60.9. Is it worth going against what your team does best, a strategy with a huge upside when the team executes well early, to keep your defense on the bench for 2 plays?



    The running teams ran an average of one more play per game on offense than the passing teams, again proof that its time to debunk a tired old excuse that seemingly creeps out of Lombardi’s grave year after year.



    The five passing oriented teams averaged 25 offensive points per game (returns not counted), while the five rushing oriented teams scored at only a 21 point clip on offense.



    The teams “keeping their defenses off the field” did allow fewer points, with a 16.6 average per game. However, is that a big enough difference from the 18.5 those pass-crazy clubs allowed in 2003 to justify all the fervor? Three of those passing teams play indoors, which may be more of the reason for even that small difference than anything about play calling.



    Those playoff teams with the highest percentage of passing to rushing plays finished with a point differential over two points per game higher than the other quintet, 6.5 to 4.4. The five passing teams also had eight more regular season wins than the other five clubs, 59 to 51.



    I think a new more valid commandment should replace that sad old cliché about the value of the ground game in the NFL. It would say, “The best offense is to do what you do best as a team to score the most points, and you should do everything possible when building a team to make passing what you do best as soon as possible.”



    It would also say that coaches should value game planning, and go with what looks to work on particular team, which by the way has nothing to do with their NFL rank after two games. It seems to me that Mike Martz has said exactly that over and over, to the point where he lost it a bit Monday when that same mantra started at Rams Park among the assembled media.



    Martz is now getting his usual bashing from the national media, except a few who have coached or played the game.



    No doubt it will be next to impossible to erase what the proof says is a wrong idea from the rote memories of the media and fans, and no doubt their response to this would be that “numbers are misleading”, compared to………… well nothing except what everyone has been saying for 50 years without a shred of hard evidence. People no longer accept that stuff in real life, so why are they so willing to swallow it when it comes to the NFL?



    Folks, this ain’t your grandpa’s NFL, and it’s time to wise up, and maybe actually take a hard look at facts before spouting off on the Monday AM radio shows.
    Attached Files

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

    Pretty good article.. ;)

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

      Nice history lesson, Barry. It has absolutely nothing to do with the 2004 Rams, but nice history lesson still the same.
      Originally posted by Barry
      The Ravens, Broncos, Panthers, Packers, and Cowboys were the only playoff clubs that ran more than they passed, mostly because they either had great runners and offensive lines, or lousy passers, and also play outdoors.
      You've already missed the point, Barry. As you say, these teams all ran MORE than they passed last season. You go on to say how several of their stats are worse than top passing teams. And to that I say, of course they're worse off. Nobody is arguing that our offense should consist of passing on less than half of our downs. That would be complete nonsense and would stall our high-octane offense.

      An offense will be just as predictable by passing less than half as it is when you pass on 80% of the downs as we're doing now.

      Maybe you're confused by the term "balanced". A balanced offense is not a 50/50 split between pass and run. In fact, I would say that a 50/50 split is very much out of balance in today's NFL. And the teams you mentioned that run more than pass are very much out of "balance". But then again so are we with our 80/20.

      What's so wrong with say 60/40 or even 65/35. Shouldn't we at least make opposing defenses think we might, possibly, run now and then? Can't you at least see that a more "balanced" offense would, in fact, open up the passing game to bigger gains.

      Barry, I'm sure you deal with fans that talk off the top of their head and say things like we should be running more than half the time, but we both know that's not the solution. Just as passing 80% of the time is not the solution either, which should be evident by watching the Saints drop 7 guys into coverage, begging us to run. If our 5 or 6 blockers can't stop their 4, then we've got bigger problems anyway. However, we will never know unless we at least attempt to establish a running game.
      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

        There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

        Barry's analysis is far too selective, and really proves nothing.

        The fact that running the ball eats clock is undeniable. After most running plays (unless the runner goes out of bounds) the clock runs. Passing plays, on the other hand, often stop the clock (incompletions, sideline patterns). Duh.

        If you want to see how clear this issue is, here's a simple, and much better analysis:

        These are the Rams statistics since 1999 showing percentage of running plays to points scored:

        % Rushing Attempts/Points

        1999: 44.8%/32.9 ppg.
        2000: 41.8%/33.8 ppg.
        2001: 42.l7%/ 31.4 ppg.
        2002: 35.1%/19.8 ppg.
        2003: 40.7%/27.9 ppg.
        2004: 34.5%/19.7 ppg.

        So, as you can see, there is almost a direct correlation of % running plays to points scored, and every year that the Rams went below 40% on running plays, their scoring average dropped significantly.

        Those are the facts, folks.
        Last edited by AvengerRam_old; -09-30-2004, 08:36 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

          Hey AV, nice job debunking the Debunking of an NFL Myth. :king:

          And there's another point to this balanced offense discussion that Barry does not address. The Rams are tied for third from the bottom in total sacks allowed by the offensive line. If we don't start running the ball more, Bulger is going to get destroyed before the half-way point of the season.
          Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

            All good points guys...I agree 100%. AV I was suprised to see us with such a high rushing ratio in TGSOT years...good stuff, thanks. HUBison you are right on. Yodude, I hadn't thought much about the sacks...an excellent point!

            Go Rams!!!

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

              Originally posted by AvengerRam
              Those are the facts, folks.
              And again, we shouldn't misconstrue those facts into thinking they represent something they aren't.

              When you find stats that separate the clock-eating latter game running drives that take place after we've established a significant lead from the true balanced gameplans that use both rush and pass to achieve points and wins, come find me.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

                I don't claim that there are not additional variables that factor into this pattern.

                However, given that the statistical sample is 5+ years, and the pattern is so clear, I think it would be hard to take the position that there is not some meaningful correlation between utilizing the running game to balance out the passing game and overall success.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

                  Originally posted by AvengerRam
                  I don't claim that there are not additional variables that factor into this pattern.

                  However, given that the statistical sample is 5+ years, and the pattern is so clear, I think it would be hard to take the position that there is not some meaningful correlation between utilizing the running game to balance out the passing game and overall success.
                  I'm sure there is a correlation. But again, teams run more whenever they're in the lead and able to separate from the opposition. They're able to run more when they've put themselves in a position to win and need to take as much time off the clock as possible. This is a pattern as well, one that exceeds five years of stats. It's a basic football strategy, and given the potency and strength of the Rams' offense from '99 through '01, I think it's more than fair to say that the Rams saw a lot of these opportunities because of their style of offense.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

                    Again, I'm not saying you don't have a point, but Barry's article basically tried to make it seem like there was NO evidence that having more of a balanced attack is beneficial, and then smugly accused Ram fans of spouting off on this topic without anything to back it up.


                    So... I backed it up.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Debunking An NFL Myth?

                      An interesting, but not novel, idea. Build a straw man, simply to knock it down. Could work. But the real point is ball control. Keep away. Plain and simple. Along with that comes the assumptions that the offense will score when it has the ball and the defense will score when it can. The ratio of passes to runs becomes immaterial as long as ball control is maintained. As long as the offense and defense maintain ball control, all else will fall into place.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Debunking An NFL Myth?

                        Proudly copied off the Herd board: an interesting take on pass percentage / vs. wins

                        http://www.ramsrule.com/theoriginalh...ode=full&page=

                        This is during Martz tenure as HC.

                        2000 only 70% pass/run - Trent Green won.
                        2001 only 1 70% pass/run - Rams lost.
                        2002 4 70% pass/run - 2-2 (Bulger win and Martin win in last game of season vs Niners)

                        3-3 over those 3 seasons.

                        So expand this some and make it 65% passing

                        2000 6 games with 65%+ passing = 2-4
                        2001 3 games with 65%+ passing = 1-2
                        2002 11 games with 65%+ passing = 3-8

                        Now does anyone honestly believe Martz knows his team went 6-14 when they pass on 65% or more of their plays from '00 to '02?

                        2003

                        2 games over 70% passing - 0-2 dropping the record to 3-5
                        5 games over 65% passing (including Carolina game).

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

                          You hear that, Barry?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

                            We have a whole other thread discussing the problems with that post.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Debunking An NFL Myth

                              I think Barry's numbers were void of points off of returns. That may change Avenger's numbers to certian extent. Maybe not!

                              Overlooked however, are the changes in emotion that running the ball down a teams throat brings to fans and athletes alike. Nothing quiets the home crowd like a road team pushing the Homies past the line of scrimmage. Nothing motivates an O line like a few 10 yards and cloud of dust runs.

                              Running the ball also gives the opposing D something to think about. By passing 70% of the time, the D can sit back in the passing lanes or pressure the QB. At times like that, an effective O line can bail you out and have a neutralizing effect. The Rams O line has been less than effective -so far this season to date. I hope that changes.

                              Likewise, nothing charges up an offense like a turnover inside the opposing teams 40 yard line. On the other hand, a three and out with a lame running attempt a bad pass and a sack and you are off the field in a hurry. That kind of offensive series turnover is what has hurt the Rams.

                              During the GSOT, it was turnover...

                              The ability of the Rams D to create turnovers and the ability of the offense to turnover points in the read zone. As I recall the average scoring drive for the Rams in 1999 and 2000 was less than 3 minutes (or around three minutes).

                              The Rams have been void of the emotion and momentum that is generated by turnovers by the defense and drained of momentum by turnovers by the offense.

                              Old Way or New Way, its about emotion. We need a keg ot two of that stuff. There have been rumors that the swagger is gone. I have to agree.

                              Debunk that....

                              Your Friendly Negative Poster...

                              PS -- Oh... and Mammie - How about a turnover or two??
                              Last edited by AugustaRamFan; -09-30-2004, 04:15 PM.

                              Comment

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                              • RamDez
                                Is The Media, NFL Ruining Sports?
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                                By Barry Waller

                                Gridiron Gateway



                                The National Football League has become the largest enterprise in professional sports as Major League Baseball, the NBA, and especially the locked out NHL are facing futures that range from serious questions to outright disaster. Imagine owning part of a factory that is flourishing during a depression, and it’s easy to understand why ownership in an NFL franchise is an enviable place to be. Unfortunately, for football fans, things are not so rosy.



                                With the cash flowing, the league feels confident in every decision it makes, and when it comes to making more and more money, entrepreneurs like the Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, and the Redskins Daniel Snider, who lead the group of “bottom line” owners, have tunnel vision.

                                Now the NFL has its own network, basically a worldwide televised public relations division. That may be a good addition for fans that love as much information as possible, but what does it do for the traditional way sports are covered?



                                I can’t imagine a 24-hour news report running on the “U.S. Government Network”, and it’s probably not even legal for such a show to be aired. The reason for that is simple. After awhile, people may start to think that what they are watching is the objective truth, something on which the American media is supposed to be based, instead of what Washington wanted folks to believe.



                                The problem the real media has, is that the NFL Network will get cooperation from players, coaches, officials and league executives, that even ESPN and FOX may not get. Certainly their own excesses and faulty journalism make those two TV sports giants, and others who “cross the line,” less pitiable. With the recent “60 Minutes” firings at CBS, and the scandal at the New York Times last year, alarms should be sounding as Joseph Pulitzer spins in his grave.



                                Instead, the obsession for ratings and more money for stockholders keep pushing the media further and further from its noble roots, to the point where being a “National Enquirer” reporter is no longer a situation to be embarrassed about. Like the NFL, money is driving the media that covers it to be more about flash, about hype, about dirt, than about substance. The NFL doesn’t like some of the negativity, so they start their own 24-hour infomercial, which will no doubt drive the real media to lower depths to compete.



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                                -01-13-2005, 01:52 PM
                              • RamDez
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                                By Barry Waller

                                Gridiron Gateway





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                              • mikhal5569
                                Titans & Rams Post Game Thoughts A Fans Perspective
                                by mikhal5569

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                                -08-22-2011, 07:36 PM
                              • RamDez
                                From the Rams locker room today
                                by RamDez
                                TYOKA JACKSON STATEMENTS 12-30-2004





                                “ To me they sound that way (on whether the criticism of Martz is personal), and to me that’s sad, that’s sad. What kind of journalistic integrity is that, to make blanket statements about a guy’s personality and don’t know him that well? I could talk about you, but I could only critique you as a reporter. Other than that, that’s all I’ve got. When you guys walk out of here, you won’t have people standing out there yelling obscenities at you. You won’t have anybody out there critiquing your job today on national TV, you won’t see it. “



                                “If you guys make a mistake, it’ll get edited out, but it just doesn’t work for the rest of us like that. I look at it and I’m thinking, what do these people think, who say these things and have no idea what they are talking about. What do people who never played the game, what are they talking about when they sit and critique people who sit down and work 18 hour days trying to win a football game in the National Football League, and they sit and critique one or two plays?”



                                “What are you thinking really? You go home and your day is over and you can come back and talk about something negative the next day. I don’t understand people like that.” “



                                (Asked what is “out of bounds for reporters)

                                “When you go into “deep” analysis about what you think is going on, but have no clue about what is really happening. Analyze what you just watched, and say, ‘I saw a team that didn’t play well, or I saw a team that maybe didn’t play to its ability’. But when you go further and say, ‘well it looks like they packed it in, or it looks like he lost the team’, what are you talking about?



                                How many team meetings have you been in, the people that make these statements? Were you in minicamp? How many times have you come in the weight room, or seen coach come through and have personal conversations with players in the locker room about stuff other than football? Anytime? No. How many times have you seen him put his arm around players and ask them how their kids are?”



                                ‘He’s lost them, they don’t want to play for him anymore, they don’t respect him’, I hear that and shake my head. To me it doesn’t sound like that person who’s talking has any idea what they are talking about. I know they don’t. Where is the integrity to not speak about things you know nothing about?”



                                ABOUT MARTZ



                                “Here’s the point right here. I can’t make a statement and describe a guy, a human being, a man his age, and make you understand who he is over the 4 years I have known him. I think he’s a great guy, he’s an honest guy, he’s a man of integrity. He’s too honest sometimes. He tells you guys things that are too honest, and you guys take it and run with it. He’s an honest person, he’s an...
                                -12-31-2004, 01:32 AM
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