Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Crazy NFL Oddity

Right now the Denver Broncos are averaging 153.1 passing yards per game, and 159.7 rushing yards per game through 11 games in the 2011 regular season. During the six games that Tim Tebow has started -- in which the Broncos have gone an astounding 5-1 -- the discrepancy is even crazier, as the team has averaged 112.5 yards passing, and 208 yards rushing, or almost twice as much yardage on the ground as through the air, in an NFL that is hopelessly weighted in favor of the passing game these days.

By contrast, looking at some of the league's most potent offenses this year, after last night's drubbing of the Giants, the New Orleans Saints are averaging 324 passing yards per game, and just 125 rushing. After wiping up the Eagles this past Sunday, the Cheatriots are gaining 319 yards through the air per game, and just 110 on the ground, for an almost 3-to-1 ratio in favor of passing. Even in the NFL's best rushing team behind the Broncos -- the aforementioned Eagles, who also have started the best running qb in the game for most of the season -- are looking at 260 yards passing, and 160 yards rushing per game.

Can someone tell me when was the last time a team averaged more yards rushing than passing for an entire season? How about a good team -- like the 5-1 record compiled by John Fox and the Broncos during the Tim Tebow era? Has this ever happened before?

I went back and looked at some of the worst-quarterbacked teams to ever win superbowls just for a quick check. For example, that Trent Dilfer-led Ravens team that won the superbowl in 2000 on the strength of basically a cripe offense and the best defense in a generation? 3101 yards passing, and 2199 yards rushing. Not even close. And that was in a league not nearly as weighted by rule changes and qb talent towards the passing game as today's NFL. And what about the Brad Johnson-led 2002 Tampa Bay superbowl squad? 3665 yards passing, and 1557 yards rushing. More than 2-1 in favor of the passing game.

Somebody please tell me if anything like this has ever happened before.

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Blogger Josie said...

When I think of rushing teams, KC Chiefs come to mind, at least last year. But even still, they aren't much of a comparision to this ridiculosity.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

2010 KC Chiefs: 3189 yards passing, 2627 yards rushing. Reasonably close, but still no dice. And I checked back every year since 2000 -- 2010 was by far the closest they have been to the rush yards vs pass yards ratio. In most years they were more than twice the yardage through the air as on the ground.

10:14 PM  
Blogger John said...

1978 New England Patriots.
Passing: 2800 yards
Rushing: 3165
First in AFC East Division.

2:21 AM  
Blogger John said...

also going further back, there was a team in 1972 ... the miami dolphins.

2076 to 2960.

(ideas for looking these up came from the article at http://uponfurtherreview.kansascity.com/?q=node/2637 based on a quick google search)

2:24 AM  
Blogger Josie said...

Yay Pats!

2:48 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

OK, that is some quality research right there, thanks for that.

Thing is, it pretty much supports the argument I am trying to make here. The 1970s was nowhere near the pass-happy set of rules (and players) that we have today in the NFL. Although it still seems pretty crazy even for the 1970s, my point is that no team has even come close to doing this in anything even remotely resembling the current quarterback-weighted system we have today in professional football.

Also, does anybody know, did the Cheatriots used to illegally film their opponents' practices and steal their signs back in the '70s too, or is that only a 2000s thing?

3:16 AM  
Blogger Tom said...

The running game in the 70's was much more dominant in college football. Here's the stats for the 1975 National Champion Oklahoma Sooners:

Rush 3,385
Pass 510

7:51 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Even today, I'm sure there are totally teams that run more than pass in college. The game in college is so focused even today on the option, and just running in general, that would not surprise me much (though those Oklahoma stats are pretty sick even still...). But in the NFL, I'm surprised more people are not talking about the fact that we have a team that is 5-1 under a new quarterback and who is running the ball for literally twice as many yards as they are passing it. It is totally unheard of.

It's a shame that John Fox can't win coach of the year this year with what he is doing to match his game plan to the players he has been given. Harbaugh in San Francisco pretty much has the award locked up already I think. But Fox deserves major, major props in my book for what he is dropping on the rest of the NFl this season.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

I can't say when it's ever happened before, but for those of us actually getting all the Denver games on TV, the *reason* why it's happening now is painfully obvious. Tebow just ain't much as a passer, and Fox doesn't trust him to throw the ball.

Tebow has more rushing attempts than he has pass completions, and is completing something like 44% or so of his tosses.

Also, he tends to get one 30 or so yard pass a game which skews his numbers further. Eric Decker has amazing hands.

The reason the Broncos are 5-1 in his starts has FAR more to do with their defense, which has been playing out of its freaking mind the last three weeks, and at least two games where the opposing kicker blew very makeable FGs. The Broncos offense has been mediocre at best, and several times, downright putzy for the first 55 minutes of the game.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

Oh, that Dolphins team was also the era of Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, and Jim Kiick, all in their primes. Any of them would have started for virtually every other team in the league.

11:52 AM  
Blogger John said...

had to keep poking around (ignoring the 'pass-happy' era constraint) . teams with highest rushing totals would be a good place to start.
1986 superbowl bears were split - 2700 rushing, 2759 passing.
they were split in 1985, 1984 was 2900-2400 in favor of rushing.

ah, more recently, NYJ in 2009 was ranked first in rushing, 31st in passing, 2756 yds to 2380 yds.

Anyway...i think Mondo's insight is more interesting. the defense is getting ignored, and the reason for the runs is because they can't pass.

10:53 PM  

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