Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Mar 2010

FO Mailbag: Pass-Run Imbalance

Chris Migliaccio: I know you guys took a look at teams that were lopsided, but you never ran an end of season table on largest differences between passing and running DVOA. Is the Chargers 70+% difference the record? In a cursory glance, I didn't see anyone that close, other than the 2008 Chargers.

It is indeed. Here's the top ten list going back to 1993.

YEAR TEAM W-L PASS RANK RUSH RANK DIF
2009 SD 13-3 62.2% 1 -11.2% 32 73.4%
2003 TEN 12-4 52.1% 1 -12.7% 30 64.7%
2004 IND 12-4 69.1% 1 6.7% 11 62.5%
2007 NE 16-0 75.4% 1 20.4% 2 54.9%
1994 SF 13-3 50.3% 1 -1.9% 11 52.2%
1998 NYJ 12-4 44.3% 3 -7.6% 21 51.9%
2008 SD 8-8 54.9% 1 4.0% 18 50.9%
1995 GB 11-5 47.0% 3 -3.1% 19 50.1%
2005 NE 10-6 46.0% 2 -3.4% 17 49.3%
1995 CHI 9-7 49.0% 2 0.4% 14 48.6%

You'll notice that there's nothing wrong with having a great passing game and a mediocre running game. Every team on this list except the 2008 Chargers had a winning record. The team with a losing record and the biggest gap between passing and rushing was the 2005 Arizona Cardinals (5-11) who had 10.4% DVOA passing (15th) but -30.3% rushing (32nd).

Here's the other side of the coin, the teams where the running game was far superior to the passing game. You'll notice that these teams, with the exception of the 2004 Falcons, all have losing records -- but part of that is the fact that being better at running the ball doesn't necessarily mean you are great at running the ball.

YEAR TEAM W-L PASS RANK RUSH RANK DIF
2004 ATL 11-5 -35.1% 31 18.5% 3 -53.6%
2000 CIN 4-12 -43.4% 31 3.4% 13 -46.8%
2005 SF 4-12 -57.9% 32 -13.4% 29 -44.5%
2004 CHI 5-11 -51.2% 32 -7.1% 27 -44.1%
2007 SF 5-11 -40.8% 32 -2.6% 17 -38.2%
1998 PHI 3-13 -38.0% 29 -2.8% 15 -35.2%
2003 CHI 7-9 -29.8% 32 4.4% 13 -34.2%
1994 HOIL 2-14 -33.6% 28 0.3% 7 -33.9%
1998 SD 5-11 -38.3% 30 -4.8% 17 -33.5%
1993 SEA 6-10 -24.8% 26 8.7% 5 -33.5%

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 08 Mar 2010

20 comments, Last at 27 Mar 2010, 4:37am by sports-veronica

Comments

1
by Sophandros :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 2:46pm

But, but, but you have to RUN THE BALL to WIN!! And defense wins championships and quarterbacks' win-loss records are the most important stats ever!!!

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Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

10
by jebmak :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:32pm

Please, don't be asinine. For QBs, only Super Bowl wins matter.

15
by Sophandros :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 11:09am

I forgot. My apologies.

In all seriousness, though, there is a 100 post thread on another site where someone is questioning whether Thurman Thomas should be in the HOF. One person cited "poor performance in big games" while ignoring the first SB he played in. Apparently, AFC Championship Games and playoff games don't count as "big games" either. Only Super Bowls that fit the poster's rather weak argument. Thus, my signature.

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Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

2
by Duke :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 3:09pm

It is shocking--shocking!--to see a Chicago team in that first table.

I assume in a few seasons they will drop out, but man, what an anomaly that season was.

3
by Joe M. (not verified) :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 3:26pm

The fact that we're all hoping Jay Cutler brings back the days of Erik Kramer is probably a bit sad, isn't it.

6
by Phil Osopher :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:05pm

If Forte can turn into Neal Anderson, you should be all set

9
by Eddo :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:15pm

Neal Anderson and Erik Kramer were never on the same team.

19
by Spielman :: Tue, 03/16/2010 - 1:00am

That's okay... the Lions have been trying to recapture the lost glories of Erik Kramer for even longer.

4
by Rick B. (not verified) :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 4:36pm

How are there not ANY Philadelphia teams on that top 10 list? The absence of any Andy Reid offenses on that list boggles the mind.

5
by Dave51 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 4:50pm

Easy, defenses play so much pass-coverage against the Eagles that the few rushing attempts that accidentally get called pick up decent yardage most of the time.

7
by Brendan Scolari :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:12pm

Exactly, it's not as though Brian Westbrook hasn't been able to run the ball. They don't run it often, but when they do, they're fine.

11
by tuluse :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:54pm

It's a list of teams that had a huge difference in how well they ran and passed, not how often. The Eagles are generally good at both, they just don't run as often as most people would like.

12
by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 6:11pm

Philadelphia runs effectively, just not often. This is DVOA, not a counting stat.

8
by dk240t :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 5:13pm

Which one of these is not like the others?

My favorite is how the 2007 NE Pats actually had the 2nd best rush offense in the league, but the pass offense was so good that it still qualifies as a top difference...all the rest are good pass offense with bad rush offense.

And I'm not a NE fan by any imagination, I just appreciate that anomaly.

13
by DavidL :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 8:01pm

I like that New England's rushing offense is better than any of the teams whose running game was far better than their passing game.

14
by HostileGospel :: Mon, 03/08/2010 - 8:33pm

Wait, the '94 Oilers had the 7th-ranked run DVOA with .3% over average? Fucking wow.

'94 team offense

Noting that all the teams in table one had top-3 passing offenses, I'd love to see a table of the top 10 teams with a better run offense than pass offense that finished in the top 3 in rushing- ie, still sorted by greatest disparity, just taken from a smaller subset of teams. As Aaron points out, the second group is mostly teams that were just less terrible at running than at passing, not teams that were generally good at running.

--
There's a place I want to be. It's the NovaCare Center. That's in Philadelphia. One NovaCare Way, where the Eagles practice and then they eat cafeteria food and they watch film and we eat and we have fun.

-Donovan McNabb

16
by boing3887 (not verified) :: Tue, 03/09/2010 - 10:45pm

what jumps out on that first table is the 2007 patriots. their run-O wasn't even bad, in fact it was pretty good - it's just that the pass offense was even better

17
by Theo :: Fri, 03/12/2010 - 12:16pm

I can't get this video out of my head where Dennis Green is shouting to his UFL players. "You got to run the ball, have to be able to run the ball".

18
by tuluse :: Sat, 03/13/2010 - 6:03pm

Coaches say a lot of things, most of them shouldn't be taken at face value.