Rafael's article about the Pass to Run Ratio got me thinking. The way NFL.com carries its Stats on Total rushing plays and Total passing attempts is actually misleading when it comes to determining what ratio of run to pass was called.
They state 547 total passing attempts and 401 total rushing plays for 948 plays total. That gives a ratio of 57.7% pass and 42.3% run.
Those 401 rushing attempts include 28 “runs” by Tony Romo and 2 “runs” by Brad Johnson. Now obviously these 30 plays aren't proper running plays. Most would be pass plays that have broken down and a few others would be kneel downs.
And the 948 plays total does not include Sacks allowed. The Cowboys QB's were sacked 31 times last year and those 31 pass attempts aren't recorded as such in the standard ratio.
So let's add 24 (we'll leave six out for kneel downs) of those QB “runs” to the pass plays called column and remove all 30 from the rushing plays called column. And let's add the 31 sacks allowed to the passing plays column.
The new, more accurate, play calling ratio is;
602 pass plays called (37.6 per game).
371 run plays called (23.2 per game).
61.9% pass and 38.1% run.
Now obviously these new Cowboy ratio stats are hard to do a comparison on since I'm not going to translate all the other 31 teams ratios but I will translate and compare to what seems to be the prominent rushing team – the NY Giants.
993 plays – 49.4% pass and 50.6% run.
28 QB “runs” (again we'll take 28 off run plays and add 22 to pass plays, leaving six out again for kneel downs).
28 Sacks allowed (added to pass plays).
New NY Giants ratio;
541 pass plays called (33.8 per game).
474 run plays called (29.6 per game).
53.3% pass and 46.7% run.
So one of the most run committed teams called a run play around 46.7% of the time. Dallas called a run play around 38.1% of the time. That's a 8.6% difference and works out to about 5 or 6 rushing plays per game. I really do think that getting the percentage closer to the New York 46.7% mark could have a significant positive impact on our offense and the entire team.
Completely useless fantasy projection time!
So let's pretend everything goes swimmingly injury wise and the Defense plays like it did when it was on it's hot streak last year. And let's pretend that Dallas succeeds in it's supposed new found commitment to the run and posts a pass to run ratio like the new NY Giants ratio. How could that ratio look in Cowboy colors?
From the Giants 541 pass plays Eli threw 479 attempts. The other 62 were sacks (28), scrambles (22), or David Carr (12).
If Dallas has 541 pass plays I'll say injury free Romo will attempt 490 passes with the missing 51 plays coming through sacks and scrambles etc. He gets off more passes than Eli simply because he's a better player (and more aggressive).
As Eli's pass attempts dropped from 529 in 2007 to 479 in 2008 he had the best QB rating of his career. His completion percentage went up from 56.1% to 60.3%. Eli's 2008 60.3% is much higher than his career average of 55.9%. A testament to how a steady and consistent ground attack can help a QB. While throwing 520 passes in 2007 Romo's completion percentage was 64.4% and his careers is 63.6%. He's never really had a consistent steady ground attack. If he gets one this year his completion percentage could climb well over 65% into elite range (67-68%). But right now I think it's a reasonable assumption that he'd hit about 65% in this offense.
So 490 attempts at 65% equals 319 completions. Romo's career average yards per throw is an outstanding 8.1. His 490 attempts at 8.1 each equals 3969 yards.
Eli's Interception percentage also came down significantly with a good rushing attack. Eli and Romo had nearly identical passing attempts and interception ratio's in their 2007 seasons. Eli (529 and 20 Int's equals one every 26 attempts) and Romo (520 and 19 Int's equals one every 27 attempts). Eli went from that to 10 Interceptions in 08 (one every 48 attempts). If Romo gets a committed and effective ground attack he can bring his down considerably too but his natural aggressiveness probably precludes his from going as far down as Eli's did so we'll put him in the middle at one every 35 attempts. Romo also averages (career) a TD pass roughly every 16 attempts.
Based on all that mumbo jumbo here's Romo's 2009 season stats;
319 completions from 490 attempts for 3969 yards at an 8.1 average with 30 TD's and 14 Interceptions.
Even with a new found commitment to the run (from running 38.1% of plays to 46.7% of plays) there's still plenty of room for the passing game to dominate. And there's still plenty of passes for guys like Witten and Williams to have big years. In fact that season looks very similar to the stats posted by the best rated passer of the year in 2008 Philip Rivers (312 for 478, 4009, 8.4 65.3%, 34 and 11, QB rating 105.5). So although we've delved into major fantasy here it's certainly possible.
That type of passing game depends on the Oline being solid and consistent enough to run the ball nearly 30 times a game. We've definitely got the backs to do it as New York's 474 run plays called could look something like; Marion returning to the Third Down and Closer roles from his Pro Bowl 07 season (204 carries in 07) would net him about 208 carries (13 per game) in 08, Felix could take a 1st and 2nd Down Julius Jones type role with about 192 carries (12 per game) and Choice could fill in for a spell in either role with about 74 carries (4-5 game). That'll give Dallas New York's 474 and a 46.7% ratio.
Obviously all those fantasy projections are completely out the window as soon as real football starts when things like injury, performance and the score board all dictate what plays need to be called but all things being equal I do think Dallas will attempt to mold their Offense around that sort of criteria. If they do that, and circumstances like injury's are favorable, I think it really could be a big success with the running emphasis helping many facets of Dallas' game. The turnovers on offense should come down and the time of possession should go up. Those things won't just improve the Offense, they'll improve the Defense too and if the Off-season emphasis on Special Teams pays off Dallas could be a much tougher and improved football team on Gameday.