The Callahan Offense and a World of Real Yardage

The times they are a changin' in Dallas. We are replacing the much maligned Dinky Dunk Callahan offense with the new and improved Air Linehan system, and I'd like to take a moment to reflect on some relevant offensive statistics.

The first thing I would like to point out is what I call "Real Yardage," but is commonly referred to as "yards through the air." If I had been in charge of creating football statistics, I would've slapped the first person who suggested that we should count yards run by the receivers after the catch as quarterback passing yards, simply because they are not.

Unfortunately, I only have access to the last year of Real Yardage, and it includes the playoffs, but I'd like to share with you a few key points before diving into the gritty stuff:


I assumed he would be at the bottom of the league in real yardage last year. Nope. He's at the top in both real yardage AND in yard's after the catch, which means not only was he the most prolific quarterback in the NFL last year, he had the most prolific receivers as well. He had 2,796 yards off of his own arm, and his receivers doubled his total by running the ball for 2,681 more. The fact that he played in more games than any QB besides Russel Wilson inflates those numbers, so I'll share with you the top 5:

Player Name Real Yards Yards After Catch
1. Peyton Manning 2,796 2,681
2. Drew Brees 2,586 2,576
3. Carson Palmer 2,420 1,854
4. Eli Manning 2,271 1,547
5. Matt Stafford 2,258 2,392

Please note that Matt Stafford is a top 5 QB in real yards and has even more yards after the catch before continuing on.

In order to find our favorite, well, my favorite QB, you have to look down to number 13 in the rankings. He has 1988 real yards and 1840 yards after the catch. It's better than average- better than Andrew Luck, Russel Wilson, and even Aaron Rodgers, who ranks in the bottom ten in real yardage.

What I would like to do is compare Romo's recent season under Bill Callahan to his past seasons under Garrett and to Mathew Stafford under Linehan to get some idea of what effect Bill Callahan may have had on our offense and what we can expect to see in actual passing yards from Romo this upcoming season. I haven't even seen the numbers yet, so I'm discovering them as I write this just as you discover them as you read along.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I only have one season of Real Yardage available to me, so I'll switch over to looking at other statistics for historical averages- deep pass percentage and attempts.

Again reflecting on this past season, and this time examining the regular season only for better accuracy, Tony Romo ranks 34th in the league in deep pass percentage out of 44 qualifying quarterbacks. That sounds awful and I'm sure certain members just thought to themselves "I knew we should've drafted Manziel," but don't freak out just yet. He's joined at the bottom of the league by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Phillip Rivers. Matt Ryan rounds out the list with the lowest deep passing percentage in the NFL.

How then, do QB's like Peyton Manning have such high Real Yardage given they don't pass the ball deep any more often than we do? Simply put, they pass the ball more often.

Player Name and Rank Passing attempts Deep Throw Percentage
1. Peyton Manning 787 19.3
2. Drew Brees 723 18.5
3. Tom Brady 691 20.5
4. Andrew Luck 658 22.0
5. Matt Ryan 651 12.1

Romo and the "pass happy" Cowboys offense ranked 15th in the league with only 535 passing attempts, going deep on a below career average 17.6 percent of the time, whereas the NFL median was 20.4 percent last year.

As we can see from tables above, the QB's who rack up the most yardage aren't necessarily the one's who throw it deep every play. The QB's who lead the NFL in Real Yardage are the one's who throw it more often, and coincidentally the Broncos, Saints, Patriots, Colts, and Falcons are a group of 80% playoff teams. The quarterbacks who throw it deep the most however, are Vick, Freeman, Foles, Wilson, Weeden, Flacco, and Geno Smith. Those quarterbacks collectively represent two playoff teams from last year.

What this says to me is that we don't want to go deep every play, but we want to throw the ball more often. (Deep, for the record, means more than 15 yards through the air). The quarterbacks who do so have a high number of Real Yards passed for and very successful playoff teams, and a healthy deep pass percentage of around 20% looks like it correlates fairly strongly with those successful QBs.

(The one exception I would like to point out is the highly overrated Andrew Luck, who has a top 5 passing attempts number and around average deep pass percentage, but who ranks in the bottom of the league in real yards and has a below average completion percentage.)

With that said, I'd like to look at the historical values of pass attempts and deep pass percentage for Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford:

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Tony Romo 535(14th) attempts
17.6 % deep
648(3rd) attempts
19.3 % deep
522(9th) attempts
19.3 % deep
injured most
550(5th*) attempts
16.5 % deep
Matthew Stafford 634(4th) attempts
21.1 % deep
727(1st) attempts
22.8 % deep
663(1st) attempts
18.4 % deep
injured most
603(1st*) attempts
19.4 % deep

* In the table above, I took the liberty of projecting the final numbers of Stafford's high octane 2009 season which was cut short to only 10 games, by simply assuming that he would've run the offense the same in the six games he didn't play as in the ten that he did, which would have had him on pace to lead the league in attempts. This bumped Romo's position down from 4th to 5th

As you can see in the table above, Romo and Stafford have always ranked very high in their number of attempts and have remained close to the league standard of 20% deep passing plays. The exception would be last season, when suddenly the Callahan offense took over and we stopped throwing the ball. I don't care what you say about the running game, WE STOPPED THROWING THE BALL. We also dropped below the respectable number of deep pass plays we should attempt.

Bringing in Linehan, Stafford's old coordinator, is clearly an attempt to get Romo back into the realm of successful teams with successful quarterbacks- where 80% of the top 5 QB's in passing attempts lead their teams to the playoffs last year.

God speed Linehan, throw that sucker and throw it often. I'd like to return to the playoffs and I think you've got what it takes. My advice to fantasy owners is to draft Tony Romo, because the Air Coryell system is returning, and I'm looking for a lot of success from the QB position this year.

FUN FACT FROM THE AIRMAN: Linehan's playing career began and ended in 1987, when the Dallas Cowboys signed him as an UDFA QB. A shoulder injury ended his rookie training camp, and career, early.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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