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They're Rushing All Right: Dallas to Run More in '09, but How Much More?

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Wade Phillips is quoted from a KTCK interview that he's looking for more rushing from his '09 team but sees a need for more efficient rushing:

"Overall, and you go into stats which obviously people use different ways, but our running game the last two years is around the 20th-best in the league. If we can shoot for the top 10 with that group I think it'll help us not only as far as moving the football in the running game, it'll also help us with the turnovers, cut down on those things, and the rush on our quarterback."

Phillips is right on both counts.  The Cowboys run/pass ratio was 42:58 this year.  That's a richer pass mix than '07, when Dallas ran 44% of the time.  The trend in recent years has been for a pass first-run later strategy.  I wrote a piece on this last January that I've pasting in part here.  Consider than run/pass mixes of the top offenses last season:

The perfect ‘07 Pats lead a different era, where you pass to win. Look at the run-pass ratios of 2007’s top four playoff seeds:

  1. Patriots - 43/57
  2. Cowboys - 44/56
  3. Colts - 45/55
  4. Packers - 41/59

All throw the ball at least 55 percent of the time, and have ratios in line with last year’s Colts, who won the Super Bowl with a 44/56 run to pass ratio.

Now, compare those ratios to some of  the biggest offensive juggernauts of the '80s and '90s:

  • ‘89 49ers — 51/49
  • ‘94 49ers — 49/51
  • ‘95 Cowboys — 50/50
  • ‘96 Packers — 46/54
  • ‘98 Broncos — 52/48
  • Only the ‘96 Packers, with Brett Favre running Mike Holmgren’s offense, skewed more towards the pass. The ‘89 Joe Montana-led ‘Niners, the ‘94 Steve Young edition, the ‘95 Troy Aikman Cowboys and the ‘98 John Elway Broncos were all around 50/50 in their run/pass mix.

How do the remaining playoff contenders mix it up?

  • Ravens:  58% run, 42% pass;
  • Steelers:  46% run, 54% pass;
  • Eagles:  41% run, 59% pass;
  • Cardinals: 35% run, 65% pass;

It seems there are many ways to win, though the Cards stats are highly misleading.  They've changed their character completely in the post season, going from a 2:1 pass/run ratio to a 52% run/48% pass blend in wins over the Falcons and Panthers.

Which brings us back to Dallas.  I think the run ratio will jump much, much higher next year, but given the passing weapons at Dallas' disposal, I think a run percentage of 48% or 49% is more realistic than an attack resembling Baltimore's.  Their ratio resembles those Wade's daddy Bum dictated for his '70 Oilers when Earl Campbell was his lone offensive superstar.

The last time Dallas had a run ratio higher than 50% was in 2005, when Drew Bledsoe was running the show.  The fans that year accused Bill Parcells of playing too conservatively, of trying to win every game 17-14. 

Wade won't win any converts trying that strategy.