Let’s Not Pass On A Super Bowl

There was a great deal of debate during the last season surrounding Andy Reid’s play calling. In my opinion, his reluctance to run the ball meant that we didn’t hurt teams as much as we could and should have done. We didn’t shorten the field and unlock our deep weapons DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as often as a genuine Championship contender needed to.

Obviously there’s more to winning a Super Bowl than just the offense, but would we be more likely to succeed with a better balance between run and pass? Let’s look at some numbers.

Over the past ten years during the regular season, the eventual Super Bowl champions opted for passing plays 51.58% of the time. The highest percentage over that time belonged to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 57.8% during the 2002 season and the lowest was the Pittsburgh Steelers with 40.84% in 2005.
What about our Eagles? Well, the average regular season passing play percentage over the decade was 57.60%. The highest season saw 62.94% in 2005 and the lowest was 52.84% in 2002, the only year of the past ten that the Eagles’ passing percentage has been below that of the eventual Super Bowl Champions.

The Eagles made it to Super Bowl XXXIX after throwing the ball 59.26% of the time during the regular season, more than any Super Bowl winner of the last decade. What happened in the big game? 75.00% of plays saw Donovan air it out and the game was lost. That wasn’t the sole reason for losing the game of course, but in my opinion it was definitely a factor.

Another indication of the Eagles’ weakness on the ground is that the average time of possession over the past decade during the regular season is only 29:28 per game. That’s over 2 minutes less than the Super Bowl winner of each year, 31:33. Even those pass-happy Buccaneers managed to hold onto the ball for 32:07 during the 2002 season.

If you look at team rankings, the Super Bowl winners over the past decade have been ranked #14.7 passing and #13.5 when running the ball. The Eagles fare better with their passing ranking of #12.3 and slightly worse when it comes to running the ball, #16.0. Hey Andy, pass the ball less and run it more! It works!

It’s interesting to note just how many high-powered passing teams have lost the Super Bowl. Over the past ten years, the #1 or 2 ranked passing team over the regular season has ended up as the Super Bowl runners up on 5 occasions – that’s half of them! The #1 ranked team hasn’t won at all, with only the 2006 Colts managing a win as the #2 ranked team. Maybe a passing game will get you to the big one, but it isn’t enough to go all the way. The last two years the losing team, Colts and Cardinals, were the #2 ranked passing team during the regular season but #32 when running the ball.

An effective running game opens up so many options. Everything from running the clock down to protect a lead, to pounding a defense and tiring them out before hitting them with a long pass play. It sounds backwards, but don’t we owe it to our talented receivers to run the ball more?

Cheers from the UK and GO BIRDS!