I was doing some research on the Redskins’ run-pass ratio last year and I stumbled across a number that I found to be both stunning and very, very revealing.
I was looking into play calls in situations where the Redskins were trailing in a game by seven points or more and compared that to both league averages and to what they did when they led by seven or more.
When they were trailing by seven or more, Jay Gruden’s play selection mirrored that of the league as a whole. The Redskins passed 68 percent of the time and ran 32 percent. The league as a whole passed 68.7 percent of plays and ran on 31.3 percent.
How about when leading by a touchdown or more? In those situations the league as a whole went with the pass on 47.2 percent of the snaps and ran 52.8 percent. Gruden was a bit more pass happy, going 50.5 percent pass to 49.5 percent run.
The surprising stat that I found was that the Redskins ran just 91 plays when they were up by seven points or more. That’s pathetic. The average NFL team ran 230 plays with a lead of a touchdown or more. But the Redskins ran just about five and a half per game.
But the average is deceiving. They ran 53 of those plays with a lead of a touchdown or more in Week 2 against the Jaguars. The other 38 snaps came in two other games, the Week 3 shootout in Philadelphia and in Week 9 in Minnesota. So in 13 games they didn’t take a single snap with a lead of at least seven points.
Gruden was indeed pass happy in his play calling last year, with 60 percent passes to 40 percent runs. But given that they rarely had a substantial lead to work with, even Chuck Knox, a.k.a. Ground Chuck, the former Bills and Seahawks coach known for strongly favoring the running game, would have found it necessary to throw a lot.
This doesn’t render any criticism of Gruden’s overall play selection last season null and void. But it does make it difficult to predict what the Redskins run-pass ratio will be this year if they manage to play with a lead some of the time. If the upgraded personnel improve the defense and if special teams can become a help and not a hindrance, perhaps the Redskins will run an average number of plays with a lead of seven points or more and we can see if the stated intentions to control the game with the run actually happen.
If, on the other hand, the Redskins again run fewer than 100 plays with a lead of a touchdown or better we won’t really know what the intentions of Gruden and company were. They will be forced to throw to catch up.
And we may never find out what Gruden’s offensive model looks like. If they can’t play with a lead a substantial amount of the time there may be a different coach developing the offensive philosophy in 2015.