Like most teams, the Redskins like to give kudos to themselves for their scripted first 15 offensive plays of the game.
“I think it’s good planning,” Gruden said about the first 15 plays against the Vikings. “First of all, we get those plays repped in practice and Kirk [Cousins] feels good about them, that’s the first step. We’ve got to make sure we feel good about the plays and Xs and Os on the board are beautiful but the quarterback has to like them and feel good about them and he has… We’ve had a good changeup as far as the runs, the play-actions, the quick game, keeping defenses off-balance and then converting on some key third downs, you know.”
The Redskins had success with their first 15 plays against the Vikings. The first 12 constituted a touchdown drive. The next three were good for 28 yards and got them well on their way to a second touchdown drive. Kirk Cousins completed five of seven passes for an average of 9.9 yards per attempt.
However, the scripts are not always quite so successful. In Week 5 in Baltimore the first 15 plays gained 46 yards and Cousins passed for 4.0 yards per attempt. And when you look at the whole season the scripted plays have been slightly less successful than all of the plays throughout all of the games.
Before I go into the numbers, I realize that 15 plays is something of an arbitrary number. Sometimes they go off script earlier than that depending on the game situation. If they are having success they might stick with the script longer, maybe adding a few wrinkles. But I stick with 15 for the sake of consistency and for the sake of not guessing when the script was used up or went out the window.
With that in mind, the Redskins have averaged 5.5 yards per play when they are scripted. On all of their plays they average 6.2 yards. That’s a 10.6 percent decrease. Kirk Cousins is slightly more efficient in the scripted times, averaging 7.9 yards per attempt then and 7.7 per attempt at all times.
The lesson here isn’t that they shouldn’t script plays. They are a good way to get into the flow of the game. But just remember that there is nothing magic at work. They are just plays, perhaps a bit less effective than other plays later in the game.