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Kerry Byrne, God love him, is dead wrong: says NFL has Always been a passing league

Discussion in 'NFL Football Forum' started by ivanvamp, Sep 5, 2012.

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  1. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp In the Starting Line-Up

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    On D&C this morning, Kerry Byrne of CHFF argued that it's always been a passing league, and as evidence, he cited the fact that the last guy to win the league in rushing and also an NFL championship was some unknown dude back in like 1951. And they went through the great running backs and asked what have these guys won: Eric Dickerson, Adrian Peterson, MJD, Chris Johnson, etc.

    But my goodness. As much as Byrne is solid on the numbers, he's very short on logic, at least in this case. The question isn't whether you need a rushing champ to win the title. The question is whether the league has always been a passing league. And that's pretty easy to figure out.

    Let's just look at the Super Bowl era - 46 seasons. Has the NFL in that time always been a passing league? No, no, no, no, no.

    Year - Champion - Passing Stats - Rushing Stats
    1966 - Packers - 318 att, 2257 yds - 475 att, 1673 yds
    1967 - Packers - 331 att, 2758 yds - 474 att, 1915 yds
    1968 - Jets - 436 att, 3574 yds - 467 att, 1608 yds
    1969 - Chiefs - 351 att, 2638 yds - 522 att, 2220 yds
    1970 - Colts - 416 att, 3087 yds - 411 att, 1336 yds
    1971 - Cowboys - 361 att, 3037 yds - 512 att, 2249 yds
    1972 - Dolphins - 259 att, 2235 yds - 613 att, 2960 yds
    1973 - Dolphins - 256 att, 1675 yds - 507 att, 2521 yds
    1974 - Steelers - 386 att, 2154 yds - 546 att, 2417 yds
    1975 - Steelers - 337 att, 2544 yds - 581 att, 2633 yds
    1976 - Raiders - 361 att, 3195 yds - 557 att, 2285 yds
    1977 - Cowboys - 372 att, 2689 yds - 564 att, 2369 yds
    1978 - Steelers - 380 att, 2961 yds - 641 att, 2297 yds
    1979 - Steelers - 492 att, 3724 yds - 561 att, 2603 yds
    1980 - Raiders - 456 att, 3294 yds - 541 att, 2146 yds
    1981 - 49ers - 517 att, 3766 yds - 560 att, 1941 yds
    1982 - Redskins - 253 att, 2068 yds - 315 att, 1140 yds (strike - 9 g)
    1983 - Raiders - 504 att, 3910 yds - 542 att, 2240 yds
    1984 - 49ers - 496 att, 4079 yds - 534 att, 2465 yds
    1985 - Bears - 432 att, 3303 yds - 610 att, 2761 yds
    1986 - Giants - 472 att, 3500 yds - 558 att, 2245 yds
    1987 - Redskins - 478 att, 3718 yds - 500 att, 2102 yds (strike - 15 g)
    1988 - 49ers - 502 att, 3675 yds - 527 att, 2523 yds
    1989 - 49ers - 483 att, 4584 yds - 493 att, 1966 yds
    1990 - Giants - 398 att, 2898 yds - 541 att, 2049 yds
    1991 - Redskins - 447 att, 3771 yds - 540 att, 2049 yds
    1992 - Cowboys - 491 att, 3597 yds - 500 att, 2121 yds
    1993 - Cowboys - 475 att, 3617 yds - 490 att, 2161 yds
    1994 - 49ers - 511 att, 4362 yds - 491 att, 1897 yds
    1995 - Cowboys - 494 att, 3741 yds - 495 att, 2201 yds
    1996 - Packers - 548 att, 3938 yds - 465 att, 1838 yds
    1997 - Broncos - 513 att, 3704 yds - 520 att, 2378 yds
    1998 - Broncos - 491 att, 3808 yds - 525 att, 2468 yds
    1999 - Rams - 530 att, 4580 yds - 431 att, 2059 yds
    2000 - Ravens - 504 att, 3102 yds - 511 att, 2199 yds
    2001 - Patriots - 482 att, 3326 yds - 473 att, 1793 yds
    2002 - Buccaneers - 567 att, 3665 yds - 414 att, 1557 yds
    2003 - Patriots - 537 att, 3651 yds - 473 att, 1607 yds
    2004 - Patriots - 485 att, 3750 yds - 524 att, 2134 yds
    2005 - Steelers - 379 att, 3104 yds - 549 att, 2223 yds
    2006 - Colts - 558 att, 4397 yds - 439 att, 1762 yds
    2007 - Giants - 544 att, 3376 yds - 469 att, 2148 yds
    2008 - Steelers - 506 att, 3607 yds - 460 att, 1690 yds
    2009 - Saints - 544 att, 4490 yds - 468 att, 2106 yds
    2010 - Packers - 541 att, 4355 yds - 421 att, 1606 yds
    2011 - Giants - 589 att, 4933 yds - 411 att, 1427 yds

    Let's use the major 2004 rule changes as a point of demarcation.

    Prior to 2004:
    - 38 champions
    - only 6 had more passing attempts than rushing attempts (15.8%)
    - pass att/G: 28.9 pass yds/G: 219.1
    - rush att/G: 34.0 rush yds/G: 140.6
    - run/pass att ratio: 1.18 run/pass yds ratio: 0.642

    2004-present:
    - 8 champions
    - 6 had more passing attempts than rushing attempts (75.0%) - including the last six in a row
    - pass att/G: 32.4 pass yds/G: 250.1
    - rush att/G: 29.2 rush yds/G: 117.9
    - run/pass att ratio: 0.90 run/pass yds ratio: 0.472


    The bottom line is this: teams are passing far more than they used to, and to a much higher degree of effectiveness. Teams used to rely on the run to a far greater degree than they do now. Heck, for some really good teams, the run is almost an afterthought now. It's pass, pass, pass. Look at those teams in the 70's. Man, they ran a LOT. Even the great 49er, Cowboy, and Bronco teams with hall-of-fame quarterbacks like Montana, Aikman, and Elway ran more than they threw. There have always been outliers, but the trend is unmistakeable. Winning teams always seemed to have better passing QBs than the other guys, but that doesn't mean that they relied on the pass more than the run. It's just not true.

    Kerry Byrne, I love your stuff on CHFF, but my friend, you are D.E.A.D. wrong that this has always been a passing league.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
  2. BradyManny

    BradyManny Pro Bowl Player

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    Killer breakdown. Well done. I bet if a beat guy asked Belichick if Byrne was right and the NFL has always been a passing league, he'd slap said reporter in the face. I don't understand how Byrne could possibly make that statement.
     
  3. Sicilian

    Sicilian Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    Disclaimer: I'm not going to do the research to back this up, so I won't make a conclusion. Just playing devil's advocate.

    I think his point wasn't that teams passed more than they ran, more that the championship teams of the past were always the teams that passed most effectively. The game was more of a running game based on ratio, but the teams that won were teams that could pass. There were never teams that could run the ball really well but couldn't pass and still won.
     
  4. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp In the Starting Line-Up

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    Thanks for the compliment. Here's the same summary information but with 2006-2011 included as a separate category:

    Prior to 2004:
    - 38 champions
    - only 6 had more passing attempts than rushing attempts (15.8%)
    - pass att/G: 28.9 pass yds/G: 219.1
    - rush att/G: 34.0 rush yds/G: 140.6
    - run/pass att ratio: 1.18 run/pass yds ratio: 0.642

    2004-present:
    - 8 champions
    - 6 had more passing attempts than rushing attempts (75.0%) - including the last six in a row
    - pass att/G: 32.4 pass yds/G: 250.1
    - rush att/G: 29.2 rush yds/G: 117.9
    - run/pass att ratio: 0.90 run/pass yds ratio: 0.472

    2006-present:
    - 6 champions
    - all 6 had more passing attempts than rushing attempts (100%)
    - pass att/G: 34.2 pass yds/G: 262.1
    - rush att/G: 27.8 rush yds/G: 111.9
    - run/pass att ratio: 0.81 run/pass yds ratio: 0.43

    So again, the past six years have been very different than what the NFL was from 1966-2003. Again, to compare:

    Pass att/G
    - 1966-2003: 28.9
    - 2006-2011: 34.2

    Pass yds/G
    - 1966-2003: 219.1
    - 2006-2011: 262.1

    Rush att/G
    - 1966-2003: 34.0
    - 2006-2011: 27.8

    Rush yds/G
    - 1966-2003: 140.6
    - 2006-2011: 111.9

    Run/Pass attempt ratio
    - 1966-2003: 1.18
    - 2006-2011: 0.81

    Run/Pass yards ratio
    - 1966-2003: 0.64
    - 2006-2011: 0.43

    It's a different world in the NFL. Guys who played it in 1972 wouldn't really recognize today's game in so many ways.
     
  5. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp In the Starting Line-Up

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    I offered that caveat already. I mean, the championship teams of the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's had guys like Bart Starr, Joe Namath (when he was good), Len Dawson, Ken Stabler, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, John Elway, and Brett Favre at QB. So yes, they usually could throw it better than their opponents. Nobody has ever suggested that the way to win was by having a crappy QB and just run a lot.

    But that's not the point Byrne was making. He flat-out said that this has always been a passing league, and that's just not the case. The league has changed considerably. Teams relied on the run and passed a lot less, but more effectively than their opponents. Now teams rely on the pass, and run from time to time.
     
  6. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    Yup

    ....and until you grasp the concept of correlation and causation, you still will not understand.
     
  7. Sicilian

    Sicilian Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    I still think this is an argument of semantics, which really can't be resolved without defining "passing league". You interpret that as a league where passing is the prominent playcall. I think Byrne meant that the most effective teams were the ones who could pass and stop the pass (as he mentioned when discussing the hog index for championship teams defensive lines).

    The overarching theory is that, historically, it's been "run the ball, stop the run, and you're a championship team." He's arguing it's never really been that, not that teams haven't shifted to passing the ball more in recent years.

    Again, I think it's a matter of the terminology he used, not the actual point he was trying to make.
     
  8. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    "It's a passing league" comes from the fact that teams do not run the ball to win......they run the ball because they are winning.

    A whole line of stats can't tell you that.

    Correlation and causation.

    Failure to understand this is why so much of patsfans.com and mediot in general are so clueless in evaluating defense.

    CHFF has done extensive work on the matter- turnovers and turnover differential are two greatest determining factors toward wins/losses.

    Last year, the three teams with the greatest number of forced turnovers had the three best records. The two top teams had the "statistically worst" defenses...how does that work?

    If you actually pre-determine something to be true...the logical follow on action is to compile numbers to "prove" you are correct.

    Some of this work mirrors the "Moneyball" concept. Lots of people simply refuse to understand the point of this is to win games.

    When you understand that, things click much easier.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
  9. KontradictioN

    KontradictioN Do you even lift? PatsFans.com Supporter

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    No Jersey Selected

    Agreed with this. I didn't actually hear the comment, but it looks to me as if he just used poor terminology when making that statement. The league used to be more run-oriented, yes. There's no denying that data. However, the teams that generally won Super Bowls or built dynasties had stability at the quarterback position. The 60's Colts had it with Unitas. The early 70's Dolphins and Steel Curtain Steelers had it with Griese and Bradshaw, respectively. The 80's to early 90's 49ers had it with Montana and Young, respectively. Even the '85 Bears went over the top when McMahon started playing some semi-competent competent football. The 90's Cowboys had Aikman. The Late 90's Broncos had Elway. The Patriots of this past decade have Brady.

    So yes, it used to be more running back driven. But the teams that have traditionally won, and especially the ones that have won often, had competent or more than competent play from the quarterback position.
     
  10. ivanvamp

    ivanvamp In the Starting Line-Up

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    Certainly I didn't have a pre-ordained conclusion and then try to find the numbers to support my view. I heard what Byrne said and thought it was interesting so I figured I'd look it up.

    Here's the thing. All the data I gave is for Super Bowl-winning teams. We're talking about teams that win. A lot. Lots of games and ending with championships. So presumably, on the whole, it stands to reason that generally speaking margins of victory for championship teams hasn't changed a whole lot over the years. The best teams are the best teams by a similar margin than teams were 30 years ago.

    So we're looking at the highest level teams, that generally win the vast majority of their games. If they pass to win and then run when they are winning, you'd expect the run/pass ratio of these winning teams to be roughly the same through the decades. After all, if Brady throws to get the lead and then the Pats run to keep the lead, shouldn't that formula (if the theory Byrne is espousing) hold true for the 1972 Dolphins as well?

    But it doesn't. There's a dramatic difference in the amount of passing and running these championship teams did back then and do currently. Teams used the run a lot more to build leads and keep them. Now teams pass more to build leads and even to keep them. And the rationale today, with the rules being what they are, is that if you have - ahem - a 4th and 2 and need to gain 2 yards to seal the game, you'd rather have your pro-bowl QB throw a pass than to have your smash-mouth offensive line open a hole for your power back.

    So why are the run/pass ratios so much different today than they were back then *even for championship-winning teams*?
     
  11. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    vamp

    There are many articles over in their archives on the matter. He really should have referred to the entire archive of material.

    If my team throws four TD's on the first four plays and then runs the rest of the game with a lead...did "running the ball" cause me to win?

    CHFF actually has done work in a tranche, "situational football" format.
     
  12. RDS11

    RDS11 Practice Squad Player

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    Ivanvamp, I think you missed the point. When CHFF says it's a passing league, it's from an efficiency standpoint. CHFF have argued many times that passing the ball efficiently and stopping the pass are the keys to winning championship. Their basis is that teams that pass the ball well have had better success historically that teams that run the ball well. Same theory on the defensive side : teams that are able to stop the pass have had better success that teams that can stop the run. Obviously, one is not exclusive to the other, but if a team has to put more emphasis on one part of their strategy, it should be stopping the pass first.

    Volume stats don't mean much to them, so comparing the number of passing plays versus running plays, or comparing the total yardage won't prove them wrong.
     
  13. patsfaninpa

    patsfaninpa In the Starting Line-Up

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    I use 1978 as the line of delineation as to when it became a passing league. The 5yd contact rule and liberal holding by ol changed the game. Can't argue that. I'd say both Miami championships and Pittsburgh's first two were heavily run-dominated. Miami finished 1st and 3RD IN rushing yards. Hell, Earl Morrall was undefeated as a qb that year. Pitt finished 2nd both years and Bradshaw wasn't very good yet. Since 78 and the West Coast Offense, I believe Kerry is correct.
     
  14. BradyManny

    BradyManny Pro Bowl Player

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    No, I'm perfectly well-aware of that, and what you say above makes sense, and I agree with you. But I can only react to the data that is here, and there's no way to determine what you are saying from this data. If you want to do your own breakdown, feel free. Maybe Kerry Byrne has. But the likelihood is he just went on 'EEI and dropped the line rather casually without any support, because that's how CHFF has operated for several years now.

    I can use my judgement that tells me the game has become more passing oriented in my lifetime and say that this set of data backs that observation up.

    I can acknowledge that you are correct that run-pass ratios can be wildly distorted by successful passing teams getting up big (I've made this argument several times myself). That's fine.

    What's funny is if you actually applied the same level of critical thinking you are showing in this thread to your arguments in other threads, you destroy those arguments. I suppose metrics are only useful when they support what you want to believe?
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
  15. TBradyOwnsYou

    TBradyOwnsYou 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    Since I enjoy arguing semantics, I will also jump in.

    The NFL was founded on September 17th, 1920.
    The forward pass has been legal in American football since 1906.

    The NFL has ALWAYS been a "passing league."
     
  16. BradyFTW!

    BradyFTW! PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    Someone should probably explain that to Rex Ryan.

    Actually, on second thought, don't.
     
  17. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    CHFF actually revolves their entire evaluation process around efficiency.

    A few years back they did a specific review on the Patriots running game. At the time, everyone was on the "Patriots run game sucks" bandwagon.

    What was interesting in the data was the percent of runs that produced a first down was more than double anyone in the league.

    A more telling stat than YPA?

    The flip side on defense is their "bendability" calculation. That's yard surrendered per point surrendered. Needless to say, some here would commit hari kari before recognizing that concept.
     
  18. BradyManny

    BradyManny Pro Bowl Player

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    I'm pretty sure everyone here gets bendability. I think what CHFF and you, and others, don't seem to get is that time spent on defense = time not spent on offense = less points scored. FootballOutsiders factors possessions into the equation, something you refuse to do. I'm not sure why you rely on some metrics but conveniently draw the line when it is not supporting your opinions.
     
  19. patsfaninpittsburgh

    patsfaninpittsburgh Banned

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    "History has long shown that nothing is more difficult than to secure the release of forces, once they have been incorrectly tied up"- Erich von Manstein

    Someday, when you grasp that your team runs a "hurry up" offense, you will blush with shame and lament the fact that you constantly made a fool out of yourself on patsfans.com.
     
  20. BradyManny

    BradyManny Pro Bowl Player

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    Really. Well then what will happen when you realize the Patriots almost always take the play clock down to its last second? I'd hate to be around for that bombshell.

    A case study. The New England Patriots vs. the Houston Texans.

    The Patriots were 27th in TOP. They averaged about 2.64 minutes per drive on offense (or 2:38 per offensive drive); they averaged about 2.88 minutes per drive on defense (or 2:53 per defensive drive). They averaged 10.8 drives a game on offense; 10.9 drives per game on defense.

    The Texans were 2nd in TOP. They averaged about 2.76 minutes per drive on offense (or 2:45 per offensive drive); they averaged about 2.39 minutes per drive on defense (or 2:23 per defensive drive). They averaged 11.7 drives per game on offense; 11.6 drives per game on defense.

    In short, the Texans, despite having a potent rushing attack (2nd in the NFL), only had the ball about 7 seconds more per drive on offense than the "hurry-up" Patriots. Meanwhile, their defense was on the field for a whole half minute less each time versus the Patriots. Obviously, the defense was the main factor in dictating time of possession here, and the Texans were rewarded with an extra possession per game on offense than the Patriots.

    Consider the impact of that knowing that the Patriots averaged 2.8 points per drive. Over the course of the season that's 45 points.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2012
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