Ravens Need Balance

Street Talk Ravens Need Balance

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A Commitment to Run

When the Ravens hired Marc Trestman as their offensive coordinator (“OC”) for the 2015 season, I wrote a piece titled “Balance is Key in Ravens Offense”. In that piece I provided statistics that showed a correlation between the Ravens W-L percentage and Joe Flacco’s passing attempts per game.

After a simplistic analysis the main take away was that when Joe was asked to throw more than 35 times over his first 7 seasons, the Ravens chances of winning decreased.

The bottom line is that Joe needs a balanced offense – a balance he had when Cam Cameron was the OC from 2008 on through 14 games of the 2012 regular season and a balance he had more recently when Gary Kubiak was the OC in 2014.

The numbers show the Ravens offense under Kubiak was balanced. The passing offense in 2014 ranked 8th in total yardage and the rushing offense ranked 13th in total yardage.

I concluded my piece two years ago stating “as long as the new offensive coordinator {Marc Trestman}… sticks to a balanced game plan, Joe just wins Baby… with a capital ‘B’.”

Unfortunately Marc Trestman did not balance the offense and his successor who replaced him for not running the ball enough, Marty Mornhinweg, did not balance the offense either.

Why not?

Did these coordinators fall in love with Joe’s arm? Certainly they didn’t think they could change Joe, right?

Let’s face it, Joe is not Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, etc. where their skill sets afford them success in pass-happy offenses. Joe is who he is. What he is NOT is a QB who can carry the offense purely with his arm to routinely win games.

How did the numbers change under Marc Trestman? … and then subsequently Marty Mornhinweg?

Over the past two seasons Joe’s pass attempts per game have increased to the two highest totals of his career. The resulting aerial barrage bumps the Ravens passing yards from 13th in 2014, to 8th in 2015 and then stepping back to 12th in 2016 (but still higher than 2014).

Conversely, the running game ranking as measured in total yards has decreased from 8th in 2014, down to 26th in 2015, and down further to 28th in 2016. The capital ‘B’ in balanced offense went out the door with Kubiak and has morphed into a capital ‘U’ for unbalanced offense since his departure.

Here is a simplistic look at some of Joe Flacco’s numbers over his career to help explain why a balanced offense is necessary for a QB like Joe.

Below is a table with Joe’s passing attempts per game through his first 9 seasons and the success (W-L Record) of the Ravens during the regular season. Postseason numbers are not included.

Listed are the year, games started, W-L record, average attempts per game (Avg Att/G), average attempts per game (Avg Att/G) in ‘Wins’, and Avg Att/G  in ‘Losses’. The numbers in the last column are the number of wins that season where the number of Att/G was greater than or equal to 35.

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 11.23.28 AM
* Game 16 is not included because Joe did not complete the game and attempted only 8 passes.
** Att- Attempt; G- Game

 

Why did I choose 35 pass attempts?

First of all, the last time I touched on this topic, all of the averages in the ‘Avg Att/G in Wins’ column were less than 35. Secondly, the average pass attempts per game in 2016 for offenses across the entire NFL came out to 35.7.

Simply put, as the data suggests, when Joe is asked to throw more than 35 times, the Ravens chances of winning decreases.

Over Joe’s entire career, he has 83 regular season wins. In just 30% of those wins (25) did he throw 35 or more times and win.

In the last two seasons notice the averages in ‘Avg Att/G in Wins’ column have increased but so has Joe’s average attempts per game (Avg Att/G). Consider this trend combined with the lack of commitment to the running game over the past two seasons and is it should surprise no one that the Ravens have failed to make the postseason 3 out of the last 4 years.

Ravens need balance

Gary Kubiak (left) talks with Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (right) during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Ravens won 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 season sticks out like a sore thumb. The largest difference between Avg Att/G between wins and losses is 14.6. But I argue that it doesn’t have to stick out going forward starting with this 2017 season if there is a commitment to running the football.

The numbers shown in the table are not a result of complicated mathematical calculations. The cliché “this is not rocket science folks” applies here. Is it safe to assume the OCs following Kubiak were aware of the trend I just presented here?

For some reason Kubiak and his staff got IT, that IT being a balanced offense. Why haven’t his successors?

Head coach John Harbaugh has stated repeatedly this past season and during this offseason that the team needs to run the ball more. He went even further than that by stating that OC Mornhinweg believes in running the football.

His play calling hardly supports the notion.

If Marty (and the whole coaching staff at large) does not find a way to commit to the running game “… with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind” (to borrow a quote from Jack Harbaugh) in order to balance the offense, then the Ravens will very likely repeat their performance in 2016.

And that will likely spell the end of the John Harbaugh Era.

It is simple… balance the offense with a capital ‘B’ in 2017 or ownership will be faced with some very difficult decisions next offseason.

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Kirk Stoffel

About Kirk Stoffel

I was born and raised in Baltimore County and currently live in Harford County. I am a graduate of Woodlawn High School and earned both a Bachelor’s & Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from UMBC. Since 2004 I have been working for the U.S. Army as a civilian designing stuff to save soldiers' lives. When I am not running, playing basketball, or playing ‘weekend warrior’ flag football, I am coaching my kids in various sports. I watch avidly and occasionally attend games, cheering on my lifelong teams- the Orioles, Ravens, Maryland Terrapins, and the Irish of Notre Dame. I was 9 years old when the Colts pulled out of town. So I followed multiple NFL teams that was usually based on the QB of that particular team. Hence, Joe Montana is my favorite QB of all time. More from Kirk Stoffel

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