One of the prime topics of discussion since the arrival of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has been whether or not his presence in Baltimore next season will lead to a more tight end-friendly pass attack.
Recently, we examined the prospect of that, but just on a 2013, league-wide basis.
The information is nice from a short-term perspective, and the statistics did favor Kubiak’s Houston Texans over the Baltimore Ravens in every major tight end pass offense category.
But what if we focused in on the two teams at hand, Houston and Baltimore, and compared them over a longer period of time?
The most reasonable comparison would be to examine the seasons from 2008-2013. In those six seasons, each team had one head coach (Kubiak in Houston, John Harbaugh in Baltimore) and two offensive coordinators (Kyle Shanahan and Rick Dennison in Houston, Cam Cameron and Jim Caldwell in Baltimore).
The equality in the number of offensive minds led to continuity in each organization, providing assurance that the six-year statistics are a fair analysis of each team’s offense.
Dating back all the way to 2008, the numbers are staggering, but rather unsurprising if you expected Houston to have a bigger focus on the tight end position in the passing game every year.
Keep in mind that all stats are from the regular season. Also of note, Shanahan was Houston’s offensive coordinator from 2008-09, before Dennison took over in 2010, while Cameron was Baltimore’s offensive coordinator from 2008 until December of the 2012 regular season, before Caldwell took over.
Let’s dive right in and take a look at each season.
The 2008 season favored the Texans in every category.
This was the season of the Harbaugh era in which Baltimore used the tight end position the least.
The only two tight ends to catch a pass that season for the Ravens were Todd Heap (59 receptions) and Daniel Wilcox (5 receptions). Talk about a blast from the past.
The 2009 season saw no changes, as the Houston Texans again trumped the Ravens in every category.
Back in the early seasons of the analysis, Heap was Baltimore’s lone viable threat at tight end, and Joel Dreesen and Owen Daniels were Houston’s main options at the position.
In the 2010 season, young tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta (Baltimore), as well as Garret Graham (Houston) entered the mix, although the results didn’t change.
All three tight ends, who would later go on to become focal points of their respective offenses, hardly played in 2010 (Dickson did have 426 snaps, however), which led to yet again very similar results, all in favor of Houston’s offense.
The 2011 season is when the tides turned (not really but when the stats are so one-sided, any change in the trend is glaring). The combination of the emergence of Pitta and Dickson in Baltimore and (to a much lesser extent) the fact that T.J. Yates played in six games at quarterback for the Texans that season finally allowed the Ravens to take the lead in some categories.
It only took four seasons, but the Ravens finally passed the Texans in both tight end targets and percentage of pass attempts directed toward the tight end.
Don’t get used to seeing Baltimore in the lead in any categories, as normalcy was restored in 2012.
So far, over a five-year period, there are a total of 25 categories (five per season), and Baltimore led Houston in just two of the 25.
The widespread belief that Kubiak’s Houston offenses favored tight ends more than Baltimore’s is proving quite accurate.
Leading us back to our most recent season, Houston toppled Baltimore in every major category in 2013.
Over six seasons of examining five major passing categories regarding the tight end position, Houston led Baltimore in 28 of the 30, which is over 93 percent.
This is no myth; Kubiak’s offensive system that he brought to Baltimore is one that will lead to more targets and (likely) more total offense out of the tight end position compared to the previous six seasons in Baltimore.
Looking at the six-year average of each offense, it’s easy to see the glaring discrepancy.
Long story short: get used to Pitta, Daniels and Crockett Gillmore before the 2014 season starts, because you’ll be seeing plenty of them in the passing game with Kubiak calling the plays.