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How to Think About Percy Harvin to SEA (Part III): The Play Calling Mix

rwilson

I was looking at Russell Wilson’s 2012 results when I noticed something. Wilson averaged 25.25 pass attempts per game for the season. That’s not the interesting thing. The interesting thing is that when Wilson went under his season average for attempts, the Seahawks were 9-2. When he went over the season average for attempts, they were 3-4 (both records include the playoffs). Wilson is a good QB and I’m not even coming close to saying that when he throws a lot he causes them to lose. Wilson was actually good in a number of the losses. It’s probably more likely that the Seahawks prefer not to have a passing based offense.

To investigate this issue further, I thought it was worth looking at Darrell Bevell’s record as a coordinator to see what we might be able to expect from the Seahawks play calling mix in 2013.

I went back as far as Bevell’s 2006 season with the Vikings and looked at each year in terms of what percent of called plays were runs and what percent were passes. But then to try to mitigate the issue that teams will (almost) always run more when ahead and pass more when behind, I split the results into two groups which were “winning/tied” and “losing”.

Tm Season Run% (Winning/Tied) Leage Average for That Season Difference Run % (While Losing) Leage Average for That Season Difference
MIN 2006 0.53 0.52 0.01 0.36 0.37 (0.01)
MIN 2007 0.59 0.51 0.09 0.39 0.35 0.04
MIN 2008 0.58 0.51 0.07 0.42 0.37 0.05
MIN 2009 0.47 0.50 (0.03) 0.37 0.35 0.01
MIN 2010 0.55 0.51 0.04 0.36 0.34 0.02
SEA 2011 0.54 0.50 0.04 0.33 0.34 (0.01)
SEA 2012 0.59 0.49 0.10 0.46 0.35 0.11

Darrell Bevell runs more than league average both in the winning/tied and losing splits. The only season that Bevell’s offense ran less than would be expected based on average and game situation was 2009, Brett Favre’s magical resurgence season.

It’s true that Bevell hasn’t really had any good QBs except for Favre and Russell Wilson, and perhaps that changes the equation. However, if we’re talking about what to expect from Percy Harvin, the difference between knowing and speculating is important. It’s possible that Harvin’s introduction to the SEA offense could result in a bunch of new passing. But it’s also possible that it won’t. The problem of course is that if you draft Harvin at WR7 or WR8, you have to pay up front with nothing more than an assumption to go on. If the Seahawks play calling mix doesn’t become more pass happy, then you will have overpaid for Harvin.

Even though Harvin can be involved in the run game, it’s important for the Seahawks to pass more (for Harvin’s fantasy value) because running the ball also eats clock. If the Seahawks are going to increase the number of plays they run, passing will have to be some part of that.

If you assume that Darrell Bevell is still going to call either a run heavy offense or even just a neutral mix offense, then the best thing for Harvin’s fantasy value would actually be a massive deterioration in the SEA defense. Then the Seahawks could play from behind in which case it’s likely that 2 out of every 3 play calls would be passes.

If we’re trying to calibrate our expectations for the SEA offense, then I guess it makes sense to think about Harvin’s cost of salary and draft picks.  The Seahawks gave up a lot to get him and it’s possible that they could be signaling their intentions via salary and draft picks. I won’t say that the Seahawks cost to get Harvin doesn’t matter, but I think you need to keep in mind that NFL teams spend resources to get players all the time. Sometimes that has some meaning and sometimes it has no meaning. It didn’t mean anything to the 49ers that they gave up a 1st round pick to get AJ Jenkins. Jenkins’ draft cost didn’t figure at all into his playing time. What about the Seahawks and the amount they’re spending on Sidney Rice? Does that imply that they will go out of their way to get him the ball? What about their spending on Matt Flynn? Did that impact his playing time at all? The Seahawks just spent a 2nd round pick on running back Christine Michael. How much are you letting that impact your draft strategy for this year?

It would be idiotic to say that the Seahawks don’t have plans to get Harvin involved in their offense, but I don’t think that means that they’re going to throw 200 of their 400 passing attempts his way. I think it’s more likely that Harvin’s usage will be related to how often the Seahawks pass the ball but more in line with proportions that we’re used to seeing in the NFL. Then on top of that Harvin will score some points running the football and if you’re in a return yardage league he might have some value there as well.

In the next installment I’ll try to summarize the information I’ve gathered thus far so that you can make an informed decision.

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