Kevin Cole wrote a great post the other day where he questioned our collective staff projection of Matt Ryan. I think he was right on in terms of pointing out that we almost have to be too low on Ryan. Prior to Kevin’s post I had forecast Ryan for about 580 attempts. After Kevin’s post I went back into the Projection Machine and ended up bumping him up to 595 attempts.
As Kevin alluded to, I think it’s possible that as a staff we got too caught up in Kyle Shanahan being a run heavy coach. Or at least that’s how Shanahan appears if you look just right. Cleveland was run heavy last year. Washington was run heavy in 2012 and 2013. But Cleveland sort of didn’t have a QB and Washington had a running QB. If you look back a little further you see that Shanahan was also the coordinator for some pass heavy offenses.
Washington Pass Tendency by Season
Houston Pass Tendency by Season
From 2009 through 2011 Shanahan coordinated offenses that were well above the league average in terms of pass tendency. One of the mistakes that’s common to make with analysis of coordinators is to attribute all of their tendencies to scheme while ignoring that they may have just had the personnel to make those tendencies slightly more effective than the alternative. That’s probably what’s happening with Ryan’s projection.
However, I still think there are reasons to expect that the Falcons will be more run heavy in 2015 than they have been in recent years. First, if you assume that because Shanahan is part of the Mike Shanahan coaching tree, being run heavy is a meaningful part of what they do. Here’s a graph that shows pass tendency for the Broncos teams from 2000-2008. The Broncos only had a positive pass tendency in one year, Jay Cutler’s sophomore campaign in 2008.
If you add all of the run heavy Denver teams to all of the Gary Kubiak coached Houston teams that were for the most part run heavy even while they had Matt Schaub, I think it’s generally fair to say that the scheme leans slightly run heavy. But I also think it’s fair to say that the Falcons will be about as pass heavy as any team running that system could be. Matt Ryan is easily the best QB running a Shanahan/Kubiak offense since John Elway retired (with apologies to Rex Grossman and Brian Hoyer).
Here are the four highest attempt totals for offenses running the Shanahan/Kubiak scheme over the past 15 years:
2008 Broncos – 620 attempts
2009 Texans – 593 attempts
2010 Washington – 605 attempts
2011 Washington – 591 attempts
If you average those seasons out you’d get to about 602 attempts, and again, those are the most pass happy in the scheme’s recent past. That’s pretty close to where I ended up at although I am slightly lower. I think that it’s reasonable to expect head coach Dan Quinn could have some influence over both pace and pass tendency for the offense. Quinn is from Seattle where they have succeeded both running the ball and slowing the game down. I didn’t assign much importance to this fact although I think it could have a small impact.
In summary, I think it’s very reasonable to expect a Matt Ryan led offense to come in at the upper end of pass tendency for a Shanahan coached scheme. I still expect the traditional tendencies of that scheme to matter though.