FF Accounting: AFC South Coaching Trends

Continuing our series looking at offensive trends of the coaching staffs of the 32 NFL teams. You can read more about the goal of this series in the first installment, which looked at the NFC West. Here is a brief explanation of what you’ll see, taken from that first installment.


Because the league itself is changing, we’ll normalize up to five seasons to league average, then do some weighted averaging (looking at most recent seasons more heavily). Plays, pass attempts, and rush attempts will be presented relative to league average for that season, with 100 being average.1 Each total will also be split by position group to look at utilization to give an even more accurate representation of available opportunity in an offense.

Additionally, we’ll provide a 2016 weighted estimate relative to prior trends and a league average projection of 1,030 plays, 567 pass attempts, and 425 rush attempts.2

To be clear, the 2016 estimates presented are the logical conclusion of an experiment where we’re assuming coaches’ preferences dictate everything, but aren’t intended to be taken as gospel. Use them as a data point and make adjustments on a case-by-case basis for specific rosters and other mitigating circumstances to come to a more accurate estimate for what 2016 usage splits might actually look like. Be sure to consult the new Team Splits App for more information as well.

Alright, let’s dive into the AFC South, a division where Bill O’Brien is the most tenured offensive mind.

Houston – Bill O’Brien

O’Brien Year Plays Pass Att Rush Att
Patriots 2011 106.3% 112.5% 100.3%
Texans 2014 103.7% 86.8% 128.8%
Texans 2015 109.4% 108.2% 112.0%
Wgt Avg 106.6% 102.1% 114.7%
2016 Proj 1098 579 487

Bill O’Brien’s Texans were extremely run-heavy in 2014, an outlier season relative to his one season as coordinator of the Patriots and this past season in Houston. It would appear his teams tend to run more plays than league average, and that he likes to rely on the ground game more than league average.

2011 0.50 0.39 0.09 0.86 0.11
2014 0.69 0.11 0.19 0.86 0.13
2015 0.68 0.12 0.18 0.90 0.08
Wgt Avg 0.64 0.19 0.16 0.88 0.10
2016 Proj 369 108 93 427 51

The splits in Houston have been extremely stable the last two seasons despite some turnover in personnel, which is a good sign for projecting. The major difference in New England was more targets for tight ends, a clear result of having both Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in their second seasons.

Projection Tenability: Medium – The total plays and run/pass split seem like a good representation of a reasonable 2016 based on the last two seasons in Houston. If we bumped a few TE targets over to RBs and a few more over to WRs, we’d be looking at a good estimate overall.

Indianapolis – Rob Chudzinski

Head coach Chuck Pagano has a defensive background. It would be dubious to examine his tendencies dating back to Bruce Arians’ time with the team. Current offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski took over for the fired Pep Hamilton after Week 8 last season. Prior to that he is listed as a special assistant to Pagano in 2014, was head coach of the Browns in 2013, and held the offensive coordinator position for the Panthers in 2011 and 2012. It is your humble author’s opinion those five seasons will most accurately fulfill the goals of this exercise.

Chudzinski Year Plays Pass Att Rush Att
Panthers 2011 98.2% 95.4% 101.9%
Panthers 2012 96.1% 88.1% 106.2%
Browns 2013 103.6% 120.2% 80.3%
Colts 2014 107.9% 118.3% 97.0%
Colts 2015 102.1% 108.2% 93.9%
Wgt Avg 102.5% 108.8% 94.6%
2016 Proj 1056 617 402

Outcomes like this throw some shade on the whole exercise, which is actually great because it’s another data point that suggests coordinators that move around might be heavily influenced by their new rosters. Ultimately, there appear to be no discernible trends for Chudzinski.

2011 0.51 0.29 0.19 0.70 0.29
2012 0.59 0.22 0.16 0.70 0.27
2013 0.56 0.21 0.21 0.87 0.09
2014 0.56 0.25 0.17 0.81 0.17
2015 0.62 0.21 0.15 0.83 0.15
Wgt Avg 0.57 0.23 0.17 0.80 0.18
2016 Proj 354 141 108 322 71

Again there appear to be few (if any) concrete conclusions to draw from Chud’s last five years bouncing around the league.

Projection Tenability: Low – The best bet for projecting usage in Indianapolis is likely looking at the most recent seasons. Chud’s seasons in Carolina and Cleveland are just adding noise here.

Jacksonville – Greg Olson

Greg Olson has been an offensive coordinator in six of the last seven NFL seasons, so we’ll skip his stint as an assistant head coach for Jacksonville under Mike Mularkey in 2012, and instead focus solely on seasons where he occupied the coordinator position.

Olson Year Plays Pass Att Rush Att
Bucs 2010 94.6% 91.5% 99.1%
Bucs 2011 94.9% 108.1% 79.2%
Raiders 2013 96.1% 91.6% 100.8%
Raiders 2014 97.0% 112.6% 78.8%
Jaguars 2015 98.2% 106.1% 84.0%
Wgt Avg 96.6% 103.7% 86.8%
2016 Proj 995 588 369

No Greg Olson offense has hit league average in plays over the last several seasons. They’ve tended toward not running the ball much either, particularly when you consider the next chart.

2010 0.54 0.26 0.19 0.81 0.17
2011 0.52 0.25 0.22 0.79 0.19
2013 0.55 0.15 0.27 0.76 0.22
2014 0.55 0.18 0.25 0.90 0.09
2015 0.61 0.23 0.15 0.83 0.15
Wgt Avg 0.56 0.21 0.21 0.83 0.16
2016 Proj 329 121 126 305 58

Under Olson, both Josh Freeman and Terrelle Pryor ran quite often as QBs, which starts to really paint a picture of low rushing volume for RBs. Blake Bortles ran quite a bit last season as well although the degree to which Olson plays a role in QB rushing is pretty dubious. The real impact is the low volume of RB rushing attempts.

Projection Tenability: Medium – There has certainly been some fluctuation in Olson’s tendencies as he’s moved around the league, but his very low rush totals — particularly when accounting for some high QB rush totals — are a notable finding.

Tennessee – Mike Mularkey

Mularkey was the interim head coach for nine games in 2015, and was on staff as an assistant head coach prior to the firing of Ken Whisenhunt. New offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie has not been a coordinator since 2004. It seems most relevant to examine Tennessee’s 2015 along with Mularkey’s prior stints as offensive coordinator of Atlanta and head coach of Jacksonville.

Mularkey Year Plays Pass Att Rush Att
Falcons 2009 104.1% 107.1% 102.4%
Falcons 2010 108.6% 106.9% 114.3%
Falcons 2011 105.4% 109.2% 103.8%
Jaguars 2012 96.7% 105.4% 82.3%
Titans 2015 94.7% 96.3% 88.0%
Wgt Avg   100.4% 103.8% 95.1%
2016 Proj   1034 589 404

Mularkey’s time in Atlanta coincided with the first four years of Matt Ryan’s career, a period of strong offensive play for the Falcons that led to four straight winning seasons. The other two seasons we’re looking at feature teams that won a combined five games. With Tennessee sporting one of the lowest Vegas win totals for 2016, we can probably expect even fewer rush attempts than the weighted average comes up with.

2009 0.54 0.26 0.15 0.90 0.08
2010 0.59 0.23 0.17 0.90 0.09
2011 0.59 0.23 0.16 0.89 0.09
2012 0.70 0.15 0.14 0.89 0.10
2015 0.43 0.36 0.18 0.86 0.12
Wgt Avg 0.56 0.25 0.16 0.88 0.10
2016 Proj 332 148 96 357 41

Mularkey’s season in Jacksonville featured WRs significantly more than other positions. It’ll be interesting to see whether Marcus Mariota runs enough to impact the RB rushing split.

Projection Tenability: Medium – Other than having the overall plays seemingly bumped up by Mularkey’s time with winning offenses in Atlanta, I’d say this projection provides pretty realistic split estimates in terms of expected run/pass ratio and target shares.

The Full Series

  1. Anything over 100 is above average, anything under is below.  (back)
  2. An estimate also based on weighted averages with a minor adjustment for recent trends. There is also a projected average of 38 sacks allowed baked in.  (back)

Ben Gretch

Writer. Podcast host. Former and still occasional editor. Previous work at Rotoworld, Draft Sharks. Work cited at NFL.com, Washington Post. Probably a little too obsessed with fantasy football.
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