The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Playbook: Gun Trips Left/Right

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In our 2009 Dallas Cowboys Formation Breakdown, we listed the statistics for every formation the Cowboys ran last season.  Included in that collection was a formation called “Gun Trips Left/Right” (shown below).

The formation stuck out like a sore thumb, as 63 of the 64 total plays run from it were passes. 63 of 64.  63.  Of.  64.  That is a 98.4 percent clip.

Further, the one run from “Gun Trips Right” came on 3rd and 18–a “give-up play.”

Now, we have seen offensive coordinator Jason Garrett be predictable in his play-calling before.  One such example was play-calling from “Double Tight Right Strong Right”–a formation from which the Cowboys ran the same play (a strong side dive) 71.6 percent of the time, including 85.7 percent of the time when motioning into the formation.

Still, no other formation contains the incredible imbalance between run and pass like “Gun Trips Left/Right.”

Of course, this 63:1 ratio could mean nothing if the Cowboys only lined up in the formation during obvious passing downs. In situations such as 3rd and long when the defense knows you are going to pass anyway, the particular formation can do little to tip them off.

We looked into our database to see exactly when the Cowboys were lining up in the formation, i.e. if they did so on any potential running downs.  For the sake of argument, we will label a play as occurring on a “potential running down” if it came on 1st and 10 or less, 2nd and 10 or less, or 3rd and 5 or less with more than two minutes left in a half.

Of the 64 plays out of “Gun Trips Left/Right,” an incredible 38 of them met these requirements (including 14 on 1st and 10 and 10 on 2nd and 7 or less).  Thus, 58.5 percent of the plays the Cowboys ran out of the formation came during a situation in which the team could have easily run the ball.

You think opposing defensive coordinators didn’t catch on to this trend by season’s end?  While we are almost positive this was the case, we try not to make grandiose statements without backing them up, so here you go. . .

The Cowboys managed a pedestrian 7.48 yards-per-attempt out of the formation. To determine if defenses truly recognized the Cowboys’ rather unimaginative play-calling out of the formation, however, we must examine the seasonal progression of the yards-per-attempt, as opposed to an overall mean.

According to our statistics, the offense’s success out of “Gun Trips Left/Right” dropped dramatically as the season progressed.  As you can see in the graph to the right, Dallas averaged an impressive 14.00 yards-per-attempt out of the formation during the first quarter of the season.  That number dropped considerably in games 4-8, settling all the way down at just 4.95 yards-per-attempt during the final quarter of the season.

Of course, there could be (and probably are) other factors at play, but such a tremendous decline in production is quite likely with a 63:1 pass/run ratio.

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5 Responses to Cowboys Playbook: Gun Trips Left/Right

  1. Kevin Keithley says:

    interesting stats. the fact that it is a shotgun formation would suggest that it is a pass-first play. although the cowboys do run a draw from the shotgun on occasion. the question I have after seeing the yds/attempt scale is at what point during the season were the 38 attempts made. for examle, was it used often in the beginning of the year, but rarely used during the last quarter of the season? vice versa? spread out evenly over the season? the biggest thing this article might show is the lack of adjustment/modification of the play calling. obviously, if you can track this infomation (kudos to you by the way) then so does the team and sticking with a play that becomes less successful over the course of the season needs to be addressed

  2. Hey Kevin,

    I took a look at the numbers for you. The Cowboys used the formation (to pass) 13 times in the first quarter of the season, eight times in the next four games, 21 times in the next four, and 21 again in the last quarter of the season. So, Garrett actually called two-thirds of the formation’s total plays in the last half of the season.

  3. Kevin Keithley says:

    Jonathan,
    Well I was hoping the numbers would show that as the play became less successful it was used less often. I realize that as the season progresses defenses become aware of a team’s offensive tendenacies and adujst accordingly. Shame on the coaching staff for allowing itself to become so predictable. If this is obvious to the fans, why isn’t it to the coaches?

  4. Well I’m really not sure Kevin, but hopefully they make the necessary adjustments before the start of this season.

  5. Pingback: Cowboys Playbook: A Reanalysis of Gun Trips Left/Right in 2010 | Dallas Cowboys Times

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