Keeping offensive balance: Is it necessary?
I just came across an interesting article at the Star-Telegram that I wanted to share. Jennifer Floyd Engel argues that what wins football games for the Cowboys isn’t running the ball a lot or keeping balance on offense, but running the ball efficiently in an effort to do what they do best–pass the football.
She’s dead on. Fans wrote in again and again after the Cowboys’ win over Houston that the Cowboys won because they kept offensive balance. They ran the ball 27 times, and threw it just 30. That is what wins football games, right?
Wrong. The Cowboys won because they threw the ball down the field with ease, set up in part by running the ball efficiently. This was from my post-game review:
Yesterday’s game is a perfect example of why people tend to overvalue the importance of the running game. People usually look at statistics ex post facto, noting the correlation between running performance and winning percentage. The two are certainly correlated, but correlation does not always equate to causation. In fact, passing performance has been shown to be much, much more indicative of a team’s success than success on the ground.
The reason rushing yards are so closely linked to wins is simple: teams that arealready winning run the football. That says nothing about how that team came to gain a lead, however.
We saw just this yesterday, as the Cowboys actually had much of their success through the air. Yes, the early efficiency of the running game helped, but it wasn’t until late in the game that Dallas “committed” to the run. Actually, in the middle of the game (with the game still a one-possession contest), the ‘Boys threw the ball on 21 of 28 plays. They racked up a lot of their carries and yardage at the end of the contest, as they ran the ball on nine of the final 10 plays.
Don’t get me wrong. . .running the ball is a huge part of the game and can make everything else much easier. But the days of offensive balance are gone. What wins in the NFL (and particularly for your Dallas Cowboys) is airing it out early and often, and running the ball efficiently is much, much more important than running it often.