Running the Numbers: First Down Play-Calling
My latest in my Running the Numbers column is a look at first down play-calling for both the Cowboys and entire NFL.
For the record, Jason Garrett is one of the league’s better first down play-callers, drawing up a pass on about 55 percent of plays over the last three years. Thus far in the preseason, he has called a pass on 58.3 percent of the first-team offense’s first down plays. I think you’ll see that number remain steady into the regular season.
An even greater first down pass rate, however, could lead to more total points by season’s end. Actually, with the dramatic gap between passing and rushing value on first down, a first down pass rate approaching 65 percent or higher would likely optimize offensive efficiency in today’s NFL. Yes, you read that correctly.
Let’s see how many people call me an idiot throughout the season for suggesting (quite often) that the Cowboys should throw the ball more. The truth is I’d love to see the first down pass rate be at least 65 percent. Around that point (or a bit higher), I think defenses would be forced to adjust so heavily that handing the ball to DeMarco Murray would hold the same benefits as passing.