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The Shanahan Way; Wait, Which Shanahan?

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The Shanahan Way

Kyle Shanahan has been heavily scrutinized by Redskin fans the last few weeks, so I set out to check out what Kyle Shanahan’s career tendencies have been.

One of the things that I noticed most when looking at his statistics is that he has a severely skewed pass to run ratio. In 2008, the Texans attempted 123 more passes than runs. The trend continued through 2009 where he attempted 168 more passes than runs. In 2010, with the Redskins through fourteen games he’s attempted 215 more pass plays than he has run plays. The discrepancy is huge. And his running backs weren’t terrible either. In 2008, Shanahan had Steve Slaton who had 1282 yards on 268 carries and 9 TDs. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry. In 2009, his rushing attack did struggle a bit. His two backs that carried over 100 times, Ryan Moats and Steve Slaton, both averaged under 4.0 yards per carry. Looking at this year, he’s had a variety of running backs to work with, but Redskin backs are averaging 4.36 yards per carry, with Ryan Torain leading the way averaging 4.9 yards per carry. That’s the best Redskin average for a back who carried over 100 times since 1983, when Joe Washington carried 145 times and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. So the question can, and should be asked: Why aren’t we sticking with the run?

Shanahan over his career averages a league rank of 5.5 in pass attempts per year and 22.3 in rush attempts. When talking yardage, his league rank is 4.6 in passing yards and 23.6 in rush yards.

In combination, Shanahan has ranked 30th, 16th and 19th in the league in turnovers. He’s averaging more turnovers a year than half of the league, which doesn’t help when you’re a pass happy offense with a lack of ball control. Another factor that doesn’t help the Redskins is that we lack a receiver as good as Andre Johnson (though, I’d argue every team in the NFL lacks that receiver but that’s a different debate). In Mike Shanahan’s Super Bowl seasons of 1997 and 1998, the team ran more rushing plays than they did passing plays. In ‘97 they ran 7 more rushes than passes and in ‘98 they ran 34 more rush plays than they did pass plays. This seems to be the formula for success with the Shanahan offense, yet it’s not what we saw this season with the Washington Redskins.

Looking further into Coach Mike Shanahan’s successful teams (read: Bronco teams he led to the playoffs) he posted similar statistics to his Super Bowl winning years. In ’96 he had 12 more pass plays than run plays. In ’00 he had 53 more pass plays than rush plays. In ’03 he had 64 more rushes than pass plays. In ’04 he had 13 more rushes than passes and in ’05 he had 77 more rushes than passes. All of these Bronco teams saw the playoffs. Keep in mind, a pass happy Kyle Shanahan offense, although in a much smaller sample size, hasn’t been seen in the playoffs yet.

To look at it further, Shanahan’s two Super Bowl seasons had John Elway as a quarterback. Elway, under Mike was a machine where it mattered. He didn’t turn the ball over. In ’97, Elway posted 3635 yards, 27 TD and 11 INT. That’s a 2:41 to 1 TD to Interception ratio. In ’98, Elway posted 2806 yards, 22 TD, 10 INT, that’s a 2.2 to 1 TD to INT ratio. In comparison, Matt Schaub’s ’09 was statistically speaking much better than any season Elway put up under Mike Shanahan. Schaub threw for 4770 yards, 29 TD and 15 INT. That’s a great season for sure. His TD to INT ratio sat under 2:1, though, and the Texans running game was absent. Those things, in combination, didn’t help the Texans offense, despite Schaub’s superior season (by strictly looking at the numbers and not looking into them). Good quarterback play is a necessity for either Shanahan’s offense to thrive, but a good mix seems to be more important in Dad’s offense. Evidence that quarterback play is important is within the 2010 season. Looking at Donovan McNabb’s statistics this year, he’s posted extremely high numbers in terms of yards, which looks outstanding (3377 yards through 13 games is nothing to scoff at) but then you look at his touchdown to interception ratio and cringe. McNabb threw for 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. That’s under a 1 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio. Keep in mind, Schaub’s first year under Shanahan he threw for 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

So now you combine a pass happy offense with a quarterback that was inefficient and you see the reason for the failure behind the Washington Redskins’ 2010 campaign. Our running game this year, even with injuries, has been solid. With Portis in we averaged 4.2 yards per carry. With Keiland Williams we averaged 4.0 yards per carry and with Ryan Torain we have averaged 4.9 yards per carry. So why, then, are we giving Torain the ball a hair over 15 times per game?

The proof is in the statistics. Our backs need to be more involved in the game plan for the offense to be more successful.


  1. Rymanofthenorth's Avatar
    Torains average was skewed by two games in which he had great YPC, on the whole we have had a lot of runs for no gain and no sustained rushing success. also we run the ball far better on stretch type plays than on basic runs and this leads to our inside run game being pretty bad.

    I agree we need to run the ball more, but more importantly we need to run the ball CONSISTENTLY.


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