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The Myth of Pass Happy Scott Turner

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Boone

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In another thread, we were discussing the consistent concern that Scott Turner will continue his pass happy tendencies against the Texans after finally rushing the ball adequately in a great win against Philadelphia.

There's only one problem with this line of thinking. Brace yourself.

Scott Turner is not a pass happy OC.

In 2022 so far, depending on what stat resource you look at, Washington runs the ball more frequently than 18 other NFL teams. In 2021, Washington ran the ball more than 24 NFL teams. Scott Turner calls more rushing plays than the majority of NFL offensive coordinators.

If you look at some numbers:

In 2022, we have rushed the ball 288 times. Only Chicago, Atlanta, the Giants, Philadelphia, and the Browns have more rushing attempts.
In 2021, we ran the ball 477 times. Only 9 other teams ran it more than that.

But total attempts can be misleading depending on how many offensive plays a team might have, so let's look at %'s:

In 2022, we've rushed the ball 45% of the time. Only 11 teams have run it at a higher %.
In 2021, we rushed the ball 46.5% of the time. Only 8 teams ran it at a higher %.

In 2020, Washington was in the bottom half of the league in terms of rushing frequency, ranked 24th in terms of rushing %. But over the last 2 seasons, Washington has been at or near top 10 in terms of frequency of rush attempts. Those are simply the numbers.

So why do we continue to talk about Scott Turner hating to rush the ball? Statistically - the NFL is still a passing league. In 2020 and 2021, only 3 teams ran more often than they passed the ball. In 2022, there's been a slight uptick and 6 teams (so far) are rushing more often than passing. Washington is not only on par with their NFL counterparts in terms of playcalling mix, they are a rush-heavy offense statistically.

None of this is a 'defense' of Scott Turner. I think there are definitely some negative aspects of his OC performance fans (including myself) have legitimate gripes with. But not rushing the ball enough is not a legitimate complaint, unless you think the entire NFL is missing the boat on that front.

We should stop saying 'Turner hates to run the ball'. Because it's not factual.

* One other interesting nugget when looking at the teams that run the ball most frequently... the list of top rushing teams includes both some of the NFL's best teams as well as some of the worst. In other words, running the rock more than you pass it is not some magic bullet or a requirement for success. Winning and losing are dependent on a number of factors, not just the run/pass ratio. At least that's what the statistics suggest :)
 

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Honestly, I don't care where we rank in the NFL in any terms other than wins and losses. Those are the only stats that matter vs other teams.

What I do care about is that our scheme matches our people.

The numbers you posted above, while true as far as they go, are misleading. IMHO

If you want to understand Turner and my concern with him, you have to look at our play breakdown when Heinicke is starting vs when someone else is starting.

With Wentz under center, we had something like a 65/35 ratio - pass to run. Why? Same offensive line. Same running backs. The only difference is the bigger arm and Turner's infatuation with the long ball.

(I ran the numbers during a discussion with a guy who thought a certain former QB turned restauranteur should have a 3D selfie in Ohio)

Turner does call more runs with Taylor starting but the ratio is also somewhat helped out by Taylor's ability to scramble converting up to a half dozen passing plays to running plays on the stat sheet.

I assume this means Turner will continue with the run emphasis against the Texans this weekend but we assumed he would do that after the run-heavy 4-game-winning streak last year that featured a heavy dose of Gibson.

We were wrong. And the winning streak dried up.
 

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I don't think the 'same OL', 'same running backs' part of the argument is totally fair. The OL was terrible to start the season and the rushing game wasn't much better, nor was the D playing well. That meant we were playing from behind almost from the outset. In Week 3 we were down 24-0 to Philly in the 2nd quarter for example. Any OC on any team with any QB is going to start passing more when they are down by 10+ points in the first half. That's just the way it is.

On your point about Heinicke's rushing ability skewing the numbers - maybe a slight factor. He has rushed 17 times to Wentz's 19 (with two more games). That's slightly more but I don't think it moves the % much.

Other than that, I think you make good points. I ran Wentz's numbers and during his 6 games we rushed it 38% of the time and passed it 62% of the time. I would just suggest it is not simply because Turner had a big-armed new toy, there were other factors that contributed to it.

The reason I posted these stats is not as a defense of Turner. It's because I continue to hear that Turner hates the rushing game and is somehow terminally pass happy. I don't think that's 100% accurate. And the same folks who keep saying it also say that Turner is incapable of adjusting the gameplan to take advantage of the players he has. I think you just proved, in part at least, that he has adjusted the gameplans based at least in part on who is under center.
 

DieselPwr44

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Turner does hate the run game. If he had his preference,the offense would be the Fun and Gun ala Spurrier.

As you mentioned before,the splits with Wentz show that preference. Once they went to Heinicke,he eventually had to go to a more run-centric offense due to Taylor's arm limitations(and Oline limitations) and even then it was begrudgingly(until last Monday,he was still doing empty backfield sets on 3rd and short).

Another thought: How much influence did Ron have in last Monday's offensive game plan as far as philosophy goes? Remember the story last year about him telling Scott to run the ball more? Wonder if that was laid down to him again?

Will be interesting to see tomorrow if he's smart enough to stay the course laid down in Philly or if he walks onto the field wearing a visor proclaiming it's a good day to play pitch and catch......
 

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I knew this thread would not be received very positively. I think a lot of the frustration directed at Turner has been well earned but I also think some of what we believe is overblown. To a certain extent it doesn’t matter WHY Turner is calling running plays more often than most OCs, does it? And the argument that Heinicke as a semi-RPO QB is skewing the numbers, while not wrong, ignores the fact that there are numerous other NFL teams with QBs who have rush attempts, many far more than Heinicke - and yet we are still near the top 10 for rushes.

I know you all were surprised by what the stats showed here, even if as you guys have rightfully pointed out the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
 

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DP - I have to think Rivera and Turner talk about what his plan is every week. I don’t know the dynamics of their relationship but Rivera knew what Turner’s playcalling philosophy and tendencies were and he still brought him to DC with him. So I’m skeptical that he suddenly decided Turner needs to rush it more but who knows. Ideally, you have coordinators you trust and don’t micromanage.

I always end up where Brother Om is on Turner… when he ever has a starting QB without major shortcomings who is very good at executing the playbook, and we can’t put up 28 points consistently, I’ll be more inclined to crucify him. I can’t absolve him for some of the head-scratching stuff I see, but he hasn’t had a lot to work with at QB.
 

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I was surprised by our place in the rankings - that is true.

I wasn't surprised by the numbers themselves. I ran those a while back while discussing this with someone else. Turner has run more with Heinicke than with any other QB during his time at Washington.

And I continue to think that Wentz would have more success in this offense if Turner would run the ball with him under center the way he does with Taylor under center. Not sure the team would win more but that is another story.
 

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I guess one of my lingering questions is if we ran less only because of Wentz being under center?

I would love to hear Turner address that question…
 

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DP - I have to think Rivera and Turner talk about what his plan is every week. I don’t know the dynamics of their relationship but Rivera knew what Turner’s playcalling philosophy and tendencies were and he still brought him to DC with him. So I’m skeptical that he suddenly decided Turner needs to rush it more but who knows. Ideally, you have coordinators you trust and don’t micromanage.

I always end up where Brother Om is on Turner… when he ever has a starting QB without major shortcomings who is very good at executing the playbook, and we can’t put up 28 points consistently, I’ll be more inclined to crucify him. I can’t absolve him for some of the head-scratching stuff I see, but he hasn’t had a lot to work with at QB.
While I understand the argument that Scott hasn't had a lot work with at QB, that really isn't the point. The point is that as OC it is his job to figure out how to be successful with what he has.

How many QBs are there in the league that fit your description? A dozen? Maybe, but probably not that many if we are really honest.

I'm tired of blaming the tools for the carpenter not building a solid cabinet. I understand that he is trying to drive finish nails with a framing hammer and that requires some finesse but let's not act like he is trying to drive finish nails with a handsaw.

Heinicke has played QB nearly his whole life and he has strengths and weaknesses. Hell, every player on this offense has them. We ALL see them.

Yet, somehow Turner continues to not call games, with a few exceptions, that play into the strengths of the players he has. He continues to not set his players up for success.

With only a couple of exceptions, he has known who his players for this season were going to be since mid-May. He had all that time to devise a scheme that worked for the strength of these players.

Can you tell me with complete honesty you believe he has done that?

If the answer is no then he is not doing his job.
 

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Other than pointing out he hasn’t had much to work with at the QB position, and countering the inaccurate ‘Turner doesn’t run the ball’ I am not ‘defending’ Turner.

I do think there’s a little irony in pointing out on the one hand that Turner is only running the ball because Heinicke is a liability in the passing game while also making the claim that Turner doesn’t adjust his game plan to fit his talent. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

It’s not all black and white. There are nuances and complexities to the whole equation. That’s what I’m trying to express.
 

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Actually I don't really believe Turner hates the run game as much as he doesn't understand it, which in some ways is worse. I do think he probably prefers passing even if he doesn't admit it to himself (hidden bias).

Here is the thing: by his own admission, he will try things even when the defensive performance/personnel doesn't dictate it. So, you know, if you are facing a top-ranked pass defense and a middling to low ranked run defense, it means he will still pass right? Sure, but to the degree he did against the Lions and Eagles? That is where you really question his intelligence at a minimum. Saying he hates to run is, in many ways, a compliment over the other possibilities.

The other issue that I think I pointed out in another thread is the timing. He makes the team one-dimensional way too often, in spite of claiming the contrary. That one-dimension is almost always passing. WHEN, in the rare circumstances, that one dimension is running, we win more often than not. That could be because DCs are shocked just as we fans are. I am convinced that he has clear tendencies that DCs know from analysis, just as many of us do.

All that said, where do they come from? An actual hatred of the run? No. I think he is following statistics (he rattles off a lot of stats from time to time, so this is clear), but the problem is he follows them to a point of lunacy sometimes. For example, if the stats dictate that Heinicke succeeds out of shotgun passing more than under center, he starts to become a bit predictable there. If the stats dictate that passing on second-and-long leads to more conversions of first-downs than running (in the full four-downs), then he passes. The problem is, he establishes set patterns that he usually pretty diligently follows. Other coordinators find creative ways to mix it up. Are they informed by statistics? Most modern coordinators are. You have to mix it up with a good feel for the game to be a great coordinator, and Scott just hasn't really gotten to that level in my opinion.

Another thought: How much influence did Ron have in last Monday's offensive game plan as far as philosophy goes? Remember the story last year about him telling Scott to run the ball more? Wonder if that was laid down to him again?
There have been a few interviews this year that established the following:
1) Ron has been calling for "more running" for almost the whole season; even after the first Eagles debacle, he kind of held back, but since a week or two after that, he has pretty much been saying we need to run the ball more. However;
2) He also has been on record about his coaching philosophy. He took credit for Sean McDermott and others' success who went out from under him, and he said that his coaching style was kind of stay back and let them do their thing even if he disagrees. The only thing he wants is input, and to have conversations. So he trusts his style. Did he press Scott more than usual this past week, maybe have more of those "conversations?" Likely.
 

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That’s a great post :cheers:

I think a lot of what you are speaking to is stubbornness or perhaps it would better be described as rigidity. I think Turner was brought up (literally) on a certain offensive mindset. We joke about the ‘what we do works’ Norvism, but I think that actually is a core mindset.

I am just as critical as many here in games when I see empty backfield sets which seem to rarely produce positive results or two successive passes deep in the red zone after successfully pounding the ball down the field on a long drive. But I also recognize we’re a bunch of fans who although pretty smart don’t know half of what we think we are talking about.

It’s funny in the NFL when stubbornness works, it’s characterized as commanding leadership, but when it doesn’t, it’s simply bullheadedness or egotism. So far in Turner’s DC tenure it’s been at best a very mixed bag in terms of success. I have no doubt that Turner’s seeming inflexibility plays a part in what we’ve experienced. I’m mostly just suggesting that it’s likely more complicated than just some fatal flaw with Turner.

I also think, given Rivera’s ability to manage (or mismanage) areas that clearly are only in his purview, that it’s unlikely that all the good offensive ideas are coming from Ron and all the goofy failed ones are Turner generated. To the extent we fail or succeed I am sure there is plenty of credit and/or blame to go around.
 

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I am hopeful, but not yet excited or convinced, that the very recent successful strategy deployed will continue. Time, of course, will tell. Perhaps having a QB under center who lacks high-level arm talent is just what was needed, as silly as that might sound. One way to lessen the impact of a lower quality level pass protecting offensive line is to have the fat boys push forward more. Add in a dose of ‘real’ play action generated from an effective run game and everything has to become more synergistic.
 

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This is a great article full of facts, numbers, and no emotions from the author. I can't argue any of it's points.

With that being said....

FIRE SCOTT TURNER NOW!!
 

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Other than pointing out he hasn’t had much to work with at the QB position, and countering the inaccurate ‘Turner doesn’t run the ball’ I am not ‘defending’ Turner.

I do think there’s a little irony in pointing out on the one hand that Turner is only running the ball because Heinicke is a liability in the passing game while also making the claim that Turner doesn’t adjust his game plan to fit his talent. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

It’s not all black and white. There are nuances and complexities to the whole equation. That’s what I’m trying to express.
I didn't mean to imply that I think you are defending Turner. I know you aren't - at least not beyond the idea that he shouldn't be judged until he has a top-level QB, which is still something of a defense but I understand it.

However, in this case, I think I can have it both ways because while he is running the ball more, likely to address Hienicke's arm strength, my perception is that is pretty much all he is doing to adapt to Taylor's attributes as a player.

Heinicke is mobile - where is the designed use of that? I'm not saying run him 10 times a game but 1 or 2 designed runs early in the game would serve to keep the defense a lot more honest. Where are the quick slants? Where are the RPOs? Where are the roll-outs to move the pocket and get Taylor potentially more favorable sightlines?

And it isn't just Heinicke. ST has been banging on about the use of 7-step drops with slow-developing routes all season. Not good calls for this OL and I don't see that changing enough.

Gibson was a monster in the passing game in Week 1 but in the last 2 games, with McKissic OUT, Gibson has been targeted just 6 times (3 in each game). Not only is that not an increase in targets per game, it's a drop.

Amari Rogers catches almost everything that is thrown at him and is averaging nearly 13 yards per reception. We have thrown to him 6 whole times this year. With Taylor's arm and sight limitations, wouldn't throwing it to a huge TE with good hands be an advantage?

And I could talk about Turner's tendencies and when/how they should be broken to maximum effect but SkinsNumberOne did a great job of breaking that down above already.

Bottom line - I think that Turner is an okay Offensive Coordinator but just okay. I don't think he will ever be great and I don't think he will ever truly elevate the talent he has but rather always be in need of exceptional talent to be more than just okay.
 

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Heinicke does a better job of getting the ball to McLaurin and Gibson.

When Wentz is in the game it appears he doesn’t recognize what side of the bread is buttered 😀😃😃😃
 

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