Recently, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy stated in an interview with Rob Demovsky that he plans for the Packers to run 75 offensive plays on average per game. While this might seem like a great idea consider the Packers have one of the most high flying and potentially dangerous offenses in the NFL, one only needs to take a step back to realize how trying to shoot for 75 offensive plays per game on average doesn’t necessarily mean you are winning nor does it mean that your offense will get better.
First off context is important when considering how many plays the offense gets to make on average. On one hand, obviously converting 3rd downs and extending drives will increase the total number of plays on offense and picking up the tempo of the offense with no huddle and hurry up offenses are things the Packers have done regularly with Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers will also likely increase how many offensive plays the Packers get.
However it’s also important to realize that snap count can also be inversely proportional to Packers offensive efficiency; for instance if the Packers are comfortably in the lead and are grinding out the clock by running the ball 3 times and punting (I like how fans complain when the Packers run the ball 3 times and punt but also complain when the Packers throw the ball when killing the clock as well) their total number of offensive plays will naturally decrease simply because they are waiting until the last second to snap the ball.
Furthermore, teams that are behind tend to play faster because they know they have get more done in a faster amount of time. While the Denver Broncos, who had the best offense in the NFL last season, did have the highest number of offensive plays per game at 72, teams that also had higher average offensive plays per game were Buffalo (70), Washington (69), Houston (68) and Cleveland (67). I don’t think anyone would argue that any of these teams fielded a top flight offense last year and it’s likely that playing from behind increases your offensive plays as opposing defenses are also playing more “prevent”/soft defenses in order to kill the clock further.
Offensive composition appears to also play some factor in the average number of offensive plays; predominantly passing teams typically had higher offensive snap count numbers; as mentioned before Denver lead the league with 72, New England came in 2nd with 70 and other pass-first teams such as Detroit (69) and New Orleans (68) also show up in the top 10 of offensive snaps per game. On the flip side two very successful running offense teams (with good defenses to boot) in San Francisco and Seattle both averaged about 60 offensive snaps per game. While initially this would seem to fall in line with McCarthy’s statement, I think the Packers can actually be a much more balanced team this year with the inclusion of Eddie Lacy and James Starks.
Other than last season, the Packers have always been a pass first, pass second, run as an afterthought type of team but without Aaron Rodgers for much of the season, the Packers actually showed that they in fact could run the ball and that added a huge dimension to the offense once Rodger returned. I think it would be a loss to limit the diversity of the Packers offense in the goal of pushing more plays out of the offense, in others words passing the ball instead of keeping the defense honest with a solid combination of both run and pass.
I think the biggest idea to point out is that number of offensive plays a team can run is dependent on a variety of factors including offensive philosophy, the situation of a particular game and how the opposing defense are playing them.
It should be pointed out that much news was made out of the hiring of Chip Kelly last year by the Philadelphia Eagles because it was believed that he would bring his high-volume, high speed offense to the NFL. Initially this proved be true, the Eagles stuffed 53 offensive plays into the first half of their season opener against the Redskins but ultimately this high speed attack proved to be ineffectual; by the end of the season the Eagles ranked 13th with 65 offensive plays on average, which is lower than the Packers’ 67.
In reality its not how many opportunities you get, its how you use them.——————
Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.