On Run/Pass Split, and Why the Topic Requires More Nuance
Nick Sirianni went on Angelo Cataldi’s show Wednesday morning. He is contractually obligated to do so because 94 WIP is the Eagles’ official radio partner and Audacy pays millions of dollars for the radio rights.
Angelo did his “the city is very upset” introductory routine and blah blah blah, then turned it off somewhat to execute the interview. I’ve always said that Cataldi is a fantastic interviewer when he shuts off the shtick and just talks to guests like a normal person.
Here’s Sirianni on why running backs only got three carries on Monday night:
“The second play was a run call, but a lot of our run calls are RPOs. That’s what we feel like is successful for our offense, and what we want to use in our offense and what we’ve used in the past in our offense. The ball gets pushed out to Quez Watkins on the second play. That was a run call. Then you get (backed up) and some situational football dictates how you’re going to call the game. You get backed up and we threw the ball. Once we got the ball back we were in a little bit of a hole. Do I want to run the ball more? Absolutely. Again, that’s my job to get that fixed. Some of it is situational football, some of it is my play calling. I gotta get more runs called. That’s the way the game went the other day and we’re working to fix that.”
Sirianni went on to say that Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman don’t require him to pass the ball any specific amount of times per game. That, despite a report from about a year ago saying Lurie is obsessed with passing the ball.
Anyway, Monday night’s box score shows a 39 to 12 pass/run split, which is 76% to 24%. That’s very lopsided, even in a pass-heavy, contemporary NFL.
But there are so many asterisks that come with these kinds of raw numbers. First, there can be called run plays that are audibled into pass plays based on what the defense is showing (and vice versa). There’s always going to be a discrepancy in what comes in from the sideline vs. what actually happens on the field.
Second, when Sirianni talks about RPO, that is absolutely required context that needs to be considered. If the call contains multiple options, then it can’t be categorized as one or the other. Duh. And to further complicate that, most people in this town still can’t differentiate a run/pass option from a zone read. Not every scan of a defensive end results in the ball being pulled and thrown. Some plays give the option of QB run or tailback run. That’s the old college offense Chip Kelly and Rich Rodriguez had a ton of success with. Dennis Dixon and Pat White, circa 2008.
So when you look at the box score and say that “running backs only carried the ball three times,” it’s technically true, but Jalen Hurts carried the ball several times himself. Lamar Jackson runs the ball. It would be one thing to log three running back carries with Tom Brady under center, but there’s nuance required in analyzing run/pass balance with a “running quarterback” on the field.
Regardless, the macro-level issue here is that Miles Sanders just didn’t touch the ball enough. Running or receiving. You can talk about options, game situations, or being in obvious passing downs, but he’s one of your best offensive weapons and he’s not getting the rock. Three receptions and two carries isn’t enough for a guy who should be touching the ball at least 12-15 times per game. Minimum. You need to have balance and get the ball into the hands of playmakers, and the Eagles didn’t do any of that the other night.
Here’s the full audio if you wanna blow your brains out:
Sirianni said this in his afternoon presser:
Nick Sirianni says with the RPO game, they actually count those passes as runs. Says he’s fine with that.
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) September 29, 2021