Although it has become less of a talking point in recent years, offensive balance was once a constant chatter point on this site.
It all started in the Mike Martz era when the playcaller was asking Jay Cutler to drop back 30-35 times a game (or more). When Marc Trestman came in, he also skewed a little too pass heavy, at times getting near 50 attempts in a game.
That became much less of a talking point when the ultra conservative, ultra old school John Fox came in and went back to the old school run-first approach.
With Cutler gone and Mitchell Trubisky in Fox was even more adverse to throwing the ball with a rookie signal caller.
Now though the Bears are supposed to have an offensive-minded coach who schemes to his quarterback’s strengths and the players he has.
There’s been some talk among beat reporters that this offense will be pass-heavy compared to last year but I wonder about that.
The Bears boast one of the most diverse backfields in the NFL with Jordan Howard being the traditional north-south power runner and Tarik Cohen bringing the scatback speed and ankle-breaking ability.
They also have an inexperienced quarterback in Trubisky and while the coaching staff has worked with him all offseason and there will be a likely jump in productivity, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be ready to drop back and attempt 600 passes.
I decided to look back at the run-pass ratio of the Chiefs of the last three years, as well as the Eagles the past two years, since those offenses are going to most closely resemble what the Bears are trying to do.
I would like to mention though, that offensive balance isn’t of massive importance, to me anyway. A modern offense such as Nagy’s should be able to deceive defenses with pre-snap movement and formations, as well as the RPO concepts that will likely be run. That means that the offense can dictate what the defense does and put themselves in a position to succeed based on the defensive alignment.
That said, let’s take a look at the numbers. I used FFToday for the ratio percentages but calculated the ratio myself so go ahead and call me out for any bad math.
2017 Bears (for comparison): 473 pass attempts (last in the NFL), 422 rush attempts: 1.12 pass to run ratio or put another way, they passed 52.85 percent of the time.
2017 Chiefs: 543 pass attempts, 405 rush attempts - 1.34 ratio; 57.28 percent pass
2016 Chiefs: 546 pass attempts, 412 rush attempts 1.32 ratio; 56.99 percent pass
2015 Chiefs: 473 pass attempts, 436 rush attempts 1.08 ratio; 58.50 percent pass
2017 Eagles: 564 pass attempts, 473 rush attempts 1.19 ratio; 54.39 percent pass
2016 Eagles: 609 pass attempts, 438 rush attempts 1.39 ratio; 58.17 percent pass
A couple of things stand out here: The Bears actually passed a little more than I would have thought, but overall they were quite balanced, even for a team that was playing behind a lot (the balance, therefore, could be attributed to being in games so late only to lose them late).
For a little bit of context on the numbers: The most balanced team in the NFL a year ago was Jacksonville, who had exactly as many running attempts as passing attempts. The least balanced team in the NFL was the Miami Dolphins, led by former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase. The ‘Fins passed 62.58 percent of the time. The Bills were the team that threw it least; they passed only 49.43 percent of the time.
The Chiefs on the other hand, came in 18th with their passing percentage (57.28) which isn’t heavily skewed from other offensive juggernauts such as the Patriots (56.71 percent, 17th), Steelers (57.45 percent, 20th) and Falcons (55.21 percent, 14th). The Eagles were 11th, passing 54.39 percent of the time.
Seeing as a 50-50 balance is right at the bottom of the pass percentage demonstrates how much the NFL has become a passing league. A more “normal” balance now is around 55-45, right where Denver finished with a 55.66 percent pass percentage.
These numbers would suggest that Kansas City’s offense was a normally balanced offense in 2017 and I would expect that there is where the Bears will finish.
The Bears will undoubtedly pass more than they did last year, but with a back like Howard, the running game is going to be an important component as well.
What do you think offensive balance will look like this season?