Do you still need to run the ball to be successful?
With #24 San Jose State beating Bowling Green (who were oddly wearing Red, not one of its official colors) in the Military Bowl yesterday after having a grand total of -15 yards on 23 carries, I began to wonder if running the ball is really all that necessary to win in this new pass-happy era of football.
Teams like Texas Tech and Houston have had no problems being successful with spread offense pass attack, but they’ve also been able to run the ball decently (and for more yards then -15), which had led to comparable success for both programs. The Green Bay Packers are relying on Aaron Rodgers for almost all their offense and it’s working quite nicely for them as well.
Has the offensive environment in football changed? It has more to do with the personnel than anything. Why run the ball with Ryan Grant or James Starks when you have Aaron Rodgers? Why put the game in the hands of a bad run-blocking scheme when you have Tony Romo who can air the ball out for 400 yards a game? 400 yards passing used to be a rarity in the NFL, when now we’ll likely have 13 players with over 4,000 yards passing on the season in 2012. There’s no doubt guys like Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are a better core than Manning, Jeff Garcia and Elvis Grbac — the only three to break the 4,000-yard mark in 2000. Receivers are bigger and stronger too, and we’re a game away from seeing Calvin Johnson rack up 2,000 yards receiving on the season.
Another reason might be defenses that are becoming self-fulfilling prophecies of not being able to stop the pass. Even on 3rd and 3 you’ll see a defensive back giving nine yards of cushion because they’d rather give up the first down then leave the possibility open of being burned deep. Keeping the chains moving is an QB’s dream, and defensive coordinators look to be hurting themselves more than helping stop the opposing offense.
The day of the one-back backfield is long gone, and you very rarely see a star running back stay on the field on 3rd down anymore. With less emphasis being put on having that one running back (see: Patriots) and more on moving the ball down the field through the air, the game has changed and we’re no longer in a rushing era of football. 4,000 passing yards won’t be the mark very much longer — it’ll be 5,000. Accept the change and you’ll enjoy the game… deny it’s already happening and you’ll be the grumbling old man that still hates cell phones.