Putting Numbers to Todd Haley's Play Calling

Even though I'm no Herm Edwards apologist, I would get frustrated when people when say things like, "Herm always runs it on first down. Why doesn't he mix it up?"

Well, in actuality, Herm's 2008 Chief passed significantly more on first down than they ran the ball. This is just one example. I've seen some more of these comments during the first quarter of the season about Todd Haley's play calling, mostly generalizations about Haley always does this on this down, etc.

Thankfully, we have access to some cool stats that analyze the Chiefs' play calling by down and then examines the success of those play calls, in terms of converting first downs. So, next time your friend yells out something ridiculous like, "Haley always runs it on third and short!" You can say, "No, stupid. He only does that 25% of the time."

Yep, you're going to be really popular on game day if you drop knowledge like this.

Here are a few teaser numbers to get you to click over:

  • The Chiefs have the highest YPC on second down and 11-15 yards to go (Makes sense)
  • The team's highest yard per pass average is on third down and between 3-5 yards to go (Interesting)
  • The Chiefs are actually pretty good at converting fourth downs (Why is that?)

After the jump, we dive in the Chiefs' 2009 down analysis.

First Down

58 rushing plays (4.09 average yards per rush), 42 passing plays (5.57 average yards per passing play)

Yards to Go Rushing Plays Avg Yards per Rush Rushing First Downs % Rushing Plays Converted Passing Plays Avg Yards per Pass Passing First Downs % Passing Plays Converted
1 to 2 0 0 0 0 3 1 2 66.67%
3 to 5 0 0 0 0 1 22 1 100.00%
6 to 10 52 4.17 8 15.38% 36 5.64 9 25.00%
11 to 15 3 5 0 0 1 6 0 0
16+ 3 1.67 0 0 1 0 0 0

The Chiefs have had exactly 100 first down plays and as you can see above (because the math is so easy on this one), they rush the ball 58% of the time and pass it 42% of the time.

Here are a few observations:

  • When the Chiefs have a short first down (penalty for example), Haley likes to pass it over running it.
  • On longer first downs, Haley plays it safe and rushes more than he passes.
  • Even though the Chiefs have converted a similar number of first downs on 1st and 6-10, passing the ball has a better success rate.
  • Overall first down success rate: 20%

More successful play call: Passing the football

Second Down

33 rushing plays (2.82 average yards per rush), 41 passing plays (3.68 average yards per passing play

Yards to Go Rushing Plays Avg Yards per Rush Rushing First Downs % Rushing Plays Converted Passing Plays Avg Yards per Pass Passing First Downs % Passing Plays Converted
1 to 2 4 2.5 3 75.00% 3 3.33 1 33.33%
3 to 5 3 0.67 1 33.33% 4 6 3 75.00%
6 to 10 20 2.5 4 20.00% 19 2.21 5 26.32%
11 to 15 3 5.33 0 0 8 6.12 1 12.50%
16+ 3 5 0 0 7 3.71 1 14.29%

On second down, the Chiefs are rushing the ball 45% of the time and passing it 55% of the time. A pretty even mix.

Here are some second down observations based on these numbers:

  • On second and short (5 or fewer yards to go), Haley is calling runs and passes equally and experiencing equal success.
  • 5.33 yards per rush on second and long makes sense - the defense can afford to defend the pass.
  • For the most part, on second down it's really anyone's guess what Haley is going to call.
  • Overall second down success rate: 26%

More successful play call: Passing the football

Third Down

9 rushing plays (3 average yards per rush), 42 passing plays (4.45 average yards per passing play)

Yards to Go Rushing Plays Avg Yards per Rush Rushing First Downs % Rushing Plays Converted Passing Plays Avg Yards per Pass Passing First Downs % Passing Plays Converted
1 to 2 2 1 1 50.00% 6 -2 0 0
3 to 5 1 0 0 0 6 12.5 3 50.00%
6 to 10 3 1.67 0 0 15 5 3 20.00%
11 to 15 2 7 0 0 10 4 2 20.00%
16+ 1 6 0 0 5 1.8 0 0

 

Here's where we all know this team gets bad - third downs. The Chiefs are rushing the ball 18% of the time on third down and passing it 82% of the time.

A few observations:

  • Passing and rushing on third and short isn't working. The Chiefs only convert 1 out of 3 times they pass on third down with five or fewer yards to go. They've only converted one of their rushing attempts on third and short too.
  • Of the 51 third downs this team has had this season, 71% of the time they need more than 6 yards to get the first.
  • 29% of the time the Chiefs face third and less than five yard to go.
  • Overall third down success rate: 18%

More successful play call: Not going to put success next to anything the Chiefs are doing on third downs.

Fourth Down

2 rushing plays (3 average yards per rush), 8 passing plays (7.38 average yards per passing play)

Yards to Go Rushing Plays Avg Yards per Rush Rushing First Downs % Rushing Plays Converted Passing Plays Avg Yards per Pass Passing First Downs % Passing Plays Converted
1 to 2 2 3 2 100.00% 1 2 1 100.00%
3 to 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.00%
6 to 10 0 0 0 0 2 14 2 100.00%
11 to 15 0 0 0 0 2 11.5 2 100.00%
16+ 0 0 0 0 2 3 0 0

On fourth down, the Chiefs are running the ball 20% of the time and passing the other 80%.

Some observations:

  • For some reason, on fourth and short, the Chiefs are getting it done. It would be nice to be able to do that on third down.
  • Overall fourth down success: 70%

More successful play call: Passing but there are so many caveats on fourth down.

Take a look at the stats. Anything stick out to you that I missed?

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