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Why Running Equals Winning For the Redskins

Steve Shoup

The other day I wrote a post on why it was a good thing that the Washington Redskins were a run first team and why we should expect that trend to continue. That post was based on the success the league was having running the football more often and how it helped equate to winning. Today I’m going to look at what it means for Mike Shanahan, and how rushing attempts and passing attempts for his offenses translate into Wins and Losses at the end of the season. Below I will list his team’s rushing attempts, passing attempts, the percentage of each, where they ranked in the league and finally how they did that season, from every season since he started in Denver.


Passing attempts: 594

NFL Rank: 7th  Offensive Percentage: 57.44%

Rushing attempts: 440

NFL Rank: 16th Offensive Percentage:42.66%

Finish: 8-8, 3rd in AFC West, missed the playoffs


Passing attempts: 536

NFL Rank: 16th Offensive Percentage: 50.5%

Rushing attempts: 525

NFL Rank: 2nd Offensive Percentage: 49.5%

Finish: 13-3, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs


Passing attempts: 513

NFL Rank: 20th Offensive Percentage: 49.66%

Rushing attempts: 520

NFL Rank: 6th  Offensive Percentage: 50.44%

Finish: 12-4, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs and won the Super Bowl


Passing attempts: 491

NFL Rank: 21st  Offensive percentage: 48.32%

Rushing attempts: 525

NFL Rank: 2nd  Offensive percentage: 51.68%

Finish: 14-2, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs and won the Super Bowl


Passing attempts: 554

NFL Rank: 10th  Offensive percentage: 54.36%

Rushing attempts: 465

NFL Rank: 9th  Offensive percentage: 45.64%

Finish: 6-10, 5th in the AFC West, missed playoffs


Passing attempts: 569

NFL Rank: 9th  Offensive percentage: 52..44%

Rushing attempts: 516

NFL Rank: 4th  Offensive percentage: 47.56%

Finish: 11-5, 2nd in AFC West, made playoffs


Passing attempts: 511

NFL Rank: 20th  Offensive percentage: 51.5%

Rushing attempts: 481

NFL Rank: 6th  Offensive percentage: 48.5%

Finish: 8-8, 3rd in AFC West, missed playoffs


Passing attempts: 554

NFL Rank: 14th  Offensive percentage: 54.79%

Rushing attempts: 457

NFL Rank: 11th  Offensive percentage: 45.21%

Finish: 9-7, 2nd in AFC West, missed playoffs


Passing attempts: 479

NFL Rank: 26th  Offensive percentage: 46.86%

Rushing attempts: 543

NFL Rank: 2nd   Offensive percentage: 53.14%

Finish: 10-6, 2nd in AFC West, made playoffs


Passing attempts: 521

NFL Rank: 16th  Offensive percentage: 49.38%

Rushing attempts: 534

NFL Rank: 2nd  Offensive percentage: 50.62%

Finish: 10-6, 2nd in AFC West, made playoffs


Passing attempts: 465

NFL Rank: 25th  Offensive percentage: 46.17%

Rushing attempts: 542

NFL Rank: 2nd  Offensive percentage: 53.83%

Finish: 13-3, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs


Passing attempts: 454

NFL Rank: 26th  Offensive percentage: 48.19%

Rushing attempts: 488

NFL Rank: 9th   Offensive percentage: 51.81%

Finish: 9-7, 2nd in AFC West, missed playoffs


Passing attempts: 515

NFL Rank: 21st  Offensive percentage: 54.55%

Rushing attempts: 429

NFL Rank: 18th   Offensive percentage: 45.45%

Finish: 7-9, 2nd in AFC West, missed playoffs


Passing attempts: 620

NFL Rank: 3rd  Offensive percentage: 61.56%

Rushing attempts: 387

NFL Rank: 28th  Offensive percentage: 38.44%

Finish: 8-8, tied for 1st in AFC West, missed playoffs


Passing attempts: 605

NFL Rank: 4th  Offensive percentage: 63.28%

Rushing attempts: 351

NFL Rank: 31st  Offensive percentage: 36.72%

Finish: 6-10, 3rd in NFC East, missed playoffs


Passing attempts:591

NFL Rank: 5th  Offensive percentage: 59.63%

Rushing attempts: 400

NFL Rank: 25th Offensive percentage: 39.37%

Finish: 5-11, 4th in NFC East, missed playoffs


Passing attempts: 442

NFL Rank: 30th  Offensive percentage: 45.99%

Rushing attempts: 519

NFL Rank: 3rd  Offensive percentage: 54.01%

Finish: 10-6, 1st in NFC East, made playoffs



Finished in the top 10 in the league in rushing:

11 seasons out of 17 combined seasons between the Broncos and Redskins

When finishing in the top 10 in rushing: 

116-60 record (.659 winning percentage), eight playoff appearances, just one losing season

When finishing out of the top 10 in rushing:

43-53 (.447 winning percentage), zero playoff appearances, three losing seasons (out of 6)

Finished with at least 50% rushing attempts: 

Seven times in 17 seasons. Made the playoffs in six of those seasons and finished above .500 every season. (Note this does not count: 1996 where they were just half a percentage point away from having 50% rushing attempts)

Finished top 10 in the league in passing:

Six times they finished in the top 10 in the league in passing attempts with a record of: 44-52 (.458 winning percentage), with just one winning record and playoff appearance.

Final Thoughts:

While much of the league may be in pass first mode, it is pretty clear that for the Mike Shanahan system to work the Redskins must remain a run focused team. He has never made the playoffs when his team has run the ball less than 47.5% of the time and seven of his eight playoff appearances his team has run the ball at least 49.5% of the time. So the idea that the Redskins are going to be throwing the ball 60% of the time and winning football games should end for as long as Mike Shanahan is at the helm. That might work for some other teams and coaches in the league, but it’s not going to work here with Mike Shanahan. Running the football this much may not seem as flashy or exciting, but for Mike Shanahan it is a way of life.

The fact that the run is so important to his offense, shows just how key the health and production of Alfred Morris is to this team’s success. In many ways he’s as important as star quarterback Robert Griffin III. The depth behind Morris is very crucial as if he goes down, another back has to be capable of producing similar numbers or the Redskins chances for success plummet.

So keep this in mind as the Redskins go about the offseason and look to allocate resources. The greater upgrades they can add for the running game (back-up running backs, run blocking TE’s and Offensive linemen), should help point to a better winning percentage and a far more likely postseason run.

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