FanPost

Importance of a Passing Game

In conclusion of the 2011 NFL season, championed by the New York Giants, it’s already time to start looking forward to free agency and April’s draft. For the Miami Dolphins, the most prominent need is clearly in the quarterback position—a position that hasn’t been relieved since Dan Marino’s retiring in the late 1990’s. The NFL has been doing its own shifting over time, where many have dubbed the league “quarterback friendly” and a “pass first league”. South Beach has tried to find its own gem to fit the NFL model of pass-friendly. Through trial and error, Miami finds itself in this postseason in search of a new quarterback again… except this time; it can make a huge splash into the 2012 season.

But, is there validity behind these quarterback friendly claims in the NFL? Can Miami benefit from following this league trend?

Statistically, the 2011 season was highlighted by Drew Brees’ record-breaking season, which he compiled the most passing yards in league history. Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford both went over the 5000-yard mark as well. It was a year that clearly showed one thing in my eyes: if you want to win, you must win through the air. On average, the top twelve quarterbacks in the 2011 season threw for nearly 500 more yards than the 2010 average. Of those quarterbacks, Tom Brady (2nd most yards in 2011) and Eli Manning (4th most yards in 2011) clashed in the Super Bowl.

Maurice Jones-Drew, who led the NFL with 1606 yards, headlined a five-win team that watched Brady and Manning duel in Indianapolis.

Also worth noting, Matt Schaub, 2009’s leading passer and 2010’s 4th gunner, missed the majority of the 2011 season. Based on statistics, his 4000+ yards would further increase the league average.

However, “what if’s” have been all too familiar with the Miami Dolphins recently. “What if we never drafted Ted Ginn?” “What if we took Matt Ryan over Jake Long?” “What if Drew Brees became a Dolphin instead a Saint?” What if…

Well, what if the NFL is in fact a passing league? Out of the final four teams, Baltimore and San Francisco I consider to be running teams, and New York and New England to be passing teams. However, Baltimore and San Francisco are certainly defense-based, and would most likely win through a defensive stop than on 90+ yard drives. Alex Smith, though, certainly made an exception for that statement when he marched down on Drew Brees and pulled a trip to the NFC Championships.

Let’s get down to the point. Take a look at the two charts that highlight the top 12 rushers and passers over the past 3 seasons:

Passing 2011

Passing 2010

Passing 2009

Brees

5476

Rivers

4710

Schaub

4770

Brady

5235

P. Manning

4700

P. Manning

4500

Stafford

5038

Brees

4620

Romo

4483

E. Manning

4933

Schaub

4370

Rodgers

4434

Rodgers

4643

E. Manning

4002

Brady

4398

Rivers

4624

Palmer

3970

Brees

4388

Romo

4184

Rodgers

3922

Roethlisberger

4328

Ryan

4177

Brady

3900

Rivers

4254

Roethlisberger

4077

Ryan

3705

Favre

4202

Newton

4051

Orton

3653

E. Manning

4021

Fitzpatrick

3832

Flacco

3622

Orton

3802

Flacco

3610

Bradford

3512

Warner

3753

Average

4490

Average

4057.17

Average

4277.75

St. Dev.

589.87

St. Dev.

435.017

St. Dev.

295.62

Rushing 2011

Rushing 2010

Rushing 2009

Jones-Drews

1606

Foster

1616

Johnson

2006

Rice

1364

Charles

1467

Jackson

1416

Turner

1340

Turner

1371

Jones

1402

McCoy

1309

Johnson

1364

Jones-Drew

1391

Foster

1224

Jones-Drew

1324

Peterson

1383

Gore

1211

Peterson

1298

Rice

1339

Lynch

1204

Mendenhall

1273

Grant

1253

McGahee

1199

Jackson

1241

Benson

1251

Jackson

1145

Bradshaw

1235

Stewart

1133

Mathews

1091

Rice

1220

R. Williams

1121

Bush

1086

Hillis

1177

Charles

1120

Benson

1067

McFadden

1157

Gore

1120

Average

1237

Average

1311.92

Average

1327.92

St. Dev.

151.64

St. Dev.

130.09

St. Dev.

244.76

A basic observation is that the running game has in fact diminished amongst the league’s best over the past 3 seasons. Conversely, the passing game hasn’t seen such high numbers ever.

In the lists above, in 2009, 5 running backs went to the playoffs. In 2009, 8 quarterbacks went dancing.

2010: 4 running backs to 6 quarterbacks

2011: 6 running backs to 8 quarterbacks

There is certainly a correlation between a diminishing running game and a rising throwing game. This past 2011 season had the 5 top yardage quarterbacks all go dancing in the playoffs. Yards don’t necessarily guarantee wins, either. Though numbers suggest they certainly put you in a healthy situation to be in playoff contention. When taking the top 2 quarterbacks from each of the 3 seasons, 4 out of 6 made the playoffs. When taking the top 2 running backs from each of the 3 seasons, only 2 of the 6 made the playoffs. To me, it’s every team’s vision to be in the postseason come the end of the regular season.

I’m not stating Miami needs to address the quarterback position, we all know this by now. What I hope this post shows to you is how crucial it is to have a quarterback in a league that supports the throwing game. Statistics are not everything that matters, but they do carry significant weight that can’t go ignored. Of course, other factors need to be considered when evaluating teams, but the QB position is the cornerstone of any offense moving forward.

For Miami to adapt to this league for once and for all, it is crucial to seek a long-term solution. Though Reggie Bush’s accomplishments for Miami were a great sight, it was not enough. The two-headed monster of Ricky and Ronnie are gone. The Detroit Lions weren’t resurrected on the ground, and neither will Miami.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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