What can we expect from Kyle Shanahan’s Offense in 2016? A statistical review.
by Cage contributor, just “little ole” me
This is a look back at how Kyle Shanahan’s offenses have performed over the years in an attempt to predict how the Falcon’s 2016 Offense will perform. This review is based mainly on the stats that the Shanahan led offenses put up over the years. Just remember as Samuel Clemens once said “There are three types of lies, lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
Kyle Shanahan’s first job as an Offensive Coordinator came in 2008 when he was promoted by the Houston Texans. At the time that made him the youngest Offensive Coordinator in the NFL. Shanahan spent two years with the Texans before taking the Offensive Coordinator job with the Washington Redskins who at the time was coached by Kyle’s dad Mike Shanahan. Kyle was in Washington from 2010 until 2013 when he and his dad were both fired. The Cleveland Browns hired Kyle to be their Offensive Coordinator in 2014. Kyle resigned from this position at the end of the 2014 season citing the mandate he had been given to start Johnny Manziel. He was then hired by the Atlanta Falcons to be their Offensive Coordinator in 2015.
Let’s first look at Average Points per Game and Average Yards per Game. The table below gives us a side by side comparison of these two stats to help us establish a relationship between the two. With the exception of 2012, there has always been a significant gap between where the offense ranked in each category. Notice that the Average Yards per Game always has a higher ranking than the Points per Game stat. Five of the eight years that Shanahan has been an Offensive Coordinator his offense has been ranked in the top ten in the league in Yards per Game, and three of the eight years they were ranked in the top five. One would think that the ability of an offense to move the ball down the field would result in more points. But, the Average Points per Game stat refutes that assumption. Five of the eight years the offense has ranked 21st or lower in Points per Game and only one year did Shanahan’s offense break the into top five. Those who watched all of the Falcon’s games in 2015 know where this is headed. Failure to score in the Red Zone! No it wasn’t just an issue in 2015. It has always been an issue for Shanahan led offenses since his first year as an Offensive Coordinator. The exception to the rule is 2012. Why was 2012 different? We will look at that in a little later.
|Year||Team||Average Points per Game (Rank)||Average Yards per Game (Rank)|
|2008||Texans||22.9 (17)||382.1 (3)|
|2009||Texans||24.2 (10)||383.1 (4)|
|2010||Redskins||18.9 (25)||335.9 (18)|
|2011||Redskins||18 (26)||336.7 (16)|
|2012||Redskins||27.2 (4)||383.2 (5)|
|2013||Redskins||20.9 (23)||369.7 (9)|
|2014||Browns||18.7 (27)||324.6 (23)|
|2015||Falcons||21.2 (21)||374.1 (7)|
While the stats confirm the failure of the Offense to score in the Red Zone, no prediction for the 2016 Offense has been established. Let’s look at the team that Shanahan coached who had a Quarterback situation closest to that of the 2016 Falcons. The 2008 and 2009 years with Texan’s Quarterback Matt Schaub are the most similar to the 2015 and 2016 Falcons with Matt Ryan. Looking at those two years in Houston there is an increase in Average Yards per Game and Average Points per Game from 2008 to 2009. Based upon the increase that the Texans experienced, there should be an expected similar increase for the Falcons in 2016. Most fans will have serious doubts for any predicted increase in offense and scoring in 2016 based upon how the 2015 offense floundered and from looking at the 2016 schedule. While those are legitimate reasons to doubt, the flip side includes the seasoning of current players in Shanahan’s system and Shanahan’s growth as an Offensive Coordinator. Maybe Shanahan can use some of the magic from 2012 to propel the Falcon’s offense into the top five rankings that were produced in that year.
In the anomaly year of 2012 Shanahan’s offense, led by rookie Robert Griffin III, relied much more heavily on the run than in all his other years as an Offensive Coordinator. Shanahan modified his offense to help protect Griffin from making mistakes in the passing game. The 2012 offense averaged less than 28 pass attempts per game. That was lower than any Shanahan offense before or since. As the chart below shows there are only two other years where Shanahan’s offenses have averaged less than 35 pass attempts per game. The run/pass balance in the chart shows Shanahan’s preference toward the passing game. In 2015 the Falcons had the second highest percentage of pass plays in all of Shanahan’s years of play calling. These stats show that a higher number of pass plays does not always lead to more passing yards. The 2012 season does show that Shanahan is able to adapt his offense, which is a major doubt many fans have after the offensive collapse in 2015.
|Year||Team||Pass Attempts per Game (%)||Rushing Attempts per Game (%)||Passing Yards per Game (Rank)||Rushing Yards per Game (Rank)|
|2008||Texans||34.7 (56.3%)||27 (43.7%)||266.7 (4)||115.4 (13)|
|2009||Texans||37.1 (58.2%)||26.6 (41.7)||290.9 (1)||92.2 (30)|
|2010||Redskins||37.8 (63.3)||21.9(36.7)||244.6 (8)||91.3 (30)|
|2011||Redskins||36.9 (59.6)||25 (40.4)||235.8 (14)||100.9 (25)|
|2012||Redskins||27.6 (46%)||32.4 (54%)||213.9 (20)||169.3 (1)|
|2013||Redskins||38.2 (57.4%)||28.3 (42.6)||234.4 (16)||135.2 (5)|
|2014||Browns||31.4 (51.3)||29.8 (48.7)||216.6 (20)||108 (17)|
|2015||Falcons||38.8 (59.7)||26.2 (40.3)||273.7 (6)||100.4 (19)|
Is running the ball more often the answer? Falcon’s Running Back Devonta Freeman had a pretty good year in 2015. Freeman had 265 attempts for over 1000 rushing yards, and he was also second on the team in receptions with 73 receptions on 97 targets. That is over 330 times Freeman had the ball in his hands. While those stats earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl, most Backs that play year after year with that many touches also have shorter careers in the NFL. Falcon’s fans can go back to the first few years of the Mike Smith era and see how the team won games by controlling the clock with the running game. Outside of the 2012 season Kyle Shanahan has not used that offensive strategy. There should not be an expectation to see that strategy in 2016. There is another stat from that 2012 season that needs consideration.
|Year||Team||Ints (Rank)||Fumbles Lost (Rank)|
|Texans||20 (2)||12 (8)|
|Texans||17 (14)||11 (12)|
|Redskins||19 (11)||12 (10)|
|Redskins||24 (3)||11 (10)|
|Redskins||8 (30)||6 (26)|
|Redskins||19 (10)||15 (2)|
|Browns||16 (10)||7 (25)|
|Falcons||17 (8)||13 (3)|
The chart above shows turnovers. Looking at the 2012 season the offense only had a total of 14 turnovers. That is the lowest number of turnovers by a Kyle Shanahan offense. The next lowest is 24 turnovers in the 2014 season. By comparison the 2015 Falcons had 30 turnovers. Shanahan led offenses show a pattern of numerous interceptions and lost fumbles. Those areas should be major coaching points for players, but when a consistent pattern like this is established it can cause skepticism for the future in the fan base. A minor positive point is that there was improvement in the number of interceptions thrown by the Texans from the 2008 to 2009 season. This gives hope that Matt Ryan’s interception numbers will improve in 2016. One quick item of note, current Falcon’s Quarterback Coach Matt LaFleur has been Shanahan’s Quarterback coach since 2008 with the exception of 2014.
To recap, after looking at the stats we have confirmed that the issues the Falcons faced in the Redzone in 2015 seem to have been issues for numerous Shanahan led offenses over the years. With the exception of 2012, Shanahan’s offenses have been pass happy. By indirectly comparing Matt Ryan to the Texan’s Quarterback in 2008 and 2009, Matt Schaub, slight improvement can be expected in the 2016 Falcons Average Points and Yards per Game. There is also hope for improvement in the turnover categories. The biggest concern that these stats raise is the lack of major improvement by offenses coached by Shanahan over multiple years, not including the anomaly year of 2012, which was the only year he changed his offensive balance from pass heavy to run heavy, expect more of the 2015 offense in 2016 and hope that the players improve in their ability to run Shanahan’s offense!
Do you agree with the statistical assessment? Why or why not?
Will offensive production in 2016 look more like the first five games of 2015 or like the last eleven?
Can Kyle Shanahan continue to grow as an Offensive Coordinator or has he peaked?
After the floundering of the 2015 offense, have you lost confidence in Shanahan? If so what will you need to see in 2016 to restore that confidence?
Do you think Head Coach Dan Quinn, who is primarily a defensive coach, should increase his input into the offense?
What offensive play did you see in the 2015 games that support the assessment presented?
What offensive play did you see in the 2015 games that refute the assessment presented?