Last year I think many Redskins fans were a bit surprised with how little the team threw the ball despite the additions of Robert Griffin III and receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. After the first two seasons of Mike Shanahan in Washington, where we saw quarterbacks Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, and John Beck attempt 1,196 passes, Griffin and fellow rookie Kirk Cousins combined for just 442 attempts. Instead last season the Redskins were a run first team, that ran for over 50% of the time. Now many may point to the read-option as why this occurred, but the reality is Skins fans shouldn't have been too surprised. Mike Shanahan has always had a reputation for being a run heavy coach. Despite that many fans seem to be more focused on adding more receiving weapons (both wide outs and tight ends), in an expectation that the Redskins will attack more through the air. I decided to look at Mike Shanahan's history with Denver and Washington to see if there was any correlation between his focus on the run and success, or if the perception was wrong and Shanahan actually relied on his quarterback play more.
Well the perception wasn't wrong as Mike Shanahan has finished in the top 10 of the league in rushing attempts 11 out of his 17 seasons (had another year where he was 11th). And saw many of his most successful years with the team finishing in the top 5. In fact Mike Shanahan's winning percentage is a full .212 points higher when he has a top 10 rushing team than when he doesn't. Conversely Shanahan has only finished in the top 10 in passing attempts 6 times, and had very little success to show for it.
Not only does Shanahan like top 10 rushing teams, but he he likes it so much that he makes it the feature part of his offense. When a Mike Shanahan team has run the ball over 50% of the time he's never had worse than a 9-7 record, and has made the playoffs nearly all of those seasons.
With that kind of success rate does it change your opinion on what should be the focus of the Redskins offense next season?
Does it change your offensive free agent/draft needs from perhaps prioritizing pass catchers (i.e. Fred Davis and receivers) to focusing on improving the blocking and adding running back depth?
What do you predict the Redskins run versus pass breakdown will be next season (as a percentage)?