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By the Numbers: OC Greg Olson’s playcalling tendencies

As the Raiders start to transition from Greg Knapp’s offensive philosophies towards new coordinator Greg Olson’s, there are many questions about what sort of changes will be made.  Many of the details – Which plays does he use as his staples? What is his run blocking philosophy?  – will only be known through film study and then as we get a look at his vision of the team come training camp.

In the meantime it seemed worthwhile to get information on his play-calling tendencies in a statistical analysis.  To do this, I painstakingly went through 8 games – the first half of the 2011 season when he was the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Bucs – and tracked every pass and run to see Olson’s tendencies.

What I found surprised me, I admit.  Olson’s reputation is that he is a run oriented play caller but the data from the 2011 season did not back that assertion.  In Tampa’s 2011 season, he called a run only approximately 32% of the time, having his quarterbacks throw the ball almost 7 out of every 10 snaps.

While it’s true that Tampa only won 4 games in 2011 and therefore was playing from a position of being behind more often than not, all 4 of Tampa’s wins came in the first 8 games so during that time period the Bucs were a 4-4 team.  So, even with the team winning as many as they lost, Olson still called a much higher number of passes than runs.

That disparity got even further apart in their losses.  When the Bucs were losing, close to 3 of every 4 plays was a pass.  In games in which the team won, 4 of every 5 plays was still a pass.

The passes he called weren’t the long bombs that Al Davis would have loved, either.  Over 86% of the passes thrown were 10 yards or less.  That means that only about 14 of every 100 passes thrown were thrown to a spot 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.  Even fewer were what many would term a “deep” pass (20 yards beyond the line of scrimmage).

The Bucs lived and died with a plethora of short passes – screens, slants, out routes – in which Josh Freeman would get the ball to his wide receivers, tight end, running back or fullback 3-8 yards downfield and placing it where the receivers could get down the field.

The Bucs did get a fair number of 10+ yard plays out of the short passes but fans looking for Olson to bring a Hue-Jackson-like, explosive, downfield passing game will likely come away disappointed.

Here is a look at some of the numbers from the first 8 games of the Bucs 2011 season, the last season Olson was an offensive coordinator.

For the purposes of these numbers, long downs are anything 6 yards or above and short downs are 5 yards or lower so 2nd & short means that on 2nd down, the team has 5 of less yards to go:


% run %pass
32.48% 67.52%


Pass short % Pass deep %
86.11% 13.89%


1st & long % run 1st & long %pass
39.71%   60.29%  
2nd & long % run 2nd & long % pass
40.16%   59.84%  
3rd & long % run 3rd & long % pass
0%   100%  


1st & short % run 1st & short % pass
37.50%   62.50%  
2nd & short % run 2nd & short % run
34.04%   65.96%  
3rd & short % run 3rd & short % pass
17.65%   82.35%  
4th down % run    


% run in wins % pass in wins
38.17%   61.83%  
% runs in losses %pass in losses
26.34%   73.66%  


Run L % Run M % Run R %
43.13% 37.70% 25.41%
Pass % L Pass M % Pass R %
34.90% 28.07% 31.96%


1st D, run 1st D, pass
39.63% 60.37%
2nd D, run 2nd D, pass
38.46% 61.54%
3rd D, run 3rd D, pass
7.89% 92.11%