Running the ball to commit to running the ball

"They're establishing the run."

"They're showing they're committed to the run."

"Running the ball here really shows the other team they're going to be physical."

"They're going to commit to the run and show they're a physical team."

Here's what I think when I hear a commentator utter these phrases: "Is that really what the coach is thinking?"

There's only one good reason to run any play, be it run, pass or anything else: because it's a good play. There are a few ways in which it can be a good play: it can gain consistent yardage. It can have a chance of being an explosive play. It can gain yardage and set up another play to go for big yardage at a later stage. It can be advantageous from a clock-management perspective, either stopping the clock or taking more time off the clock. But not a good reason to run a play, is to show you're going to run the play more often. Run a play because it is a good play or it has beneficial effects for the rest of your gameplan - running it to just to run it is, simply put, stupid. 

I have a hard time wrapping my head around this - I don't believe for a minute that coaches think in terms of 'establishing the run' - I believe they think in terms of 'running the play that produces the best chance of winning'. If that means running the ball on every down, then do that. If it means passing the ball on every down, then do that. More likely it means both running and passing the ball, keeping the opposing defense on edge and forcing it to make decisions. It may mean running the ball a lot to get the defense to cheat up and get some windows to open up in the passing game. It may mean setting the opponent up for a situation in which they can't win - where when they stack up against the run, you pass them to death, and when they drop back against the pass you run them to death. But it does not mean 'committing to the run' just to commit to the run: there's a detailed gameplan there. 

Now don't get me wrong - I love physical, smashmouth football. But I don't love physical smashmouth football for the sake of it, I love it as a way to win the game. But what I want from commentators and analysts isn't the bland 'committed to running the ball', I want to hear an explanation of how running the ball in a certain situation fits into a gameplan. I want to hear how the Jets use the run to set up a play-action passing game. I want to hear how and why Peyton Manning balances the run the way he does. I want to hear why Greg Olson stops running the ball as soon as he goes behind.

In other words: I want to be educated on how coaches think about this great game, and a lot of commentators and analysts completely fail to do that. 

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