Buccaneers 2012 play calling: Freeman was worse with more throws

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We have seen Freeman and his receivers not on the same page, but have we looked at how often they have had the opportunities to not be on the same page?

The ultimate goal of every game is to win. Every team has their own formula as to how to accomplish said feat. There are three basic philosophies:

1. A balanced team on offense and defense.

2. A strong defense and a play it safe offense.

3. A strong offense and a bend, but don’t break defense.

From those basic philosophies, there are many variations that can be developed. Also, special teams play gets to be peppered into the equation afterwards.

In 2012, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a huge offensive push. Eli Manning’s QB coach, Mike Sullivan, became QB Josh Freeman’s new offensive coordinator. Pro Bowlers WR Vincent Jackson and G Carl Nicks were added via free agency to an offense that already boasts Pro Bowlers LT Donald Penn and G Davin Joseph. A running back that possesses great vision and pass catching capabilities with a moniker of Muscle Hamster made the Bucs’ organization trade up into the late first round to draft him. Lastly, an aging Pro Bowl pass catching TE in the form of Dallas Clark was also signed in the offseason. All this was acquired to help boost a 2011 Bucs’ team that ranked 21st overall in offense.

The defense signed free agent CB Eric Wright, moved CB Ronde Barber to safety, and drafted S Mark Barron in the first round as well as LB Lavonte David in the second round. 2011’s first round rookie DE Adrian Clayborn performed well last year, but DT Gerald McCoy was again snake bitten with the injury bug. There were other problems last year too, but I can easily sum it up by stating the Bucs’ 2011 defense was ranked 31st out of 32 teams.

It is safe to say the 2012 Bucs were offense-centric. The Bucs gambled on defense as the 2011 breakdown was 21st in pass defense and 32nd in rush defense. It got worse for the Bucs’ defense when it lost Clayborn after game 3, their #1 CB in Talib after game 4, and #2 CB after game 10 for the rest of the season. Within that context, it is the offense’s responsibility to not rely on the defense to win games for the team.

So how do you mask a weak defense? You run. Running eats time. Running well makes the team win the time of possession internal game of the game. Winning the time of possession game limits the number of times the defense can be exposed and exploited. There should be a mutual relationship between the offense and defense which hides the team’s frailties. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Play Calling Ratio

Total Plays


Pass Plays


Rush Plays


Pass Play %


Rush Play %


W


L


2010


925

494

431

53.4

46.6


10

6

2011


934

588

346

63.0

37.0


4

12

2012


982

566

416

57.6

42.3


7

9

In a previous article called A Passing Fancy, I had denoted if the team ran more, then they won more. In this article, it delves a little bit deeper as well as builds upon A Passing Fancy. For the past three years, the Bucs have had one winning season, 2010. I will break down the play calling this year for every game. There is hope we can be cognizant of a pattern, both good and bad.

Play Calling Ratio

Game


Pass Plays


Rush Plays


Pass Play %


Rush Play %


W/L


1

Car

24

36

0.40

0.60

Win

2

NYG

28

22

0.56

0.44

Loss

3

Dal

28

25

0.53

0.47

Loss

4

Was

39

18

0.68

0.32

Loss

Total Plays; Avg %

119

101

0.54

0.46

1 – 3

5

KC

26

24

0.52

0.48

Win

6

NO

42

24

0.64

0.36

Loss

7

Min

36

41

0.47

0.53

Win

8

Oak

30

32

0.48

0.52

Win

9

SD

20

22

0.48

0.52

Win

10

Car

46

30

0.61

0.39

Win

Total Plays; Avg %

200

173

0.54

0.46

5 – 1

11

Atl

31

21

0.60

0.40

Loss

12

Den

39

21

0.65

0.35

Loss

13

Phi

34

32

0.52

0.48

Loss

14

NO

54

16

0.77

0.23

Loss

15

StL

54

22

0.71

0.29

Loss

16

Atl

35

30

0.54

0.46

Win

Total Plays; Avg %

247

142

0.63

0.37

1 – 5

Season

Results

566

416

0.58

0.42

7 – 9

I will be using 2010’s stats to set the barometer for a successful season, not necessarily a playoff bound one because that team did not make the playoffs. That season average for rush play calling is 46.6%. Thus I will use 46% as the benchmark in respect to wins and losses.

Play Calling Ratio


46% or better Rushing Attempt

Game


Pass Play %


Rush Play %


W/L


Pass Comp %


INTs


1

Car

0.40

0.60

Win

66.7

0

3

Dal

0.53

0.47

Loss

35.7

1

5

KC

0.52

0.48

Win

57.7

1

7

Min

0.47

0.53

Win

52.8

0

8

Oak

0.48

0.52

Win

60.0

0

9

SD

0.48

0.52

Win

70.0

0

13

Phi

0.52

0.48

Loss

41.2

0

16

Atl

0.54

0.46

Win

54.3

1

Average

0.49

0.51

6 – 2

54.8

3

Passing PercentageAverage

of the 6 wins only

60.3

In eight games when the Bucs ran 46% of the time, they won six of the total seven games won last year. That means when they run even less, becoming more of a passing threat, the Bucs have won only one game out of eight attempts. I am sure there are many other factors that contribute to wins and losses, but this does not look like a coincidence. Also note, I included Freeman’s pass completion percentage. He was quite erratic and surprisingly matched his season’s overall numbers, but the wins still came. In the two losses, Freeman threw for a miserable 35.7% at Dallas and 41.2% against Philly. They lost by 6 points and 2 points, respectively.

A balanced approach is what we see revealed for that eight game set where the team went 6 – 2. Actually, there is a slight bit more running than passing in the ratio, 49% pass to 51% run. As the information above shows, it doesn’t matter how erratic Freeman plays because if the team rushes 46% or better, then they increase their chances of winning. If the team relies on his arm to carry the team to victory, then it significantly reduces that chance of winning. It is not Freeman’s fault we lost often. It is whoever is designing the play calling and the distribution of run to pass play ratio.

There could be a caveat to having less rush plays being called. The lack of talented depth at the running back position could be that reason not to have a greater opportunity to run. If that was the case, then should not have the Bucs offensive genius utilize a West Coast offense to dink and dunk their way forward to make up for the lack of running depth? Then again, you need a QB that can make accurate throws. Is a 54.8% completion rate accurate enough? For this season and with the sway towards a more passing offense, it wasn’t. All the career highs in passing yards and touchdowns cannot hide the fact when the ball was put into Freeman’s hands more often, then more often he faltered.

Play Calling Ratio


55% or more Passing Attempt

Game


Pass Play %


Rush Play %


W/L


Pass Comp %


INTs


2

NYG

0.56

0.44

Loss

53.6

2

4

Was

0.68

0.32

Loss

61.5

1

6

NO

0.64

0.36

Loss

57.1

0

10

Car

0.61

0.39

Win

54.3

2

11

Atl

0.60

0.40

Loss

64.5

0

12

Den

0.65

0.35

Loss

46.2

1

14

NO

0.77

0.23

Loss

55.6

4

15

StL

0.71

0.29

Loss

55.6

4

Average

0.65

0.35

1 – 7

56.1

14

When the team threw 55% or more, the record reflects a miserable eight game season. Freeman threw four times more interceptions when forced to throw more. But is really his fault? Between 2010 and 2011 season, Freeman was threw 77 more times in 2011. His interception rate went from 6 in 2010 to 22 in 2011. Dropping down to 17 interceptions for 2012 is a positive movement, but still shows the trend he will throw for a bountiful of INTs when told to pass more. Now, now we can see that when Freeman is throwing less, he takes better care of the ball by throwing significantly less interceptions.

With a similar amount of passes throw between 2011 and 2012, Freeman’s accuracy dropped 8 percentage points to 54.8% It could be lack of communications and plays mixed up or maybe the play calling may be too complicated. I still do not comprehend the skill drop in completion between 2011 and 2012 besides the factor of plays being called.

Coming into this 2013 season, it is up to the Bucs staff to figure out how to improve their game and what type of team they are. We all know the defense will upgrade their secondary. Aside from additions, what can coach Schiano inspect about this past year to improve for this coming season? Did the lure of Freeman’s big arm with giants Vjax and Williams racing down the field lead to his demise? From this article, it appears so. In conclusion, Freeman can win because of this Bucs team, but this Bucs team cannot win because of Freeman. It is up to our coaches on how to best utilize Freeman’s talents… Or continue fitting a square peg into a round hole.

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