A Look At the Broncos Offense Through History

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The off-season has begun which means a time for reflection on the strengths and weaknesses of the past season. Today I want to study how the 2013 Denver Broncos offense compared to past Broncos seasons. We'll do this by looking at each previous year in two ways:

  • How they moved the ball (How they accumulated their yards)
  • How they scored (Whether they ran it in or threw for their touchdowns)

Now remember overall this isn't the most in depth study, instead it's a quick look at the trends throughout their years.

How the Broncos Have Moved the Ball Historically

So we'll look at this idea in a number of ways, here is how the table will be formatted:

  • Year
  • Coach that season
  • Passing attempts that season
  • Passing yards that season
  • Yards per passing attempt
  • Rushing attempts
  • Rushing yards
  • Yards per rushing attempt

These categories are pretty self-explanatory, they just tell us how often and how successfully teams passed and ran the ball. But there are two other sections I included.

  • Ratio of passing yards to rushing yards
  • Ratio of passing attempts to rushing attempts

By looking at this we can see the ratio of how often teams ran and passed the ball. So for example you have a very simplified team:

  • Team A: 40 pass attempts, 300 yards. 30 rush attempts, 150 yards.

Team A has a pass/run attempt ratio of 40/30 or 1.33 pass attempts for every 1 run attempt. They had a pass/run yard ratio of 300/150 or 2 passing yards for every rushing yard. This gives a real image of how often a team runs and passes the ball, the higher the ratio, the more often they passed it compared to running it, but if the ratio drops below 1, they actually ran it more times than they passed it. To put this in context for a real team, in 1983 Reeves was the head coach, they passed the ball 499 times and ran it 471 times, so they have a ratio of 1.06 passes per run. But another factor recorded here is the yards, we see they had 3466 passing yards and 1784 rushing yards, so that would be a ratio of 1.94 passing yards to 1 rushing yard. That means that passing was 94% more often used to move the ball than running was that season. Whereas in 2003, the team had a yardage ratio of 1.13 passing yards to 1 rushing yard, a more even balance of moving the ball.

The Table:

*This is a sortable table, click on the heading to sort*

Year Coach Pass Attp Pass Yards Pass YPA Rush Attp Rush Yards Rush YPA Ratio Yards (P/R) Ratio Attp (P/R)
1983 Reeves 499 3466 6.9 471 1784 3.8 1.94 1.06
1984 Reeves 475 3116 6.6 508 2076 4.1 1.50 0.94
1985 Reeves 617 3952 6.4 497 1851 3.7 2.14 1.24
1986 Reeves 549 3811 6.9 455 1678 3.7 2.27 1.21
1987 Reeves 530 3874 7.3 510 1970 3.9 1.97 1.04
1988 Reeves 581 3941 6.8 464 1815 3.9 2.17 1.25
1989 Reeves 474 3352 7.1 554 2092 3.8 1.60 0.86
1990 Reeves 527 3671 7.0 462 1872 4.1 1.96 1.14
1991 Reeves 459 3310 7.2 507 2015 4.0 1.64 0.91
1992 Reeves 473 3312 7.0 403 1500 3.7 2.21 1.17
Avg. Reeves 518 3581 6.9 483 1865 3.9 1.94 1.08
1993 Phillips 553 4061 7.3 468 1693 3.6 2.40 1.18
1994 Phillips 626 4383 7.0 461 1470 3.4 2.98 1.45
Avg. Phillips 590 4222 7.2 450 1582 3.5 2.69 1.32
1995 Shanahan 549 4260 7.8 440 1995 4.5 2.14 1.25
1996 Shanahan 536 3662 6.8 525 2362 4.5 1.55 1.02
1997 Shanahan 513 3704 7.2 520 2378 4.6 1.56 0.99
1998 Shanahan 491 3808 7.8 525 2468 4.7 1.54 0.94
1999 Shanahan 554 3419 6.2 465 1864 4.0 1.83 1.19
2000 Shanahan 569 4243 7.5 516 2311 4.5 1.84 1.10
2001 Shanahan 511 2940 5.8 481 1877 3.9 1.57 1.06
2002 Shanahan 554 3824 6.9 457 2266 5.0 1.69 1.21
2003 Shanahan 479 2969 6.2 543 2629 4.8 1.13 0.88
2004 Shanahan 521 3999 7.7 534 2333 4.4 1.71 0.98
2005 Shanahan 465 3227 6.9 542 2539 4.7 1.27 0.86
2006 Shanahan 454 2799 6.2 488 2152 4.4 1.30 0.93
2007 Shanahan 515 3584 7.0 429 1957 4.6 1.83 1.20
2008 Shanahan 620 4471 7.2 387 186 4.8 2.40 1.60
Avg. Shanahan 524 3636 6.9 489 2214 4.5 1.72 1.08
2009 McDaniels 558 3627 6.5 440 1836 4.2 1.98 1.27
2010 McDaniels 580 4038 7.0
398
1544
3.9
2.62
1.46
Avg. McDaniels 569 3833 6.7 419 1690 4.0 2.30 1.36
2011 Fox 429 2708 6.3 546 2632 4.8 1.03 0.79
2012 Fox 609 4534 7.4 481 1832 3.8 2.47 1.27
2013 Fox 695 5444 7.8 461 1873 4.1 2.91 1.51
Avg. Fox 578 4229 7.3 496 2112 4.3 2.0 1.2
Thoughts:

Fox owns two of the more unbalanced pass/run offenses on both ends, the 2011 season was the most unbalanced run-heavy offense while the 2013 was the 2nd most unbalanced pass heavy offense. He and Mike McCoy really showed skill in crafting offenses that differed but succeeded.

How the Broncos Scored Historically

This section and table will follow a similar format, but will deal with scoring:

  • Year
  • Coach that season
  • Passing touchdowns
  • Passing touchdown percentage (touchdowns divided by attempts)
  • Rushing touchdowns
  • Rushing touchdown percentage (touchdowns divided by attempts)
  • Ratio of passing touchdowns to rushing touchdowns

As with how we studied the Broncos offense in relation to yards, this lets us see how often they passed and ran the ball into the end zone. similarly to last time by including the ratio, we can see how balanced a team was in the red zone.

To explain this we'll use the 1983 season again, the team had 17 passing touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns, that's a ratio of 1.13 passing touchdowns for every rushing touchdown. Another key item here is the ratio of touchdown per attempt, which is converted into a percentage. In 1983, for every passing attempt, they had a 3.41% chance of scoring a touchdown, and for every rushing attempt, they had a 3.18% chance of scoring

Now obviously there are other factors at play here, but this gives us a feel for how each season went and what parts of the team worked effectively.

The Table:

*This is a sortable table, click on the heading to sort*

Year Coach Pass TD's Pass TD % Rush TD Rush TD % Pass/Rush TD Ratio
1983 Reeves 17 3.41% 15 3.18% 1.13
1984
Reeves 22 4.63% 12 2.39% 1.83
1985
Reeves 23 3.73% 20 4.02% 1.15
1986
Reeves 22 4.01% 17 4.40% 1.29
1987
Reeves 24 4.53% 18 3.53% 1.33
1988
Reeves 24 4.13% 13 2.80% 1.85
1989
Reeves 21 4.43% 15 2.71% 1.40
1990
Reeves 15 2.85% 19 4.11% 0.79
1991
Reeves 13 2.83% 16 3.16% 0.81
1992
Reeves 16 3.38% 11 2.73% 1.45
Avg.
Reeves 19.7 3.79% 15.6 3.30% 1.30
1993
Phillips
27 4.88% 13 2.78% 2.08
1994
Phillips 18 2.88% 19 4.41% 0.95
Avg.
Phillips 22.5 3.88% 16 3.59% 1.51
1995
Shanahan
27 4.98% 14 3.18% 1.93
1996
Shanahan 26 4.85% 20 3.81% 1.30
1997
Shanahan 27 5.26% 18 3.46% 1.50
1998
Shanahan 32 6.52% 26 4.95% 1.23
1999
Shanahan 16 2.89% 13 2.80% 1.23
2000
Shanahan 28 4.92% 21 4.07% 1.33
2001
Shanahan 26 5.09% 7 1.46% 3.71
2002
Shanahan 21 3.79% 21 4.60% 1.00
2003
Shanahan 19 3.97% 20 3.68% 0.95
2004 Shanahan 27 5.18% 13 2.43% 2.08
2005 Shanahan 18 3.87% 25 4.61% 0.72
2006 Shanahan 20 4.41% 12 2.46% 1.67
2007 Shanahan 21 4.08% 10 2.33% 2.10
2008 Shanahan 25 4.03% 15 2.33% 1.67
Avg. Shanahan 23.8 4.56% 16.8 3.41% 1.60
2009 McDaniels
21 3.76% 9 2.05% 2.33
2010 McDaniels
25 4.31% 13 3.27% 1.92
Avg.
McDaniels
23 4.04% 11 2.66% 2.13
2011
Fox
20 4.70% 11 2.00% 1.82
2012
Fox 37 6.08% 12 2.49% 3.08
2013
Fox 55 7.91% 16 3.47% 3.44
Avg.
Fox 37.3 6.23% 13 2.66% 2.87
Thoughts:

The Broncos have changed with each coach, Reeves using a pass heavy offense (even if we don't remember it that way), Shanahan and Phillips running more balanced offenses, and McDaniels returning to the pass heavy offense and Fox using both at times. But even within each coach's tenure there was fluctuation, as players come and go, injuries set in, teams have to change.

Fox's offenses, especially in 2013, were a bit hard to read because while their ratio was horrible, they had 16 rushing touchdowns (which is above average when compared to past Broncos seasons) and had a rushing touchdown percentage which was also above average, though his 2012 season was pretty below average in those two areas.

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