Leafing Through Pages: Analysis of Sports and Other Topics

11/17/2009

Is the 4 Wide “Spread” Formation Becoming More Common In the NFL?

Many fans and members of the media have seen how the “Spread” offense has taken college football and high school football by storm, an offshoot of the classic run-and-shoot formation from the mid 80’s to mid 1990’s.

Has that translated to the NFL? I decided to take a look at the percent of pass plays attributed to certain QBs who snap the ball in a 4 or 5 WR formation, the consensus “formation” of pass focused spread offenses. Names are in “order” of NFL team (i.e. Rodgers – Green Bay listed before Brady – New England).

Kurt Warner: 4 WR formation ran 47% of the time. Closest team to a “run-and-shoot”/”spread” style offense in the NFL formation wise.
Matt Ryan: 4 WR formation ran 16% of the time.
Joe Flacco: 4 WR formation ran 17% of the time.
Trent Edwards: 4 WR formation ran 10% of the time.
Jake Delhomme: 4 WR formation ran 26% of the time.
Jay Cutler: 4 WR formation ran 9% of the time.
Carson Palmer: 4 WR formation ran 20% of the time.
Aaron Rodgers: 4 WR formation ran 20% of the time.
Tony Romo: 4 WR formation ran 10% of the time.
Kyle Orton: 4 WR formation ran 16% of the time.
Matthew Stafford: 4 WR formation ran 3% of the time.
Matt Schaub: 4 WR formation ran 16% of the time.
Peyton Manning: 4 WR formation ran 11% of the time.
David Garrard: 4 WR formation ran 9% of the time.
Matt Cassel: 4 WR formation ran 17% of the time.
Chad Henne: 4 WR formation ran 11% of the time.
Brett Favre: 4 WR formation ran 12% of the time.
Tom Brady: 4 WR formation ran 22% of the time.
Drew Brees: 4 WR formation ran 14% of the time.
Eli Manning: 4 WR formation ran 11% of the time.
Mark Sanchez: 4 WR formation ran 16% of the time.
JaMarcus Russell: 4 WR formation ran 5% of the time.
Donovan McNabb: 4 WR formation ran 12% of the time.
Ben Roethlisberger: 4 WR formation ran 16% of the time.
Philip Rivers: 4 WR formation ran 16% of the time.
Alex Smith: 4 WR formation ran 16% of the time.
Matt Hasselbeck: 4 WR formation ran 17% of the time.
Josh Freeman: 4 WR formation ran 3% of the time.
Marc Bulger: 4 WR formation ran 7% of the time.
Vince Young: 4 WR formation ran 9% of the time.
Jason Campbell: 4 WR formation ran 14% of the time.

Interesting that for a majority of teams, the “acceptable” range seems to be around 14-16% of all pass plays being 4 or 5 WR sets. Eye opening is the Colts but they run their 3 WR set over 70% of their pass plays so it arguably balances out.

Note that most of the conservative, defensive minded coaches have extremely low percentages: Jim Schwartz in Detroit, Raheem Morris in TB, Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis, Tom Cable in Oakland, and Dick Jauron (fired on 11/17) in Buffalo.

Worth mentioning is Tom Brady and Kurt Warner, both well known for their aerial games, also have two of the higher (and in Warner’s case, the highest) percentages in terms of 4 and 5 WR sets.

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