The great and terrible fact about football in the NFL is that wins create positive narratives and losses do the opposite. Unlike in poker, where the right move is the right move regardless of results, fans and media get to pick apart the results and work backward from the decision that was made.
With their playoff hopes down to a minuscule number, the common narrative around Cleveland fans and media is that they do not run the ball enough in games that they lose. Yesterday, for example, Nick Chubb had “just” 14 carries. The fact that he gained only 34 yards (due to poor blocking and great defensive line play from the Bengals) doesn’t change anything for those who believe he needs 20 carries every game.
Generally, around the NFL, the number of carries is not seen as a way to win games but as a way to control a game that you are leading or in close games. When trailing, teams turn to the air to try to make up yards and points quickly. Basically, pass to get the lead and run to keep it.
Historical data is used to break down when it is expected a team should throw the ball versus run it based on some of that information. Despite the return of Deshaun Watson and taking a chance to shake off the rust, Kevin Stefanski and the Browns offense are not throwing the ball as much as they would be expected to:
Browns offense has sputtered w/ Deshaun Watson, but why treat the QB you sold the farm to get like he's Jacoby Brissett's backup. Stefanski kept the passing knob turned down and didn't max out value on 4th downs. Browns could have embraced variance but chose conservatism pic.twitter.com/nB7SaSgfC3— Kevin Cole (@KevinCole___) December 12, 2022
There is obvious nuance as Cole notes in his tweet above with Watson returning from not playing. It is interesting to see that, compared to what would be expected based on success rates in the past, Stefanski is still not throwing the football enough.
Again, if Cleveland was winning, no one would question what is happening on the field. When they continue to lose and fall to 5-8, everything becomes questioned. In fact, we’ve even seen questions about DE Myles Garrett despite his 12 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, four pass deflections and two forced fumbles.
If Garrett can be questioned, anyone can be at this point. No matter what the data says, diehard Browns fans will always ask for more rushing attempts when the team loses. That is as easy to predict as the backlash thrown at Joe Burrow when he said those fans should jump ship to the Bengals bandwagon.
Are you surprised or even care that the data says the Browns are passing as often as expected?