Rush vs. Pass: Then and Now

“The NFL is a passing league now.” That statement is accepted as truth. And, with Marino’s all-time passing yardage record being beaten this season, it’s hard to argue. But, does effective passing lead to more post-season success than effective rushing? Today, I want to explore that question, looking not only at the recent era, but comparing nowadays against a by-gone era. Put on your white coats and join me, won’t you, in the statistics laboratory.


Explore effective rushing vs. effective passing as they correlate to playoff and Superbowl appearances, now and then.


Effective rushing/ passing = Yards per attempt

Now = 2009-2011

Then = 1979-1981


Take the top ten teams in the categories of rushing and passing effectiveness, and see if those teams made the playoffs and/or Superbowl in that season.


2009-2011: Of the 36 playoff teams…

12/36 teams had top-ten effective rushing attacks…33%

19/36 teams had effective passing... 53%

2009-2011: Of the 6 Superbbowl teams…

1/6 had top-ten effective rushing17%

6/6 had top-ten effective passing100%

note: NY Giants are dead last this season in rushing yards per attempt.


1979-1981 (An arbitrarily chosen by-gone era): Of the 30 playoff teams…

11/30 had top-ten effective rushing37%

17/30 had top-ten effective passing57%

1979-1981: Of the 6 Superbowl teams…

2/6 had top-ten effective rushing33%

4/6 had top-ten effective passing66%


Passing effectiveness correlates much more strongly to playoff and Superbowl appearances than rushing. It does now, and it did even 30 years ago.


Recently, I wrote a fanpost about drafting a “bruiser RB.” I felt our run game wasn’t strong enough. I’m changing my tune. Now, I think we need to concentrate fully on the pass game this off-season. The spread offense suddenly seems less distasteful, assuming we can get more yards per attempt (i.e., fewer 5-yard slants and INTs). In the draft I hope to see two new WRs, another LT, possibly a Center, and if Buddy Nix thinks there’s a potentially great QB, then I’m OK with that, too (although I still think Fitzpatrick can be effective). Your thoughts?

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of

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