Sports handicapping services are at their busiest during the football season. Football fans are anxious to get the edge from a handicapper who picks the winners more often than they could do on their own. Point spreads and over/under are set by the odds makers and one of the things they consider is how often a team runs the ball and how often they pass the ball.
If you look at the football box scores these days, it is rare to find a team that does not run the ball at least 25 times per game. It is also rare to see a team gain more than 150 total rushing yards. However, it is not all that unusual to see quarterbacks throw for more than 300 yards in a game. So, why do so many teams that do not run the ball that well continue to call so many running plays?
As a football fan, it may drive you crazy when you see your team start every drive with a two yard plunge off tackle when you know they could get at least five yards with a safe pass to one of their backs. Coaches have been taught that having a balanced offensive attack is the best strategy. When you look at team offensive statistics, you will not find a team in the league that rushes for more yards than they gain by throwing the football.
Although there are a few teams that rush the ball more than 50 percent of the time, even those that do, do not pile up more yards rushing than they do passing. To understand why teams have not abandoned the run completely in favor of a more dynamic passing attack, you need to understand the problems with becoming a one-dimensional offense.
Offense is only one part of a football game. If a team did nothing but pass on every down, a player like Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning might rack up 500 yards passing in every game, but their teams would not necessarily win more games than if they ran, at least some of the time.
For one thing, a predominant passing offense takes less time off of the clock and that means their defense has to be on the field for longer stretches of time. For a team that does not have a great quarterback and is facing a team that does, the best strategy is to keep the ball away from that quarterback as long as possible. Running allows you to run the clock and sustain long drives. Where you might take four or five passes to travel 80 yards for a touchdown, you might run a dozen plays and make six first downs if you have a strong running attack.
Another important reason to have a running game is that it takes the pressure off of the quarterback. If your opponent knows that you are going to throw every down, they can change their defense to make it more difficult for the quarterback to complete passes.
Watching two gunslingers throw the football up and down the field can be very exciting but it takes away from the complete game. A 30 yard run from scrimmage is a beautiful thing. Coaches may have other reasons for calling running plays, but for the fans, it is all about making first downs and scoring touchdowns.