Chargers Playcalls – Success Rates

If you’ve been reading Playbook Confidential by Orz you saw the weekly breakdowns of playcalls, formations, personnel packages and more. Orz was kind enough to post the full season data which allowed me to go Pivot Table Crazy™ and spin the data in all different directions. Now that the Chargers 2011 season is over, I wanted to take a look at what worked, and what didn’t.

One way to analyze this data would be using yards-per-play to compare which personnel packages gained more yards, etc. However, yards-per-play doesn’t tell the whole story. On 3rd and 2, a 3 yard run is good. On 2nd and 15, a 3 yard run is not. I decided to use Success Rate as the comparative measure. A successful play using Success Rate is determined as follows:

  • 1st down: the play gains 40% of the yardage needed for a first down
  • 2nd down: the play gains 50% of the yardage needed for a first down
  • 3rd or 4th down: the play results in a first down

As a whole, the Chargers Success Rate was just under 50% for the 2011 season. Now that we know 50% is their overall Success Rate, let’s compare various facets of the playcalling to see what was successful, and what wasn’t .

Run vs Pass

The Run/Pass success rates are probably as expected. Both seem pretty good, and the Chargers passed the ball slightly more successfully than they ran it.

Run/Pass Plays Success Rate
Pass 645 51%
Run 398 48%

Run Direction

How about Runs, by direction? When running to the left side behind Dielman/McNeill/Gaither the Chargers were notably more effective than running to the right.

Direction Plays Success Rate
Left 83 55%
Middle 237 47%
Right 77 42%

Personnel Package

Personnel package is probably my favorite part of Playbook Confidential. As you can see, there isn’t a huge variance between Personnel packages, but 11 is clearly the package with the highest Success Rate. Of 321 plays, 53% were a success. 13 and 23, which would intuitively be short yardage packages, weren’t very successful.

Personnel Plays Success Rate
12 400 48%
11 321 53%
21 164 49%
22 104 50%
13 27 44%
23 17 47%
20 8 50%
10 1 100%

Success by Quarter

There isn’t much to see here. 2nd and 4th quarters are slightly less successful. That could be a result of Norv’s haphazard 2 minute drill calls, or perhaps plays designed to run out the clock where "success" would be defined differently than how we are looking at it. My apologies if that 31% 5th quarter rate brings back memories of the Denver OT failure.

Qtr Plays Success Rate
1 232 52%
2 279 48%
3 258 51%
4 258 49%
5 16 31%

Field Position

This one proves interesting. The Chargers were most successful (55%) when they had the ball between their own 30 and the opponent’s 40. When they were at the opponent’s 11-20 yard line their success rate was only a miniscule 35%! Ouch! It seems the Chargers changed their playcalls in the red zone and the results were not positive.

Distance Plays Success Rate
91-99 25 48%
81-90 116 43%
71-80 138 54%
61-70 148 53%
51-60 146 55%
41-50 119 56%
31-40 113 44%
21-30 105 48%
11-20 66 35%
0-10 67 48%

Success By Player

Ok, that’s interesting so far, but what about the variances between when different players were on the field? Here are the Success Rates when different Running Backs were on the field, as well as rates when the resulting plays were pass or run. Although Mike Tolbert gets more time in passing packages, Ryan Mathews was equally "effective" in passing situations. As expected, Mathews has a higher rate than the others when rushing the ball. One note, I believe these breakdowns don’t account for when the player was on the field in the Fullback position. Jacob Hester’s poor success rates are from when he lined up as the RB.

RB on field Total Plays Success Rate Pass Plays Only Success Rate Run Plays Only Success Rate
Mathews 490 51% 265 52% 225 49%
Tolbert 462 50% 330 52% 132 46%
Brinkley 58 47% 30 47% 28 46%
Hester 25 32% 13 31% 12 33%

Intended Target

Here is Success Rate when a player was the carrier or intended receiver. Antonio Gates is officially crowned as the Sultan of Success with a whopping 72% conversion rate. Malcom Floyd was also rated highly at 67%. Philip Rivers may not be known as a runner, but he was more successful than not when he did carry.

Carrier/Receiver Plays Success Rate
Mathews 281 52%
Tolbert 199 47%
Jackson 111 55%
Gates 94 72%
Floyd 66 67%
Hester 43 47%
McMichael 38 55%
Brown 36 56%
Brinkley 36 44%
Crayton 32 53%
Rivers 13 54%
Walters 4 75%
Sperry 3 33%
Goodman 3 0%

Miscellaneous Situations

Finally, here are some other vagrant Success Rates.

Type Plays Success Rate
Shotgun 513 52%
Goal to Go 69 51%
Play Fake 90 49%
Fullback 240 48%

I hope you found the breakdowns enjoyable and insightful. Thanks again to Orz for providing the base data, and for helping us take an in depth look each week at the Chargers playcalls and how they vary.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.