Playcalling Makes Eagles' Red Zone Offense Inefficient

Written By Bob Cunningham On Friday, August 27, 2010

Akers should not be the team's biggest scoring threat.

Between the 20's, passing is fairly simple in the NFL. The rules have been tailored so the offense can move the ball through the air, almost at will, and create more red zone opportunities which, based on the howling success of the NFL's "Red Zone" channel, is what most fans want to see.

And for a passing team like the Eagles, they wind up in the red zone quite often. However, what they don't do often enough is actually wind up in the endzone. You know, the only "zone" that really counts when it's all said and done.

The lack of red zone trips actually ending in touchdowns isn't a new problem. It was largely blamed on Donovan McNabb during his time in Philadelphia but, then again, what wasn't?

He just wasn't accurate enough to get the ball where it needed to be on a shortened field and once Andy Reid finally dumped him and got a more accurate pocket-passer, the problem would be solved.

But here we are, no McNabb, and a guy in Kevin Kolb who is supposed to be a truly accurate pocket-passer, but the problem persists.

Before we go too much further, this isn't even about another McNabb vs. Kolb debate. Most anyone who has read my work before knows how I feel about McNabb and, frankly, are probably sick of hearing it.

I get it.

What this is really about is the play-calling -- something else I've been screaming about for as long as I can remember.

Reid's past-first mentality is great for moving the ball down the field. However, the problem is it only takes the offense so far. Once they get into the red zone -- where passing becomes much more difficult on a condensed playing area -- the offensive machine suddenly sputters and dies out, leaving it up to David Akers to save the drive.

So, if passing becomes more difficult, it would stand to reason that an offense should go to the ground in an attempt to put six points on the board.

But, because of Reid's aforementioned affinity for passing the ball, that doesn't work either. His backs usually aren't big enough to move a pile when it counts, and his linemen are so used to going backward to pass-protect that their run-blocking suffers.

It all goes back to balance. If Reid would mix the run in with the pass at an acceptable rate, his team would be able to do it more efficiently. And even if the run isn't exactly working between the 20's, the threat of the attempt to run in the red zone will bring the linebackers just a bit closer to the line of scrimmage.

The closer they come, the more space the quarterback and receivers have, and the easier it becomes to put the ball in the endzone through the air.

Then once the pass starts working in the redzone and those linebackers take a couple steps back to help the corners and safeties, a couple quick runs up the gut should be enough to get the job done and get the offense into the endzone.

But this is what Reid hasn't ever seemed to comprehend. Everyone can talk about how the NFL has changed and turned into a passing league and how teams can win without running the ball until they're blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is it's just not true.

Were that the case, Mike Martz would be talked about as a Hall of Fame head coach because he'd have so many Lombardi trophies on his mantle they might rename it after him.

And, following right behind him in second place, would be Andy Reid.

But the reason these guys don't have any rings as head coaches is because a team still has to effectively run the ball if they're to win the only game that counts. Even the New Orleans Saints, a pass-first team, recognized that and made sure to mix in the run.

For all the great things Drew Brees did for them last season, it was the threat of the run from Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, and Mike Bell and the offensive line that kept defenses on their toes and allowed the Saints' offense to move the ball at will.

Without at least the threat of the run in the back of the defense's collective head, a pass-first team cannot and will not win a Super Bowl.

With McNabb gone and the very same problems still creeping up for this offense, it's time to look at the common denominator and blame Reid's Madden 2011-style play-calling.

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