Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL

February 2, 2014
By

(This article was first published on Graph of the Week, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Introduction
"Three yards and a cloud of dust" (1) - that's how Woody Hayes described his "crunching, frontal assault of muscle against muscle", the offense that defined the Ohio State Buckeyes in the 50s and 60s. He went on say that, in regards to the passing game, "only three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad". Hayes' colourful description of his offense springs directly from the original vision of American Football: run, run, run. Were he alive today, he would be shocked to see that the game has evolved into a philosophy of pass, pass, pass. This phenomenon has elevated one player position above all others: the quarterback. He has become king; all other players are subject to the whims of the crown. How did this happen? Let's review the game, its history and follow it through.
thumbnail image: Three Yards and A Cloud of Dust: The Evolution of Passing in the NFL
The Most Popular Sport in the World
American Football - simply known as “football” in the United States - generates the most revenue of any sporting franchise in the United States and indeed the world (2). In 2012, the NFL (National Football League) took in nearly $10 billion dollars (U.S.) compared to the Premier League at $3.3 billion. Still not impressed? Attendance numbers tell the same story: the NFL attracts nearly 4 million spectators more than the nearest competitor which, interestingly, is not what you might guess (hint: it’s not the Premier League and it’s not some other American sports league). If you guessed the Bundesliga association football (i.e. “soccer”) league in Germany, congratulations! That league holds the number two designation (3), which drew 13.8 million visitors during the 2011-12 season compared to 17.2 million for the NFL.
This article was written by the the author of "Graph of the Week" for Statistics Views and published on January 30, 2014. Read the rest of this article there.

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