Have at It: Judging play-callers

NFC North playcallers have been in the spotlight during the first two weeks of the season, moreso than I think any of us would have imagined.

The Minnesota Vikings' Bill Musgrave has gone out of his way to listen to the suggestions of his players. But he went neo-conservative in Week 1 against the San Diego Chargers, calling a run of 15 of 19 first-down plays.

Mike Martz reverted to his pass-happy ways last Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, calling for a pass on more than 80 percent of the Chicago Bears' plays.

And Green Bay Packers coach/play-caller Mike McCarthy bristled at questions about what has been roughly a 70-30 pass-run ratio this season.

The only play-caller to escape scrutiny, one way or the other, has been Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, whose group has scored 75 points in two games for a red-hot team.

So I figured now was a good time to dive into this realm. For this week's edition of Have at It, tell me which coordinator/play-caller you would choose if you were hiring a staff. The SportsNation poll embedded in this post puts the question a bit more bluntly, but the results will help form our follow-up post.

I realize we're only two weeks into the season, but I think we all have plenty of NFC North institutional memory for Martz, McCarthy and Linehan. Musgrave is admittedly a little bit more of a mystery.

The chart provides an interesting starting point for your discussion. It shows how each play-caller has approached first down, which theoretically is the uncommitted blank canvas that best reveals true intentions and philosophy. You'll see that McCarthy is nearly 50-50 on those plays, with everyone else veering in one direction of the other.

Keep in mind a few things:

  • The numbers in the chart count sacks as passing plays. Most notably, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been sacked five times on first-down passing plays.

  • Quarterback scrambles count as running plays, meaning these numbers are a bit conservative toward passing. But we're only two weeks into the season, so I don't know if a few scrambles would changes these ratios dramatically.

  • First-down ratios are obviously not the only measure of a play-caller nor even the most important. Points are the bottom line, and here is how NFC North offenses stand in that category, excluding special-teams and defensive scores: Lions (75), Packers (65), Bears (36) and Vikings (30).

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. As always, I'll publish a representative sample, along with my own thoughts, by the end of the week. Have at It.