How Much More Important Is Passing Efficiency Than Rushing?

By Max Mulitz


One observation from our model of Team wins is that Passing Yards/Attempt seems to be far more important than Rushing Yards/Attempt. A team who’s defense that allows 1 fewer yard per pass attempt can expect to win 1.87 more games, but if the same team allows 1 fewer yard per carry, they can only expect to win .95 more games. Suggesting passing is about twice as important as rushing. Similarly, if a team increases it’s Passing Yards/Attempt by 1, holding all other variables constant, it can expect to win 1.66 more games, but if it increases its rushing yards per attempt by 1 holding all other variables constant it can only expect to win .72 addition games, suggesting passing is 2.3 times as important as rushing.

One reason for this might be that teams pass about 1.5 times as often as they run, so we would expect passing to be 1.5 times as important for that reason alone. It also makes intuitive sense to me that passing plays as a group have more leverage than rushing plays. For example, we know a teams 3rd down percentage is highly correlated with it’s passing efficiency, so passing being about twice as valuable as rushing strikes me as a reasonable result.

This analysis from Brian Burke using an unrelated method suggests passing efficiency is 2.24 times as important as rushing efficiency.


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