What new Falcons OC Dave Ragone believes is a modern balanced attack

Dave Ragone was the Chicago Bears QB coach since 2016. He was promoted to his new role in 2019. Ragone has eight years NFL coaching experience, including spending the 2013 season as the Tennessee Titans quarterbacks coach.

Credit: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune

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Dave Ragone was the Chicago Bears QB coach since 2016. He was promoted to his new role in 2019. Ragone has eight years NFL coaching experience, including spending the 2013 season as the Tennessee Titans quarterbacks coach.

Credit: Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune

Regarding football, the term balance has taken a new meaning.

For most teams, college and pro, gone are the days of a 50-50 split when it comes to running and passing the ball. Most NFL teams are throwing the ball at a much higher clip and with great success. For instance, the Kansas City Chiefs, which reached the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year, ranked third in the NFL in passing attempts (630) and 23rd in rushes (403). The same concept also applied for the Chiefs’ opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which ranked sixth in passing attempts (626) and 29th in rushes (369) during the 2020 season.

Both the Chiefs and Buccaneers’ offenses were able to dictate the tempo while keeping opposing defenses from figuring out what type of play was coming next. When newly hired Falcons offensive coordinator Dave Ragone thinks of a balanced attack, it has more to do with keeping the opposition off balance.

To Ragone, this concept is no longer about play distribution.

“People talk about balance. I think that word sometimes get out of whack in terms of what exactly that means,” Ragone said. “I think to me, balance, in general with the run and pass, is the defense not necessarily knowing what’s going on on first and second down. Obviously in the NFL, third down is a pass down. But first and second down, if you have the ability to go in where a defense may not necessarily know if it’s a run, a (play-action pass), a naked (bootleg), a quick (throw), I think then you have the advantage, and to me, that’s the ultimate balance (to be able) to help the quarterback.”

Just how this offense will achieve this new vision of balance is uncertain.

When Falcons coach Arthur Smith was the Tennessee Titans’ offensive coordinator, he ran a run-first attack that saw his team rank second in rushes with 521. That high number of runs led to the Titans ranking 30th in passing attempts with 485. Of course, the play discrepancy didn’t matter because the Titans finished second overall this season with 6,343 total yards.

On first-and-10, the Titans ran the ball 270 times, which was more than any other team in the NFL. On second down, from every distance except three yards out, the Titans were in the top 15 when it came to the number of carries. Case in point, the Titans’ wanted to run the ball and were able to do so. And when presented the opportunity, the Titans were successful in the pass game for big gains, evidenced by quarterback Ryan Tannehill finishing the season tied for fifth by averaging 7.9 yards per attempt.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears, with Ragone as their pass-game coordinator this season, ranked eighth in passing attempts (614) and 27th in rushes (393). Clearly, Chicago’s mode of operation was the opposite of what the Titans were looking to accomplish. On second down, in particular, the Bears ranked in the top 10 in the number of passes from distances of two, three, four, five and seven yards.

After he was hired, Smith said the coaching staff would cater to the players’ strengths when structuring the offense. Although Smith built a run-heavy offense in Tennessee, the team’s personnel may not dictate a different mode of operation.

“There’s a lot of factors in there, and we have a foundation, but we are not going to be rigid,” Smith said. “We are going to play the strength of our roster. And there’s a constant evolution. The whole thing is you’re constantly trying to improve your football team, and I’m constantly trying to improve myself as a coach. So we will have a foundation up front and there are core beliefs we have in terms of running the football. But we are not going to be rigid. We’ll be flexible and adapt and play to the strengths of our roster.”

Smith sounded like he’s not locked into a run-heavy attack with the Falcons, and Ragone positioned himself as someone who believes in how much a strong run game can benefit the quarterback.

Therefore, there should be a mix of what both coaches like to work with when it comes to the new Falcons offense.

“In terms of the run game, I think if you ask most quarterbacks, that’s their best friend,” Ragone said. “The ability to have a run game, which allows them not necessarily to have to make a decision every single snap. It also allows the defense to play more than one facet of the game.”