Pro Football Focus tasked NFL analyst Eric Eager with ranking the best offensive play-callers in the NFL. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has called plays for the Niners since he took over, was ranked 4th on Eager’s list behind Andy Reid, Kellen Moore, and Byron Leftwich.
While it’s not surprising to see Shanahan ranked among the league’s best play-callers, it is a bit surprising to see him behind Moore and Leftwich. Moore is the offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys, and while he’s earned a solid reputation as a play-caller, few would consider him the second-best play-caller in the NFL.
Eager acknowledges that Moore’s ranking “may be a head-scratcher for some.” Still, he points out that the Cowboys managed a type-flight running attack last despite an iffy offensive line and had some success, including in a primetime game against the Vikings, even when Dak Prescott was out with an injury.
Leftwich, the offensive coordinator with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has benefitted from having Tom Brady under center for the past two seasons, but Eager argues that “Brady has had to learn a new offense in Tampa Bay, and Leftwich is a big reason why that transition has flourished.”
Niners Nation contributor Akash Anavarathan offered some criticisms for Eager’s ranking on Twitter over the weekend, pointing out that while the Cowboys’ offense scored better than the 49ers in some statistical categories last season, Eager was ignoring the lesser competition the Cowboys faced in the NFC East. Eager, who ranked Rams head coach Sean McVay right behind Shanahan in his rankings, criticized McVay and Shanahan for their tendencies to run the ball more than advanced models recommend and poor fourth-down decision-making.
Anavrathan argued that those running plays are valuable because they help set the table for big plays later in the game.
“Their offenses leave a lot on the table by running the ball too much”— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) June 20, 2022
What #TheModel doesn’t account for is the fact that Shanahan and McVay use run plays to determine defensive tendencies and use it to set up subsequent plays. pic.twitter.com/Y2wce86iVH
dal points vs. nfce teams: 41, 44, 51, 56.— KP (@KP_Show) June 20, 2022
above average defenses (dvoa) faced for dal: 4. for sf: 7
ppg is a sleazy stat to use to talk about offense cause it doesn’t tell you dal scored 9 non offensive tds last year.
plus…QB. nothing about this argument is apples-to-apples