The NFL today is a passing league, and if you have a good quarterback you are most likely going to end up in the playoffs. However, that doesn't mean that having a strong running game is pointless. In fact, after doing some studying I found a few interesting facts about teams that had success running the ball.
-Of the 12 teams to make the playoffs, seven finished in the top 10 in terms of total rushing yards.
-Six of the top 10 running backs were on playoff teams.
-The 12 teams that made the playoffs last year combined for 187 rushing TDs while the other 20 non-playoff teams totaled only 225. That means that on average playoff teams scored almost five more rushing TDs last year compared to those that didn't make the playoffs.
While that doesn't mean that having a strong running back will lead you to the playoffs, it does show that it really helps to be able to run the ball when you need to. Even in a passing league there is a need for good running backs and a strong offensive line that can grind out a first down on a 3rd and 3 at midfield. The Titans haven't had that the last few years and frankly it has cost them more than a few games.
Now this isn't a cry for fans to cheer the addition of Shonn Greene or the revamped offensive line, it is just a statement for the people that doubt that there is room in the NFL for a run-first team. There will always be teams like the Patriots, Broncos, and Saints that are lead by cerebral quarterbacks, but don't kid yourself that isn't the only way to get to the playoffs.
In fact, don't look now but it looks like the league could be at a disadvantage against run-first teams. Defenses are getting smaller to stop the pass, and smart offenses are starting to take advantage of that change.
Teams like the Redskins and the Seahawks (and hopefully the Titans) are using quarterbacks that can do more than just find the open receiver. They are using a strong running game and mobile quarterbacks to open up seams in the middle of defense. If defenses can't stop the run then the offense will never have to pass the ball, but if they load up on heavy personnel then a bootleg or play action pass can gash them for huge yards.
The Texans and Jaguars seem to be gearing up to run smaller defenses this year to prepare for the Colts offense, but if they let the running defense slip they will be in for a rude awakening when they play the boys in two-toned blue.