Colts Coordinators In-Depth: Bruce Arians With Browns 2001-2003

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 4: Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on with a group of players as they listen to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians during a rookie minicamp at the team facility on May 4, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Our first stop on our in-depth look at the Colts new coaching staff is with Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians and his three years as the Browns O.C. back from 2001-2003. Arians was hired by new Head Coach Butch Davis to lead their offense after spending three seasons working with some guy named Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.

During his three year stint in Cleveland he helped lead the Browns to their only playoff appearance in their current incarnation back in 2002. For those of you that don't remember, they lost a shoot-out to the Steelers 36-33, a game they led 24-7 in the third quarter. The Quarterback for the Browns in that game? The incomparable Kelly Holcomb. Granted, this was before the NFL became a QB-Necessary league, but it wasn't like the Browns were this all-time great defense, so it's good to see a playoff game in this time span.

During Year 3 the Browns jumped out to a 3-3 start before the wheels fell off, losing eight of their next nine, and in order for Davis to keep his job, somebody needed to be the fall guy, and it ended up being Arians, as Defensive Coordinator Dave Campo kept his job, even though his defense slowly got worse over the same three year span. You'll see in the stats below why.

After the jump you'll see yearly numbers for each stat, as well as the overall numbers for each one over the three year span. Then I'll break down each year with some game-by-game stats in a couple key areas, and finally I'll give you my general impression of how these three years will translate to his time with the Colts.

All Stats Over the Three Year Span, Including Overall:

Statistic 2001 2002 2003 Overall
Offense Rank Offense Rank Offense Rank Offense Rank
DSR 63.0% 27 66.7% 24 67.4% 18 65.7% 25
ANPY/A 4.366 28 4.928 26 4.712 25 4.669 27
Turnovers 2.11 24 1.80 18 1.90 23 1.94 24
Yds/Drive 23.25 30 26.68 26 28.04 18 25.99 27
ToP/Drive 2:27.0 26 2:36.0 23 2:55.0 4 2:39.3 17
Yds/Play 4.673 26 5.071 21 4.774 26 4.839 27
First Downs/Drive 1.31 30 1.44 27 1.74 12 1.50 26
3rd/4th Down 33.9% 26 39.7% 17 38.8% 15 37.5% 20
Avg Start Pos 31.8 12 29.4 25 29.2 27 30.2 23
3 and Outs 5.02 29 3.97 21 2.98 4 3.99 18
RZ Eff 65.5% 11 67.4% 12 55.4% 27 62.8% 16
Plays/Drive 4.973 30 5.282 27 5.811 6 5.355 24
Penalty Yds / Play 0.919 22 0.856 18 0.722 9 0.832 17
RB Success 41.2% 26 42.0% 25 47.8% 6 43.7% 22
Yds/Carry 3.72 27 3.78 25 3.93 21 3.81 26
Net Punts Yds/Game 36.67 24 38.59 16 40.38 3 38.54 16
Overall 30 25 17 26

The biggest thing to look at here, and the reason why I think Davis made a scapegoat out of Arians, is the improvement almost entirely across the board from Year 1 to Year 3. In fact, only four of the 16 stats weren't an improvement each year. What this means then is if 2012 is a real struggle offensively, we have some evidence that things will in fact get better, and by year three, with a pretty average looking offense, and that's with a bunch of below-average players (and that's being nice).

I'm going to talk a little bit about each year, with some additional game-by-game data, then talk about my overall impressions of Arians in Cleveland.

Week Opponent Score DSR ANPY/A Turnovers Pass Pct.
1 Seahawks L 9 - 6 56.0% 2.733 1.112 59.0%
2 Lions W 24 - 14 62.1% 2.940 2.387 38.3%
3 Jaguars W 23 - 14 65.9% 4.600 3.366 50.7%
4 Chargers W 20 - 16 66.2% 6.453 0.777 50.0%
5 Bengals L 24 - 14 65.1% 6.437 0.992 62.0%
6 Ravens W 24 - 14 61.6% 9.310 0.062 40.8%
7 BYE
8 Bears L 27 - 21 64.0% 7.484 0.506 53.1%
9 Steelers L 15 - 12 63.1% 3.769 0.198 63.5%
10 Ravens W 27 - 17 72.9% 0.824 3.062 50.8%
11 Bengals W 18 - 0 53.9% 2.997 2.992 43.5%
12 Titans L 31 - 15 63.5% 3.013 3.406 70.2%
13 Patriots L 27 - 16 58.7% 2.701 3.838 68.9%
14 Jaguars L 15 - 10 59.3% 3.587 2.366 68.8%
15 Packers L 30 - 7 60.9% 2.582 4.400 58.7%
16 Titans W 41 - 38 75.9% 8.946 1.406 50.8%
17 Steelers L 28 - 7 58.0% 0.944 3.198 61.2%
2001 Season Average 63.0% 4.366 2.115 55.4%

When you look at the overall numbers for 2001, it doesn't look very good, but much like the 2011 Colts, the 2000 Browns weren't very good at all, finishing 3-13. There was one bright spot, and something I'll definitely be looking at for his first season in Pittsburgh, as well as next year with the Colts, and that is in the Red Zone, where the Browns were 11th best in the NFL at 65.5%. To add a little context to it, the Browns had 42 trips to the Red Zone in '01, which was 24th most in the NFL, so it wasn't like they didn't get there very often (the Colts had 47). Andrew Luck and Stanford were almost perfect in the Red Zone last season, and with the drafting of two big TEs, expect the Red Zone to be one of the Colts strengths in 2012.

A couple things to point out in the game-by-game data. First, the Browns beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Ravens twice in 2001, scoring 24 and 27 (defense aided) points on the NFL's #1 defense. The Week 10 win might not have been pretty passing the ball, and had some turnovers, but they were great on 3rd Down, and cashed in in the Red Zone, giving them the win. You'll also notice if you sort on the Pass Pct. column, which is the Run/Pass Ratio, that the seven games where they ran the ball more than pass they won, and the others they lost. Now, teams throw when they are behind, and they run when they are ahead, so this makes sense, and it makes it tough to know what the tendency will be going forward. We'll keep an eye on the other two years.

The Browns in 2001 weren't very good, as they were the second worst offense in the NFL. However, there were enough bright spots to show that with time, Arians' offense could work out just fine, and were amazingly consistent (2nd), even though it was consistently not very good.

Week Opponent Score DSR ANPY/A Turnovers Pass Pct.
1 Chiefs L 40 - 39 77.0% 9.899 0.72 67.2%
2 Bengals W 20 - 7 62.5% 5.390 0.57 53.4%
3 Titans W 31 - 28 73.3% 6.158 4.00 72.6%
4 Steelers L 16 - 13 60.5% 1.525 1.50 57.1%
5 Ravens L 26 - 21 70.1% 5.470 4.90 75.0%
6 Buccaneers L 17 - 3 57.6% 4.942 0.63 70.0%
7 Texans W 34 - 17 67.2% 4.575 0.53 57.1%
8 Jets W 24 - 21 67.2% 6.189 0.28 70.4%
9 Steelers L 23 - 20 57.2% 4.346 2.50 66.7%
10 BYE
11 Bengals W 27 - 20 70.2% 5.110 1.57 50.7%
12 Saints W 24 - 15 68.3% 4.272 1.49 38.3%
13 Panthers L 13 - 6 62.0% 0.078 4.79 51.7%
14 Jaguars W 21 - 20 69.7% 4.867 2.17 53.5%
15 Colts L 28 - 23 66.5% 6.841 0.13 58.2%
16 Ravens W 14 - 13 74.5% 5.639 0.90 55.9%
17 Falcons W 24 - 16 67.9% 1.010 3.46 45.2%
18 Steelers L 36 - 33 71.6% 9.947 0.50 61.6%
2002 Season Average 66.7% 4.928 1.80 59.1%

In 2002 the Browns improved from 2001, but it wasn't what you'd expect from a playoff team. Like I said above you can see the improvement in almost every category, but those top two categories, Drive Success Rate and Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt, were still not very good, at just 24th and 26th in the league. They obviously did some things right, as they made the playoffs, but there wasn't one thing that they did extremely well. Still, I like the overall improvement.

The three games where they threw the ball the best were all strangely losses, thanks to their defense seemingly not getting off the bus. They played their best game of the season in Week 1 against the Chiefs, and also played really well in the Playoff game. Another thing to note are the Turnovers, as the Browns either turned the ball over alot, or they didn't turn it over at all. Half of their games they had less than one Turnover (adjusted for their opponent), and remember this when we talk about 2003.

We see a little more about the Arians offense in 2002, as they passed the ball much more, only running it more than 50% in two games. The words coming out of the coaching staff's mouths might be they're going to run the ball, but this evidence clearly shows he likes to pass the ball (and we'll have more evidence in other articles). They also kept up their great consistency, ranking as the most consistent offense in the NFL.

Week Opponent Score DSR ANPY/A Turnovers Pass Pct.
1 Colts L 9 - 6 69.5% 3.173 1.86 52.7%
2 Ravens L 33 - 13 52.6% 2.665 2.20 66.7%
3 49ers W 13 - 12 78.1% 4.652 1.59 68.3%
4 Bengals L 21 - 14 66.6% 5.900 1.38 63.3%
5 Steelers W 33 - 13 79.3% 7.055 2.20 39.4%
6 Raiders W 13 - 7 74.2% 2.800 1.08 46.7%
7 Chargers L 26 - 20 61.7% 1.325 2.46 68.1%
8 Patriots L 9 - 3 60.5% 4.030 0.18 67.8%
9 BYE
10 Chiefs L 41 - 20 63.9% 3.243 1.45 58.8%
11 Cardinals W 44 - 6 78.8% 10.925 0.42 51.5%
12 Steelers L 13 - 6 62.9% 2.172 5.20 62.7%
13 Seahawks L 34 - 7 49.0% 2.665 3.15 70.4%
14 Rams L 26 - 20 71.7% 3.533 2.96 56.4%
15 Broncos L 23 - 20 67.3% 7.201 1.45 46.9%
16 Ravens L 35 - 0 60.9% 3.855 3.20 61.3%
17 Bengals W 22 - 14 70.2% 5.315 0.38 31.0%
2003 Season Average 67.4% 4.712 1.90 57.1%

Finally in 2003 we see more improvement, and we see some categories where the Browns were quite good, such as Time of Possession / Drive, Three and Outs, and RB Success Rate. The problem was the Red Zone Efficiency dropped way off, and they struggled to score points, even though they could move the ball fairly well. They even did this despite some crappy field position, and a lack of big plays, finishing just 26th in Yards/Play.

Looking at the games, the Drive Success Rate tells the story of their season. In games the Browns were over 70% they were 5-1, and when they were under they were 0-10 (league average is about 69%). There were flashes during the season, like Week 5 against the Steelers or Week 11 against the Cardinals, but there were so many duds, and a lot of Red Zone field goals, which eventually did them in.

I mentioned the Turnovers above, and I wanted to show how averages can be deceiving. In 2002, the Browns were very "Boom or Bust", and had an average of 1.80. In 2003, the average only went up to 1.9, so essentially the same amount per game, but they only had three games under one turnover, and a whole lot more in the 1.5-3.5 range, which I think is worse. Turning the ball over twice in every game can be a killer each time, while alternating between 4 and 0 means you have a really good chance of winning half your games, but a slim chance of winning the other half. Just found that very interesting.

So how does this translate to the Colts moving forward? First should be we shouldn't expect miracles from Arians in Year 1, as the Colts were not very good offensively, and most of those problems can't be solved overnight. However, we can expect the offense to improve as we go along, so patience, unfortunately, will be the name of the game.

I think one aspect that will help the Colts considerably is, barring injury, they'll have the same guy under center in every game, and not have a QB carousel like Arians had to deal with in Cleveland with Holcomb and Tim Couch. We've seen it time and time again how a consistent QB can make all the difference in the NFL today. The passing numbers are a big concern to me, as they did improve ever so slightly, those numbers won't win games in the NFL.

After Arians was canned by Butch Davis, he caught the eye of Steelers Head Coach Bill Cowher, who hired him as his Wide Receivers coach in 2004. After three years, he took over the Offensive Coordinator position from 2007 through last season. Next week we'll start looking at Arians in Pittsburgh, which I think (I haven't done the research yet) will be much better looking than his years in Cleveland.

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