What to Expect from Jason Maas’ Offence in 2020

Jason Maas

The Saskatchewan Roughriders surprised many fans when they were able to hire Jason Maas. While his tenure as a head coach in Edmonton left much to be desired, his qualities of a coordinator were coveted by many. Many thought a reunion with Mike Reilly was in store in BC. However, Cody Fajardo will be the one to benefit from Maas and his offence.

We’ll take a look at the differences and similarities between Jason Maas and Stephen McAdoo in the offences they ran over the last number of years. From there, a better idea will be had of what Rider fans can expect from their offence in 2020.

Stephen McAdoo

2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders

Pass Attempts (+ Sacks Allowed) Rush Attempts %Ps+ %Rs
654 305 67% 31%

Stats provided by CFL.ca
%Ps+: Percentage of pass attempts (+ sacks allowed)
%Rs: Percentage of rushing attempts

The 2017 Saskatchewan Roughriders were an interesting group with Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge sharing the reps at quarterback. There was no shortage of weapons at either’s disposal with Duron Carter, Bakari Grant and Naaman Roosevelt all-surpassing 1,000 yards receiving. It’s no surprise to see that Saskatchewan heavily favoured the pass in 2017. McAdoo seemingly leaned into the strengths of this team.

It’s important to note that the passing/rushing split percentages won’t equal 100% as team loss stats such as kneel-downs or safeties are not counted.

2018 Saskatchewan Roughriders 

Pass Attempts (+ Sacks Allowed) Rush Attempts %Ps+ %Rs
572 387 58% 39%

Stats provided by CFL.ca

2018 saw a much different offence than the one Rider fans were used to seeing the year prior. Saskatchewan leaned on a three-pronged rushing attack led by Jerome Messam, Tre Mason and Cameron Marshall. Inconsistent play by Zach Collaros and Brandon Bridge saw a significant drop off in passing plays and a rise in rushing plays.

Another interesting stat to note is that Saskatchewan rushed on 44% of their first downs in 2018. That was the second-highest percentage in the CFL in 2018 (Winnipeg 48%).

2019 Saskatchewan Roughriders

Pass Attempts (+ Sacks Allowed) Rush Attempts %Ps+ %Rs
571 393 58% 40%

Stats provided by CFL.ca

Surprisingly enough, even with the emergence of the Western Nominee for Most Outstanding Player, Cody Fajardo, McAdoo’s splits hovered around his 2018 totals with the Riders passing on just 58% of plays and rushing on 40% of them. Only Winnipeg called a higher percentage of running play calls with 44%.

Saskatchewan rushed on 43% of their first downs, third in the league behind Winnipeg (48%) and Montreal (45%).

Jason Maas

2017 Edmonton Eskimos

Pass Attempts (+ Sacks Allowed) Rush Attempts %Ps+ %Rs
702 378 64% 34%

Stats provided by CFL.ca

One thing that’s important to note when looking at the differences between McAdoo and Jason Maas is what they had at their disposal over the years. Since emerging as a starting quarterback, Mike Reilly has been considered one of the best quarterbacks in the CFL every season.

That being said, it’s interesting to see that in 2017 Edmonton had modest pass-run splits in play calling. I was personally expecting to see a 70-30 type split that both Hamilton and Toronto had in 2017.

2018 Edmonton Eskimos

Pass Attempts (+ Sacks Allowed) Rush Attempts %Ps+ %Rs
630 328 65% 34%

Stats provided by CFL.ca

Comparing straight across to the Riders 2018 season there’s a stark difference. However, from a year over year perspective in just focusing on Edmonton we see Jason Maas stayed consistent with his play-calling splits from 2017 to 2018. On first downs, Edmonton rushed on just 36% of their first downs. Significantly lower than either of the Riders totals in 2018 and 2019.

2019 Edmonton Eskimos

Pass Attempts (+ Sacks Allowed) Rush Attempts %Ps+ %Rs
683 361 64% 34%

Stats provided by CFL.ca

Once again, even with a facelift on offence with Mike Reilly heading to BC and Trevor Harris taking the reigns, Maas’ playcalling splits remain nearly the exact same as previous seasons. Jason Maas’ offence rushed the ball 39% of the time on first downs, higher than his 2018 average but still fairly consistent and below the rushing percentage that the Riders boasted each of the two years of data collected.

What does it all mean?

While the stats provided don’t necessarily tell the entire story (there’s so much more beneath the surface). The aim of this article was not to condemn or praise either’s method. We’ve seen the pass/run debate take over the NFL with many in the analytic community encouraging teams to pass more than they run. Whereas the more traditional approach is to “establish the run”, Derek Taylor broke this down from the CFL perspective.

What the stats above do not tell is the situations of which McAdoo or Maas were passing or running more often. A team is much more likely to run the ball if they have the lead in the fourth quarter as opposed to trailing.

Expectations

However, for the sake of simplicity, Rider fans can likely expect more passing on first down play-calls. In fact, they should expect more passing in general, I believe this would’ve been the case even if McAdoo was still the coordinator.

The major reason being the emergence of Cody Fajardo as a true number one quarterback. This, combined with Maas’ apparent more aggressive play-calling tendencies could mean a more explosive Roughriders offence in 2020.

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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Good article. Ive always been a fan of Jason Maas’ offence & like the passion he brings. In CFL history only 4 QB’s have had 3 or more seasons of 5,500+ passing yards – Calvillo, Ray, Flutie & Reilly. Only the latter 2 had 3 consecutive seasons. Under Maas as an OC, Burris threw for over 5,500 yards in their one year together, Reilly reached that total for all 3 years with Maas. Last year, had Harris not been injured early in game 13, he likely passes that total as well. That’s the good. But Burris, Reilly & Harris are were all stars before Maas coached them. Fajardo has one season starting so it will be interesting what Maas does with a young starter. Though Franklin raves about Maas, he made his name under McAdoo/Jones before Maas arrived.
    Under Maas running offences they are always top 3 in the league. But Jason is often very predictable. Because of the totals his QB’s have had, you WOULD think the split would be 70-30 in favour of passing. But truth is, Maas is addicted to establishing a running game & his go-to call on 1st down is quite often RUN, short passes. In the Eastern semi-final full credit to Harris but the high % was partly due to short passes. Many lauded Maas for his brilliant game plan but it was true to form. What happened in the final? Even when trailing by 2 scores he stubbornly stuck to the run on 1st down, with very little success, & chewing up the clock. I would question the strategy. Here is an abbreviated breakdown of play calls in the 3rd Qtr trailing by 10 points.
    1st possession – 1D – Gable Run 3 yds, 2D Gable Run 4 yd loss
    2nd possession – 1D Gable Run 1 yd loss (Trailing 28-13 at this point)
    3rd possession – !D Gable Run 3 yds
    5th possession – 1D Gable Run 1 yd
    In the 4th Qtr this continued with Gable, run 1 yd on 1D on the 1st possession & a 3 yd run by Gable on 1D starting off the 2nd possession of the Qtr. Clock killing drives when they needed points. Maas did not commit to any sort of passing game on 1st down until there was 6:35 left & losing 35-16.
    One of the prime reasons Maas is out of Edmonton is his stubbornness. After missing the playoffs in 2018, he was retained for 2 reasons – the Eskimos believed he was their only chance at retaining Reilly and on condition he give up the OC position & concentrate on HC duties. It should be noted that the Eskimos were 12-6 under Maas in 2017 when Carson Walch in fact called the offence. While Jordan Maksymic was named OC after that 2018 season, Maas in fact called all the plays from the sideline. Notice it wasn’t Maksymic who was credited for calling the “brilliant” semi-final win last year. While I like Maas he has made some truly questionable decisions calling the offence, his most notable one being in the final a few years ago with Calgary. Do I think he can take Fajardo to the next step or avoid the kind of play calls that cost McAdoo his job after the Western Final last year? Your guess is as good as mine.

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