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Unlike most sports writers, I don’t know a lot about what will happen this season. But there’s one thing I do know: the Denver Broncos aren’t going to rank 32nd again in pass attempts again. The Tebow Broncos, an offense with an inexperienced quarterback and a confused offensive coordinator, completed just 217 passes last season. That was the lowest in the league, and the lowest since the ’09 Jets, a team that boasted the number one rushing attack and defense in the league — and Mark Sanchez.
Setting aside those years where the league scheduled more games in the following season, the table below shows the teams with the largest increase in completions from one year (that’s the year listed in the table) to the next:
The 1978 49ers ranked 24th out of 28 teams in completions; the next year, they led the league. As discussed in this post on expansion teams, Walsh spent eight years in Cincinnati as one of the game’s brightest offensive minds, but was snubbed for the head coaching job with the Bengals. He spent a year as the offensive coordinator in San Diego and two as the head coach of Stanford before returning to the NFL with the 49ers in 1979. Walsh didn’t waste any time in getting his West Coast offense implemented: in addition to overseeing the team that led the league in completions, his second draft pick with the team was Joe Montana. After turning the team over to Montana in 1980, the 49ers led the league in completion percentage in ’80 and ’81, winning the Super Bowl in Walsh’s third season in San Francisco.
The Broncos will need 389 completions this season to break the record. Assuming good health, that’s not an unattainable goal. Manning has topped that number three times all by himself, including in 2009 and 2010. There are few ways to improve your passing quality and quantity like going from Pete McCulley and Fred O’Connor to Bill Walsh, but I think going from Tim Tebow to (a healthy) Peyton Manning may be one of them.