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25 Jul 2005

1998 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

For the past few months, five years worth of DVOA have been available on our website: 2000-2004. But since the end of last season, you may have noticed me occasionally mention ratings from 1998 and 1999. I was not able to fully analyze those seasons until this past off-season, but now we can unveil the 1998 and 1999 DVOA ratings for each team. We'll start with 1998, and do 1999 in a couple weeks.

In 1998, just like last year, a few teams really stood out, with Atlanta and Denver at 14-2 and Minnesota at 15-1. Which one of those teams topped the league in DVOA?

Surprisingly, none of them did. According to DVOA, the best team over the course of 1998 was the 12-4 New York Jets.

But wait, there's more. The 1998 Vikings, who set an all-time NFL record for offense by scoring 556 points, were not the number one offense according to DVOA. They were ranked third, behind Denver and San Francisco.

1998 also brought us one of the greatest fluke teams of all time, the 1998 Arizona Cardinals, who went 9-7 despite getting outscored by their opponents 378-325. They rank 25th in DVOA below three different 4-12 teams. One of those teams is the St. Louis Rams, so we can finally answer the question: Was there any indication that the Rams were going to burst from out of nowhere to win the next year's Super Bowl?

Before we discuss 1998 further, let's show the numbers. These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1998, measured by our proprietary Value Over Average (VOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league averaged based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

DVOA represents adjusted statistics. OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for opponent quality and to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. NON-ADJ TOTAL VOA does not include these adjustments. DVOA is a better indicator of team quality. VOA is a better indicator of actual wins. WEIGHTED DVOA gives a stronger consideration to games late in the season. Remember that, as always, defense is better when it is NEGATIVE.


TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
VOA
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
SPECIAL
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NYJ 34.5% 12-4 26.1% 41.1% 2 15.5% 4 -19.0% 4 0.0% 16
2 ATL 32.5% 14-2 47.3% 45.9% 1 8.8% 8 -19.2% 3 4.5% 3
3 DEN 30.3% 14-2 40.2% 25.6% 4 32.2% 1 4.1% 24 2.2% 7
4 SF 29.5% 12-4 29.5% 19.5% 6 26.4% 2 -7.0% 12 -4.0% 25
5 MIN 29.1% 15-1 39.2% 26.8% 3 24.0% 3 -3.8% 15 1.3% 10
6 MIA 24.8% 10-6 17.5% 25.1% 5 -6.0% 15 -31.2% 1 -0.3% 21
7 DAL 19.0% 10-6 30.5% 14.5% 8 13.4% 6 1.7% 22 7.3% 1
8 BUF 16.5% 10-6 21.2% 19.2% 7 14.3% 5 -2.4% 19 -0.3% 19
9 GB 10.6% 11-5 18.6% 13.5% 9 -2.7% 13 -13.2% 6 0.1% 15
10 NE 7.6% 9-7 1.6% 1.2% 15 -3.6% 14 -10.5% 8 0.7% 13
11 JAC 7.6% 11-5 13.4% 7.2% 11 2.1% 9 -1.8% 20 3.6% 5
12 TB 3.5% 8-8 3.1% 6.9% 12 -14.5% 22 -13.0% 7 4.9% 2
13 SEA 2.3% 8-8 3.1% 0.5% 16 -9.1% 18 -7.7% 11 3.7% 4
14 TEN 0.6% 8-8 9.4% 7.9% 10 9.7% 7 11.6% 27 2.5% 6
15 DET 0.1% 5-11 -9.6% 2.3% 14 -0.3% 10 0.7% 21 1.1% 11
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
VOA
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
SPECIAL
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
16 KC -3.1% 7-9 -2.5% -5.3% 17 -6.4% 16 -3.3% 16 0.0% 17
17 NYG -3.5% 8-8 -7.0% 3.6% 13 -11.5% 20 -9.3% 9 -1.3% 23
18 CHI -6.3% 4-12 -23.2% -11.2% 19 -9.5% 19 -2.7% 17 0.4% 14
19 STL -11.4% 4-12 -17.7% -15.0% 24 -16.5% 24 -6.1% 13 -1.1% 22
20 NO -11.8% 6-10 -18.2% -12.9% 21 -20.4% 27 -7.9% 10 0.8% 12
21 PIT -12.2% 7-9 -10.6% -13.0% 22 -17.2% 25 -5.3% 14 -0.3% 18
22 OAK -13.9% 8-8 -16.7% -22.1% 26 -25.9% 29 -19.3% 2 -7.3% 30
23 BAL -15.1% 6-10 -14.0% -23.9% 27 -19.5% 26 -2.6% 18 1.8% 9
24 CAR -15.2% 4-12 -18.4% -12.2% 20 -15.3% 23 2.0% 23 2.1% 8
25 ARI -19.0% 9-7 -6.8% -16.2% 25 -12.5% 21 6.1% 25 -0.3% 20
26 WAS -20.5% 6-10 -22.5% -6.8% 18 -1.5% 12 14.7% 28 -4.3% 27
27 IND -20.6% 3-13 -29.0% -13.4% 23 -0.4% 11 18.0% 29 -2.2% 24
28 SD -22.9% 5-11 -25.1% -24.2% 28 -36.0% 30 -19.0% 5 -5.9% 28
29 CIN -34.5% 3-13 -36.9% -38.7% 30 -8.4% 17 20.2% 30 -5.9% 29
30 PHI -36.8% 3-13 -38.8% -33.0% 29 -23.4% 28 9.3% 26 -4.1% 26

The Jets are on top of the ratings thanks to adjustments for strength of schedule. The two teams that met in the Super Bowl are actually one-two in non-adjusted VOA. On one hand, this could be an indication that the strength of schedule adjustments in DVOA are too strong. On the other hand, four of the top ten teams of 1998 came from the AFC East. But these were actually not the teams that beat the Jets. The Jets went 7-1 in division games, with the one loss coming by just one point, 24-23 to rookie Peyton Manning and the Colts in Week 11. That game deserves a special mention: The Jets let Manning march the Colts 80 yards in the final three minutes for the winning touchdown, including an 18-yard pass to Marshall Faulk on 4th-and-15, and then Vinny Testaverde fumbled a snap with 11 seconds left at midfield. Yikes.

But I digress. The other Jets losses came to San Francisco (5), St. Louis (19), and Baltimore (23). A lot of their rating comes from a mid-season dismantling of Atlanta, 28-3, in a game where Chris Chandler was injured and the Falcons had 97-year-old Steve Deberg and future Arena hero Tony Graziani at quarterback. (Deberg had not played a down since 1993!) The Jets were beating good teams and losing to bad teams, but those losses came early. They started out 2-3 before finishing the year with 10 of 11 wins, the Colts game mentioned above being the only loss. They were well-balanced, finishing in the top five on both offense and defense. But you have to look at the ratings with the knowledge of how much that Week 8 game affected both the Jets and Falcons. Remove Week 8, and Atlanta is now the top team in the league with a 35.0% DVOA, while the Jets drop to second with a 31.9% DVOA.

OK, you say, if we're going to consider Atlanta to be a better team than DVOA says because they had to play a game without Chris Chandler, why don't we give credit to the Broncos for the games they had to play without John Elway. Elway missed three games in his final season, and played sparingly in two others. If you only consider the games Elway played, wouldn't Denver rank as the best team in the league?

Actually, no, because guess who ranks as the best passer of 1998, according to value per play (DVOA) rather than total value (DPAR, or Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement, which is explained here). Yes, that's correct, it is Bubby Brister, with 44.4% DVOA on 140 pass attempts. Elway is third, with Vinny Testaverde in between. So the Broncos didn't lose anything in the games where Elway was on the sidelines. They won 13 straight games with a mix of Elway and Brister behind center, but their two losses against the Giants and Dolphins were both games with Elway healthy. (The fact that those two losses came in Weeks 15 and 16 explains why the Broncos rank just fourth in WEIGHTED DVOA.)

More important than the quarterbacks was Terrell Davis, who dominated running backs in 1998. His 65.7 DPAR rushing was almost twice as valuable as the second-best running back of the year, Jamal Anderson, who had 34.3 DPAR. Davis also had a 23.2% DVOA, making him the only running back with at least 120 carries and a DVOA rating above 10%! (Compared to recent seasons, 1998 was a tough year to be a running back.) Combine the great passing with the great running and you get the best offense in the league -- even better than the 556-point Vikings. Strength of schedule was part of this: Denver's faced the sixth-hardest schedule of opposing defenses in the league, while the Vikings ranked 21st in average defensive opponent. Remove opponent adjustments and the two offenses are tied at 29.1% VOA.

The other issue is long plays. The Vikings led the league with 52 plays of 25+ yards. They had 22 offensive plays of 40+ yards; no other team had more than 16 plays of that length. Long plays like this are discounted in DVOA, because as plays get longer and longer they actually have a diminishing value when it comes to determining future performance. Often the difference between an 80-yard play and a 40-yard play isn't that the first offense is better; the difference is that the first team was on its own 20 and the second team was on the opponent's 40. But with a high-powered offense led by some rookie receiver named Randy Moss, perhaps the 1998 Vikings were the exception to this rule.

Denver's defensive ranking is worth a little discussion as well. How does a team that ranks 8th in points allowed and 11th in yards allowed rank a dismal 24th in defensive DVOA? Well, this is what happens when you play in a division with two of the more unbalanced teams in league history. We all know about the 1998 Chargers, with a dismal offense quarterbacked by Craig Whelihan and Ryan Leaf, 29th in the league in offensive yards per play but second in the league in defensive yards allowed per play thanks to a defense featuring Pro Bowlers Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison, for whom we have the utmost respect. Fewer people remember the 1998 Raiders, the first Jon Gruden team, with an offense led for most of the year by the immortal Donald Hollas. I mentioned this team two weeks ago when discussing the Dolphins -- they went 8-8 despite getting outscored by their opponents 356-288, and the next year they brought in Rich Gannon and suddenly had one of the best offenses in the league.

The Broncos also didn't play any hard offenses from outside their division. The only top ten DVOA offenses they faced were #6 Dallas and #9 Jacksonville.

The 1998 Arizona Cardinals are discussed in depth in an essay in Pro Football Prospectus 2005, so I don't want to write too much about them here. But they were a colossal fluke, despite the fact that they managed to win a playoff game in a huge upset over Dallas. The article in the book says the Cardinals were ranked 21st in DVOA for 1998, but since we turned in the final manuscript I fixed some mistakes in my 1998 data and the Cardinals now rank even lower, 25th. The Cardinals went 6-3 over their final nine games, but all six wins came against teams that were 6-10 or worse, and all six wins came by either two or three points. The next year, they were back to 6-10, and they haven't been in the playoffs since.

Three teams stand out in the table above for having WEIGHTED DVOAs much higher than their full-season DVOAs. Two of those teams really improved in 1999: Tennessee, which went from 8-8 to 13-3, and Washington, which went from 6-10 to 10-6. The third team was the New York Giants, who went 7-9 the following year, but at least were good in the first half (5-3 over the first eight games of 1999, 2-6 over the last eight).

But the team we all want to know about, of course is St. Louis. As you can see above, the Rams were #19 in DVOA despite being 4-12. Then again, the Bears also had a DVOA much better than their 4-12 record, and they didn't get much better in 1999. But look closer at the 1998 Rams, and there clearly are signs of something stirring.

Start with the defense, which had an above-average DVOA in 1998. But that rating, by itself, doesn't explain why we should have expected the Rams to take a big defensive leap forward. In the San Diego chapter of Pro Football Prospectus 2005, you will find a long article explaining how third down performance tends to fluctuate far more than first and second down performance. A team that is strong on first and second downs but poor on third downs is likely to improve in the following year. Well, guess what:


1998 STL Defense by Down DVOA Rank
1st Down -11.4% 12
2nd Down -13.0% 6
3rd/4th Down +16.8% 26

Defenses with a similar trend include both the 2000 and 2002 Patriots, as well as the 2001 Falcons and the 2003 Chargers. So yes, this is important. But the 1998 Rams offense actually had the opposite trend -- better on third down than first or second, they would have been projected to decline in 1999 without a major influx of new talent. And a major influx of new talent is exactly what they got.

  • Isaac Bruce played only five games in 1998 because of injuries, but in those five games he had a 32.3% DVOA and caught 67% of the passes thrown to him. The other St. Louis wideouts combined for -19.8% DVOA and caught just 46% of the passes thrown to them. Not a single St. Louis wide receiver other than Bruce had a positive DVOA, although the two receivers that came closest were the two receivers that were still on the Rams in 1999: Ricky Proehl and Az Hakim.
  • With the sixth pick, the Rams added the top wide receiver in the draft, Torry Holt from North Carolina State.
  • The Rams running backs in 1998 combined for -5.0 DPAR and -17.7% DVOA. Playing for the Colts, Marshall Faulk was sixth in the league with 22.5 DPAR and tenth in the league with 1.0% DVOA. Faulk was better than his conventional stats looked -- he had twice as many DPAR as PAR because the Colts played a schedule of very difficult run defenses.
  • This is nothing compared to the way Faulk blew away the other NFL running backs in the receiving game. Faulk had 34.7 DPAR as a receiver. The second-ranked RB in receiving was Amp Lee of -- oddly enough -- the Rams, but he had just 15.1 DPAR.
  • The biggest surprise of the 1999 Rams, of course, was Kurt Warner at quarterback. There was no way to forecast Warner's astonishing Walter Mitty performance, but it was reasonable to predict that the Rams were going to get better quarterbacking. The quarterbacks of the 1998 Rams were Tony Banks (-9.8 DPAR) and Steve Bono (-5.5 DPAR). The quarterback of the 1999 Rams was supposed to be free agent addition Trent Green, who ranked 13th in the league with 38.2 DPAR for the Redskins in 1998.

As for that other 1999 turnaround offense, the Oakland Raiders:


1998 Oakland QBs DPAR Rank DVOA Rank Pass Yards Yd/Pa TD INT
Jeff George -3.4 34 -17.4% 34 193 1018 5.3 4 5
Donald Hollas -20.1 42 -29.7% 43 296 1548 5.2 10 15
Wade Wilson 2.7 -- -6.6% -- 97 507 5.2 7 4
1998 Kansas City QBs DPAR Rank DVOA Rank Pass Yards Yd/Pa TD INT
Rich Gannon 38.4 12 11.0% 14 382 2130 5.6 10 5
Elvis Grbac -20.5 43 -38.1% 46 199 1085 5.5 5 12

Yeah, I think I would want that Gannon kid.

A few more facts about the best and worst individual players of 1998:

  • 1998 was the last hurrah for the great quarterbacks who came into the league in the eighties. The top four QBs in DPAR were all over 35: Vinny Testaverde, Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, and John Elway. Troy Aikman, age 32, was fifth. Dan Marino was 11th in his last good year.
  • Another old quarterback was also a new quarterback. 36-year-old Doug Flutie, playing in the NFL for the first time since 1989, ranked eighth with 56.4 DPAR. Here's more evidence for my belief that replacing Flutie with Rob Johnson was the worst coaching move of all time:


1998 Buffalo QBs DPAR Rank DVOA Rank Pass Yards Yd/Pa TD INT
Doug Flutie 56.4 8 23.7% 8 365 2625 7.1 20 11
Rob Johnson 10.9 26 7.1% 18 139 732 5.3 8 3

  • Finally, we can answer the question, "Who was worse, Ryan Leaf or Craig Whelihan?" The answer, believe it or not, is Bobby Hoying.


1998 San Diego QBs (and friends!) DPAR Rank DVOA Rank Pass Yards Yd/Pa TD INT
Craig Whelihan -31.3 47 -35.6% 45 334 1684 5.0 8 17
Ryan Leaf -55.6 48 -64.9% 49 269 1131 4.2 2 15
Bobby Hoying (PHI) -57.5 49 -64.7% 48 265 759 2.9 0 9

  • And yet, as bad as the 1998 Chargers were, the 2004 Bears had a lower total team offensive DVOA in a year with a far stronger environment for passing offense. Ye gods.
  • The other important quarterback of 1998 is Peyton Manning in his rookie season. He had 28.4 DPAR (18th) and -1.7% DVOA (25th) against an above-average schedule of opposing pass defenses. Better than his brother, but not as good as Big Ben.
  • These days I'm very hard on him, and feel he's among the most overrated receivers in the game. But the top receiver of 1998 in DPAR was ... Eric Moulds of Buffalo, with 40.7 DPAR. Terrell Owens, Rod Smith, Wayne Chrebet, and rookie Randy Moss rounded out the top five.
  • The top tight ends were Shannon Sharpe (28.0 DPAR) and Ben Coates (24.7 DPAR).
  • In the "we were young once" file, second-year Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez was below replacement level with -1.2 DPAR and -13.9% DVOA.
  • For me, the biggest 1998 question was whether we could have predicted the 1999 Rams, but for another writer on this website (Mr. Smith) the biggest question was what DVOA would say about Barry Sanders. On the surface, the results are not good: In his final season, Sanders had a below-average rushing DVOA and finished 22nd with 7.4 DPAR. But 1998 is not a good year for judging how Sanders and his boom-or-bust style look according to DVOA and DPAR, because an injury suffered in Week 10 severely limited Sanders for the final seven games of the season:


Barry Sanders 1998 DPAR DVOA Yards Runs Yd/R Suc. Rate
Weeks 1-10 13.1 1.7% 1012 202 5.0 41%
Weeks 11-17 -5.7 -24.0% 480 141 3.4 38%

But if you were wondering if Barry Sanders was in fact the king of boom-or-bust:


Most Runs for a Loss, 1998 Most Runs of 10+ Yards, 1998
Barry Sanders 97 Terrell Davis 50
The Long Lost Good Eddie George 84 Jamal Anderson 45
Curtis Martin 77 Barry Sanders 44
Jamal Anderson 76 Emmitt Smith 40
Marshall Faulk 76 The Long Lost Good Eddie George 38

1998 numbers are not yet on the site for individual positions or team splits like offense and defense, but they will go up after I do the article on 1999 sometime in August. Feel free to ask questions about 1998 in the discussion thread or in email. As with previous years, I'll collect the questions and do either a special 1998 mailbag, or a 1998-1999 joint mailbag.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 25 Jul 2005

87 comments, Last at 03 Aug 2005, 9:54pm by Björn

Comments

1
by Makula (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:04pm

I love that you go back in time to do these articles. I am suprised that Miami has the best defense BY FAR. It is nice to think of the good ole days.

2
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:06pm

Finally, we can answer the question, "Who was worse, Ryan Leaf or Craig Whelihan?" The answer, believe it or not, is Bobby Hoying.

You're mean, Mr. Schatz. Just plain mean.

Excuse me while I go bathe to clean the stench of remembering the 1998 Eagles. Five times. Maybe six.

3
by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:10pm

D'oh, I knew I forgot to mention something. Hey, guess what -- Miami had the best defense of 1998 by far!

4
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:36pm

I still think the worst coaching descision of all time was replacing Trent Dilfer and Priest Holmes with Elvis Grbac and nobody.

5
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:49pm

I only started watching football the '99 Superbowl, so this is kind of a good history lesson for me... thanks! Good read.

6
by ElJefe (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:04pm

The funny thing is that Bobby Hoying wasn't a bad QB in 1997. But in the first 3 games of 1998 the Eagles offensive line turned him into a complete basket case. Poor kid looked almost completely terrified back there.

And then that era ended and we were treated to Doug Pederson at QB. :)

7
by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:09pm

Interesting stuff about the long plays and how it plays out with the Vikings offense that year. I think most people who were watching that season while it was happening would've thought the vikings offense was top in the league.... if memory serves the majority of their long plays were in the 40-60 yard range, not longer. I don't know if the formula makes much differation. I do think that with the way their offense was working, it mattered a lot that these long plays usually went all the way. The difference between a 40 yard TD and a 60 yarder isn't anywhere near as much as the difference between a 40 yard play from your own 40 (getting you to the 20) and a 60 yard TD. e.g., on the last drive before Anderson finally missed a kick, Robert Smith broke off a 20 yard run and then the drive stalled out, I think it matters at that level, at least, that it didn't go further.

One last issue - Special Teams rankings. I know the Vikings that year allowed some long returns, but opponents got many cracks at returning kickoffs. I find issue with a team that 1 - didn't miss a FG or PAT in the regular season and whose kickoff man at the time (Berger) was routinely kicking the ball out of the endzone indoors being ranked 25th in Special Teams...

8
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:25pm

And then that era ended and we were treated to Doug Pederson at QB.

Stop! Stop the pain, stop it!

One last issue - Special Teams rankings. I know the Vikings that year allowed some long returns, but opponents got many cracks at returning kickoffs. I find issue with a team that 1 - didn’t miss a FG or PAT in the regular season and whose kickoff man at the time (Berger) was routinely kicking the ball out of the endzone indoors being ranked 25th in Special Teams…

Count more carefully. Minnesota was ranked 10th, not 25th. SF was ranked 25th.

8
by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:25pm

Do you have the raw VOA offense and defense stats? I find these archival posts especially interesting because it goes back to when I actually tried a modified analysis of NFL raw stats. According to my system of using yards/drive and then adding the bonuses and penalties from The Hidden Game of Fotball, San Diego actually had the #1 defense, Oakland was #2 and Miami was #3 in 1998. I'm just curious how close an approximation I used may have been.

Also, I'm wondering where did Antonio Freeman ended up in WRs. He was definitely high in the raw yards category.

10
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 7:22pm

How many offensive coordinators, if fully briefed on DVOA, and in possession of the 1998 figures, would, if allowed to travel back in time and select an offense to re-play the 1998 season, would pick Wayne Chrebet among the top four receivers? Does this say more about the thought processes of offensive coordinators, or the value of DVOA? By the way, I'm not trying to be sarcastic or disparaging towards anybody; I really think it is a question worth pondering.

11
by Vince (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 7:38pm

I'm a Falcons fan. You have no idea the mixed emotions that are running through my head right now. Part of me feels vindicated, that the 1998 Falcons weren't a fluke team that got lucky like everyone says. And part of me is crushed because they really were better than Denver, like I knew, and they still got whupped.

I'm not surprised at all that Jamal Anderson is the #2 RB behind TD, but I'm stunned that Chris Chandler is not among the top QBs, and that Tony Martin and Terence Mathis are not among the top WRs. Take a look at Chandler's YPA and the M&M's YPCs. They were hitting bombs all the time.

12
by James G (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 7:46pm

Will (#10) - I think what it says is that DVOA can't separate out those WRs that played against #2 CBs (Chrebet) and those WRs played against #1 CBs or had double teams (the rest of the list). If Keyshawn wasn't drawing the other teams top corner away from Chrebet, I bet he would be lower. DVOA adjusts for team defenses, but not individual. And that's going to be forever a problem in football - you just can't delink the players from each other as you can in baseball.

When Chrebet was the top receiver in 2000, he was only #41 in DVOA.

13
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 8:31pm

I was thinking that myself, James, and it leads me to a further conumdrum when evaluating performance. Might it not be the case that Rand Moss' performance over the past several years may be significantluy underrated, if defensive play-calling has been oriented towards impeding his performance, to an extent greater than even other above-median #1 receivers?

First, it would have to be determined how often Moss received such treatment, compared to other #1s, which would be significant task in and of itself. My suspicion is that Moss did receive this treatment at a substantially higher rate than other # 1s, even above-median #1s, which means his performance was even higher than is currently believed. Also, I say this as someone who thinks the Vikings took an intelligent risk with the Moss trade.

To a substantial degree the same problem exists when evaluating defensive lineman.....well, the fellas at football outsiders have enough work to last a good long while, don't they?

14
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 9:45pm

Will: I tend to agree with you on Moss. The TO trade kind of made the Moss trade possible, so we'll see what he does for the Oakland O... possibly quite a lot. He may unlock the "1998 Chrebet" in Porter. The Viking's offence was so strong with Carter, Moss, and Smith, it really did seem like they could score from anywhere at anytime.

Long plays: I can't say that I know how much impact it makes for a player to have "finishing" speed, eg he can turn a long play into a longer touchdown. Coaches seem to desire those players very much. It seems like in a way it is easier to score from the 30 without converting any first downs for some offences.

15
by Jersey (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 9:54pm

I'm not sure how the vikings took an intelligent risk in picking up a LB from a team with a horrible LB crew and a horrible defense and drafting a WR who had bad numbers in college, worse than many undrafted WRs. He is know for is abiltity to uhhh.. run in straight lines really fast. Not catch. Nope, one of his "flaws" in scounting reports was catching. So was route running. God you think the vikings could get better for the best WR in football. (Sorry I'm still bitter, and have since disavowed the Vikings from the ranks of my top teams)

Back to 1998, isn't it amazing that Vinny was part of the 35 and older group in 1998. I'm really not sure why Dallas would take Bledsoe over Vinny. Its also amazing how long the Dolphins have had a top defense. One thing always stated here is that defensive success varies more than offense success year to year (right?). Yet the dolphins have had one of the best defenses for years. Look at the other top 10 defenses. No one else has been so good for so long, except maybe NE at 8. Meanwhile, GB, Tenn, and Minn have been perienial offensive powers, all in the top 10 pretty consistently (I believe, really I'm just pulling all this out of my ass, so please prove me wrong)

16
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 10:47pm

Well, whether Williamson turns out to be a terrible pick at #7 (who knows?) is not exactly the same question as to whether trading Moss was an intelligent risk. I think it quite possible that Moss will have a tremendous year in Oakland. I also think it quite possible that it will be his only tremendous year there. His chronic ankle injury seems to have flared up with more frequency in the past couple years, and I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see him lose significant time to injury from now on.

Secondly, Moss had become nearly uncoachable in Minnesota, and the rest of the league knew it, which is what drove down his trade value. He may be better in this regard in Oakland, but that doesn't mean that without a change in scenery Moss would have met an acceptable standard of professionalism in Minnesota.

If I can compare it to something with which I am intimately familiar, sometimes a sales organization will often have a performer who is leaps and bounds ahead of the median sales professional, but whose behavior within the organization is so unprofessional that it starts to make the organization as a whole unmanageable. Many such organizations wait entirely too long before coming to conclusion that the indivdual's productivity, as outstanding as it may be, isn't enough to compensate for the harm the individual's unprofessional behavior is doing. Winning football teams are typically more disciplined that their competition, and as we have increasingly seen, the talent discrepancy between any two teams in the NFL is narrowing. The Vikings were very unlikely to become a more disciplined football team with Moss on the roster.

17
by grl (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:12am

"And part of me is crushed because they really were better than Denver,"

Are you kidding? You really think that because DVOA says so, it must be true? I do find the analysis done here to be interesting and telling in a lot of cases, but it is not gospel buddy. Denver was clearly the better the team. That Denver team was amazing.

18
by Björn (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:24am

Preach, brother! It really was all about Terrell Davis. If Denver ever got it inside the 5 yard line, a touchdown was guaranteed.

19
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:10am

The top of the list reminds me of last year when the top four teams were all really close to eachother in DVOA, which makes me wonder what the Estimated Wins looks like for those teams. I'm guessing that it would be enough to push Denver over the top, if just from thier red-zone performances.

20
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:16am

Denver had an awesome offense, no question, but was it really a monster defensively? Looking back, it was very consistent, giving up 14-24 PPG. There's something to be said for that.

21
by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:37am

Saving most of these questions for the mailbag, but I was just checking the thread so I'll answer one since I didn't put up the expanded stats like estimated wins.

1 ATL 13.4
2 NYJ 12.6
3 DEN 12.6
4 MIN 11.9
5 MIA 11.2
6 SF 11.0

The reason? It isn't red zone offense, but red zone defense.

TEAM RED D
ATL -54.3% DVOA
NYJ -35.4% DVOA
DEN +12.2% DVOA

That being said, there is a possibility that I'm over-correcting for the pitiful OAK and SD offenses, and Denver's defense wasn't really below average in 1998. More later in a mailbag.

22
by JasonC23 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:53am

The 2004 Bears' offense was worse than the Leaf-led Chargers.

Dear Lord...please protect Rex Grossman! Please please please!!

23
by a Cardinals Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:16am

You mean, I can't be proud of my team anymore?

24
by Catholic Samurai (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:25am

Man... 1998. The Falcons were a Super Bowl team, Pro Wrestling was at the height of its popularity, and Jnco jeans were popular. Man, was it that long ago? I digress.

Its pretty amazing to step back a few years football-wise and look at all the one year wonders and guys with very short peaks (most of which happened to play for the Falcons, it seems). I still want a Chandler Falcons jersey to rep. I’ll put that up there with my second hardest to find jersey in my size, next to the 99 Steve Beuerlein Panthers jersey.

Sorry to diverge from the topic at hand, but 98 just seemed to me like a really weird season, like it was the final year for all the old guard.

25
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 12:04pm

So in terms of DVOA, you are better off stepping out of bounds after 40 yards and then scoring a 20 yard TD rather than going the full 60 in one shot?

I'm not complaining, just trying ot understand how it works.

Additionally, would you get a better score if you put together 6 consecutive 10 yard plays rather than a 40 and a 20?

I can see where the measure would reward a consistently high level of performance (six 10 yarders) rather than a big play (60 yard TD) in the sense that is attempting to predict future performance. The 60 yarder is much less repeatable.

But at what point does that start to break down? In the case of the Vikings of 1998, big plays seemed to be very repeatable. Instead of being random events, they seemed to be a product of the teams make up.

Not sure if that makes sense, and I admit a bias. I live in Minnesota and watched every game that year. If not for a flawless performance by Tampa Bay, that team would have been 16-0. I've seen some pretty amazing offenses before, but that was sick. The idea that any objective measure could have them at #3 raises my eyebrows a bit.

Again, not a complaint, just trying to wrap my head around it.

26
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 12:04pm

And another thing...Am I just not seeing where the individual rankings are or have they not been posted yet?

27
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 12:49pm

Since the difference between a 40 yard completion and a 60 yard touchdown is usually "the saftey was out of position" I'd say it's more impressive to score on a 40 yard play and a 20 yard play. However, when the opposing safteies have to double team Randy Moss and Chris Carter, the fact that they're out of position isn't so much luck as it is design. The '98 Vikings will be one of those teams whose offensive dominance isn't measurable by stats alone. What I want to know is how did SF get to be number 2? I remember Denver and Minny seeming to be unstopable that year, but the 49ers? I guess Garcia and TO really could get along, for one year at least.

28
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 1:08pm

Additionally, would you get a better score if you put together 6 consecutive 10 yard plays rather than a 40 and a 20?

6 consecutive 10 yard plays is 6 consecutive plays. A 40 and a 20 are 2 plays.

Now consider this situation: Team A goes 6 consecutive 10 yard plays. Team B goes 40 yards, 20 yards, and then in their next 4 plays gains zero yards on each.

The question to consider is "which team is more likely to have future success?" and that's clearly team A.

So in terms of DVOA, you are better off stepping out of bounds after 40 yards and then scoring a 20 yard TD rather than going the full 60 in one shot?

I don't think that's what he's saying. What he's saying is that a 60 yard play is not twice as good as 2 30 yard plays. In part, this is because not all plays can go 60 yards. If you're on the opponent's 30 yard line, a 30 yard play has exactly the same value as a 60 yard play.

It's not that the shorter plays are worth more (he said has diminishing value). So say, a 40 yard play might be worth 10 points, a 60 yard play might be worth 12 points, and an 80 yard play might still be worth 12 points.

Aaron: you said "discounted" in DVOA, but did you mean just capped in value (i.e. as above) or just discarded completely?

And another thing…Am I just not seeing where the individual rankings are or have they not been posted yet?

Quoth I:

1998 numbers are not yet on the site for individual positions or team splits like offense and defense, but they will go up after I do the article on 1999 sometime in August. Feel free to ask questions about 1998 in the discussion thread or in email. As with previous years, I’ll collect the questions and do either a special 1998 mailbag, or a 1998-1999 joint mailbag.

Happy to be of help. :)

29
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:36pm

RE: #28 Thanks Pat, I should read more carefully.

In part of your answer you have added some detail that really changes my question. By assuming that the team that has a 40 and 20 then gains 0 yards on the next four plays, there is no doubt that a team that has 6 plays of 10 would score better. But that wasn't my question. Maybe my scenario can not be answered without additional detail, I don't know.

Again, I imagine my opinion is based more on personal bias than cold facts. I'll grant that both Denver and SF had terrific offenses that year.

30
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 3:18pm

I really wonder how Trent Green would have done in '99 with the Rams if he hadn't been cheap-shotted by Mr. Harrison (disrespect intended) in the pre-season. He was lighting up the opposition as I recall.

In 2000, Green's DVOA and DPAR were 42.8% and 59.7 while Warner's were 17.2% and 48.0. So in the same offensive environment, Green was a better QB. Warner had some injuries which hurt his play that year but Green's knee hadn't fully healed either- it still bothered him in KC in 2001, at least according to press reports out of KC in 2001-02.

31
by Sean D. (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 3:59pm

Ah memories, I remember watching Harrison putting that hit on Green in that preseason game. Now why, was a Charger fan watching a preseason game in 1998? Sadly I admit, at the time I actually thought we had a chance. I even thought Leaf was better than Manning (or maybe I hoped), anyway I digress. I remember saying out loud after about the third replay of Green going down, "Wow, there goes the Rams season. That sucks."

32
by Vince (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:14pm

RE #17: Hey, you got the big shiny trophy with the football on top, I got a lifetime of Eugene Robinson jokes. I'll take my victories where I can get 'em.

My memory says that Denver had a porous run defense that year, but I just checked pro-football-reference.com and they were #7 in YPR allowed. Maybe DVOA will reaffirm my memory. Or maybe I'm delusional.

33
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:20pm

In part of your answer you have added some detail that really changes my question. By assuming that the team that has a 40 and 20 then gains 0 yards on the next four plays, there is no doubt that a team that has 6 plays of 10 would score better. But that wasn’t my question. Maybe my scenario can not be answered without additional detail, I don’t know.

OK, let me reframe your question, then.

Team A has 6 1st downs of 10 yards.
Team B has 2 plays, one 1st down that yields 40 yards, one 1st down that yields 20 yards. Otherwise they're exactly the same.

Team B will (likely) have a higher DVOA, because the V+ (success value point) for both plays should be higher than Team A's, and Team A's will just be the V+ for 10 yards on 1st down divided by the average V+ on 1st down. So it should be higher.

I said "likely" because there's a bit of complication here. If Team A goes 60 yards 10 yards at a time, then they'll likely have plays in at least 3 zones. Team B will only have 2 plays that very well could happen both in the same zone. You could imagine some utterly freakoid situations where Team A/B are playing Team C which is insanely good in, say, red zone defense, and horrid everywhere else. Then Team A might have a higher DVOA than team B, but that actually makes sense (because Team A proved that they can beat Team C even when they're really good, but team B only beat them when they're really bad).

Aaron can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what I've gleaned from the glossary and the "Our New Stats Explained".

34
by mistamaxwell (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:21pm

I recently watched my tape of the Vikes/Dirty Birds game from this season and the only thing I could think about was...What jersey will Gary Anderson wear when he goes into the HOF? Yes, I know, there is only 1 kicker in the Hall right now. But this guy made the kick that gave the '84 49ers their only loss. And he made that beautiful 54 yarder in '02 to beat the 'Fins. In between, he's the all-time leading scorer (unless someone passed him?). If he doesn't go in, I think it's a joke as big as Art Monk or Harry Carson.

35
by David Brude (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:48pm

If you want a real FLUKE team check out the 1992 Indinapolis Colts. They were outscored by 86 points and managed to go 9-7! A quick perusal of the player and team stats for the year and I wonder how they even managed to win 5 or 6 games much less 9.

36
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 5:09pm

mista, I remember watching that game, and for some reason I just had a very odd feeling that Anderson was going to miss that kick, his only miss of the year. It really was creepy, if that term can be employed to a football game.

Say, does my memory serve me well in recalling that Cunningham severely underthrew a wide-open Randy Moss about 65 yards downfield after the game was tied? I think it may have been during the Vikings' first overtime. possession.

37
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:01pm

Don't remember, I do know that Robert Griffin (or is it Griffith) dropped an easy interception as the Falcons moved down the field to tie the score after Andersons miss. I also believe another possible interception was dropped. I also believe that Mr Denny Green had Mr Cunningham take a knee after the score was tied with about 45 (?) seconds to go instead of firing up the greatest offense (no offense to DVOA) the league has ever known.

A crushing defeat in a history of crushing defeats.

38
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:03pm

Thanks Pat. I think I get it.

39
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:39pm

Yeah, that game really exposed Green's (who I actually think is an above-average coach) greatest deficiency; game management. Green tried to squeeze out every point he could in the first half, resulting in a late Cunningham fumble when he was stripped of the ball on a deep drop, deep in Vikings territory. I think the Falcons scored a touchdown pretty close to the end of the half as a result. Then, at the end of regulation, after a couple of his defensive starters have been banged up, he gets conservative, and has Cunningham take a knee. This indicates to me a guy who is allowing the emotion of the game to govern his analysis of the situation to an excessive degree.

40
by Josh (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:06pm

Regarding the Jets in '98, recall that Vinny wasn't the starter at QB at the beginning of the season, Foley was. I don't remember of the top of my head when Vinny took over for good but that can have a lot to do with their early losses as well, if we're going to take out games based on who was playing

41
by Josh (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:20pm

Following up on what I have right above on the '98 Jets, Foley started the first two games and played the whole game, both losses. Vinny then played the next 2 weeks, both wins. Then the fifth week (third loss), Foley started, was pulled in the middle of the game, Vinny finished. After that all Vinny. So you take out those three games Foley started and Jets were 12-1, and probably an even higher DVOA.

42
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:35pm

Re #11: And part of me is crushed because they really were better than Denver, like I knew, and they still got whupped.
Hey buddy, check the weighted DVOA column before making that statement. Denver opened the season BLAZING hot, clinched HFA by week 12 (iirc), and then played more lackluster football over their past 4 games. I think that certainly has to be taken into consideration before you anoint Atlanta as the best team in football over them.

That 1998 Denver offense was ridiculous. I never would have imagined it wound up so good. Elway was the #4 QB in DPAR, Rod Smith was the #3 WR in DPAR, Shannon Sharpe was the #1 TE, and Terrell Davis was the #1 RB by a ridiculous margin. The radio shows have all been talking recently about the best "triplets" in football history, and it just astounds me that Davis/Elway/Sharpe or Smith never make the list.

Aaron, was Davis' rushing season the best you've encountered so far? I'm sure, standard deviation wise, it has to be pretty astronomical. I think the most ridiculously amazing part of it was the fact that he didn't even play after halftime in 4 different games. That's two entire games worth of performance- most of it rushing the ball to kill clock.

Also, the topic of Anderson has me chuckling over TMQ's "bold" prediction over the past 2 seasons that Vanderjagt should miss a cheap meaningless figgie to end the streak, or he'll be destined to "honk the big one". Basically, TMQ was predicting that Vanderjagt should end the streak with a meaningless kick, or he'd be doomed to end it with a meaningful one, instead! What insight!

43
by Sean D. (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:51pm

What if he missed both? Would TMQ be spouting, "Well, at least that big field goal he just missed didn't end a long streak."

44
by Catfish (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 8:10pm

Re: 42

The 1999 player numbers aren't posted yet, but a quick glance through the data on this site shows that Davis's rushing DPAR in 98 is the best for 1998 and 2000-2004.

The top few:
T. Davis - 1998 - 65.7
P. Holmes - 2002 - 64.5
M. Faulk - 2000 - 60.0
P. Homes - 2003 - 56.6
C. Martin - 2004 - 54.6

The only wild card is that we haven't seen the 1999 data yet, and that was year one of Faulk in the Greatest Show on Turf.

45
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:18pm

Yeah, Catfish, I checked because I didn't know the 1999 numbers. Still, the DPAR difference between Davis and the #2 guy is 31.4. The past 5 years, the DPAR difference between the #1 and #2 RBs were 4.2, 14.4, 19.2, 5.5, and 14.5. Just noting because it strengthens the so called "Gale Sayers" arguement that TD should be in the HoF. I'm not saying that I think he necessarily should be... but I think he at least deserves consideration, and it makes for interesting discussion.

On a side note, looking back through running back numbers, it's ridiculous how good Priest Holmes has been over the past 5 seasons. He was ranked 4th in DVOA when he saw limited action in Baltimore in 2000, then gets traded to KC and proceeds to finish 1st, 1st (only played 14 games), 1st, and 8th (with just EIGHT GAMES OF ACTION) in DPAR. Unbelievable.

Also, Aaron, two quick data requests. I'd be really interested to see Denver's DVOA for the first 12 weeks, and then its DVOA for the final 4 weeks (after they had clinched up HFA).

Second, you mentioned that you might have overcompensated in the adjustments for how horrible SD's and Oaktown's offenses were. Could we perhaps see Denver's defensive DVOA vs. Oakland/SanDiego compared to its defensive DVOA vs. the rest of the NFL?

46
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 12:02am

Yeah, Catfish, I checked because I didn’t know the 1999 numbers. Still, the DPAR difference between Davis and the #2 guy is 31.4. The past 5 years, the DPAR difference between the #1 and #2 RBs were 4.2, 14.4, 19.2, 5.5, and 14.5. Just noting because it strengthens the so called “Gale Sayers� arguement that TD should be in the HoF. I’m not saying that I think he necessarily should be… but I think he at least deserves consideration, and it makes for interesting discussion.

That Terrell Davis season is 15th all time in terms of standard deviations from the mean (here) . There's no one more recent than Davis in the entire top 25. Plus in more traditional terms, it's the 4th highest rushing season of all time.

So yah, it is impressive. It's the most recent season where one back clearly distanced himself from everyone else in the entire league.

47
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 5:33am

Priest Holmes rushing TD record season included?

48
by mistamaxwell (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 8:23am

OK Will, I popped it in last night and did a bit of fact checking. Yes, Cunningham underthrew Moss in OT. But, it was all ready a 50 yard throw that needed to be 60. He also miscommunicated with him at the end of regulation on a bomb. Randall really seemed to get more non-chalant as that game went on. Green chose to down the ball with about 40 seconds left. But he was facing 3rd and 4 from his 26. An incomplete there meant that he would have to punt. That's a topic for William Krasker. Griffith dropped 2 interceptions on the Falcons' tying drive. One was a duck from Chandler that handcuffed him, the other was a duck from Chandler that got tipped in the end zone. The toughest break was that Robert Smith was injured and they had to go to Leroy Hoard in OT. I'm guessing his DVOA was not nearly what Smith's was. It's almost too sad to talk about, and I'm not even a Vikings fan.

49
by Parker (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 9:45am

Mistamaxwell, do you have it on tape?

50
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 10:31am

Whenever I hear somebody talking about Cunningham's career as underrated, I point to that game as perhaps the worst quarterbacked game, while surrounded by superior talent, in recent playoff history.

51
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 12:05pm

Pat: That Terrell Davis season is 15th all time in terms of standard deviations from the mean (here) . There’s no one more recent than Davis in the entire top 25. Plus in more traditional terms, it’s the 4th highest rushing season of all time.

So yah, it is impressive. It’s the most recent season where one back clearly distanced himself from everyone else in the entire league.
That article calculated standard deviations based on yardage, which undoubtedly brought TD down because Jamal Anderson managed 1800+.

That's the thing I really remember the season for. It was a tough luck year for Jamal Anderson, who rushed for what I think was at the time the 6th highest single season yardage ever, and still finished 2nd in rushing. I definitely would have felt bad for him if I wasn't such a Denver homer. ;)

Re Reinhard: Priest Holmes rushing TD record season included?
Yes, because the std. dev. was calculated based on yards, not TDs or DVOA.

Re Will Allen: Whenever I hear somebody talking about Cunningham’s career as underrated, I point to that game as perhaps the worst quarterbacked game, while surrounded by superior talent, in recent playoff history.
So? That's just one game. Everybody has a bad game every now and then.

52
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 1:44pm

Kibbles (#51 )--
That’s just one game. Everybody has a bad game every now and then.
When that bad game is a championship game, and that player never gets back, the powerful stench of failure hangs over his whole career.

It may not be fair, but we're not really a fair species.

53
by Paul Tarr (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 2:14pm

Aaron:

If my eyes aren't failing me i am surprised that there was not more requests for data on "97 year old Steve Deberg", the Falcons quarterback in 1998. He has to have been the most amazing athlete in history. I would love to know his DPAR and DVOA. We discussed "old timers" in a previous email but DeBerg had to be more impressive than Otto Graham, Sammy Baugh or anyone else we discussed.

Paul

PS: This was just a little note indicating that I think I caught a typo. For my own curiosity how old was Steve Deberg? 27?

54
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 2:21pm

Paul, Aaron is using a literary technique called "excaggeration" where the author deliberatly stretches the truth to make a joke. Steve Deberg entered the league in 1978, so I'd have to guess he was around 41-42 in 1998.

55
by C (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 2:23pm

According to http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/DebeSt00.htm

Steve Deberg was born in 1954. So he would have been 44 in 1998.

56
by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 3:01pm

#54 sounds like David Keller.

57
by Reinhard (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 3:19pm

Good one Richie.

58
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 3:49pm

yes, Kibbles, and if Cunningham had a string of outstanding big-game performances to counterbalance it, I would discount it. He doesn't. I'm not saying Cunningham was terrible; I just don't think his career is underrated.

59
by M (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 7:04pm

Brian Billick (I believe) once stated that if Brad Johnson had started against the Falcons, the Vikings would have won the game.

I would have to agree with most of the sentiments about Randall Cunningham that game. Randall Cunningham always had a way of wowing people with his arm strength or running ability, but he always seemed to choke when he got into crunch-time games (see Eagles playoff record with him starting). Combine that with the game 'management' of Dennis Green, and it is kind-of amazing the Vikings came very close to winning it.

60
by Tim L (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 10:26pm

And I recall but the Vikings offense seemed to be disproportionally made up of jump balls to Moss 40+ yards downfield. Not my idea of an NFL offense.

At the time, I had no doubts the Broncos were the best team in the league. The fact that they oblitated a 14-2 team in the Super Bowl was a foregone conclusion in my mind. I would question their DVOA ranking this year.

61
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 1:22am

Well, I thought the purpose of an NFL offense was to score points or eat the clock. The '98 Vikings were extremely proficient at the first task, and I don't think they give you fewer points when the ball is advanced down the field in 40 yard chunks. Thus, I would have to conclude that the Vikings in 1998 had an NFL offense .

Having said that, I think it likely that the Broncos offense would have been proficient enough at an offense's second task to prevent the Vikings from winnning the Super Bowl, even if they hadn't gagged away their opportunity against the Falcons.

62
by MDS (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 11:27am

A few people have questioned Denver's 1998 DVOA and said they were clearly the best team. I don't know what Aaron's numbers say, but I just wanted to point out that the Broncos kind of cruised at the end of the year, starting 13-0 but then losing the next two in games that were essentially meaningless. If DVOA disregarded their games after they clinched home field, it might list the Broncos first. Also, if DVOA included the playoffs, where the Broncos beat the two teams ahead of them, I'm sure the Broncos would be first.

63
by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 2:00pm

Maybe Aaron can give us some DVOA numbers through Week 13.

64
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 2:10pm

Re #62: I agree, in principle. I mean, conventional wisdom says that Denver wasn't really playing hard over the final month of the season... although conventional wisdom doesn't really have a great track record. It's why I'm so interested in seeing the data splits comparing DVOA over the first 12 games to DVOA over the final 4.

65
by Björn (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 3:30pm

"although conventional wisdom doesn’t really have a great track record"

gold!

66
by Sean (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 3:53pm

In fairness to Glenn Foley, he came out of the gate looking fantastic, as he threw for over 400 yards in the loss to the 49ers. But he hurt his ribs in that game and ended up playing ineffectively against Baltimore the next week. Parcells benched him for Vinny in week 3, and the Jets put up 44 points against Indy and the team was on their way (although Foley did come in and start against the Rams, if I remember correctly, before getting pulled).

Best Jets team I've seen in my lifetime. Great quarterback play, terrific receivers, great back, a typical Belicheck defense that limited points despite having no pass rushers. Their going 7-1 in that division was an incredible accomplishment considering how good Miami and Buffalo were that year. The only chink in the armor was bad interior line play, which came back and bit them against Denver, as the Jets guards just couldn't hold up and Martin ended with something like 14 yards on 9 carries (and he had another 1-2 games like that against teams with big, physical defensive lines). I know the Falcons were severely undermanned in that regular season game, but the Jets thumped them in just about every possible. I'd have been very surprised if the Jets had gotten past Denver and not gone ahead and beaten Atlanta in the Super Bowl.

67
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 4:37pm

Sean's post reminded me of something. In 1998, the AFC East sent four teams to the playoffs. The Jets, obviously, were the division champs, and the Bills, Dolphins and Pats were all wild card teams.

68
by mistamaxwell (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 5:12pm

Parker, yup, I got it on tape. I also happen to have Jets/Broncs and Broncs/Falcs from that year on tape too. Perhaps the FO's agree with me that there should be a nook or a thread on this site dedicated to people who want to trade old game tapes?

I don't really know that Randall choked, he was just very nonchalant. He was like 30 for 45 with 3 TD's (but 2 fumbles).

MDS, I agree. I thought for sure that Broncos team would be the one to go undefeated. And then the Giants?!?!?

69
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 5:23pm

Don't you need the express written consent of the NFL to distribute or rebroadcast old NFL games? I'd hate to get this site in trouble.

70
by mistamaxwell (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 5:30pm

Is that only if you make profit off of the distribution or rebroadcast? I'm a little fuzzy on the exact rules. Perhaps you're right, though. I certainly don't want anyone to get in trouble either, especially this website.

71
by Vince (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 5:47pm

The funny thing was, going into the NFC title game, I thought that if the Falcons could get to the Super Bowl they would have no problem with Denver. But I thought there was no way they were beating Minnesota. Atlanta's rush defense was stronger than its pass defense all year. I feared Randy Moss more than I feared Terrell Davis. Goes to show you what I know.

72
by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 6:11pm

I'm getting interested in the '97 ratings now, personally. I know the Broncos actually had a better pythagorean winning percentage than Green Bay, but I think Green Bay played a harder schedule. Two stats guys that year - Bud Goode and Rob Neyer predicted Green Bay to win based on stats, but said that the line should be much closer based on Denver's stats (primarily yards/pass).

73
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 7:14pm

What mildly surprised me about Denver/Green Bay ( although I thought the public underrated the Broncos chances as well) was how Denver's o-line controlled things in the second half. I though Denver might win the game, but I didn't expect them to be so physically dominant.

74
by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 7:50pm

I think I have a couple of the Buffalo Super Bowls on tape and I have the game that Miami blew at San Diego in the 1994 playoffs. I've never had the guts to re-watch that one.

For awhile I thought I'd try and record all the Super Bowls, but that plan ended up dying.

75
by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 7:52pm

Wow. Click on my name for the box score of that SD-Mia playoff game in 1994.

Miami had a 21-6 lead at halftime.

Not sure how they screwed it up. Parmalee was tackled for a safety - that hurt. But Miami had no turnovers.

26 net yards rushing was probably not helpful.

76
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 8:01pm

I think the GB/Denver superbowl line was sort of a joke. It was combined on a lot of things that really didn't have any importance. The NFC had won 13 straight SBs, Elway had lost 3 straight (and played poorly in each), GB had won the SB the year before. I think in terms of actual on the field play, the teams were a lot more closely matched than the casual fan would have known.

Don't forget, too, that while GB may have won the SB in 1996, Denver's team was pretty gosh darn good, too (good enough for HFA in the AFC).

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by Kibbles (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 8:03pm

Pardon the double post, but I also think the 1997 Green Bay Packers are the best SB losing team we've seen in a long time (2001 Rams were close, though). I'd be interested to hear what the stats have to say about it.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 10:38pm

Yeah, I still think if Martz hadn't been so in love with his status as a genius, and simply had handed the ball off to Faulk 12-15 more times, the Rams would've won. Since I am not enamored with Martz or the team he coaches, it pleased me mightily that he did not.

Well, that and the fact that I was in love with the Patriots getting that many points. One of the happier last two minutes of my football game viewing life; monetary victory in hand, and able to relax and enjoy observing the team I dislike suffer a heart-rending defeat.

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by Mike (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 4:43pm

Im confused. Was Terrell Davis great in '98 or not? Do these numbers take into account how many times he was pulled in the 4th quarter because the Broncos were killing their opponents?

"Using this same reasoning, we can see why Terrell Davis fell from 4th on the single-season rushing list to 15th on the z-score list; and why Edgerrin James fell from 21st to 66th – there were many more players closer to Davis’ 2,000 rushing yards in 1998 (and a lot more players closer to James’ 1,709 total in 2000) and as a result their respective z-scores are lower (2.62 and 1.84, respectively) than they would have been in 1977." (Ryan Wilson: A Different Look at the Best Running Backs Ever)

"More important than the quarterbacks was Terrell Davis, who dominated running backs in 1998. His 65.7 DPAR rushing was almost twice as valuable as the second-best running back of the year, Jamal Anderson, who had 34.3 DPAR. Davis also had a 23.2% DVOA, making him the only running back with at least 120 carries and a DVOA rating above 10%! (Compared to recent seasons, 1998 was a tough year to be a running back.) Combine the great passing with the great running and you get the best offense in the league – even better than the 556-point Vikings. Strength of schedule was part of this: Denver’s faced the sixth-hardest schedule of opposing defenses in the league, while the Vikings ranked 21st in average defensive opponent. Remove opponent adjustments and the two offenses are tied at 29.1% VOA." (Aaron Schatz: 1998 DVOA Ratings)

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by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 7:05pm

Mike, the confusion arises from the source of the stats. Ryan Wilson's article looked entirely at rushing yardage. Terrell Davis is really hurt by this, because the #2 rusher that season wound up turning in something like the 8th best rushing season of all time, so T.D. only beat his yardage totals by less than 200. T.D. is also hurt because he ran in an era where every team had "featured backs" getting the majority of the carries, while some of the other runners (i.e. Jim Brown) ran in an era where he was one of the few guys getting the majority of the carries, which really jumps his z-score up.

Aaron's stats don't just look at yardage, but who that yardage came against and in what situation, and Terrell Davis got more yards in tougher running situations, and more yards in easier running situations, than anyone else in the league, by a very very significant margin. I suspect if you look at the standard deviation of DVOA and DPAR instead of just yards, Terrell's season will jump a lot higher up that list.

So in answer to your question... yes, Terrell Davis was great in 1998. He was great according to conventional stats (4th highest yardage total ever), great according to slightly non-conventional stats (15th highest z-score ever), and absolutely phenominal according to very unconventional stats (I'd be willing to bet that's the biggest DVOA and DPAR gap of the past decade, at the very least). None of these stats take into account the times he was pulled from the game in the 4th quarter, so we can only speculate how much better his numbers could have been.

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by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 07/30/2005 - 10:52am

About the 2001 Rams... I had absolutely no doubt that the Patriots were going to win. Need proof? I took them straight up, ignoring the generous 17 point line.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Sat, 07/30/2005 - 2:33pm

I didn't quite have your courage, Bjorn. I had 75% of my wager with the points, and 25% on the money line; hey, the game was still decided on the last play, so it wasn't a forgone conclusion the Rams would lose. Did Martz's coaching weigh heavily in your thought process? I think coaching played a bigger role in that Super Bowl than any in recent memory.

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by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 07/30/2005 - 5:19pm

There was really no logical reason for me to forsake the point spread. I just watched them overcome favourite after favourite, and I saw the "Angels in the Endzone," I guess.

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by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:47pm

None of these stats take into account the times he was pulled from the game in the 4th quarter, so we can only speculate how much better his numbers could have been.

Or how much worse. Using Davis in clock-killing mode at 2 or 3 yards per carry may have hurt his ratings.

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by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 3:50pm

I think coaching played a bigger role in that Super Bowl than any in recent memory.

And of course Madden criticizing Belicheck for trying to win instead of settling for OT was one of my favorite Super Bowl moments.

I have nothing against Madden, I just hate the strategy of settling for OT when there's plenty of time left to make something happen. I also hate conservative coaching.

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by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 08/01/2005 - 10:42pm

Or how much worse. Using Davis in clock-killing mode at 2 or 3 yards per carry may have hurt his ratings.

DVOA takes into account down, distance, location, and situation. If he's only averaging 3 yards per carry killing clock, and the league average is 2.5 yards per carry while killing clock, he still has positive DVOA.

It might have hurt is traditional per-carry stats, but theoretically shouldn't have touched his DVOA unless he got injured or worn down.

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by Björn (not verified) :: Wed, 08/03/2005 - 9:54pm

"And of course Madden criticizing Belicheck for trying to win instead of settling for OT was one of my favorite Super Bowl moments."

Mine too. But he was very gracious about it when he was wrong. It is always nice to see a colour man actually offer an opinion and stick with it when he is wrong.