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Denver: great team, or the greatest team? Would you be satisfied with "one of the ten greatest teams?" Plus: hard times in the NFC South, where defense goes to die.

06 Mar 2008

1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

With Brett Favre retiring this week, it seems like the right time to go back to the year he won his first MVP award -- a year that was added to the Football Outsiders play-by-play database only in recent weeks. Welcome to the wonderful world of 1995.

One of the fun games we can play with these old years of play-by-play is "What if Football Outsiders had existed back then?" The Giants' historic upset of the Patriots in this year's Super Bowl has forced us to constantly explain the difference between probability and certainty, but that's nothing compared to the kind of knots we would have tied ourselves into during 1995. This was right in the middle of the great Cowboys-49ers rivalry of the 90's, so it is no surprise that the Cowboys and 49ers were the top two teams in DVOA. The surprise is which team ranked first.

The dominant team of the 1995 season, according to DVOA, was defending champion San Francisco. The 49ers finished the season with a DVOA rating of 41.0%, which is the third-highest regular-season DVOA ever recorded, just ahead of the 1996 Packers but behind the 2007 Patriots and 1999 Rams. The 49ers were more than 10% DVOA higher than second-place Dallas, yet they only finished 11-5. The only other team to finish worse than 12-4 despite a DVOA rating over 30% was the 2002 Oakland Raiders (11-5, 30.9%). Six of their wins came by at least three touchdowns, and that doesn't count their 38-20 ass-whupping of the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in Week 11. Their five losses, meanwhile, came by 1, 1, 3, 4, and 6 points.

Had Football Outsiders existed back in 1995, we probably would have written numerous articles come playoff time, talking about how the 49ers might be the best 11-5 team of all time, with a great shot to upset the Cowboys and return to the Super Bowl. It seemed pretty clear we would at least get a 49ers-Cowboys rematch in the NFC Championship game, since only three teams had a DVOA over 20%, and the third one was AFC top seed Kansas City.

In the Divisional round, the 49ers faced the Packers, the team they had beaten out by tiebreaker to earn a first-round bye. Green Bay's young MVP quarterback had led his team to an 11-5 record in one of the hardest divisions in NFL history -- spots six through nine in the DVOA ratings were taken up by NFC Central teams, and even Tampa Bay managed to win seven games -- but DVOA said the 49ers were the far superior team. So, of course, the Packers came into San Francisco and won the game 27-17.

This wasn't even the biggest upset of the weekend. According to DVOA, seven of the top nine teams in the NFL that year were NFC teams. Kansas City and Pittsburgh were more dominant in the AFC than San Francisco and Dallas were in the NFC. The day after Green Bay beat San Francisco, the Chiefs hosted wild card Indianapolis. The Colts finished 24th in DVOA but managed to finish 9-7 thanks to the second-easiest schedule in football and five wins by a field goal or less. They somehow upset defending AFC champion San Diego in the first round of the playoffs, even though Marshall Faulk was injured on the first play from scrimmage. The Colts had a bad defense, terrible special teams, and their best player was done for the season. Kansas City ranked first in special teams and second in defense, with an above-average offense. A simple pick, right? Wrong. Chiefs kicker Lin Elliott missed three field goals and Indianapolis upset Kansas City 10-7, the game that more than any other may have cemented Marty Schottenheimer's reputation for postseason failure.

In the conference championship games, statistical dominance re-asserted itself, and the Super Bowl ended up pitting the NFC's second-best team according to DVOA against the AFC's second-best team according to DVOA.

Here are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1995, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league averaged based on situation and opponent 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 TEAMS 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
NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 SF 41.0% 36.5% 38.4% 1 11-5 18.3% 4 -24.7% 1 -2.0% 23
2 DAL 30.7% 27.7% 27.1% 3 12-4 28.6% 1 1.4% 13 3.6% 5
3 KC 27.2% 29.0% 34.8% 2 13-3 2.7% 12 -17.7% 2 6.9% 1
4 PIT 18.1% 19.9% 21.3% 5 11-5 1.2% 15 -13.2% 4 3.6% 4
5 ATL 16.9% 18.6% 23.7% 4 9-7 19.2% 3 6.7% 19 4.5% 3
6 MIN 15.8% 10.6% 13.2% 8 8-8 5.2% 10 -11.0% 6 -0.4% 16
7 DET 15.7% 14.4% 19.0% 6 10-6 20.8% 2 1.9% 14 -3.2% 27
8 GB 10.5% 8.5% 14.5% 7 11-5 17.5% 6 6.1% 18 -0.8% 18
9 CHI 6.4% 5.3% 4.3% 12 9-7 17.7% 5 7.8% 23 -3.4% 28
10 DEN 6.2% 7.6% 6.9% 9 8-8 17.0% 7 13.3% 28 2.5% 8
11 OAK 5.9% 7.7% -6.6% 18 8-8 -2.3% 17 -8.2% 9 0.0% 13
12 SD 2.2% 0.5% 2.8% 13 9-7 3.9% 11 2.4% 15 0.7% 11
13 NO 1.5% -2.2% 5.3% 10 7-9 9.2% 8 7.0% 20 -0.8% 19
14 MIA -0.8% 2.3% -7.6% 21 9-7 6.3% 9 7.7% 22 0.6% 12
15 BUF -1.8% -0.4% -4.2% 15 10-6 -6.3% 21 -5.1% 10 -0.6% 17
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
16 HOU -2.9% 0.7% 5.2% 11 7-9 -10.7% 25 -8.8% 7 -1.0% 20
17 PHI -5.8% -2.2% -1.1% 14 10-6 -12.6% 26 -13.4% 3 -6.7% 30
18 WAS -7.5% -6.8% -6.8% 20 6-10 -3.3% 18 7.6% 21 3.5% 6
19 NYG -7.8% -13.5% -6.1% 17 5-11 -6.0% 20 2.7% 16 0.9% 10
20 STL -8.0% -10.5% -17.3% 25 7-9 -8.0% 24 -3.1% 11 -3.1% 26
21 CLE -9.1% -8.9% -18.8% 27 5-11 -3.6% 19 10.5% 25 4.9% 2
22 CAR -9.7% -12.3% -5.0% 16 7-9 -23.8% 29 -11.5% 5 2.6% 7
23 CIN -10.5% -9.2% -14.5% 23 7-9 2.0% 13 14.5% 29 1.9% 9
24 IND -10.9% -6.1% -6.6% 19 9-7 2.0% 14 9.1% 24 -3.7% 29
25 SEA -12.1% -8.8% -8.8% 22 8-8 -0.4% 16 10.6% 26 -1.2% 21
26 TB -17.4% -18.2% -18.3% 26 7-9 -12.6% 27 4.6% 17 -0.2% 15
27 NE -19.5% -21.2% -16.5% 24 6-10 -8.0% 23 11.5% 27 -0.1% 14
28 NYJ -23.1% -16.1% -22.5% 30 3-13 -30.0% 30 -8.7% 8 -1.8% 22
29 ARI -23.1% -26.6% -19.9% 29 4-12 -22.1% 28 -2.0% 12 -3.0% 25
30 JAC -24.3% -22.8% -19.3% 28 4-12 -6.7% 22 14.9% 30 -2.7% 24

As noted earlier, the 1995 NFC Central was one of the strongest divisions in NFL history. On the other hand, the AFC East somehow sent three teams to the playoffs despite being the worst division in football. Every single team in the AFC East finished the season with a DVOA rating below 0%. Buffalo, Miami, and Indianapolis got fat with close wins over expansion Jacksonville  and the mediocre teams of the NFC West. The Jets somehow finished 3-13 despite having the easiest schedule in the NFL according to average DVOA of all 16 opponents. They played only three teams with DVOA ratings above 0% and only one (Atlanta) with a DVOA rating above 6%. The only team in the division with an above-average schedule was New England, which had to go on the road to play (and lose to) four of the top five teams in DVOA. (The only team they didn't play was Dallas.)

Speaking of New England, or at least of head coaches (and quarterbacks) who would eventually end up there...


1995 Cleveland Browns
Before and After Move to Baltimore Announced on November 6
Weeks W-L TOT Rk OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk
Weeks 1-10 4-5 -0.3% 14 1.3% 13 8.2% 23 6.6% 2
Weeks 11-17 1-6 -20.5% 26 -10.6% 23 13.5% 24 3.5% 10

On the other hand, these guys had already changed cities, so what's their excuse?


1995 St. Louis Rams Collapse-o-mundo
Weeks W-L TOT Rk OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk
Weeks 1-7 5-1 17.5% 5 2.6% 15 -17.9% 5 -2.9% 23
Weeks 8-17 2-8 -22.5% 27 -13.7% 26 5.4% 19 -3.5% 25

From what we can tell, the only reason for this flop is that the Rams' 44-10 loss to San Francisco at home in Week 8 sunk them into a deep psychological depression. What, the Rams front office couldn't afford a sports psychologist? If anyone has another explanation, we would love to hear it.

It was a shock when both Jacksonville and Carolina made it to the 1996 conference championships in just their second year of existence, but it was clear in 1995 that both teams were strongly trending upwards at the end of the season. Carolina is easily the best of the four expansion teams measured by DVOA, making it all the way up to 16th in WEIGHTED DVOA. The 1996 Panthers also took advantage of the third-down rebound trend, although nowhere near as much as another team that made a big leap forward in 1996:


  1st Down Rk 2nd Down Rk 3rd Down Rk 1995 Rk 1996 Rk
1995 Carolina Panthers defense -16.0% 4 -14.3% 7 0.3% 10 -11.5% 5 -15.6% 6
1995 Denver Broncos defense 10.5% 29 5.0% 19 30.9% 28 13.3% 28 -19.9% 2

Some of that 1996 Broncos improvement is third-down defense moving in line with overall defense, but that only explains how they went from bad to average, not how they went from average to excellent.

When we move onto individual stats, what stands out from 1995 are the wide receivers having career years. Four of the top 11 single-season performances in receiving yards came in 1995, including the top two: Jerry Rice with 1,848 yards and Isaac Bruce with 1,781 yards. Rice was second in DPAR and Bruce was third. The wide receiver who led the league in DPAR -- and now holds the all-time record for wide receiver DPAR in a single season -- was Michael Irvin. The difference between Irvin and Rice is small, and it primarily comes down to fumbles (Irvin had one, Rice three) and schedule strength.


Top Single-Season WR DPAR, 1995-2007

Player Team Year Catches Yards TD Catch % DPAR
Michael Irvin DAL 1995 111 1,603 10 67% 52.2
Torry Holt STL 2003 117 1,694 12 64% 51.8
Marvin Harrison IND 2001 109 1,524 17 66% 51.4
Randy Moss NE 2007 98 1,482 23 61% 51.3
Isaac Bruce STL 2000 87 1,471 11 64% 49.7
Randy Moss MIN 2003 112 1,632 17 65% 49.5
Marvin Harrison IND 2002 143 1,722 11 70% 48.4
Jerry Rice SF 1995 122 1,848 15 70% 47.9
Randy Moss MIN 2000 77 1,437 15 60% 47.8
Jimmy Smith JAC 1999 116 1,636 6 66% 47.1
Isaac Bruce STL 1995 119 1,781 13 60% 46.8
Steve Smith CAR 2005 103 1,563 12 69% 46.7

Irvin's record comes with a bit of an asterisk, from a Football Outsiders point of view: I'm in the middle of a big overhaul of the baselines and presentation for individual stats, so the best seasons now may not be the best seasons a few months from now. There's bound to be some shuffling atop the leaderboards. (Also, I've done some fixes on 2003, so those numbers are different from the ones on the 2003 stats page currently posted on the website.)

The fourth receiver whose 1995 season stands among the all-time best in receiving yardage was Herman Moore of Detroit, who finishes fourth with 39.1 DPAR. Moore was the target on 206 passes, the second-highest total in our records behind Rob Moore with the 1997 Cardinals (209).

A lot of people have talked in recent days about how Brett Favre never played with a top-flight receiver, but that doesn't mean he didn't have weapons. The top tight end in 1995 was Mark Chmura (27.8 DPAR) while Edgar Bennett (19.5 DPAR) and Dorsey Levens (17.8 DPAR) finished fifth and sixth among running backs in receiving value. This also may be the year Favre had his best wide receiver: Robert Brooks, who was sixth among wideouts with 32.9 DPAR.

Favre led all quarterbacks in passing DPAR during his MVP season, but just barely. Can you guess who was number two? Hint: He's considered one of the greatest free agent busts in NFL history.

That's right, the answer is Scott Mitchell. Mitchell was horrible in 1994, his first year in Detroit, and he was mediocre in 1996 and 1997. However, for one season, the huge contract was actually worth it, as Mitchell threw for over 4,300 yards and 32 touchdowns with only 12 interceptions. After Favre, Mitchell, and Troy Aikman, in fourth place, is another longtime backup quarterback who had one spectacular year as a starter: Erik Kramer of Chicago. Jeff George finishes fifth, and Jim Everett finishes sixth. Except for Aikman, the guys ranked second through sixth sure don't look as impressive historically as the guys ranked seventh through tenth: John Elway, Steve Young, Warren Moon, and Dan Marino.

Other notes on individual stats:

  • 1995 was Kordell Stewart's rookie year and he was far, far better as "Slash" in 1995 than he was in 1996. Maybe the novelty just wore off.


    Year Passes
    as QB
    DVOA Passes
    as WR
    DVOA Runs DVOA
    1995 8 74.3% 20 28.0% 15 2.9%
    1996 21 -100.7% 42 -25.1% 38 -4.1%

  • One individual stats leader who won't drop out of first place, no matter how many changes I make in this off-season's overhaul of individual stats: Emmitt Smith. Emmitt destroyed the rest of the league's running backs in 1995. He gained 1,760 yards (260 more than anyone else) and set a new single-season record with 25 rushing touchdowns. Emmitt finished first in DPAR (52.4), almost 20 points ahead of second-place Barry Sanders (33.3 DPAR). He was second in DVOA (18.4%) and fourth in Success Rate (53%). The only player with at least 75 runs and a higher DVOA was Charlie Garner ofthe Eagles, who had only 108 carries.
  • Rookie sixth-round pick Terrell Davis finished seventh with 25.5 rushing DPAR and sixth with 10.1% DVOA.
  • Last place in Success Rate for running backs with at least 75 carries: Jerome Bettis of the St. Louis Rams at 39%. Bettis finished the year with 183 carries for 637 yards and -6.1 DPAR, which was 43rd out of 45 running backs with at least 75 carries. Right behind Bettis was...
  • Larry Centers. Centers had 31.5 receiving DPAR, the highest single-season receiving DPAR for a running back not named "Marshall Faulk." However, Centers was worth -8.1 DPAR rushing, which put him second-to-last among running backs with at least 75 carries. In last place was...
  • Garrison Hearst, his teammate, who ended the year with -23.1 rushing DPAR, the third-lowest total ever (behind Eddie George and Lamar Smith, both in 2001). He had 282 carries for 1,067 yards (3.8 yards per carry) while scoring just one touchdown and fumbling a mind-numbing ten times against one of the league's easiest schedules. Man, that 1995 Cardinals offensive line must have been horrendous.
  • When you go through the play-by-play like this, you see some names connected to teams that just make no sense. The big winner for 1995 is Art Monk with the Philadelphia Eagles (12 passes, six catches for 114 yards, 1.6 DPAR and 2.1% DVOA).
  • Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 1995 line for Tommy Maddox with the New York Giants: 23 passes, six completions, 42 net yards, four turnovers, -13.6 DPAR, -174.0% DVOA.

As most of you know, adding 1995 to our play-by-play data was a very difficult process. 1995 was the last year before the NFL placed play-by-play on the Internet, so we had to collect all the gamebooks and enter them into the computer by hand. Luckily, a number of teams were helpful in providing gamebooks, and FO reader Alex Rubin collected the rest on a trip to the research library at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

We have to thank all the readers who participated in the 1995 transcription project by doing at least three games. The biggest contributors were Sergio Becerril Lopez and Jason Strutz (who actually found an OCR program that could handle the clearest of the gamebooks) but we also have to thank Jeremy Billones, Stan Buck, Moishe Dachs, Wesley Darin, Stephen Fontanella, Tom Gower, Christian Herro, Brian Knowles, Mike Kurtz, Joe Putnam, Mike Silverstein, Mark Van Driel, and Darren Zanon.

Next step: 1994. I've already begun e-mailing teams to collect the gamebooks.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 06 Mar 2008

132 comments, Last at 27 Mar 2008, 12:58pm by Josh

Comments

1
by Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabbadu (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:04pm

Wow.

Awesome work.

2
by goathead (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:09pm

The most impressive thing about this is that you ranked the 1995 Giants higher than this years team. I can't believe how biased you are.

For the humor impaired, thats a joke.

3
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:19pm

Aaron,
Thanks for getting this up, and well sooner than expected. Plus, I don't even have to ask for the Barry Sanders/Terrell Davis comp, since you already included it.

Let me say also I'm very surprised Jerry Rice doesn't have the most DPAR of the DVOA era, or even the most DPAR that year, especially with the very good completion percentage.

4
by Jon (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:19pm

I simply cannot fathom that Giants team being #19. The end of the Reeves era was extremely painful. Now (re: Maddox) you know why NY fans have fond memories of Kerry Collins.

5
by Matt (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:28pm

Irrational Harbaugh/Eli Discussion, post-haste!

6
by DP (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:34pm

49er fan here - I remember 1995 much more clearly than most of the seasons since then (you can understand why). Some thoughts:

- the 38-20 victory at Dallas is one the great 49er regular season victories ever. Steve Young was hurt, so Elvis Grbac started (even he was questionable going in to the game)and had the game of his life. Dallas was favored; nobody outside SF thought the 9ers had a chance, but they absolutely crushed the Cowboys in what was at that time the most-watched regular season NFL game ever (I seem to recall). So sweet!

- I attended the game where Jerry Rice became the all-time receiving yardage leader (a loss to the lowly Saints, a week or two before the Dallas game). This is remarkable, and should be carefully considered by FO readers: In 1995, Jerry Rice not only set the career receiving yards record, but he also set the the single-season receiving yardage record (I believe). Unbelievable - can you imagine, for example, a running back breaking both the single season and career records for rushing yards in the same season, or a QB breaking the career and single season records for passing yards or TDs in the same year? To be the all-time greatest and still be in your prime? I still don't think that people fully grasp the greatness of Jerry Rice.

- By the way, on a more humbling note, the 9rs also were the only defending SB champs to lose to an expansion team, the Carolina Panthers, at Candlestick!

- Finally, I remember not being that shocked by the upset playoff loss the Packers. There was a sense that Mike Holmgren, coming back home to SF to compete against the team where he had recently been offensive coordinator, would have the perfect game plan - and he did. The Pack went up 21-0 early, made it look easy, and didn't look back. It was the beginning of Favre's domination of SF, which has finally, mercifully come to an end!

7
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:38pm

Per the DVOA rankings above, the '95 Bears had the #5 Offense, #23 Defense and #28 Special Teams. In other words, a top notch offense, undermined by weak defense and special teams.

A Bizzaro version the '07 Bears if ever I saw one.

8
by cabbage (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:39pm

Chicago? Offense? whoaaaaaa

9
by wayne chrebet (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:41pm

Boy Marvin harrison is good..

more catches, better catch percentage, for more yards, & more touchdowns, but yet lower dvoa than irvin...?

10
by Jake_Plummers_Beard (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:42pm

#2.

I know, I can't belive there's no comment about how horrible Eli looked as QB of his youth team that year.

11
by RickD (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:44pm

Let's just say that DPAR is not always intuitive. Compare the 1995 numbers for Rice and Irvin. Rice was better than Irvin in every single category you list, and yet Irvin is the one with a higher DPAR.

Who would most fans say had the better season?

12
by andrew (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:52pm

yeah I remember the NFC Central being brutal. That year Warren Moon had maybe his best year as a Viking, Cris Carter caught 122 passes (for the second year in a row) and they didn't even show up in the top performances of the year here...

13
by Vendark (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:54pm

Rice had a higher YPC, too.

Irvin must have been insane on third down that year.

14
by Ben (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 5:55pm

"In the conference championship games, statistical dominance re-asserted itself"

Barely in the AFC's case. The game came down to what was possibly the most exciting hail mary pass of the 90's.

15
by admin :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:08pm

Re: Comment 7. If you think that's strange, check out the 1996 Baltimore Ravens (click link on my name).

Re: Rice/Irvin. I would not be surprised to see Rice move ahead of Irvin after I finish the overhaul of individual stats.

16
by Dylan (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:23pm

Have to ask ... was there a reason for the spike in receiving seasons this year? Something akin to the "illegal contact" point of emphasis?

I honestly have no idea. I was 14 at this time and obviously had no idea of the intracacies of the game.

17
by solarjetman (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:29pm

It's not immediately obvious looking at http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/clt/1995.htm why Indianapolis should have been 24th in DVOA. Their wins were close, but so were their losses; by 3 to Cincy, New Orleans, Carolina and San Diego, and by 6 to Buffalo twice. The seventh loss was to Oakland, by 13; by contrast they won 3 games by 10 or more.

Is there anything else going on in their data (i.e. fumble recoveries) that depresses their rating, or is it just the easy schedule?

18
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:34pm

#16: I have always held to the theory -- and I have done no data or research to back this up -- that it was due to expansion. Every team's secondary was suddenly watered down, and the elite receivers feasted. By 1996 it looks like defenses adjusted somehow.

19
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:49pm

Re #17
Easy schedule looks like part of it-#24 in DVOA, #18 in VOA. Also, note the Colts were outgained on the year. They also appear to have benefited from very poor FG kicking by their opponents-the NFL as a whole hit 77.4% of FGAs, and Colts opponents only hit 65.8% despite playing half the games in a dome. When you win 5 games by 1-3 points, an extra 5 missed FGs matters.

20
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:53pm

RE: 15

Touché, Aaron.

21
by Carlos (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:54pm

Very cool!

1995 was Kordell Stewart’s rookie year and he was far, far better as "Slash" in 1995 than he was in 1996. Maybe the novelty just wore off.

Or maybe it was just the sample size getting larger!

22
by Felden (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 6:57pm

BrYan Knowles here. I did most of the transcribing of that '95 Niners team.

I can only imagine the DVOA if Young had stayed healthy the entire time. Grbac played well, yes, but even when typing in the play-by-plays, I got the feeling of eminent disaster--it was when Young was in that the offense really rolled.

Oh, and will the individual stats go up once the tinkering has been..uh...tinkered?

23
by Carlos (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:00pm

(who actually found an OCR program that could handle the clearest of the gamebooks)

FO could take a page from science publications and spend a bit more time talking about research methodology and potential errors. Obviously, manual data entry creates millions of opportunities for input errors. And I've worked with OCR in the consumer finance context (where getting the data right is critical), and found all OCR programs quite severely lacking.

Anyway, I'd be curious to read a short discussion from FO sometime about how you manage these issues.

Great job.

24
by calig23 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:04pm

Re:#6

As a Steelers fan, I have to agree that the 1995 season was very memorable.

The season began with Barry Sanders juking Rod Woodson's ACL into pieces. A few weeks later, in the midst of a beatdown by the Vikings, an enraged Bill Cowher jammed a Polaroid picture into the pocket of the referee after the Steelers had gotten flagged for too many men on the field during a field goal attempt.

Shortly after that, the Steelers were stunned in successive games by the expansion Jaguars and the Bengals, the latter game being a blowout. At that point, the Steelers were 3-4, and the playoffs seemed rather distant.

They managed to get revenge on Jacksonville, and then survived a wild, overtime shootout with the Bears. After getting back over .500, they headed into Cincinnati at 6-4. Having already gotten stomped once by the Bengals, it didn't look good when they trailed 31-13 early in the second half, but they wound up ripping off 36 unanswered points to win 49-31.

They kept right on winning after that, including a Saturday game with the Patriots in the second to last game of the year. They lead that game comfortable at 24-12, until the fourth quarter, when the Patriots came storming back to tie the game at 27-27. The Steelers rallied, however, and pulled out a 41-27 victory.

They came into the last game of the year in a tricky spot. One, they were at Lambeau Field in December against a good Packers team - certainly a difficult situation. Second, with a win and a Kansas City loss, I believe they could have captured the number one seed, but both games were late games, so they wouldn't know ahead of time. Thirdly, the good Packers team at home was playing for the Central Division title(a Green Bay loss and a Detroit Lions win would have given Detroit the division, while a Detroit loss would have rendered the game meaningless for Green Bay). Detroit played an early game and stomped Tampa Bay. That meant that Green Bay had to win to win the division.

The Packers led closely, 14-10 at the half. After 3 quarters, it was 21-13. Trailing 24-13 in the fourth quarter, the Steelers scored but missed a 2 point conversion that would have made it a 3 point game. In the waning seconds of the game, trailing 24-19, the Steelers drove deep into Packers territory. But on a 4th down play, Yancy Thigpen dropped a touchdown that would have almost certainly won the game. Packers win. Ultimately, it didn't matter, as Kansas City had won their game to clinch the 1 seed. But it was frustrating to watch the Steelers come up short. As well, it stopped their winning streak at 8 games.

Then, of course, there was the playoffs. In the divisionals, the Steelers raced out to a big lead over Buffalo, and then hung on for the victory.

And then the AFC championship game. After the heartbreak of the previous year, few can imagine the thoughts racing through the heads of Steelers' fans as this game progressed. Through three quarters, the Steelers clung to a tiny lead. And then, just like the year before, the lead vanished on a long touchdown pass to some no-name receiver. In 1994, it was Alfred Pupunu and Tony Martin. In this game, it was Floyd Turner.

It was deja vu all over again.

The Steelers did nothing with the ball and the Colts got it back. Facing a third and one, Willie Williams basically saved the season for the Steelers, completing blowing up a running play to force the Colts to punt. With new life, the Steelers drove down for the go-ahead score.

Naturally, the Colts drove the ball into Steelers territory to set up that Hail Mary, a play in which every Steelers' fan's heart stopped. After the punch to the gut of 1994, the blown lead in this game, the rally to retake the lead, that will be one play that will never be forgotten among Steelers' fans.

And then finally, the Super Bowl. The let down of quickly falling behind to Dallas. The faint hope as they crept back into the game at 13-7. And then the first interception(and ensuing TD).

But then they cut the deficit to 20-10.

And then the onside kick. For everyone who called Bill Cowher conservative, I'll just point this play and say nothing.

And then another touchdown, making it 20-17. The Steelers had momentum! They forced Dallas to punt! They had the ball back down only by a field goal. They were going to win this game!

And then came the second interception(and ensuing touchdown).

And that was that.

25
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:18pm

Re #23
1996-2007 data was all electronically available without any need for scanning. 1995 is the first year that's been an issue.

I know for the dozen or so games I did I was hyper-vigilant about checking for errors. That said, I'm sure I made some. One thing is that any anomalous results would probably stand out when the game was parsed-I'd imagine it wouldn't be hard to automatically compare the number of yards a play was supposed to be from the PBP description and the delta-yards total.

26
by Catfish (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:19pm

Re: 7

What's even weirder is the composition of that 5th ranked offense. The rushing offense was slightly below average (DVOA of -3.8%, ranked 16th) but the passing DVOA was 2nd and 39.0%! To put that in perspective, the 01 Rams managed a passing DVOA of 33.4% with Warner, Faulk, Bruce, Holt, et al. The Bears beat that with Erik Kramer, Rashaan Salaam, Jeff Graham, and Curtis Conway. The mind boggles.

27
by 49er billy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:23pm

And finally we begin the years where the 49ers dominate. Too bad I have to live in the past.

28
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:29pm

It didn't suprise me at all that the niners were rated as the best team by dvoa despite not winning the superbowl. In this period the niners, cowboys and packers were playing their own private version of rock, paper, scissors. The niners could slow down Emmitt Smith enough to beat the cowboys (largely due to a great DT combo of BY and Stubblefield); the cowboys wre a better all-round team than the Pack and the niners didn't have the corners to stop Favre (and blitzing him did bugger all). Steve Young's injury meant that the niners didn't do as well as they should have in the regular season and so had to play the pack, who they didn't match up well with. C'est la vie en le NFL.

Warning: The following spiel is not strictly relevant
I watched the 94 superbowl the other week in anticipation of arguments about the Pats being the greatest team ever (assuming they had gone unbeaten) and that niners' team was truly incredible. The offense was the best unit I've ever watched after the 89-90 niners and the defense had an amazing secondary (3 pro-bowlers and Eric Davis, who went all-pro the following year (I think)) and a great pair of DTs, so you couldn't throw and it was hard to run. Some of Shanahan's playcalling was pure genius. The niners would huddle up with their base offensive personnel and then line up with Rice and Taylor in the slot with Brent Jones and Ricky Watters outside. How on earth do you cover that? The TD pass from Young to Watters might just be the cleverest offensive play I've ever seen. From a pro set, Young fakes a pitch to Watters on the right, then fakes a handoff to Floyd on a dive inside then pulls up and fires deep over the middle to Watters. It shouldn't have been a TD, the tackling was terrible but it should be a very easy 15-20 yard pick-up. The linebacker in coverage on Watters has to initially play the pitch to Watters then, once he spots that that is a fake he needs to play the FB dive. This requires that he looks away from Watters and moves inside to stop Floyd. Finally he must recognise the playaction and try to find Watters (who is now more than 10 yards downfield). Even if the LB could keep up with Watters, he stands very little chance on this play. What actually happened is that the poor linebacker simply fell over.

29
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:33pm

Re: 26

Ha! Now I'm trying to remember more about that team. Weren't the TEs Chris Gannon and Ryan Wetnight? (What a name.) Was Tom Waddle still hanging around? Kozlowski?

Now I gotta go to Pro Football Reference.

30
by Theo (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:33pm

Cool.
.
I'm watching al the old Super Bowls now (I had never seen a game from before 1999).
It's fun to read about older seasons.

31
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:40pm

Re: 28

Ah, Gedney, not Gannon. Waddle and Koz were gone by then.

DT Jim Flanigan caught 2 TD passes! He was the goal line FB. He also had 11 sacks!

32
by Hizmi (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:45pm

re 24

That's a great recap....i was too young to remember the regular season but i remember the playoff games (and the rod woodson play...he was my favorite player).....and even though the steelers lost, I love watching the NFL Films recap of Super Bowl XXX.

33
by coltrane23 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:52pm

Re: #16 and #18

I seem to recall that there was a rules change or re-emphasis around '94 or '95 regarding the "5 yard chuck" rule. Wikipedia isn't backing me up on this, but I swear I remember something along those lines.

34
by David Brude (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 7:59pm

As a die-hard niner fan I actually thought the 95 version of the Niners was actually better than the 94 version but it just didn't turn out that way on in the win loss-column. Part of the issue was Young being injured at least in the regular season.

GB just seemed to have our number sometimes via fluke events. I really can't remember the ebb and flow of that game.

35
by W. Jason Strutz (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:00pm

Re 23: As the guy who did the OCR-ing (it was actually my wife who pointed me to the program), I'm uniquely situated to address the typo issues.

The program I used was Adobe Acrobat version 7 (the full blown program, not the reader) for Windows XP. I experimented with some Linux based OCR, and never got any viable results, so scrapped that.

I only got usable data from the really clear transcripts. The font made a huge difference. The mimeograph ones always scanned as just an image, no matter how I set the OCR parameters. Aaron tried rescanning them with different settings on the hardware scanner, but nothing made a difference.

The process went like so.
First, scan the PDF using the OCR in Acrobat.
Select the text and copy it to a word processor.
Tab stop some of the data to make it more readable (down and distance, whether it was a first down), and to eliminate line breaks (make sure all plays were on a single line only).
Proofread once; this was easy to do with spell check, I'd find an error, correct it, and in the case of names, tell the word processor to ignore identical spellings.
Copy the results into a spreadsheet.
Make sure tab stops converted to correct columns.
Proofread again, with special emphasis on down / distance.
Compare the spreadsheet with the original PDF line by line to make sure no plays got omitted.

Proofing actually wasn't that difficult, because the OCR would typically make mistakes that were easy to spot, substituting numbers for letters and vice versa. It really liked to turn "m" into just about anything else, though.

Overall, the process took about an hour for each game. I imagine Aaron used additional tests to avoid typos. One pretty easy test, once the spreadsheet was all set up, would be to check if the current down / distance accurately reflects the previous down / distance plus the yardage from the previous play. Since yards and names are the only really important factors (and TDs and turnovers are hard to miss in the PBP), you could combine that check with a quick look at how many plays each individual player made (examining the ones with very few plays, which might be typos) to get a pretty good confidence level in the data.

36
by Felden (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:01pm

Re: #23

I checked all my stats--I kept a running total of yards and things of that nature, and if the final total differed from the official play-by-play, I went back and fixed it.

I'm sure in the 30-odd games that I did, I made a mistake or two, but every effort was made to ensure accuracy.

37
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:09pm

It was the performance of the Bears offense in 1995 that got Turner his job back three years ago. Personally I think it was down to the Bears (for once) having bothered to aquire a quality supporting cast for their quarterback. Graham and Conway may not have been perfect, but they were the best WRs the Bears have had in years (maybe ever, my personal Bear memory can't think of a better pair, and boy is that depressing). When they both left in free agency I was gutted, and then we gave a big contract to Michael Timpson, who was utter rubbish.

Wetnight may have had a stupid name but he was one of the first tweener TE/WRs he only came on for passing downs when he was too big for a safety and too quick for a linebacker. Just thinking about it makes my head swim, a Bears offense that was ahead of its time!!!

Wannstedt should tarred and feathered for the things he did to the Bears roster.

38
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:15pm

Having read the comments made by some of the people who have been beavering away putting this data together, I have to say I am amazed and grateful that they made the effort.

Cheers.

39
by Jerry (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:15pm

Re #21:

1995 was Kordell Stewart’s rookie year and he was far, far better as “Slash” in 1995 than he was in 1996. Maybe the novelty just wore off.

Or maybe it was just the sample size getting larger!

Or maybe it's the difference between Mike Tomczak and Neil O'Donnell.

40
by DP (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:25pm

Re # 33:
I don't remember the '95 9ers being better than the '94 SB champs. They lost both Rickey Watters (to Philly) and Deion Sanders (to Dallas), and the drop-off in their running game and pass coverage was felt throughout the season, never more so than in the playoff loss to GB.

41
by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:43pm

32 - I remember something similar. One thing that did have an effect was the moving of kickoffs prior to 1994. That was expected to increase scoring, but I don't know why it would have increased passing offense specifically.

Those of us that played fantasy in 1992 and 1993 remember some of those low scoring games however. Favre was 5th in the league in '93 with 19 passing TDs.

42
by 49er billy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:44pm

Re: 33

Coming into the game I just remember being really over confident that Green Bay was still a few years away, and still not in the niner/cowboy class. Then the niners fumble in one of their first possessions which a green bay defensive back picks up and runs back. I knew then we were in trouble. I dont remember my remote control working right after that game.

I think the loss or Rickey Watters killed the niners that year. That year reminded me of the bad old days where Harry Sydney was our leading rusher. At least we were an elite team then (sigh).

43
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:46pm

Re 40: Derek Loville

(shudders)

44
by 49er billy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:48pm

#42 should read "the loss OF Ricky Watters"

45
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 8:49pm

Bizarro version of the '07 Bears? More like Bizarro planet version of the Bears franchise for most of the years I can remember. I think the roaring Bear logo in 1995 even had a goatee.

46
by Sam Larson (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 9:25pm

#16/18

League-wide passing wasn't more successful in 1995, there were just more passes attempted for some reason.

In '95 there were 34.8 passing attempts per team per game. The next highest in the history of the NFL was '99 with 33.8.

The other league-wide passing numbers like adjusted yards per attempt, net adjusted yards per attempt, etc. are high, but pretty normal.

47
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 9:49pm

#9: Are you talking about Harrison's 2002 year? His yards/catch are seriously less than Irvin's from 1995, so I don't see the big deal there.

Let’s just say that DPAR is not always intuitive. Compare the 1995 numbers for Rice and Irvin. Rice was better than Irvin in every single category you list, and yet Irvin is the one with a higher DPAR.

Well, DPAR is opponent-adjusted and the normal stats aren't. Did Irvin face a tougher schedule than Rice?

48
by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 9:54pm

add me to the list of thankful lurking / nonsense-posting folks.

Great job and thanks to all of you.

49
by TomC (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:18pm

re: #28 -

I agree that the '94 Niners were the team that this year's Pats (before the spell wore off and they became human) reminded me most of. I made a nice little pile of money that year playing chicken with the bookmakers -- every week they would raise the spread on the Niners' game, every week I would lay the points, and every week I would collect, culminating in a 20-point spread (or 21 or 22, depending who you bet with) on the Super Bowl. Which, of course, they covered.

50
by TomC (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:21pm

By the way, I'm always impressed at how well and how quickly this site recovers from thread trauma. That NFC East discussion would have left lesser sites in traction for months.

51
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:37pm

I still have vivid memories of the GB vs SF playoff game. Not only did GB win but they absolutely dominated SF the entire game. It was 1 of the most lopsided 10 point victories you will ever see. GB's linebackers and secondary roughed up the 49ers tight ends and receivers all game long and the GB offense did basically whatever they wanted.

One of the lasting memories of that game was Brian Williams repeatedly knocking down any 49er tight end that went out for a pass

52
by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 10:40pm

Re: 37

All good points.

I bet the Colts would've liked having a guy like Wetnight backing up Clark.

53
by Duff Soviet Union (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 11:10pm

Hey Aaron, you ran the numbers for the Browns and Rams collapses, but what about the Raiders? They started out 8-2 but finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Was this a case where the win/loss record was misleading and DVOA was pretty much constant throughout the year?

54
by 49er billy (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 11:30pm

Re: 43

Wow I have successfully blocked that name out for the past 12 years. I wish the niners would have realized a average running back could have brought them more championships in the '90s.

55
by PW (not verified) :: Thu, 03/06/2008 - 11:40pm

The 95 season wasn't a good one for Giants fans... the Cowboys crushed the Gmen 35-0 on MNF that year on the night the Giants retired Simms number.

If you guys ever saw Dave Brown or Tommy Maddox play in NY...you can understand why we defend Eli so much. The Giants were bad and boring that season so 95 wasn't really a banner year.

Around the nfl the 95 49ers didn't strike me as a really great team... they had a bad loss to expansion Carolina that year. When the Packers beat em...it was a very convincing beating.

Still even though Favre had a great game against the 49ers...the game you saw the guys heart and ability was vs the Cowboys. I hated that Cowboys team, they just looked to have an automatic berth to the Super Bowl by playing a Green Bay team I'd seen them role the past two years.

However Favre was amazing...it was one man vs a team and I could see why this guy got the man love. The season ended in a depressing way with the Cowboys winning the Super Bowl.

56
by Sergio (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 12:36am

re: 23

Well, for me, it was just typing... back in junior high I took what could be called "typing shop" (basically my entire junior high, that was my optional)... and my teacher was very serious about errors. Simply put, don't make them.

Hopefully I can help out more with '94. Basically I just did the Dolphins, and a couple spare games here and there... as I once told Aaron, I was looking into OCR techniques, but I never really had the time to dig deeper. Maybe next time.

57
by SoulardX (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 12:44am

Anecdotally, the Rams collapse this year basically coincided with QB Chris Everett's season-ending injury. (After he went down, the offense was never the same.) That and when Rams WR Todd Kintchen (sp?) punched the goal post after scoring a TD in the first niner game, incurring the wrath of the football gods. It was all over after that.

58
by starzero (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 1:15am

my dad and i always believed that if verdin had caught that hail mary, the colts would have shut down the cowboys. in fact, we believed it never should have been that close against the steelers. with that play we saw all our hopes for finally having a good team crash to the ground. growing up with losers, it's tough to believe they'll ever be good. now that they are, i've completely forgotten the pain of their absolute suckitude. i'm not sure i want these memories coming back.

59
by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 1:36am

Anecdotally, the Rams collapse this year basically coincided with QB Chris Everett’s season-ending injury.

I didn't know Jim Rome posted on this site!

(And I think you mean Chris Miller; Jim Everett was out of the league by then.)

60
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 2:00am

Great data. Wow, my faulty memory had Indy's D as pretty stingy that year, always keeping Harbaugh within a TD in the final minutes. Maybe that was just Siragusa always keeping a spot for Harbaugh at the team buffet by threatening to eat anyone who came near him.

I still say Harbaugh was more valuable to his team than Favre was to his, and not all hopped-up on goofballs in addition, as Chief Wiggum might say.

And Calig23 #24, don't forget that in that AFCCG, there was a clear receiver out of bounds call that the refs did not make then ended up in a TD for the Steelers. I think it was Slash stepping over the back line of the EZ, showed over and over on TV. It should have been MY team getting whupped by the Cowboys in the SB, not yours.

Trivia moment: Aaron Bailey, the non-catcher of that last second hail mary was named after what famous TV producer? Yes, his mom liked the evening soaps so much she named her son after Aaron Spelling. (Maybe he already had an older brother named Blake Carrington Baily...?) Only Aaron Bailey's name was pronounced with a long-A sound at the beginning, almost like A-Rod.

61
by Felden (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:06am

Re: #42

I have always said that if The Catch started the 49ers dynasty, that fumble in the Packers game ended it. I remember being crushed by that. I mean, Fah-ver? Who the heck is Brett Fah-ver? How is this team winning?

Bah.

62
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 4:14am

If any game ever was symbolic of a Passing of the Torch it was that 1995 Playoff Game where GB dominated SF

63
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 4:22am

It's awesome seeing the 49er fans dominate the discussion. I don't remember 1995 as a Redskins fan. The Norv Turner era was just beginning... and they sucked. I always like to argue that the talent in the NFL is diluted now, but these Redskins started Gus Frerotte and Heath Shuler at QB... and they both were rookies the previous year. I guess that's kind've like what San Francisco did in 2006 and 2005?

Anyway, I love this type of article in the offseason. Thanks to everyone for your hard work!

64
by ammek (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 6:32am

You highlight the Broncos' extraordinary defensive improvement from 95 to 96 (any explanations?) but the other top-seed in the 96 playoffs, Green Bay, must have pulled off something similar, in order to achieve one of the best single-season defensive performances one year after finishing 18th. Hoorah for Eugene Robinson!

65
by Stuart Fraser :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 9:14am

60 - I reckon that single-game VOA would have ranked the Steelers higher than the Cowboys in Superbowl XXX. 14 of Dallas's points came from two long interception returns which DVOA would have discounted (the returns, that is; obviously it counts the interceptions). Pittsburgh outgained Dallas quite comprehensively - 310 to 254 in yards and 25 to 15 in first downs.

Not that the Steelers deserved to win, when you get the ball back down 20-17 with 4:15 left on the clock and your quarterback promptly throws an interception to nowhere near the reciever it's hard to claim that. (I have heard since that this was a mis-run route. I was 11 at the time and not entirely up with such subtleties. Either way, AAAAAAAARGH).

66
by Waverly (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 9:37am

Thanks again to all who helped with this effort.

I'm curious as to how many more years back you could go. At what point do the game books not provide the information you need?

(I'm not as concerned about OCR technology, since ultimately people could read and re-type everything, although that might be a practical limit.)

67
by ammek (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 10:40am

For Packer fans such as I, 1995 is the earliest point at which DVOA will be interesting, until you get data running all the way back to the Lombardi era. For those unfamiliar with the pre-Favre NFL, it may seem shocking, but Green Bay had gone 23 years without winning its division before 1995.

It's interesting to note that, in DVOA terms, the Packers didn't even merit the title that year; indeed, had Yancey Thigpen held onto that catch, they would have blown it yet again on the final day.

1995 was certainly Favre's best season. There were doubts coming in, especially as Green Bay had lost its star receiver, Sterling Sharpe, to injury at the end of the previous season. As Aaron's commentary points out, Favre really did spread the ball, and the WRs seemed to constitute much less of a red zone threat than Levens, Chmura, etc. Only the Cowboys ever appeared to snuff out the YAC which was so integral to Holmgren's offense.

I'm shocked at the Niners' high DVOA. IIRC this was the season they lost to expansion Carolina and the Saints in consecutive weeks, and appeared more fragile than in a long time. I expect that the early 90s DVOA for SF and Dallas is going to be insane.

I can't work out why so many great receiving seasons happened in 1995. In some ways it was a logical progression: WRs like Sharpe and Rice had been increasing the single-season receptions record for some time. Completion percentage improved a little, and so did overall offense and scoring (from a modern-era low in 1994). But more than anything, perhaps, the new-generation of Bill Walsh disciples was emerging, notably in the NFC Central, while the era of run-and-shoot drew its last breaths in Atlanta and Detroit.

Atlanta! I'd never have ranked it so high. Green Bay breezed past the Birds in the playoffs without any suggestion it was the inferior team. Maybe the run-and-shoot has gotten a bad press as time has passed. DVOA certainly seemed to like it in 1995.

68
by pete (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 11:54am

Jet fan here, and lets just say they were lucky to even get those wins. They beat the jags in Jax's third game of existence, the Marino-less dolphins, and an awful Seattle team by six. In hindsight, this team was much more deserving to go 0-16 than the 1-15 team that followed in 1996.

Also, i think you're statement that statistical dominance reasserted itself in the title games is too generic. While that might have been the case in the NFC, if either Quentin Coryatt or Aaron Bailey knew how to catch a ball, Indy wins beats Pitt.

69
by calig23 (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 12:36pm

Re:#60

And Calig23 #24, don’t forget that in that AFCCG, there was a clear receiver out of bounds call that the refs did not make then ended up in a TD for the Steelers. I think it was Slash stepping over the back line of the EZ, showed over and over on TV. It should have been MY team getting whupped by the Cowboys in the SB, not yours.

True enough, I suppose, but the Steelers might still have won the game anyways.

70
by jason (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 12:52pm

the only thing i remember about the packers-niners playoff game was craig newsome picked up a fumble and ran it back for a touchdown and before we knew it we were up 21 to nothing. i think whats lost in all the favre love was how good he really was.

71
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 1:20pm

#60 and #69. Wasn't there some other call that the Colts got to offset that, though? Even in my grief-stricken state after the game, somehow I justified that call in my mind by thinking of one the Colts got.

My other lasting thought from that game is "Marshall Faulk would have made that crucial first down."

72
by starzero (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 1:23pm

see, my memory even says it was clarence verdin who couldn't catch that ball. maybe that's because dad was always yelling at him (through the tv) to stop RUNNING BACKWARDS.

73
by M (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 2:00pm

Even though I was a Vikings fan, I followed the 49ers fairly closely in 1994-95. Even though the offense dropped off in 1995 (Young injured off/on, William Floyd was pretty good until he got injured, and losing Ricky Watters in FA), the defense improved massively despite losing Deion Sanders in FA. The DVOA stats bear that out. The 49ers won 6 in a row, and were leading Atlanta in the final game; had they won, they would have had HFA and faced Philadelphia, then likely Dallas in the playoffs - both of which they may have beaten easily. Holmgren was the one coach who knew how to consistently blow their schemes/personnel up; conversely, Dallas always could screw up Holmgren's offense better than anyone else.

As an anecdote to the 1994 49ers' greatness, I attended the final regular season game against Minnesota where they had their starters out for one series each, then rested them the rest of the game. The starting offense and defense for SF dominated the Vikings, much like they had their previous ten opponents. Hilariously, after the Vikings won, my friends insisted voraciously that the Vikings played so well they would have beat the 49ers even had the starters played the whole game. My argument was that the Vikings weren't even starting Warren Moon - it was Sean Salisbury. I still almost fall off my chair laughing about it.

The 1994 49ers vs. the 2007 Patriots provides an interesting lesson; the Patriots peaked too early this year. Running the first 10 games in "F-U mode", I think they ran out of all of their gimmick plays and they lost their "us-against-the-world" fanaticism. I still think the 2007 Patriots were one of the greatest teams I've ever seen, but most of the other great teams I've seen were playing their best ball in November & December - then would turn it up a notch in the postseason. This team just got tired mentally & physically at the end. In hindsight, perhaps had Spygate never happened, they probably go 14-2 and win the Super Bowl, because the team would have focused more on the "big prize" and paced themselves more early in the season(like 2003 & 2004). The reason I bring up the 1994 49ers is that scuffled early, then they DOMINATED teams over their ten game winning streak - somehow playing even better as the season wore on - they honed their edge for the big prize instead of trying to kill everyone by going up 42-7 at halftime in October.

Feel free to disagree with me, but the 2007 Patriots wore themselves out by running in "F-U mode".

NOTE: THIS IS NOT MEANT TO BE A START OF A SPYGATE ARGUMENT!!!!

74
by TTP (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 2:03pm

71: Yes, the refs missed an obvious pass interference call against Kordell Stewart (who dropped the pass because of the contact) in the endzone. The Steelers had to settle for a FG instead of 1st and goal at the 1.

75
by MarkV (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 2:42pm

RE 23:
I know that errors happen, but I doubt it was much of a problem. The games that I did I was very vigilant about making sure down and distance matched play on the spreadsheet, and tried to make sure most of the totals were close. I had a lot of game books that were from teams that were not very vigilant about accuracy, and there were a few places where the written totals in the game books were simply wrong (drives that were slightly longer or shorter than possible, downs that were clearly mislabled or once missing), and some names that were almost certainly wrong (the kicker holding for the qb kicking a 38 yard field goal), or runs of 4 yards that move the ball only 3 of the required 10 etc. All of these I typed in as written, wrote a comment next to its cell explaining what did not make sense, and sent in.

In short the old statistics and gamebooks are not perfect. Maybe it was just the 6 teams that I entered some data from (although I doubt it), but my feeling is that really the originals are probably a greater source of error than our transcription. As the others have mentioned, entering the data is exceptionally cerebral, and I always checked the data I entered to make sure the numbers and names matched up. Sure there are probably errors, but I would guess that there are not many.

76
by Spenserhawk (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:17pm

RE:51

"One of the lasting memories of that game was Brian Williams repeatedly knocking down any 49er tight end that went out for a pass"

The Pack absolutely destroyed Brent Jones that day.

My favorite moment of that game was on one particular play watching Steve Young scramble trying to find a receiver for at least 6-8 seconds (estimated) and then avoids a charging Wayne Simmons who disappears off camera. Then, instead of throwing the ball away, Young continues to look for a target and their is STILL nobody open before Simmons makes a triumphant return crushing Young from behind...it was the ultimate coverage sack.

77
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:22pm

re: 35

The font made a huge difference. The mimeograph ones always scanned as just an image, no matter how I set the OCR parameters.

Did you try paper capture? That will sometimes work when OCR from the scanner will not.

78
by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:27pm

I transcribed 3 of the games. I would estimate that it takes about 75-90 minutes per game to transcribe. Not that much longer than the OCR technique. I made no mistakes because I am teh awesome.

79
by Xian (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:49pm

I'll reiterate my fellow transcribers' comments about being vigilant about errors. I'm sure there were some that slipped through, but I went back and double- (sometimes triple-) checked everything, verifying the yardage with the down & distance on the following play, as they weren't always accurate, as MarkV points out.

As the guy who did a majority of the Packers games (including the playoff game against the 49ers, and the Pittsburgh game), what really stood out to me was not how good the Packers offense was, but how streaky it seemed. Favre would get on a roll and rattle off 3 scores, and then there would be a number of 3-and-outs. Even (for Packers fans) the dreaded T.J. Rubely game took a different tone after transcribing it...it didn't seem like Rubely lost the game (though he still gets the blame in Packer fan land), but that the defense didn't hold.

I wish I had been able to transcribe a few more game and take a little more off the guys who covered for the us slackers, but real life got in the way. Heh. Thanks to Aaron for embarking on this project and taking it this far.

80
by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:51pm

69/71/74 Okay, blame my flawed memory. I'll allow that the SB berth was legit.

81
by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 3:51pm

#67: Admit it. You want to know what Lynn Dickey's DVOA was when he threw for 4458 yards and 32 touchdowns (and 29 INTs) in 1983.

82
by toasted cheese (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 4:00pm

Man, reading this brings back some crazy memories - I'm an Eagles fan who started watching football in 1990 when I was ten years old.

Anyway, I had a particularly crazy flashback reading the commentary: I have distinct memory of getting into an argument in '95 about Charlie Garner. I took the position that seemingly only a young, hot-headed homer would take: Garner was having a better season than Emmitt Smith in that he was doing more with his carries while running behind an inferior line. In short, my argument: Garner is the better back.

The two kids I was arguing with (a Cowboys fan & an Eagles fan) obviously treated me like I was 100% insane. In the passing years, that argument always lurked in the back of my mind as an example of the dangers of homer-ism... but look at that! Garner did have a higher DVOA!

Obviously, there's the huge, huge, huge issue of sample size at work (as well as other Ricky Watters-related factors), but its good to see I wasn't a total lunatic.

Anyway, it killed me when we let him go to San Franfisco. Also, it killed me when the Cowboys repeatedly destroyed us in those years - I think the early 90's are the era of oh-so-closeness and crushing failure that were the genesis of the current state of Eagles fandom.

83
by mrh (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 4:48pm

From NFL.com:
1994
In a move to increase offensive production, NFL clubs at the league's annual meeting in Orlando adopted a package of changes, including modifications in line play, chucking rules, and the roughing-the-passer rule, plus the adoption of the two-point conversion and moving the spot of the kickoff back to the 30-yard line, March 22.

It's possible that the effect of these changes wasn't fully felt until 1995. The link to expansion is more direct.

84
by mrh (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 4:56pm

Oh, and great job putting this data together.

As a Chiefs fan, these numbers are depressing:
1995 - #3 in DVOA, #2 in weighted DVOA
1997 - 2/2
2003 - 1/6
2005 - 4/1

Somewhere in there, you'd think they could have at least gotten to an AFCCG if not a Super Bowl.

Lin Bleepin' Elliott.

85
by W. Jason Strutz (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 4:59pm

re 77:

Paper capture was what Acrobat called its OCR back in version 5. They just started calling it OCR starting with version 6, and I used version 7. Anytime I mention the OCR, that's what I'm talking about; the Acrobat function, not the scanner function. Aaron had mentioned attempting to use paper capture from Acrobat version 5, and it not working so well.

86
by admin :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 5:19pm

Just so folks know, on the subject of errors, there were a few, but they are mostly easy to catch while I'm parsing and organizing. For example, we happen to know that there is no receiver "H.Perriman" on DET or quarterback named "D.Young" on SF or whatever.

The biggest problem was actually the oddity from the PBP of three scorers who didn't use the same rules as everyone else: Colts, Jets, Raiders. I meant to write about that and if I do some sort of "1995 mailbag" I'll put in a bit about that whole weirdness.

Glad everyone dug this, it ended up being very good off-season content.

87
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 7:01pm

As if on cue... NFLN is showing SB XXX Monday night! And, as per normal practice, like 6 more times through the rest of the week.

88
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 7:04pm

Just as a piece of advice, some older versions of Acrobat are BETTER at copying as text. Specifically I know at my old job we kept 5.0 installed on every machine (along with 7.0) because it did a much better job at copying as text. I remember hearing from IT that 5.0 was making it too easy to change secure documents.

Anyway I used both 5.0 and 7.0 a lot and thought it was crystal clear 5.0 is better at text capture.

89
by MarkV (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 7:54pm

RE86:
I still have nightmares of Jets guy. Well, not that bad, but he was no fun.

90
by Thok (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 7:58pm

A fairly quick explanation for the 1995 Rams collapse: Chris Miller got a concussion which drastically lowered the quality of his play.

91
by Tom D (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 8:06pm

So was this 49ers team the best team never to play in a Superbowl?

Some nice symmetry with Cincinnati, they were equally bad on offense and defense.

92
by PW (not verified) :: Fri, 03/07/2008 - 9:08pm

#91

I don't think the 95 49ers were even the best 49ers team not to win.

The 92,90, and 87 49ers were all better clubs than the current 49ers squad.

BTW looking back on the 95 season I don't know if everybody remembers but the popular dark horse pick in the NFC that year was Detroit. They scored a lot of points & people thought they might beat Dallas.

I remember they played Philly & I've never seen a team look so totally outmatched in emotion & intensity. The Eagles played at a very high level. The Cowboys then dominated Philly the next week.

As a teen during the 90's I know people want to mythologize it...but I enjoy the current NFL more. Maybe its because I watched the Dave Brown,Danny Kanell, Kent Graham Giants instead of the Aikman Cowboys or the Steve Young 49ers.

Man I just remembered how bad that season was... it was the season that ended with Giants fans throwing snowballs at the field after losing to the Chargers. Not exactly an America's Game season.

The highlight just might have been Favre's coming out party. The guy was lights out. That Dallas game was one of the most fun playoff games I ever saw. I enjoyed the Colts Steelers game, however I was glad that Pitt won that game. I thought they had the best chance of making the SB a good game. With all due respect to Colts fans I could not envision that Colts team winning the Super Bowl....they would have been Chargers redux.

93
by Dave (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 1:36am

I really want to see the 91 Eagles DVOA numbers. A historically awesome defense undermined by a historically bad offense...well at least the games Mcmahon didn't start.

94
by LI Matt (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 9:03am

If you guys ever saw Dave Brown or Tommy Maddox play in NY…you can understand why we defend Eli so much. The Giants were bad and boring that season so 95 wasn’t really a banner year.

The defense wasn't making any lasting memories, either. Jessie Armstead, Phillippi Sparks (better known today as an American Idol's father), the young Strahan, and ... that's about it.

So was this 49ers team the best team never to play in a Superbowl?

I'd say the popular pick for that title would be the '98 Vikings, or maybe the '04 Steelers. Personally, I'd go with the '99 Jaguars, who were 0-3 against the Titans and 15-0 against everyone else.

95
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 11:41am

Re #94
1999 Jaguars:
v DVOA Top 12: 0-3
v teams with 10+ wins: 0-3
The AFCC that year played the NFC West out of conference, and the Jags missed the Rams while playing the other 4 teams. The AFCC schedule was screwed up by the 31 team, 6 division schedule, and the Jags lucked out into the Jets and Broncos, who both fell off a cliff after their very good 1998 seasons and had neither a winning record (8-8 and 6-10) nor a good DVOA.

Another candidate for best team not to make SB is the '86 Bears. I think it's probably the 1990 49ers, though some of those 70s Rams and/or Vikings teams may have arguments.

96
by ammek (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 12:29pm

81: Now that you mention it, I would be interested, especially since 1983 was the year I started following the Packers. I think the 29 INTs will hurt Dickey's DVOA, though I'll be curious to see the DPAR for James Lofton, the offensive DVOA for the insane Monday night game against Washington which the Packers won 48-47, and in a morbid kind of way just how bad that defense was.

Thinking about it, I'm also kind of interested to know what the stats say about Majik Majkowski: right the way through Favre's second season, there were plenty of disgruntled Packer fans to be found spitting in their beer and claiming that Majik was the better player.

So maybe I'll retract my previous post. Though I still have no desire to relive the 1986 season or discover Randy Wright's career DPAR.

97
by Independent George (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 3:24pm

Are the individual stats going to be posted soon? I look forward to the fortchoming Irrational Emmit Smith-Barry Sanders debate.

98
by Charlie (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 5:08pm

#94 - As #95 says, the '99 Jags may have gone 14-2, but rather than the best team not to reach a Superbowl, they were arguably the worst 14-2 team ever, profiting from an incredibly weak schedule: in the regular season they played a team with a winning record only twice, and lost both times.

For the best team not to play in a Superbowl, at least in the last 20 years, I'd say either the '87 49ers or the '98 Vikings.

99
by Adam (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 5:16pm

The Steelers linebacker unit in 1995: Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown, Levon Kirkland, Jason Gildon, Jerry Olsavsky.

Okay, so one of these is not like the other (Sorry, Jerry O), but still...that was an insane unit. Ignoring football, Lloyd and Greene were bat shit crazy anyway.

Fun team to watch.

100
by DP (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 5:25pm

Re #98:

Here's an interesting stat I seem to remember: The '99 Jags had the weakest schedule *ever*, based on opponents' won-loss record. It is not a coincidence that a very good Titans team beat them all three times they played, including the AFC title game.

But check this out, even more interstingly, the previous record holder for weakest schedule ever was the undefeated '72 Dolphins. Something you don't hear Mercury and the fellas bragging about.

101
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 6:18pm

99:

Presumably, that had to play a couple decent teams to get to and win the DB....

102
by BDC (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 6:19pm

Let me add to that. That is the difference. The Dolphins had a weak schedule, but unlike a lot of teams, they didn't just beat the bad teams and lose to the few good teams they played, they beat everyone. I would say that "Mercury and the fellas" still have something to brag about.

103
by DP (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 6:26pm

Re # 92:

The '87, '90, '92, and '97 49ers all had home-field advantage and failed to advance to the Super Bowl. Each has its own sad story:

The '87 team could have have rivalled the '84 champs as Walsh's best. In conventional yardage-based stats (sorry, FO disciples), they were #1 on defense and #1 on offense (they were #1 both passing and rushing, as I recall). They beat their last three regular season opponents by a combined score of 124-7, with the only TD against them being a kickoff return by Atlanta (the 9ers promptly returned the ensuing kickoff for a TD themselves) - both Montana, who was hurt, and Young played during this stretch. But the Vikes, led by D-linemen Doleman and Millrd, and receiver Carter, destroyed them in the divisional round. Very painful, and shocking (you Pats fans know what I'm talking about).

The '90 team was going for the 3-peat, but the Parcells/Belichick Giants knocked Montana out of the NFC title game, then forced a late fumble as the 9ers were trying to run out the clock, and kicked the winning field goal as time expired. We coulda/woulda/shoulda had a 4-peat! Ouch.

The '92 NFC title game launched the Dallas mini-dynasty. Their O-line was too much for SF, and the 9ers turned the ball over four times, Dallas none. Both of these losses were on Seifert's watch.

The overlooked '97 team (Mariucci's first year)had the #1 defense, but without an injured Jerry Rice, could not muster any offense against (sigh) the Favre/Homgren Packers.

Forgive a middle-aged 9er fan for indulging in memories (albeit painful) from the glory years - that's all we have these days.

104
by DP (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 6:34pm

Re # 99-100,

Point well taken. I'm not criticizing the '72 Dolphins - as you say, they had to beat worthy opponents in the post-season. But I nonetheless find it worth pointing out that they achieved the league's only undefeated season against what was then the weakest schedule in the *history* of the league. Surely you can agree that the two facts are related. Or is it just a coincidence?

105
by mm (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 9:43pm

# 92,102- the '87 49ers only finished ahead of the Saints because their strike team won one more game than the Saints strike team. If the strike games weren't counted, they would have tied for first.

The Saints won their last 9 games of the season and were picked by many pundits as Super Bowl favorites going into the playoffs, but they lost to the exact same Vikings team that beat the 49ers a week later.

You can argue that 49ers team was great, but there isn't evidence that they were greater than the Saints team in their own division.

106
by Felden (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 10:16pm

Re #104

Well, you could say that the Saints were knocked out by the team the Niners beat in the playoffs is some kind of evidence...

107
by Charlie (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 10:30pm

#104 - While that Saints team was very good, and had the league's second-best record that year, I think there is evidence that the 49ers were better.

Firstly, even if you remove the 3 strike games from the standings, the 49ers would still have won the tie-break for the division.

In terms of yardage, pro-football-reference.com has the 49ers #1 for both offense and defense (#14 and #5 for the Saints).

They were the two hottest teams entering the playoffs, with 9 straight wins for the Saints and 6 straight for the 49ers. I remember being surprised when the Saints got crushed 44-10 by Minnesota in the Wild Card game, but being staggered when the 49ers lost the following week. In my personal experience of watching the NFL, it is still the most shocking playoff upset, beating Denver's loss to Jacksonville in 1996.

It was a great Saints team, but as DP said, the 49ers won their last 3 games 41-0 (against the 10-2 Bears, who had the league's best record at that point), 35-7 (kickoff return exchange) and 48-0. Has there been a 3-game stretch like that since in the NFL? Whenever I hear people talk about momentum going into the playoffs I think of this year and the red-hot Saints and 49ers getting handled by a team who'd lost their last 3 and backed into the playoffs.

108
by mm (not verified) :: Sat, 03/08/2008 - 11:57pm

Well, you could say that the Saints were knocked out by the team the Niners beat in the playoffs is some kind of evidence…

As I and others have said, the Niners lost to that team.

In terms of yardage, pro-football-reference.com has the 49ers #1 for both offense and defense (#14 and #5 for the Saints).

Have they removed the strike games from those stats? Regardless, I'll be looking forward to seeing how the numbers look whenever DVOA gets there. The weighted DVOA should be right up there.

109
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Sun, 03/09/2008 - 12:43pm

Dickey's YPA in 1983 was 9.24.

The "hero" of that GB win over SF was defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur. Who says so? Holmgren. Ron Wolf. Pretty much anyone in a leadership/coaching role with the team at the time. Nobody else remember the Packers dropping NINE guys in coverage on some plays letting White and Sean Jones rush/pinch the pocket? There are multiple stories about the Packers prep work for that game but one of the best is Fritz Shurmur standing up in front of his defense on Tuesday and telling them they were all cornerbacks.

110
by Carlos (not verified) :: Sun, 03/09/2008 - 10:45pm

thanks for all the comments on errors, inputting and OCR. very interesting!

and thx of course for the hard work that supports the great content here.

111
by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 03/10/2008 - 9:55am

So do we have to wait until 2012 to get DVOA for 1991?

I'm dying to see the Eagles DVOA on defense for that year.

They are the only defense since 1978 to hold their opponents to under 4000 yards total for the season, they caused the lowest pass completion percentage since 1978 and they are near the top in teams since 1978 in most other categories.

112
by M (not verified) :: Mon, 03/10/2008 - 11:45am

How quickly revisionist history begins to assert itself; am I actually seeing people exclude the 2007 Patriots from the list of best non-SB winning teams ever? Even during their "human" stretch (after beating Buffalo 56-10), they still won 8 straight games by a total of 81 points, and beat a few pretty good teams in there.

The 1988 MN Vikings might give the 1995 49ers a good run at the best 11-5 team ever.

An extremely subjective list of best non-SB winning teams:
2007 Patriots
2001 Rams
1998 Vikings
1987 49ers
1992 49ers

Honorable Mention: 1990 Bills, 1988 Vikings, 1995 49ers, 1997 Chiefs, 2005 Colts, 2004 Steelers, 1987 Saints, 2007 Colts

BTW - has anyone thought of writing an article on this subject? There might be enough years of DVOA to create an "estimated" DVOA based on a multiple regression with known stats, which would help to extend the available data points for such a study.

113
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 03/10/2008 - 12:31pm

Re #112
Alas, the 2007 Patriots made the Super Bowl, rendering them ineligible to qualify as "Best Team Not to Make Super Bowl."

Another candidate: the 1993 Oilers, who started 1-4, then won their last 11. They lost in the playoffs, 28-20, (i) at home (ii) to Marty(!) and the Chiefs, (iii) in a game where they fumbled the ball 7(!) times.

114
by M (not verified) :: Mon, 03/10/2008 - 1:31pm

#113 - I understand your point, although I tried to get around that point by using the category name "non-SB winning teams", which is meant to include SB losers as well. Looking through others' comments, it seems others were talking only about teams that didn't even make the SB - which would axe the top two teams on my list.

Nonetheless, I agree about that 1993 Houston team - they had quite the run that year. I didn't remember that they fumbled 7 times, though.

#111 - My guess is that we will get back to 1990 by 2010. Aaron hinted a while back that we might have 1994 this offseason as well as 1995. If FO can go back two more seasons every year, then we would be at 1990 by the end of 2010.

Regardind the 1991 Eagles: I will be SHOCKED if their defensive DVOA doesn't rate in the top 5 of all time. Keep in mind, their offense AND special teams sucked, and they played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL that year. I think they would have allowed less than 200 points if their offense hadn't been so turnover-prone and their special teams weren't so awful regarding opponents' field position. Looking at DVOA, it looks like the 2002 Buccaneers are currently listed as have -33.0%, followed by the 2000 Ravens at -30.0% (other top teams are the 2004 Bills, 2003 Ravens, and the 2000 Titans). I have to think that the 1991 Eagles would be at least -30.0%; I think the 1985 Bears might be at that level as well.

115
by pete (not verified) :: Mon, 03/10/2008 - 3:57pm

I notice a lot of talk on the '99 Jags. People forget that God Coughlin made in my mind one of the most boneheaded coaching moves in the play-offs. Brunell was hurt the last few weeks of the year and didnt play. Because of the blowout vs miami, Brunell was pulled in the 2nd quarter. All told, Brunell had at most one half of work in the 5 weeks leading up to the AFC title game vs Tenn. While that is not always the kiss of death (see Jim Kelly in '92), it was a principle reason they failed to reach SB 34.

What I am most interested in going back to previous seasons is whether or not the '91 skins will end up with the best DVOA of all time

116
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 03/11/2008 - 12:31am

Another unmentioned team is the '00 Titans, who were the best team in the league according to DVOA. They got knocked out in the divisional round against the Ravens in a game where they had a three to one advantage in yardage.

Some other forgotten but very powerful teams- 1980 Falcons, 1976 Colts.

117
by Chad Gerson (not verified) :: Tue, 03/11/2008 - 1:46am

"Statistical dominance reasserted itself in the Championship Games..."

Actually, no it didn't. The Steelers won the 1996 AFC CG over the Colts ONLY because of an egregious missed call by the refs. Kordell stepped WAY out of the back of the end zone before catching the winning touchdown pass. Otherwise, the Colts were on their way to the Super Bowl. This play singlehandedly re-introduced video replay to the NFL.

The first of several times the officials kept the Colts out of the Super Bowl. It took years before they started enforcing pass interference and illegal contact against the Patriots.

But we got ours eventually, and we'll get more of ours soon. RECOGNIZE!

118
by M (not verified) :: Tue, 03/11/2008 - 9:51am

#115 - That could be possible; their schedule was really tough, and some of the metrics I've seen imply they could be in the top 5 in DVOA for offense, defense, and special teams.

I expect them to be #1 in offense (Buffalo's stats are better, but their schedule was MUCH easier); #3 in defense (behind Philadelphia & New Orleans), and #2 in special teams behind Dallas (I remember seeing a stat that year that their opponents' field kickoff position was the best in the league by far). The biggest question is how much the components add up to.

While I think the 1985 Bears might have been the better team, I think the 1991 Redskins will have a higher DVOA. I expect them to be between 50% & 55% - they might end up higher than the 2007 Patriots based on schedule, plus their raw DVOA-type stats are a little better despite the higher point differential.

Irrational Argument Thread: Was Mark Rypien Kurt Warner before Kurt Warner was Kurt Warner?

#116 - The 1980 Falcons were a pretty good team, but they only had the #4 point differential in the league and their schedule was about average. A better candidate for great teams with bad timing was the 1979 San Diego Chargers: Tough division, one of the top 3 offenses and top 3 defenses (I don't know how their special teams looked), and they beat the eventual SB champion Steelers 35-7 in the regular season. Had they played in the NFC that year, they might have gone 15-1 (Next to 2004, 1979 had the highest discrepancy between the conferences). Alas, they ran into one of the oddest statistical teams in memory - the late 70's Oilers; they almost always never blew out their opponents, but they were never really blown out. They lost in the playoffs to the eventual SB champs three straight seasons. Their stats were decidely mediocre, but I've heard stories about how they were almost as physically feared as the Steelers - to the point of usurping Oakland for a couple of years as Pittsburgh's main rival. In a way, they kind of remind me of a certain recent SB champion...

119
by Josh (not verified) :: Tue, 03/11/2008 - 1:02pm

re:95
The '90 49ers didn't have enough running game, IIRC.

re:109
Where did you hear that Fritz Shurmur story? NINE defensive backs? the insanity! I don't doubt you're wrong, though ;)

re: 112
Why the '88 Vikes? They were okay, but the Bears won the division at 12-4.

re: 118
Which SB champion are you referring to? The '78-80 Oilers were the bridesmaids of the AFC Central...always finishing behind Pgh. :(

120
by Tom D (not verified) :: Tue, 03/11/2008 - 1:36pm

I thought he meant not actually playing 9 defensive backs, but telling his defense get in the mindset of a cornerback.

121
by M (not verified) :: Tue, 03/11/2008 - 2:14pm

#119, comment 3: Look at the underlying stats on pro-football-reference.com. The Vikings dominate the Bears in every stat except offensive rushing. Plus the Vikings swept the Bears that year. They were also somewhat "ineffcient" - while their differential was +173, the yardage/turnover stats implied a differential of over +230 (divide yardage differential by 12, then add turnover margin x 4 - based on Pete Palmer's mid-80's research).

#119, comment 4: Houston lost to Pittsburgh in the 1978/79 postseasons in the championship games, then lost to Oakland in the 1980 AFC wildcard game. I don't believe any of the three games I am referring to were close, though.

122
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Tue, 03/11/2008 - 3:28pm

So hey, FO guys. Now that you've got 1995 digitized, maybe you can sell it to other stats guys who want to do analysis of years prior to '96. There must be a booming market for that, right?

123
by DP (not verified) :: Wed, 03/12/2008 - 2:22am

Re # 111:

I know I should probably look these things up before posting, but didn't those '91 Eagles fail to make the playoffs despite their great defense? I seem to recall that both they and the 49ers (who finished strong, winning their last six) went 10-6 but lost the tiebreakers needed to get in as wild card teams. A frustrating rarity.

124
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Wed, 03/12/2008 - 1:24pm

"It seemed pretty clear we would at least get a 49ers-Cowboys rematch in the NFC Championship game"

Hate to say it, but a rare triumph for subjectivity over analytics. I had the Green Bay upset of SanFran called 5 weeks before the season even ended, when I suspected GB would face San Fran in the playoffs before they had to meet Dallas.

I haven't read all comments, so apologies if this has been brought up, but 1995 was the year that the Pack only clinched the division on the final weekend when Pitt's Yancy Thigpen dropped the game-winning TD in the endzone with about 20 seconds left in the game. Had he caught it Green Bay would have been a wild card and had to play Philly in the playoffs, and Detroit would have been division champs. One of the great what-ifs from that year IMO.

Final comment: Indy's playoff win over San Diego came with Zack Crocket rushing for over 150 yards. That's how they "somehow" upset the Chargers. Strangely, before and after this game Crocket has been mostly a fullback who's rarely carried the ball.

125
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Wed, 03/12/2008 - 1:25pm

re 123: correct. Atlanta got the final wildcard spot.

126
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Thu, 03/13/2008 - 12:37pm

Josh:

On different plays only two GB linemen would "rush" the passer. And even that was mostly a feint. Shurmur's instructions to his linemen was to hold their lanes and play containment. Multiple times the Packers were in 8 and then 9(!) man coverages with two of the guys being stocky linemen who just backpedaled from the line of scrimmage and hung around a general area. Seeing John Jurkovic in "coverage" was an unsettling experience.

127
by Joe SKolnik (not verified) :: Fri, 03/14/2008 - 10:39pm

re:123

Randall Cunningham got hurt in week 1. The team signed Jim McMahon to be the starter for the season. Jim was very washed up by then, and never was THAT good in chicago in the first place. The Offense was terrible, I suspect the eagles offense '91 to rank amongst the worst ever in passing DVOA.

128
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Sun, 03/16/2008 - 1:08pm

re 127: I think McMahon was OK. The real problems were when McMahon was also hurt and Jeff Kemp, who truly was washed up, and rookie Brad Goebel had to play QB. IIRC correctly it was then that the offense looked really pathetic. (Eagles went 8-3 in McMahon's 11 starts)

129
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 03/17/2008 - 4:44pm

Kind of surprised no one else mentioned this ... as long as we're talking about Erik Kramer and anomalies, we might as well mention that he has a playoff victory as starting QB for the Lions.

I will be interested to see how the various Lions playoff teams compare in DVOA terms once you get through '91, assuming that's possible. (Obviously it won't be easy even if it is possible.) It's nice to read about times when the Lions weren't absolute jokes.

130
by Dachs (not verified) :: Mon, 03/17/2008 - 10:19pm

86/89: I did about 20 games and nothing I saw came close to the horrendous job done by the Raiders guy. I think it was done by some meth-addicted 5-year old.

23: I had the same basic system as everyone else who commented. Most stuff that could easily be mistaken, especially down-and-distance, was easy to keep track of, and if there were any discrepancies or anything strange I saw, I just left a note for Aaron.

As a Cowboy fan I gotta say it was pretty damn enjoyable to chart this season, culminating with that great Super Bowl. I was 9 years old during that season and it's really the 1st season that I actually remembered most of the games from the regular season even before looking at the PBP. Yes, that 49er team was scary and Jerry Rice was freaking unstoppable. I still have that first play stuck in my head when he took a quick slant 50-something yards for a TD. Nice to see the Playmaker was #1 in DPAR though, at least for now.

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by ackpfft (not verified) :: Sat, 03/22/2008 - 10:36am

Just catch the ball Aaron Bailey! Watching NFL Film high(low)lights of that game still kill me.

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by Josh (not verified) :: Thu, 03/27/2008 - 12:58pm

re:123 and 1991 season

The Lions, Falcons, Saints were previous doormats, but for that season they were great. The only problem was the '91 Skins and the usual suspects (11-5 Dallas, 10-6 Philly, 10-6 49ers).

Ironically, the 49ers didn't make it even at 10-6, like my '07 Browns.

The Skins were not that good the following year, although the Saints got even better. But the 49ers won the West in '92 (14-2 to the Saints 12-4 or 11-5 IIRC).

Interesting point about divisional rivalries--One of the two losses SF had in '92 was to the 4-12 Cardinals. Guess who was the D-coordinator of the Cardinals at the time?

A guy named Fritz.