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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.

2010 AGL Winners and Losers

by Danny Tuccitto

With the mad dash to finish Football Outsiders Almanac 2011 (on sale now in both electronic and paperback form!), some regular features were left on the cutting room floor. One of those was our yearly look at adjusted games lost (AGL) under the guise of ranking the 32 medical staffs.

Statistically speaking, injuries have always been a tough nut to crack. Yes, having a 300-pound human roll into your lower leg is a random event, but some players seem to consistently avoid that fate year in and year out. Yes, the head athletic trainer's an important cog in the organizational wheel, but what about the dozens of others who work behind the scenes to get players game-ready? Going forward, we're hoping to separate the luck aspect of injuries (as measured by AGL), and the skill aspect of surgical and therapeutic intervention (as of yet unmeasured). For now, though, we'll present each team's AGL for 2010, and highlight a few whose win totals seemed to benefit or suffer the most from injuries.

As in past years and in the book, AGL here considers starters, important situational players, and "replacement starters" (Matt Cassel in 2008, for example).

Injury Winners

Chicago Bears

2010 AGL: 12.3
2010 Record: 11-5
2009 AGL : 50.9
2009 Record : 7-9

Almost all of the Bears' improved health last season came at the linebacker position. In 2009, Chicago's defense was without two projected starters for effectively the entire season: Brian Urlacher missed 15 games after he dislocated his wrist in their opening game, and Pisa Tinoisamoa missed 14 games due to multiple right knee injuries. Worse yet, the strongside starter, Lance Briggs, was on the injury report six times, and Urlacher's replacement, Hunter Hillenmeyer, showed up four times. In total, the Bears' linebacker AGL in 2009 was 32.5.

In 2010, Hillenmeyer missed almost the entire season because of a concussion, but the three starters only missed five games combined. Although Briggs and Tinoisamoa showed up on the injury report frequently, it was as probable the majority of the time. And, of course, the important thing was that Urlacher started all 16 games.

Oakland Raiders

2010 AGL: 30.5
2010 Record: 8-8
2009 AGL : 51.3
2009 Record : 5-11

In our injury manifesto, my esteemed predecessor, Bill Barnwell, pointed out that offensive injuries hurt a team more than defensive injuries. Therefore, logic dictates that fewer injuries on offense from one season to the next helps fuel a team turnaround more so than fewer injuries on defense. And so, I introduce to you the 2010 Oakland Raiders.

Last season, Oakland's offensive AGL alone improved by 17.3, which is over 80 percent of the overall improvement. In 2009, starters Bruce Gradkowski, Darius Heyward-Bey, Chaz Schilens, Robert Gallery, and Cornell Green missed a combined 29 games due to injury. In 2010, the number of games missed by starting quarterbacks, wide receivers, and offensive linemen plummeted to eight.

Injury Losers

Denver Broncos

2010 AGL: 51.7
2010 Record: 4-12
2009 AGL : 19.8
2009 Record : 8-8

Last season, Denver did their best Pig Pen impression, suffering through a cloud of dirt and dust wherever they went. I know I said earlier that offensive injuries hurt more than defensive injuries, but when a team suffers defensive injuries to the extent that the Broncos did in 2010, all bets are off. As I detailed in their FOA 2011 chapter, no team in the free agency era has ever had to deal with the complete loss of a reigning sack champion's pass-rushing productivity. If only that was the end of it.

Injuries forced Denver to play musical chairs all season at linebacker and in the secondary. Between Elvis Dumervil, Robert Ayers, Joe Mays, Brian Dawkins, Andre' Goodman, and Perrish Cox, planned or elevated starting defenders missed 39 games, and were listed on the injury report for 15 more. The nadir of the season came in Weeks 6 and 7, when the Broncos' defense gave up 83 points in two losses with Dumervil, Ayers, Dawkins, and Goodman inactive.

Minnesota Vikings

2010 AGL: 55.4
2010 Record: 6-10
2009 AGL : 22.5
2009 Record : 12-4

Perhaps no team got a kick to the junk -- and went on the 15-day disabled list a la Josias Manzanillo -- harder than the Vikings did last season. They had the second-largest increase in AGL from 2009, and the vast majority of their injuries were on offense.

Obviously, there was a distinct difference between 2009 and 2010 in the health of a Wranglers-wearing Mississippian who shall remain nameless. Aside from John Madden's BFF, though, starters Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, and John Sullivan missed a combined 25 games, and played hurt in 32 others. Throw in the ACL that Cedric Griffin tore in training camp, and it's no wonder Minnesota collapsed like the Metrodome's roof last season.

Below is the table of AGLs for 2010, as well each team's average AGL over the past three years. For convenience, I've sorted it by 2010 AGL:

Team 2010 AGL 2010 Rk 08-10 AGL 08-10 Rk
KC 10.0 1 29.3 2
CHI 12.3 2 32.2 4
ATL 16.1 3 34.3 7
SF 27.4 4 33.7 6
OAK 30.5 5 45.3 12
TEN 31.6 6 25.6 1
DAL 31.8 7 35.5 8
JAC 37.6 8 49.8 15
ARI 38.3 9 33.2 5
SD 39.6 10 43.4 11
BUF 41.7 11 70.8 27
NYJ 41.9 12 30.0 3
NO 45.0 13 62.9 22
PIT 49.9 14 52.3 18
BAL 50.9 15 52.6 19
DET 51.0 16 76.9 29
Team 2010 AGL 2010 Rk 08-10 AGL 08-10 Rk
MIA 51.0 17 41.6 9
DEN 51.7 18 48.7 13
HOU 55.2 19 52.2 17
MIN 55.4 20 42.8 10
STL 56.9 21 70.7 26
NYG 58.1 22 49.8 14
TB 60.8 23 51.4 16
SEA 61.5 24 71.7 28
CIN 62.4 25 80.3 30
WAS 69.9 26 66.4 24
PHI 70.1 27 59.2 21
NE 72.5 28 65.6 23
CAR 75.0 29 54.5 20
GB 86.3 30 66.4 25
IND 90.5 31 81.1 31
CLE 94.7 32 83.1 32

Comments

1
by Joseph :: Fri, 09/02/2011 - 5:12pm

How much of the Saints 2010 AGL came from the RB position? 99%?

2
by Danny Tuccitto :: Fri, 09/02/2011 - 5:29pm

On the contrary, was about 40% LBs, 35% RBs, 15% DBs, 10% all the rest.

3
by chemical burn :: Fri, 09/02/2011 - 8:44pm

It's interesting because I didn't really follow the Saints last year and there's so much buzz around them being great this year that boils down to "I know they suffered the most embarrassing playoff loss in the history of the sport, but they had a unbelievable injury issues!" I was surprised to see that they were on the positive side of injury luck, all things considered. RB injuries not even being their biggest problem surprises me even more. What's more, they seemed really deep at RB, so rebounding from their problems there doesn't seem like it will resolve whatever was plaguing them last year...

12
by speedegg :: Sat, 09/03/2011 - 1:54pm

Well, offensive injuries are more important than defensive injuries, unless you're the Broncos. With respect to running backs, I forgot who it was, but in the Arizona game the HB cut the wrong way and Brees threw right to a LB. Arizona got the INT and it resulted in a score. That's bad when your outlet receiver runs the wrong route...or blocks when he's suppose to release into the flats.

As for Brees, he has a grade II tear in his knee mid-season. While he played, his accuracy was off for a few games.

18
by mm (not verified) :: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 6:15pm

I'll place about the spot I expect the RB would have been on the roster in parentheses.

Lynell Hamilton was expected to be the #3 RB going into the season. He got injured
in training camp and was placed on IR before the season.

PJ Hill (#6?) was on the preseason roster. Got injured and put on IR before season.

Pierre Thomas(#1) was injured the 3rd game of the season; didn't return until their were 3 games left and was not at full health. Got injured again before playoff game.

Reggie Bush(#2) missed a large amount of the season with his own injury.

Chris Ivory (#4?) had a strong training camp as a rookie and found himself the starter for a good part of the season since everyone else was hurt. Got injured and put on IR before the playoff game.

With the other injuries, they had Ladell Betts(#5?) at RB for awhile. He got injured and placed on IR.

Julius Jones (#7?) was signed and played OK at times.

Deshawn Wynn (#8?) was signed and used in the last month of the season and the playoff game.

Joique Bell(#9) was signed before the playoff game, but I believe he was inactive for that game; they were going to use him for the next game. Too bad to, because they had further injuries in the playoff game. He made the roster this year, so the staff likes how he's developed.

I had to look up some stuff from last season to put all this together. Many of these all blend together, as does the timing of their injuries. There were more injuries during the playoff game, as I believe they only had 1 guy healthy at the very end of the game, (I think Wynn), and he didn't know the offense completely.

Am I missing anyone else, Saints' fans?

19
by Joseph :: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 11:32pm

You got all the halfbacks. Don't know if FO counted Lynell Hamilton in that AGL, either. I can't remember--was Heath Evans (FB) active for every game? I know in our SB year he was on IR after the 6th or 7th game, but I don't remember about last year.

16
by Joseph :: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 4:54pm

Ah, yes--I forgot about Jonathan Casillas missing the entire year.

4
by hendricg :: Fri, 09/02/2011 - 9:07pm

Green Bay's 86.3 is incredible, given....well, you know.....

5
by Arkaein :: Fri, 09/02/2011 - 10:34pm

I also hadn't realized it had been that big of a problem in the years previous to 2010.

It seems strange given how you GB's roster has been since Thompson took over as GM. I would have thought that youth provide some protection against injuries. However I don't really know the relative average ages for other teams well enough off hand to look for patterns (except for Tampa Bay, the youngest team for last year I believe, also had above average AGL).

6
by Phil Osopher :: Fri, 09/02/2011 - 10:50pm

No surprise from a Browns fan that they have lead the league in another terrible category. Wow, that really sucks.

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
-Albert Einstein

"Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers"
-Voltaire

7
by sjt (not verified) :: Fri, 09/02/2011 - 10:59pm

How do you measure AGLs exactly? I only wonder because the Chargers are ranked so high (low?) despite the fact they had a ton of injuries last year. Most of them weren't the big names, but they ended up going through 73 active players during the season, one short of the all time non-strike record. Granted 3 or 4 of those guys were just long snappers, but they had plenty of missed games to go around.

8
by Jerry :: Sat, 09/03/2011 - 12:14am

It's from the 2008 book. This article includes this explanation:

Adjusted Games Lost (AGL), our injury metric at Football Outsiders, makes sense of the injury report by incorporating the historical likelihood of a player with a given status and role on the team missing a game.

As an example, from 2007 through 2009, a starter on a team who was listed as "Doubtful" on the injury report in a given week only played 3.7 percent of the time. As a result, each time a starter appears on the injury report as "Doubtful," AGL values him as having missed .963 games, regardless of whether he actually plays or not.

It gets a little more complex than that for the actual calculation of AGL -- we're incorporating a rolling baseline for the year in question (owing to holes in data for the 1996-1999 campaigns) and also adjusting for the position in question.

9
by Danny Tuccitto :: Sat, 09/03/2011 - 1:39am

OK, it represents injuries to starters, situational subs, or replacement starters (e.g., Cassel replacing Brady in 2008). It is based on how a player is listed on the injury report, and how often historically players with that listing have played.

As far as SD goes, most of their AGL in 2010 was due to LBs and WRs. Starters, situational subs, and new starters at those positions missed a total of 27 games, and had a 25.0 AGL. That's about 2/3 of their total.

13
by sjt (not verified) :: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 12:24am

Thanks for the explanations.

10
by Dsvirsky (not verified) :: Sat, 09/03/2011 - 11:07am

You guys gesture at this in the article, but is it generally worse to have injuries focused at one unit/position (a la broncos) or have injuries spread out?

14
by Dales :: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 1:43pm

I have to believe it is worse to have it concentrated, in gneneral.

I base this completely and solely on what happened to the 2006 Giants at linebacker.

17
by Danny Tuccitto :: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 5:53pm

Because we're talking about random events here, take this for what it's worth. If you run correlations between year-to-year change in Ws (or DVOA) and year-to-year change in position-specific AGLs, you find that QB is the strongest by far, followed by LB and HB, followed by OL and DB. The rest are essentially zero.

11
by Dsvirsky (not verified) :: Sat, 09/03/2011 - 11:10am

Also, it'd be interesting to try and weight AGL by some measure for the talent lost. Losing Brady for a season > losing Kevin Faulk

15
by MilkmanDanimal :: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 3:55pm

I was initially surprised Tampa didn't fare even worse, but, in retrospect, they were really pretty darn healthy for the first half of the season. It was about halfway through when two starters per week wound up on IR for three straight weeks, plus some more losses as time went by. I mean, just from the 2010 draft class, by the end of the year, the first-rounder, both second-rounders, and a pressed-into-starting-service-because-Tanard-Jackson-Can't-Put-The-Bong-Down seventh-rounder all were on iR.

20
by akn :: Mon, 09/05/2011 - 4:45am

In a desperate attempt to avoid having to install an artificial turf, the Bears have been secretly sprinkling HGH onto the torn up grass. While this hasn't really improved field conditions, the Bears remain one of the healthiest teams over the past few years, and no one has been able to quite figure it out.

Then again, HGH testing is supposed to be implemented this year, so I guess we're screwed anyways...