1982 DVOA: Jets Rise and Dan Fouts Flies

1982 DVOA
1982 DVOA
Fouts Photo: USA Today Sports Images / Graphic: Erik Orr

NFL Offseason - J-E-T-S! Jets Jets Jets!

The New York Jets haven't won an NFL championship since Joe Namath's guarantee back in Super Bowl III, but they did finish the strike-shortened 1982 season as the No. 1 team according to Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings. It was a year dominated by the AFC, which came out with five of the top six teams. Those top teams include the San Diego Chargers, who finished the year with one of the best offenses ever measured by DVOA. They do not include the top seed in the AFC playoffs, the 8-1 Los Angeles Raiders, who finished only 11th in DVOA but put up a 5-0 record in one-score games. It was their first year in Los Angeles after a jury ruled that the NFL violated antitrust laws and could not stop Al Davis from moving his team from Oakland to the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the best NFC team by DVOA didn't even finish with a winning record. In fact, the 4-5 New York Giants didn't even make the expanded 1982 playoffs, but they ranked No. 4 in DVOA in Ray Perkins' final year before he left to coach Alabama and Bill Parcells took over the team. What's particularly strange is that the Giants come out with a DVOA far better than their actual win-loss record despite having an easy schedule in 1982. It was a weird year.

It seems remarkable for some of us older folks, but most Football Outsiders readers at this point have no memory of an NFL work stoppage that actually cancelled regular-season games. Even the 2011 lockout is over a decade old at this point, and the only thing that got cancelled that year was the Hall of Fame Game. So before we talk about the 1982 DVOA ratings, we should talk a little about the 1982 strike. The strike started after two weeks of the season were played and lasted 57 days. The main point of contention was whether players would get a wage scale based on 55 percent of gross revenues. The NFLPA was also arguing to get copies of all player contracts so that salaries and incentive clauses were no longer a mystery. The strike ended on November 16 with a new five-year CBA and teams were back on the field a few days later with what was originally Week 11 being played on Sunday, November 21.

With no NFL football to show for nearly two months, NBC showed the Canadian Football League while CBS showed Division III football with Pat Summerall and John Madden covering a game between Baldwin Wallace and Wittenberg. You can see a photo from that game and a lot more about the strike in our 1982 Year in Quotes.

Weeks 3 to 10 of the original 1982 season were cancelled by the strike. When players came back, they played Weeks 11 to 16 as scheduled. The league then added the first-ever Week 17 with a schedule of games meant to replace cancelled intradivision contests while also trying to balance out home and away games so no team played a split of six and three. For the playoffs, the league did away with the divisional setup and expanded the playoff field with eight teams per conference making the postseason. As it turned out, only one team "won" its division but did not get a first-round home game, as the Atlanta Falcons ended up a fifth seed at 5-4. The expanded playoffs meant that teams with losing records made it to the postseason for the first time in NFL history, one per conference: the 4-5 Detroit Lions (12th in DVOA) and the 4-5 Cleveland Browns (25th in DVOA).

The Lions were a particularly strange team: last on offense, first on defense and special teams with a ton of turnovers on both sides of the ball. The San Diego Chargers, as mentioned above, had one of the best offenses ever. The Houston Oilers were one of the worst teams ever. The Baltimore Colts had the hardest schedule ever. When you only have nine games, you're going to have a wider range of results, which means you are going to end up with a lot of "evers."

Before we get to talking about all those records, let's run the numbers for all 28 teams in 1982:

  TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
W-L OFF.
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEF.
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NYJ 34.1% 27.1% 6-3 20.9% 2 -15.9% 3 -2.7% 20
2 MIA 31.1% 23.7% 7-2 4.5% 8 -20.9% 2 5.7% 5
3 SD 22.3% 25.9% 6-3 40.3% 1 17.6% 26 -0.5% 15
4 NYG 16.0% 12.5% 4-5 0.9% 15 -9.8% 8 5.3% 6
5 CIN 15.7% 22.2% 7-2 19.7% 3 5.5% 19 1.5% 9
6 PIT 14.1% 17.8% 6-3 1.8% 12 -5.7% 12 6.7% 3
7 WAS 13.3% 13.4% 8-1 5.9% 7 -1.0% 15 6.4% 4
8 DAL 12.5% 15.7% 6-3 1.2% 14 -11.1% 7 0.1% 11
9 MIN 10.9% 5.6% 5-4 3.4% 9 -8.4% 9 -0.8% 17
10 BUF 10.8% 8.1% 4-5 3.0% 10 -12.1% 4 -4.3% 23
11 LARD 9.1% 17.7% 8-1 -2.0% 17 -11.3% 5 -0.3% 13
12 DET 3.0% -2.3% 4-5 -25.4% 28 -21.2% 1 7.3% 1
13 KC 1.5% -3.6% 3-6 -5.4% 19 -4.1% 13 2.8% 7
14 GB 1.2% -2.7% 5-3-1 -5.7% 21 -11.2% 6 -4.4% 24
15 SF -2.5% -1.9% 3-6 10.7% 4 13.4% 23 0.3% 10
16 CHI -3.3% -3.4% 3-6 -8.7% 22 -7.6% 10 -2.2% 18
17 PHI -3.3% 2.4% 3-6 -4.5% 18 -3.9% 14 -2.7% 21
18 TB -5.2% -13.1% 5-4 0.1% 16 -0.8% 16 -6.2% 28
19 NO -6.1% -10.0% 4-5 -11.0% 23 -7.1% 11 -2.3% 19
20 DEN -7.6% -11.1% 2-7 -14.1% 25 0.7% 18 7.2% 2
21 ATL -7.7% -5.1% 5-4 6.0% 6 13.2% 22 -0.4% 14
22 NE -7.8% -1.6% 5-4 1.7% 13 9.6% 21 0.0% 12
23 STLC -13.9% -20.2% 5-4 2.1% 11 15.4% 24 -0.6% 16
24 SEA -16.3% -9.0% 4-5 -18.6% 26 0.2% 17 2.4% 8
25 CLE1 -19.3% -16.7% 4-5 -5.6% 20 9.0% 20 -4.6% 25
26 LARM -22.1% -18.2% 2-7 6.9% 5 23.0% 27 -6.0% 27
27 BALC -34.0% -46.8% 0-8-1 -13.1% 24 15.9% 25 -5.1% 26
28 HOIL -47.6% -53.0% 1-8 -20.3% 27 24.0% 28 -3.3% 22

DVOA for 1982 is now listed in the stats pages:

FYI: For our purposes such as listing DVOA for individual games, we've renumbered the 1982 games so they simply go from Week 1 to Week 9.

Because 1982 is weird, we're currently having a couple of issues with getting the stats all online. First, playoff stats do not yet appear for 1982. Second, player stats are still listed with the usual minimums (200 passes, 100 runs, etc.) instead of the lower minimums we will be using to rank 1982 player stats. We hope to get both of these issues fixed soon.

(UPDATE: 1982 playoffs are now posted!)

A reminder: These pages are not behind a paywall! It's a registration wall. You simply need to register for the site and make sure you are logged in to see these historical DVOA pages.

The New York Jets were a strong all-around team, finishing second on offense and third on defense. That makes them one of just seven teams in DVOA history to rank in the top three on both sides of the ball:

Top 3 Offense and Defense by DVOA, 1981-2021
Year Team DVOA Rk W-L OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk
1982 NYJ 34.1% 1 6-3 20.9% 2 -15.9% 3 -2.7% 20
1987 SF 47.2% 1 10-2 23.8% 1 -22.0% 1 1.3% 9
1991 WAS 56.5% 1 14-2 27.5% 1 -20.4% 3 8.6% 1
1994 DAL 32.4% 1 12-4 18.8% 2 -11.9% 2 1.7% 8
1996 GB 43.0% 1 13-3 16.1% 3 -19.6% 1 7.4% 2
2001 STL 31.2% 1 14-2 21.3% 1 -16.2% 1 -6.4% 29
2007 IND 29.6% 2 13-3 23.0% 2 -13.5% 2 -6.9% 32

The 1987 San Francisco 49ers played in that other shortened strike year, of course, and our 1987 stats do not include the three strikebreaker games from Week 4 to Week 6.

The Jets had a well-balanced offense, as quarterback Richard Todd ranked third in passing DVOA behind Dan Fouts and Ken Anderson while running back Freeman McNeil was fifth in rushing DVOA and chosen first-team All-Pro. Wesley Walker was one of the league's top wide receivers, sixth in receiving DYAR. Two offensive linemen, center Joe Fields and right tackle Marvin Powell, also made first-team All-Pro. The defense had the New York Sack Exchange defensive line, led by first-team All-Pro Mark Gastineau, although Gastineau had only six sacks in the first season where sacks were officially tracked for individual defensive players. (Doug Martin of Minnesota led the league with 11.5 sacks.) The Jets didn't have a lot of well-known defensive players despite being strong on defense. Gastineau was the only Jets defender to make the Pro Bowl. Joe Kelcko, who was All-Pro with 20.5 unofficial sacks in 1981, played only two games before rupturing his patella tendon but did return for the playoffs.

New York almost made DVOA look good with a run to the Super Bowl. They went on the road and destroyed the Bengals 44-17 in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, they beat the No. 1 seed Raiders 17-14 thanks to a 67-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard Scott Dierking touchdown plunge with four minutes left. The Jets held on for a victory when the next two minutes saw three different turnovers: a Jim Plunkett interception, than a fumble by McNeil as he ran out the clock, and then another Plunkett interception.

Unfortunately, the Jets offense completely shut down in the AFC Championship Game, known as the Mud Bowl because the Dolphins decided not to place a tarp over the field when it rained before the game. Todd threw five picks, three to linebacker A.J. Duhe (one for a pick-six), and the Jets lost 14-0 in a game that had 19 total punts. (David Woodley of the Dolphins threw three picks as well.) Jets head coach Walt Michaels ended up resigning a couple of weeks later to spend more time caring for his terminally ill mother; he later returned to coaching with Donald Trump's New Jersey Generals in the USFL.

Those Dolphins finished the regular season right behind the Jets in DVOA before advancing to the Super Bowl. Miami was powered by defense, second in the league and second among Miami defenses in DVOA history despite only one player, nose tackle Bob Baumhower, making the Pro Bowl. (The best Dolphins defense by DVOA came when they led the league in 1998.) But the 1982 Dolphins offense was also better than most people remember. No, Woodley was not secretly good; he finished 19th among 29 qualified passers in DVOA. But Miami had the No. 5 rushing attack back when it was more common for teams to put up rushing DVOA higher than passing DVOA. (Eight of 28 teams did this in 1982, compared to five of 32 teams in 2021.) This mattered even more because the Dolphins ran the ball a lot, with the No. 2 run/pass ratio in the league behind New England.

(Edit: There were so many "best evers" in 1982 that I completely missed the Dolphins having the best pass defense in DVOA history. They even have the best pass defense in DVOA history if we only look at other teams through nine games instead of full 16-game seasons. See here for more details.)

Not that it was impossible for a team to put up a high-flying modern air attack in the NFL of 1982, which brings us to the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers lapped the league with 40.3% DVOA on offense. They led the league both passing and rushing even though the gap between their passing and rushing DVOA ratings was the largest in the league.

Of course, this is where we get to "Yes, but..." for the 1982 season. The 1982 Chargers finished the season with the third-highest offensive DVOA ever recorded, trailing only the 2007 and 2010 New England Patriots. Yes, but it was only in nine games. A better comparison for the Chargers might be to look at the history of how teams ranked after nine games in past seasons. If we only look at teams through nine games, the 1982 Chargers offense drops to fifth. The passing game ranks eighth since 1981 when compared to full seasons but ranks 15th when we compare the Chargers to other teams through nine games.

Best Offensive DVOA, 1981-2021
Year Team W-L DVOA
2007 NE 16-0 44.1%
2010 NE 14-2 42.8%
1982 SD 6-3 40.3%
2002 KC 8-8 35.4%
2018 KC 12-4 35.4%
1998 DEN 14-2 35.0%
1992 SF 14-2 34.5%
1984 MIA 14-2 34.4%
2011 GB 15-1 34.2%
2013 DEN 13-3 34.2%
2003 KC 13-3 33.9%
2011 NO 13-3 33.5%
Best Offensive DVOA
Through 9 Games, 1981-2021
Year Team Week W-L DVOA
2007 NE 9 9-0 47.9%
2018 KC 9 8-1 44.0%
1999 WAS 10 5-4 42.4%
1984 MIA 9 9-0 42.1%
1982 SD 9 6-3 40.3%
1995 DAL 10 8-1 38.6%
1993 SF 11 6-3 37.3%
1998 DEN 10 9-0 37.3%
2013 DEN 10 8-1 36.2%
1993 DAL 11 7-2 35.7%
2004 IND 10 6-3 34.9%
2011 GB 10 9-0 34.5%

With team success comes player success, and San Diego's offensive stars had some all-time great half-seasons in 1982. We'll start with Dan Fouts, whose 8.15 net yards per pass attempt were a full yard ahead of anyone else in the league. Fouts' 1,223 passing DYAR prorate to 2,173 in a 16-game season, which would rank seventh since 1981. Fouts put up 43.8% DVOA in nine games, which puts him among the all-time leaders as well:

Best Passing DVOA, 1981-2021
(min. 200 passes)
Year Player Team Pass DVOA DYAR
2004 P.Manning IND 510 58.9% 2,434
2007 T.Brady NE 599 54.1% 2,674
1984 D.Marino MIA 579 53.0% 2,437
2006 P.Manning IND 567 51.3% 2,317
2010 T.Brady NE 518 46.7% 1,909
2011 A.Rodgers GB 537 46.6% 2,059
1992 S.Young SF 432 45.1% 1,609
1998 R.Cunningham MIN 446 45.1% 1,598
1982 D.Fouts SD 342 43.8% 1,223
2013 P.Manning DEN 679 43.2% 2,475
1998 V.Testaverde NYJ 442 42.2% 1,530
1991 M.Rypien WAS 430 41.9% 1,491

Yes, that really does say "Vinny Testaverde." He was fantastic in 14 games for the 1998 Jets and adding Fouts' 1982 season to our data kicks him out of the top 10.

Wide receiver Wes Chandler may have been even more impressive than Fouts when compared to the league average at his position. Chandler led the NFL with 1,032 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns in only 8 games. He had 54.9% receiving DVOA and 416 receiving DYAR, nearly twice the total of Dwight Clark in second place. If we prorate Chandler's DYAR to 15 games -- remember, he missed a game -- that works out to 780 receiving DYAR. By comparison, the current record belongs to Cooper Kupp at 618 DYAR and he needed a 17th game to get there. Here's where Chandler compares to the top receiving DVOA seasons since 1981:

Best Receiving DVOA, 1981-2021
(min. 50 passes)
Year Player Team Pass DVOA DYAR
2018 T.Lockett SEA 70 66.3% 464
2002 D.Northcutt CLE 51 60.5% 290
1989 J.Taylor SF 75 56.3% 409
1982 W.Chandler SD 81 54.9% 416
2011 J.Nelson GB 96 52.9% 520
1981 S.Watson DEN 95 52.1% 450
2011 M.Floyd SD 70 51.9% 354
1999 T.Dwight ATL 50 51.8% 252
1993 J.Taylor SF 74 51.3% 380
2010 M.Wallace PIT 89 49.5% 462
2001 R.Proehl STL 55 47.5% 265
1999 A.Hakim STL 56 46.9% 245
1989 J.Rice SF 129 45.1% 563

Besides Fouts and Chandler, the Chargers also had the No. 1 tight end by DYAR, Kellen Winslow; the No. 1 running back by DYAR, Chuck Muncie; and the No. 1 running back by DVOA, James Brooks (he was fourth in DYAR). The problem with the Chargers is that they had a terrible defense. For 1982, they ranked 26th in DVOA.

The Detroit Lions were the opposite of the Chargers, only more extreme. By DVOA, the Lions had the worst offense in the league and the best defense (as well as the best special teams.) And here's what is crazy: you would not have known it if you only looked at conventional statistics, which were the only statistics available in 1982. The Lions were almost exactly league average when it came to points scored and allowed. They ranked 15th in the former and 14th in the latter.

OK, it's not quite true that conventional stats didn't show you how the Lions offense was awful while the defense was outstanding. After all, the official NFL rankings are based on yardage, not scoring. The Lions offense ranked 24th in yardage while the defense ranked ninth in yardage allowed. Yards per play do an even better job of showing the discepancy between the two units. The Lions ranked 27th with just 4.24 yards per play on offense and ranked sixth with just 4.61 yards per play allowed on defense. Then, you add on all the turnovers. Detroit had 26 turnovers, tied for second in the league behind Denver. Detroit also had 26 takeaways, tied for fifth in the league.

I wonder if fans back then actually thought the Lions had a better offense than defense. After all, they had a reasonable running game with Billy Sims as their top running back. Sims ranked eighth in both rushing DYAR and receiving DYAR for running backs. The Lions sent more offensive players to the Pro Bowl than defensive players: Sims went along with right tackle Keith Dorney, and then defensive tackle Doug English was both a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro. The Lions had an excellent pass rush, as defensive ends Dave Pureifory and Al Baker combined for 15.5 sacks.

The Lions are the only team in DVOA history to finish first on defense and last on offense. There was also one team since 1981 that finished first on offense and last on defense. Can you guess who that was? The answer is at the bottom of this article.

As for special teams, the Lions finished first thanks to excellent kicking and returns. Wide receiver Robbie Martin was very good returning punts. He was not very good returning kicks, with two fumbles, but defensive back Alvin Hall led the league in kickoff return value. Kicker Eddie Murray missed the first two games in a contract holdout, but veteran Bob Thomas went 5-for-5 with two field goals of 45-plus yards. Murray returned after the strike and hit 11-for-12; his only miss was blocked by Green Bay tight end Gary Lewis. I discussed Lewis back when I did commentary on 1983 DVOA. He blocked 10 kicks in 1982 and 1983, which led to a rule change which prevents players from running up to block a kick if they come down on a player of either team (a.k.a. the "leaping" penalty).

Detroit ended up second in placekicking value for the year, so this is where I have to point out one of the most ridiculous stories of the 1982 season. For the few of you who don't know, the Associated Press voted Washington kicker Mark Moseley as Most Valuable Player. A kicker as MVP is ludicrous but I at least expected that when I computed the 1982 DVOA, Washington would easily come out as the top team in placekicking value. But Moseley wasn't even the best kicker of the 1982 season. Yes, Moseley set an NFL record by converting 23 straight field goals in 1981 and 1982, which was considered a very big deal at the time. He made a league-leading 20 of 21 field goals in 1982. These records ignore the fact that Moseley missed three extra points during the regular season. Nick Lowery of the Kansas City Chiefs was actually the most valuable kicker by our methodology. Lowery was only 19 of 24 on field goals, but three of his missed field goals were over 50 yards and another was 48 yards. Lowery also hit eight field goals of 40 yards or more. His average field goal made was three yards longer than Moseley's average, and Lowery didn't miss a single extra point. In Moseley's favor: he hit three clutch field goals that tied or won games -- tie/win Week 1 against Philadelphia and win Week 7 against the Giants -- while Lowery had no clutch opportunities in 1982. So maybe Moseley was the right choice as All-Pro. But MVP? The stats above should make it clear that Dan Fouts was the 1982 MVP. (There were multiple MVP votes, and while Moseley won the more lauded award from the Associated Press, Fouts did win the award from the Pro Football Writers Association.) Moseley went on to miss four field goals in the playoffs, although none in the Super Bowl.

Washington was a good team overall. Their DVOA of 13.1% is fairly low for a Super Bowl champion but they were the No. 2 team in the NFC in our ratings. What's interesting is that DVOA would have looked silly going into the 1983 season, because if Football Outsiders had existed in 1983 we would have been writing about how the Redskins and Raiders were not as good as their 8-1 records in 1982. Instead of declining, those teams went on to meet in the next Super Bowl.

We wouldn't have been as surprised by the decline of the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. Here's a little preview for when we come out with the 1981 DVOA commentary: the 1981 49ers also have a fairly low DVOA for a Super Bowl champion. But the 49ers did not decline as much as their 3-6 record indicates. San Francisco went 1-5 in one-score games in the strike-shortened season. Overall, they narrowly outscored opponents and they ended up 15th in overall DVOA. They were fourth on offense. Joe Montana did not stop being good.

I've written so far about some of the best teams of the 1982 season. Now it's time to look at the bottom of the league. DVOA has the worst team of 1982 as the 1-8 Houston Oilers rather than the winless 0-8-1 Baltimore Colts. In fact, the Oilers come out as one of the worst teams DVOA has ever measured. The Oilers ranked next-to-last on offense and last on defense. However, we once again have to play the 1982 "Yes, but..." game here. Houston was not one of the worst teams ever if we only look at other teams through nine games. Compared to full-season teams, they rank fourth. Compared to the first nine games of each season, they rank 16th. Here's where the Oilers stand compared to the worst teams ever:

Worst Total DVOA, 1981-2021
Year Team W-L DVOA
2005 SF 4-12 -57.7%
1991 IND 1-15 -49.2%
2009 DET 2-14 -48.6%
1982 HOIL 1-8 -47.6%
2008 DET 0-16 -45.2%
1986 TB 2-14 -44.9%
2008 STL 2-14 -44.7%
2009 STL 1-15 -43.6%
2012 KC 2-14 -43.5%
1987 ATL 2-10 -43.2%
2004 SF 2-14 -43.1%
2003 ARI 4-12 -43.1%

The Oilers would be even worse if DVOA did not count all fumbles as equal no matter who recovers the ball. On offense, the Oilers had 13 fumbles and only recovered two of them.

One big reason why the Colts finish ahead of the Oilers is the schedule adjustment. The 1982 Baltimore Colts played the hardest schedule ever with an average opponent DVOA of 16.6% ... except that we're only measuring a nine-game season. The two best teams of the year by DVOA were in the AFC East, and the Colts were also in the AFC East at that point. Baltimore's added final-week game was a rematch at home against the No. 2 Dolphins. (They lost 34-7.) Baltimore also played San Diego and Cincinnati, which means five total games against teams in the DVOA top five as well as No. 9 Minnesota and No. 10 Buffalo. No. 22 New England in Week 1 was Baltimore's only opponent with a below-average DVOA.

Showing what happens when you only have nine games and random games get cancelled, the 1982 Tampa Bay Buccaneers also have one of the hardest schedules ever, with an average opponent DVOA of 11.8%. And the 1982 Bengals have the third-easiest schedule ever with an average opponent DVOA of -13.6%.

Previously, the record for the hardest schedule by DVOA belonged to the 2004 Cleveland Browns with an average opponent of 13.4%. That's still the record for a 16-game season. If the Colts had played their original 16-game schedule, they would have had an average opponent of 10.9%, which would have ranked as the sixth-hardest schedule in DVOA history.

Now here's a look at the best and worst players by position in 1982.

Quarterbacks: In most years, you'll get a player or two who has a particularly high or low DVOA in half a season, so the DVOA and DYAR rankings are a bit different. That's not the case with only nine games in 1982. After Dan Fouts, the same players make up the top four in both passing DVOA and DYAR. Ken Anderson of the Bengals is second, Richard Todd of the Jets third, and Joe Montana of the 49ers fourth. The same players are at the bottom of the table as well. Archie Manning finishes last in DYAR. He was traded to the Oilers after the first week of the season and took 27 sacks in just six games with Houston. (Two of those games he had just five and four pass attempts; he had six sacks per game in the other four starts.) For the season, including his one game with New Orleans, Manning had just 4.0 net yards per pass. Gary Danielson of the Lions was nearly tied with Manning for last place in DYAR, but that came on 57 more pass plays.

Running Backs: Chuck Muncie led the league in rushing DYAR, as noted above, but Miami fullback Andra Franklin was right behind him. Then came William Andrews of the Falcons, who also led all running backs in receiving DYAR, followed by James Brooks and Freeman McNeil. Football Outsiders stats were surprisingly unimpressed by the Rookie of the Year campaign of Marcus Allen, who only finished 20th in rushing DYAR despite leading the league with 11 touchdowns on the ground. Allen finished 25th in success rate and played an easy schedule of run defenses. However, Allen did finish second in receiving DYAR behind Andrews. Rick Parros of Denver finished last in rushing DYAR with an even bigger hit from an easy schedule than Allen had; like Allen, however, he had excellent value as a receiver. It was a disappointing year for legendary running backs, as Tony Dorsett and John Riggins finished near replacement level while Earl Campbell was 32nd out of 35 qualifying running backs and had a 3.4 yards per carry average.

Wide Receivers: San Francisco's Dwight Clark finished second to Wes Chandler in receiving DYAR, but the real surprise was the player who finished third in DYAR: Washington receiver Charlie Brown. Brown had an interesting career. He was an eighth-round pick out of South Carolina State in Washington's fantastic 1981 draft that also included Mark May, Russ Grimm, Dexter Manley, and Clint Didier. He blew out his knee as a rookie and then somehow won a starting job in his second year and scored two touchdowns in an opening day win over Philadelphia. Brown finished the year with 21.6 yards per reception and eight touchdowns. He scored the final insurance touchdown to give Washington a 27-17 win in Super Bowl XVII. The next year, Brown had 1,225 yards and another eight touchdowns. He was second in receiving DYAR. At 5-foot-10, he was one of the Washington receivers lovingly known as "the Smurfs." But he struggled with injuries throughout 1984 and fought with Joe Gibbs in 1985 minicamp over whether he had lost his starting job. A frustrated Gibbs flipped Brown to Atlanta (and his old assistant Dan Henning) for three-time Pro Bowl guard R.C. Thielemann. Brown had only 412 yards in nine games in 1985, then had a more substantial 918 yards with 15 games started in 1986. (He was 23rd in receiving DYAR.) More injuries hit in 1987 and Brown caught just five passes, and then that was the end of his NFL career at age 29.

After Brown on the wide receivers table for 1982 comes Cris Collinsworth in one of his best seasons, followed by Sammy White of the Vikings. Ray Butler of the Colts was in last place in receiving DYAR, with a dismal 30% catch rate leading to just 17 catches on 56 targets. One other interesting stat from 1982: Alfred Jenkins of the Falcons drew six DPI flags for 109 yards in just nine games. The record for DPI flags in a season is 11 by Torrey Smith in 2014 and DeAndre Hopkins in 2017.

Tight Ends: Kellen Winslow was followed in receiving DYAR by Dave Casper, who may have been the only good thing about the Houston Oilers that season, and then Doug Cosbie of the Cowboys and Ozzie Newsome of the Browns. Seattle rookie tight end Pete Metzelaars finished last in receiving DYAR but was fine in the long term; it was the beginning of a 16-year NFL career, mostly in Buffalo.

(Actually, Casper wasn't the only good thing about the Oilers. Jesse Baker had 7.5 sacks as a 3-4 end while outside linebacker Robert Brazile had 6.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. They were generally horrible otherwise.)

As always, thank you to Jeremy Snyder who did a ton of work to collect this play-by-play as well as video from games where we could not find actual printed gamebooks. Jeremy also put together an excellent review of the 1982 season, from the strike to the first Washington Super Bowl title, in The Year in Quotes. Click on that link to revisit a lot of history.

Oh, and the answer to my question about the only team in DVOA history to finish first on offense but last on defense, the opposite of the 1982 Detroit Lions? It was the 1996 Baltimore Ravens. Vinny Testaverde rears his head again! That team had a rookie linebacker named Ray Lewis who helped ensure that the Ravens would never be known primarily for their offense again.

Comments

97 comments, Last at 28 Jun 2022, 1:52pm

1 Love it

Couldn’t wait any longer for this. When’s ‘81 coming out?

3 As far as QBs go, I'm torn…

As far as QBs go, I'm torn between Fouts and Tarkenton for which player has suffered the most historically in terms of reputation.

Fouts was the original Marino it seems. And yet, when I was coming into football, Marino's name was justly famous, but Fouts' was not. Hell if he wasn't an announcer, I probably wouldn't have discovered him until I started poking around pro football reference. That I think is a shame considering just how high an esteem his numbers carry.

But even with that said, I probably lean tarkenton anyways

12 Fouts has lots of black ink…

Fouts has lots of black ink on his reference page. So a younger fan looks at it and says, yeah, I get it.

Tarkenton has less. His value as a scrambler is hard to recapture. A chunk of his peak was in the 60s and-or with a forgotten Giants team. Tarkenton retired as the NFL career leader in EVERYTHING but is now way down the leaderboards. I'm not sure anyone under 45 has any sense of how great and unique he really was. 

37 Paul Zimmerman said this was…

Paul Zimmerman said this was the best game he saw any qb ever play...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JWBvD93m44M

....which was Tarkenton dragging  39 Giant tomato cans into a competitive fight against a championship Cowboys roster, in Dallas. He was 32 years old before he was ever on a good roster with competent coaching. Not too many Hall of Famers overcame that.

 

 

51 Even back then

Tarkenton retired after 1978.  He was eligible for the Hall of Fame five years later on the 1984 ballot..  He still held every career NFL passing record at the time.   He had 9 pro bowls and an MVP on his resume.

He didn't get inducted, despite having the highest Hall of Fame monitor score on his odds based on his accomplishments that year ( https://www.pro-football-reference.com/hof/1984-ballot.htm ).   In 1985 he was again not inducted, as they went with Joe Namath over him, who had half the stats he did (yards, tds etc).   He was finally inducted in 1986.

Dan Fouts?   He retired in 1987, was first up in 1993.  Tarkenton still held all the records then (as he would until Marino broke them).    Fouts never even played in a superbowl.      Inducted on his very first try.   I remember Tarkenton saying he was hurt by that.  Its as if they punished him for making it to but not winning the superbowl, whereas Fouts  had no such failures on a huge stage.

 

 

 

 

 

61 This sounds familiar

I recall hearing in particular teammates felt he tried to play hero ball a lot which hurt them with his excessive sack yards (believe he still has the unofficial record (4,341 over Krieg's official 3,794) not including his first two seasons in 1961/62 , however given his 3rd and 4th seasons are both top 5 worst all time in sack yardage lost despite a 14 game schedule I can definitely see how teammates would have this opinion engendered.

42 I thought so for many years…

I thought so for many years. "Like how could this guy be such a great quarterback, and now he can't even tell you what f-ing play they called?" 

But that must have been TV direction, because at some point they let Fouts off the hook, and it turned out he could be damn entertaining. Maybe folks never saw this because it was often the west-coast Raiders/Chargers games while everyone else got the national doubleheader. But Fouts uncensored was often really sharp. I went completely 180 on him as a tv color guy, and was like yeah Fouts! The one thing you could say is he got kinda high-pitched when he was ranting mad about something, which was not uncommon in his later years.  

26 I started...

...following the NFL in 1981, a few years after Fran Tarkenton had retired (though was still visible through announcing on ABC Monday Night Football and even more so as one of the three hosts on That's Incredible) and during the peak of Dan Fouts' career with the Air Coryell Chargers.  I hold both in high regard, though Tarkenton almost definitely had the better career (even if Fouts had the more memorable peak in terms of big passing numbers).  During the 1980s and into the early 1990s the old Street and Smith NFL preview magazines, which I started buying in 1987, would include lists of the all-time leaders in various categories, such as passing yards, rushing yards, and receptions.  At that time Tarkenton was still the all-time NFL passing yards leader (still remember his career total - 47,003 yards).  People who at least remember Tarkenton being on TV or as the all-time passing yards leader (say people over 40 years old currently) probably view him highly, while he's more of a footnote to most fans younger than that.

I think in terms of their reputations, Fouts has probably been harmed more than Tarkenton.  Dan Marino came hard enough on the heels of peak Fouts to replace him in the record books, and as the game became more like the one the Air Coryell Chargers played (well, more like a hybrid of Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense and Air Coryell), Fouts' big numbers didn't stand out as much.  The funny thing is if Fouts had been able to play a 16 game season in 1982 and maintained his yards/game average, he would have been the first quarterback to throw for over 5000 yards in a season.  (He actually would have had slightly more yards, 5125 yards, than Marino had in 1984, assuming the same passing yards per game average.)  Fouts' perception might be different now had he become the first quarterback to throw for 5000 yards in a season.  By contrast, at least Tarkenton played in three Super Bowls, though the fact his team scored a combined total of 27 points in those three games doesn't help him.  But the fact Tarkenton held the career passing yards record for almost 20 years after his retirement allowed it to gain some cache that Fouts' single season yardage records each year from 1979 to 1981 did not when Marino broke those records three years later in 1984.

27 What seems to hurt Fouts is…

In reply to by CHIP72

What seems to hurt Fouts is he found himself in no man's land, stuck between eras. I think the 70s depressed passing stats to such a degree, that we only remember the QBs with multiple rings - basically Bradshaw and Staubach. The 80s had Marino, Elway and Montana - effectively overshadowing Fouts.

I suspect something similar will happen to Drew Brees. Right now, he's considered a maybe top 10 QB all time candidate. But as time goes on, his legacy will start to fade a bit and I think he won't be remember quite the same way. That's effectively what happens when your prime overlaps with Manning and Brady and then Rodgers and Mahomes and you don't win multiple rings or mvps. You start to fade into the background.

 

45 Fouts was a first ballot…

Fouts was a first ballot HOFer (as I'm sure Drew Brees will be). There's not much a player can achieve beyond that in terms of legacy - short of being recognized in all-decade teams, 100 year anniversary teams and the like. So what we are really saying is: Fouts was a great player, and was recognized as such during and immediately after his career, but is probably short of being in the discussion for GOAT. 

And yes - Fouts (and Brees) played in a small market and did not enjoy the prolific team success that might have vaulted him to eternal superstardom.  

48 Well, I would say it's a bit…

Well, I would say it's a bit more than they weren't the goats and played in small markets.

Elways name keeps coming up for example, despite him sliding down the goat conversation and having only one ring above Brees. 

The NFL collective memory wraps itself around narratives. The compelling narratives that coin the era. Elways story has a hero like narrative. Manning's does too. So did Staubach and Young. And Favre has an iconic legend around his name. And Marino represents the tragic figure and cautionary tale.

That's kind of why I said I think Brees and Fouts will/have fall out of the broader sweep of NFL history sadly.

60 No, he doesn't

Not an NFL hero narrative, anyway. Come the passage of time, only the New Orleans media will remember the conjunction of Katrina with the Saints' Super Bowl victory. For everyone else it'll only be an 'oh, yeah' thing when someone else brings it up.

79 Nah, there's a huge…

In reply to by BigRichie

Nah, there's a huge difference between Brees and Fouts. The problem with Fouts is his teams never did anything in the playoffs. Never mind Super Bowls, he only played in two AFCCG. That's hard to fathom. QBs with a ring are treated very differently even when they weren't that good and Brees was great. If you don't think he'll be remembered, then is A. Rodgers also going to get the same treatment? I think not.

81 Rodgers have 4 MVPs and was…

Rodgers has 4 MVPs and was inarguably either the best or in the running for best QB during his period and in the convo of one of the absolute best QBs ever. To me, Rodgers is in a higher tier than Brees and will be remembered for those reasons.

4 Another thought occurs to me…

Another thought occurs to me when thinking about the Chargers.

Much like the bills, The Chargers have had enough success that there should be a rich culture of football in San Diego. It's rather strange to me that the city appears to have such apathy the team. For as far back as I can remember, this team has never had a real home field and has actively been playing away games when teams like the Packers or the Steelers show up.

8 San Diego to me always felt…

San Diego to me always felt like a transient town. With all the college and military presence, a lot of people move there and bring their sports loyalties with them and pass those down if they stay. I'm in a similar boat, I was raised in Los Angeles by a Bills fan father and remain one to this day.

62 My understanding is that the…

My understanding is that the Clippers were reasonably if not overwhelmingly popular in San Diego under Irv Levin's ownership. It wasn't until Donald Sterling bought the team and immediately signed a contract with the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena that fans turned on them. After years of legal battles, Sterling finally moved the Clippers to Los Angeles thanks in part to the precedent set by Al Davis's antitrust suit against the NFL.

--Clippers diehard

5 "a Jim Plunkett interception…

"a Jim Plunkett interception, than a fumble by McNeil as he ran out the clock, and then another Plunkett interception."

I guess I'll have to mention that Lance Mehl grabbed both of those interceptions, sending the Jets to the AFC championship game.

6 Surprised the Jets ended up…

Surprised the Jets ended up with the best DVOA this year, since the Dolphins swept them and they blew a meaningless game against Kansas City and Joe Delaney.  They were also lucky the strike happened when it did, right after Klecko went down; I could have seen the team going into a funk right after, with games against the Steelers and, and, ok, those missing games were mostly against underdogs.

7 this is the oldest season I…

this is the oldest season I have any memory of;  the Dolphins lose any sympathy they may have garnered for the "snow plow" game by leaving the turf uncovered through torrential downpours in the week leading up to the "Mud Bowl" (obviously with much higher stakes);  sack exchange and Freeman McNeil- that was a fun, largely forgotten Jets team.  Also remember Dorsett's 99-yard run on MNF (in a game the Cowboys lost comfortably) and a high-stakes late season matchup between Montana and Fouts (think it knocked the 49ers out of the playoffs).  also, you'd expect better (at least in terms of name-recognition) from an Earl Campbell-Archie Manning offense, but I guess '70s football had taken its toll by this point

80 The Mud Bowl was a bit…

The Mud Bowl was a bit before my time, but I've never given much thought to the Dolphins sleight of hand because, after all, the QBs were Richard Todd and David Woodley. I mean, who is a bit of mud going to benefit? They were very similar teams, built around defense and the running game.

And now I learn that Todd was, what was it, third? second in DVOA? How can that possibly be? It's probably the most interesting thing about the whole article and it's barely mentioned. The Jets selected a QB in the first round the very next draft -and losing the AFCCG helped them pick before the Dolphins which, no big deal, but they could've had Marino. Those two QBs were so bad even a SB and a AFCCG appearance didn't keep their teams from going QB in the first round.

9 1982 first round playoff games

Now we're getting back to near the beginning of my time as a football fan, proudly carrying my NFL lunch box to school in (in the case of 1982) 4th grade.  I think I got that lunchbox prior to my 4th grade year and then used it from 4th to 6th grade.  (I remember teaching one of my classmates who was on the same bus as me about the various NFL teams, whose helmets were shown on the spine of the box.)

There are many things I could say about the 1982 season (like the Snowplow Game for starters, or the Eagles upsetting the Cowboys in Irving the day after Christmas), but the thing I'll mention in this comment is the first round of the 1982 playoffs.  The weird, shortened season and expanded playoff field made for a large first round of eight games.  Interestingly, instead of allowing both CBS (NFC) and NBC (AFC) to have double-doubleheaders on both the Saturday and Sunday to televise their four first round games, the NFL gave each network two exclusive windows, one on each day.  Each network then regionalized their coverage of the two games in the TV window, to my knowledge the only time the NFL has not had nationally televised playoff games since they signed their first national TV contract with CBS in the early 1960s.  Looking at things through the lens of how the NFL televises games now, or really the last 20 or so years, it's amazing the NFL did not allow both networks to televise double-doubleheaders, but Pete Rozelle, as visionary as he was, still came from a time when the NFL wasn't the king of the sports mountain, so he probably wanted to err on the side of caution.  (He may have also wanted to protect NBC from possibly losing in the ratings to CBS and the generally larger markets televised by "The Eye".)

The eight first round games had the following schedule; games shown in bold italics are the games I remember being televised in my (Philadelphia) TV market:

Saturday early afternoon (ET) - NFC/CBS

#8 Detroit (4-5) at #1 Washington (8-1) - this wasn't much of a game; the Redskins won easily over the Lions 31-7.

#6 St. Louis (5-4) at #3 Green Bay (5-3-1) - in their first playoff game in 10 years, the Packers also won without breaking much of a sweat, beating the Cardinals 41-16.

Saturday late afternoon (ET) - AFC/NBC

#7 New England (5-4) at #2 Miami (7-2) - I remember the Patriots brought a snow plow along - the infamous "Snow Plow Game" had occurred a few weeks earlier - and placed it in the corner of the end zone on their sideline to try to feel more "at home" in the Orange Bowl, where they hadn't won since 1966; it didn't help as the Dolphins won 28-13.

#8 Cleveland (4-5) at #1 L.A. Raiders (8-1) - the "visiting" home team Raiders (who still practiced in Oakland during the week) had little trouble with the Browns, winning 27-10.

Sunday early afternoon (ET) - AFC/NBC

#5 San Diego (6-3) at #4 Pittsburgh (6-3) - the Air Coryell Chargers went into Pittsburgh and were too much for the aging Steelers, edging them 31-28 in a shootout.

#6 N.Y. Jets (6-3) at #3 Cincinnati (7-2) - the Bengals led this game for much of the 1st half, but Freeman McNeil went wild on the ground (202 yards rushing) and eventually the Jets pulled away for a 44-17 blowout, the biggest surprise of the first round.

Sunday late afternoon (ET) - NFC/CBS

#7 Tampa Bay (5-4) at #2 Dallas (6-3) - the Bucs were much more competitive in this game than they were in their 1981 divisional playoff game against the Cowboys (a 38-0 loss), but Dallas eventually put away Tampa Bay late, winning 30-17.

#5 Atlanta (5-4) at #4 Minnesota (5-4) - IIRC from reading about the game shortly afterwards, the Falcons didn't do much offensively but led for a good chunk of the game due to big plays; that still wasn't enough though as the Vikings pulled out a 30-24 victory.

20 "I remember the Patriots…

"I remember the Patriots brought a snow plow along - the infamous "Snow Plow Game" had occurred a few weeks earlier - and placed it in the corner of the end zone on their sideline to try to feel more "at home" in the Orange Bowl,"

The other article about 1982, the one with all the quotes, makes it sound like the Dolphins brought a snow plow to the game to stir the crowd up, along with a sign stating "Patriots' Secret Weapon".  I don't know because I didn't watch the game.

21 My memory...

...is based on the game summary from the Super Bowl 17 game program, which my father bought for me through the mail.  (I think I have the programs from Super Bowl 16 to Super Bowl 26.)  I'm confident my memory is accurate on what I read.  It is possible the reasons stated in the program regarding the snow plow at the playoff game in Miami were incorrect.

I also remember the plow from watching the game, and my recollection is it was the Patriots idea to bring it in.  I could be wrong about that.

33 It's at the beginning of…

In reply to by CHIP72

It's at the beginning of this clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ji3BXj4jeY

I think it's the Dolphins, but the announcers aren't really clear.  There is a sign proclaiming Snow Job above the fake snow.

10 The Lions were a…

The Lions were a particularly strange team: last on offense, first on defense and special teams with a ton of turnovers on both sides of the ball. 

One does not simply Out-Bears the Bears.

11 Scott Dierking

Scott Dierking's nickname was "Coke Machine." 

13 Willie Andrews?!?!?!?!

 

It's William Andrews, not Willie Andrews.  Respect the man!  Hell of a player before injuries, etc.  Tale as old as time....

14 Yes, Moseley set an NFL…

Yes, Moseley set an NFL record by converting 23 straight field goals in 1981 and 1982, which was considered a very big deal at the time. He made a league-leading 20 of 21 field goals in 1982. These records ignore the fact tht Moseley missed three extra points during the regular season.

That's a weird argument. They are completely different things.

If you lead the league in sacks, should they take away your TD pass crown?

19 Perhaps

Perhaps I should have worded that differently... missing extra points doesn't affect the field goal record but it should affect whether or not you are voted as MVP!!!

16 Frustrated Jets fan

My biggest frustration with the 1982 season is that the Jets played 8 of 12 games on the road including the last 6 in a row (including playoffs). Of course the Jets might have hosted the AFC title game had Pat Leahy, who had a dreadful year that season, missed an extra point in the 20-19 loss at Miami. I will say, unlike most Jets fans, I have no issue with 'tarp gate' in the AFC title game. Miami earned home field and, there is no excuse for that pick 6 Todd threw to Duhe. Worst pass in Jets history. 

Then Jets management overreacts to the title game loss and finds reason to get rid of Michaels for Joe Walton who was a good OC but awful HC. I so wish they had stuck with Walt Michaels. That was a really good football team and unfortunately it was never the same after 1982.

30 No one in New York believes…

No one in New York believes that story.  You should check out the Did He Jump Or Was He Pushed? section of the quote article.  I might add that Michaels ended up being the head coach of the New Jersey Generals for the 1984-1985 seasons, so he went back to coaching in about a year.  That part is hilarious as well; Donald Trump took over the Generals, fired Chuck Fairbanks and tried to hire Joe Gibbs, then Don Shula, and then Joe Paterno, and then he hired his fourth choice, Michaels.

49 So?

Just because "nobody in New York" believes said story doesn't mean much at all. We're basically wired to believe conspiracy explanations whenever we're emotionally involved in something.

Having cared for a terminally ill mother, any folks who contend 'no one would quit their job just to do THAT!', well ... 

25 What's funny...

...well, maybe not funny but ironic, about the Jets is they had been unbeaten from 1978 to 1981 against the Dolphins, going 7-0-1 in that stretch, even though the Dolphins finished with a better record than the Jets every one of those four years.  Then in 1982 the Dolphins beat the Jets three times, including the AFCCG.

31 It's funny if you are a…

In reply to by CHIP72

It's funny if you are a Dolphins fan.  The rivalry was streaky before then; I believe the Dolphins won a bunch in a row against the Jets before 1978.

28 My dad was a huge redskins…

My dad was a huge redskins fan, this his favorite year. If not for Don Shula cheating, maybe the #1 Jets beat his Redskins and as such he doesn’t allow me to “pick my team” four years later. I’d probably be a giants fan and not be sentenced to this miserable existence. 

52 That Jets team

Got me to my only Super Bowl.  Between the Raiders and Dolphins games, my dad managed to finagle tickets from an old friend with access to corporate seats, just in case the Jets made it.  After they lost the Mud Bowl, we went to the game anyway and rooted like hell for Washington.  I got to put my feet in the Pacific Ocean and saw a ND/UCLA basketball game on the same trip.  Not bad for an eight year old kid.  Still hate Shula and AJ Duhe though!  

32 Wish I would have paid more…

Wish I would have paid more attention to that Chandler season in 82 and the sneak peak at 81 with Watson in Denver. But I was young and in WI so Chargers and Broncos games were not going to be all that available. So I don't have any personal memories of either.

I always have held 2011 Jordy Nelson as one of the best the receiving season ever. I'm aware it wasn't the best the DVOA or DYAR or any traditional stat. But his usage was 1.3 - 2.9 passes a game more than anyone else who had topped 50% DVOA, prior to the 81 and 82 data. That is reflected in DYAR of course and it's why he is 2nd on the table in this article only to the amazing 1989 Jerry Rice season. Nelson was 40th in targets out of all WR in 2011, first in DVOA and 2nd in DYAR. That is approaching WR1 target levels. Jennings was the Packers #1 of course at 101 targets, 31st in the league, Finley (TE) was 3rd on the team at 92 targets. Jennings missed 3 games which did help Nelsons target count compared to some other high DVOA guys but it wasn't just that.

The 2018 Tyler Lockett season was one that I would accept as being better and like Nelson, who was 5 targets behind Jennings, Locket was 2nd on his team in targets just 3 behind Doug Baldwin. Both Baldwin and Jennings missed 3 games which helped get Nelson and Locket more targets than they otherwise might. The Packers of course threw the ball more than Seattle because Mike McCarthy offense (552 att) vs Pete Carrol offense (427 att) so the 3rd targets of Finely with 92  targets and Moore with 53 highlight some of the other differences that either work for against Lockett depending on how you view things. But it was a very different offense so Lockett's 16.3% target share vs Nelson's 17.4% share is still a different beast even if they look pretty close.

Anyway if you want to give DYAR and DVOA equal weight you can just take the geometric mean of the two numbers and get a unit-less relative ranking. It's not perfect (more later) and there are certainly going to be some seasons of super high DYAR and very good DVOA, like 2021 C. Kupp that will be better than these best DVOA seasons and I've thrown Kupp in there to illustrate (no one else because this is quick and dirty from the data in the article + 1 other player).

But for fun here's how that table looks with the geometric mean of of DVOA and DYAR (DVOA treated as numbers like 66.3 or 52.9). Heck if you want to give usage more weight you can put pass attempts as a 3rd value in the geomean. Again you're getting a unitless relative number but since DYAR is weighted a bit by receptions and DVOA a bit by catch % adding targets in raw would give them more than 1/3rd weight in reality. I'll do it anyway because it is still a bit of fun.

  1. Tyler Lockett, 2018 (SEA) -       175.39 from (66.3, 464)
  2. Jordy Nelson, 2011 (GB) -        165.86 from (52.9, 520)
  3. Jerry Rice, 1989 (SF) -             159.35 from (45.1, 563)
  4. Steve Watson, 1981 (DEN) -    153.12 from (52.1, 450)
  5. John Taylor, 1989 (SF) -            151.75 from (56.3, 409)
  6. Mike Wallace, 2010 (PIT) -        151.22 from (49.5, 462)
  7. Wes Chandler, 1982 (SD) -      151.12 from (54.9, 416)
  8. John Taylor, 1993 (SF) -            139.62 from (51.3, 380)
  9. Malcolm Floyd, 2011 (SD) -       135.55 from (51.9, 354)
  10. Dennis Northcutt, 2002 (CLE) - 132.46 from (60.5, 290)
  11. Cooper Kupp, 2021 (LAR) -       130.60 from (27.6, 618)
  12. Tim Dwight, 1999 (ATL) -           114.25 from (51.8, 252)
  13. Ricky Proehl, 2001 (STL) -        112.19 from (47.5, 265)
  14. Az Hakim, 1999 (STL) -             107.19 from (46.9, 245)

If you really want to give targets more weight because usage matters for greatest WR seasons that gets you.

  1. Jerry Rice, 1989 -        148.51 (129, 45.1, 563)
  2. Cooper Kupp, 2021 -   148.24 (191, 27.6, 618)
  3. Jordy Nelson, 2011 -    138.22 (96, 52.9, 520)
  4. Steve Watson, 1981 -  130.59 (95, 52.1, 450)
  5. Tyler Lockett, 2018 -    129.13 (70, 66.3, 464)

The rest of the order doesn't shuffle that much going mostly just 89 Taylor dropping down it finishes Wallace, Chandler, 89 Taylor, 93 Taylor, Floyd, Northcutt, Proehl, Dwight, Hakim. Hakim is 86.33 for the value if want to have that for comparison as well. Just didn't want to do more formatting.

 

Anyway it was a quick and dirty way to rank some of the seasons in this article a bit differently. I enjoyed lots of pleasant flashbacks to 2011 Jordy Nelson he of the crazy body control and sideline catches.

It has problems, lots of problems, with what I did, but it's not a completely useless context for relative value of a season if you want to give DYAR and DVOA and maybe targets equal weights. Of course you aren't really because they are related to each other, but it took like 2 minutes to slap it in sheets and run the data and like a three more to try and get it some formatting (since we can't put tables in the comments and the WYSIWYG editor isn't really).

I added targets as the 3rd value in part because I don't actually think 2011 Nelson was more impressive than 89 Rice or 2021 Kupp. Again, quick and dirty but a bit of a fun way for some additional context with no deep thought on inputs because I just used what the article had already. I quite like that Lockett is better than Nelson by one aggregation and worse by another because as I mentioned I'm not sure who I really feel had the better of those seasons when just considering the greatest super efficient seasons. I think DVOA is very good at measuring efficiency but again I think that efficiency needs usage context. DYAR does capture some of the usage context DVOA loses (they both capture some of the actual usage on the field because receptions on deep routes are going to get you more DVOA and DYAR and than shorter routes unless you get a lot YAC, etc), so just using those 2 values does still tell you something. If you really wanted a single WR number you'd need more inputs (PFF grades for example would be nice, AV could have value, etc) more thoughts into scaling of those than just a simple goemetric mean.  But quick and dirty I do like what these combos tell me.

I do think what Nelson did was more impressive than what Taylor and Northcutt did having memories of both of those players from those seasons. Ditto Mike Wallace vs Tim Dwight. It also makes the Greatshow on Turf slot machines (Proehl and Hakim) look less impressive and I agree with that, very efficient at what they did and rightly rewarded by DVOA, but not quite as valuable for how they impacted games hence the lower DYAR, so getting a single number that sorts that all out for me was nice.

Since the base list was built off of guys who had impressive efficiency throwing in Kupp who had very good efficiency and amazing usage and game impact just to see how that fit was interesting and very quickly tells you that you need something else for the full impact of the season. I had targets so I tried it, it helps but it's likely not the right input or the right method to get a single value. z-scores of where the DYAR and DVOA are compared to everything else likely does what I want better for example.

34 Having witnessed Brady's…

Having witnessed Brady's brilliant 07 season and Manning's 04 season, I thought I had seen the pinnacle of QB play.

Before I make my ultimate point, I should say that finest season isn't always the same as prettiest season. I regard Manning's 2010 and 2006 seasons as his best, even though 04 was his best in terms of dvoa and aesthetics.

But Rodgers was sublime in 11 in ways that are just hard to describe. It was like every throw was threaded and effortless, making his one regular season blemish all the more dumbfounding.

Sometimes an athlete is in such a zone and the team around him is so in tune that you make magic during the regular season in a way that is so rare. It seems hokey to call it the perfect storm or perfect timing but that's what it was. 

I have yet to see a quarterback played that effortlessly in the regular season as I did Rogers in 2011.

But then again I regard Rogers' performance in 2010 against the falcons as one of the greatest quarterback games I've ever seen. I thought the falcons did a great job on Rogers, he Just inhumanely tore their heart out of their chest.

40 Yep I agree with all of that…

Yep I agree with all of that. That team clicked. Rodgers looked other worldly in it. It had the perfect parts for what McCarthy wanted to do in the passing game and passable parts in the running game. It slowed down as the season went on in part because of the Jennings injury, he missed the loss in KC, the 2nd Chicago game and the Matt Flynn 6 TD game against Detroit and it's not fully clear if he was all the way back in that painful playoff loss to the Giants (4 rec for 40 on 7 targets). It also slowed down some for the same reason every modern offense tends to slow down. Weather and additional film to study to help scheme against it.

That was still one the all time receiving corps. You had rookie Cobb, end of career Driver, peak Finley, peak James Jones, end of his peak Greg Jennings, and just starting his peak Jordy Nelson. With all that it still affects things when you lose a Greg Jennings. Especially when your running game is just complimentary to your passing offense, not something you could lean on even temporarily. Sure rushing offense was 12th in DVOA at -1.5% but it was a platoon of 4.2 YPA Ryan Grant and 4.3 YPA Jame Stark (134 att, 133 att respectively, 559 and 578 yards, 2 and 1 TD). You don't rely on that. Roders was 4.3 YPA on 60 attempts too with 3 TD. They would give the ball to John Kuhn, 4 TD on 30 carries, in short yardage but no runner had better than a 49% success rate. The efficiency was an illusion. It didn't hurt them, it was used for what it needed to be, but you couldn't turn to it even for a few series if something major happened to the passing game.

It was a poor defense too. 9.8% overall (26th), 13.3% pass (24th) and 4.0% rush (28th). It did force turn overs with 31 INT and 13 FF, but it could not be relied upon. It paired well with that offense though, take the ball away and give you another potential killing blow for that passing game. But if you somehow managed to stop the offense you could score. There was no pass rush (Matthews led the team with 6 of the anemic 29 sacks). Special teams overall were mediocre one of the, I think 3 times, that GB has had positive overall ST DVOA for Rodgers, but nothing stood out as anything but average. The punting was the weakest link but with only 55 punts on the season did that matter? Actually a little as it lined up with their other weaknesses. It gave the blueprint to beat them which was the slim hope of getting a stop of that offense here or there and taking advantage of field position and a poor to bad defense to score and stay in the game and keeping hoping for something else to let you do that again.

Really though how do you cover 5 receivers against a mobile QB? And there are 6 receiving options with different strengths that can be used against you even if they can't all be on the field at the same time. Sure Driver was on the tail end of his career and Cobb was a rookie but Driver was still an excellent route runner. If you didn't have the rest of the team being younger and faster and getting more targets he was still capable of a respectable 1000 yard season with positive DYAR and DVOA something he had done as recently as 2009, but having him be 200+ DYAR at 18% DVOA and 1000 yards was one of your worst options. That's insane. Your next worst option was probably rookie Cobb was still a slot machine and could get himself open, break defenders ankles with change of direction and great short area quickness with dangerous YAC potential. Finley had average hands but had multiple seasons as a real receiving threat and was a match-up problem for many, though not all, LBs and a seam threat. James Jones was the archetype of a 3rd option WR. A guy who gets 40 - 70 target 400 - 800 yards, 3 - 5 TDs every year and he was in the middle of his career at his peak. He couldn't consistently win on his own, but he could do it enough that it would bite you a few times a game. Then you had Jennings and Nelson. Sure 2011 was Nelsons best season by advanced metrics but 2012 - 2016 were top 3 type seasons as well (well 2012 missed 4 games to injury, and all of 2015 was lost to an injury). There is a reason you saw a good number of empty backfield with 5 WR or 4WR, 1TE and sometimes 3WR 2TE or 3WR, 1TE, RB out wide. Jennings is not the best option for a WR when you think of primary target go to guy in the league but was still above NFL average for that role. No superstar but 10 - 25% DVOA, 200 - 350 DYAR guy 3rd - 10th ranked guy in the league level talent. Very good just nothing super special, so rough to have your primary target be "just" a very good to great NFL WR and not a great to best in the league type guy. 

That WR corp basically was going to give you a ton of potentially wide open guys. Seriously that's a group where whatever combo you have on the field might all be covered for like 4, maybe as many as 6 plays in the whole game and even while covered could still be 50/50 chances to make the catch. It was just insanely deep and while maybe not the highest of peaks for talent the floor was still above the ceilings of multiple teams. The QB did need time to find them and the skill to hit them and AR had both of those in abundance. Losing Jennings probably upped that all covered count 6 to 10 plays. I mean that's 6 to 10 plays were your might only have a 50/50 type pass play the rest all probably have at least 1 guy wide open if you can find him. I would say that takes you from "how the hell can we beat this offense" to "if things break right we can slow them down, win some field position battles, and if we get a lucky break or two we can win this". That is exactly what happened twice. Once in KC and then again in the playoffs. At full strength you needed like 90% (or more) of what if type things to go your way to win. With Jennings out and with more and more film to study you probably only needed about 75% of things to go your way. The depth was such that even without all the pieces that offense still had the advantage. That's why both losses were surprising upsets because even with meh ST and a weak defense you just didn't expect to stop that offense enough times.

With that being said the team had no fallback plan if the passing game didn't work. The defense and running game were just compliments to that offense, they could not win without the passing offense. The running game or defense were not even good enough to maybe get you through a game if the passing offense faltered. I don't blame them for it, it was a special passing game. You needed a lot of things to happen for that offense to not be enough.

So the painful playoff loss. You had the weather not the coldest game but still cold, that just makes everything a little more difficult. I'm not convinced Jennings was 100%. You had all the resources poured into the heavy film study any playoff team does to help exploit any tiny weakness. NY had a good pass rush to help limit the passing game some. Couldn't shut it down but they could limit it. They had the basics and some of that needed 75% of "things going your way."

They recovered all 3 fumbles (GB as a team only had 12 offensive and 3 ST fumbles all season so 3 in a game was not typical in anyway). Those led to 34 and 4 yard TD drives (the 40 yard one aided by a 40 yard return of the fumble) that's almost the entire 17 point margin. Throw in the end of 1st half near hail mary (it was only 38 yards so "near") that worked for another 7 points of the margin. That slightly weak punting game? GB punted twice once for 43 yards that was a touchback (23 net) and once for 36 yards that was fair caught at the NY 31 so wasted chance to really get a 45-55 yard flip of the field. So yep that weakness didn't even perform to average (it was only -2.2 points on the special teams they were 18th in the league so you don't expect both punts to be that bad). Add all those things up with the other small little things from early and yep that's the 75% of things going your way for New York. You change like 2 of those things, say GB recovers one of the fumbles and the one punt pins them, or Eli throws 2 INT instead of 1 against a team that often got 2 INT a game, just one of those 3 things and GB probably wins because it likely gives GB 7 points, takes 7 from NY and allows Rodgers to not be in total desperation in the last 3 minutes and takes away his game sealing INT.

I'm not saying all those things were just pure luck. NY forced 2 of those fumbles. I believe colder weather makes fumbling more likely and impacts punting as well. NY had as good a game plan as you could against that passing attack. Manning played at basically what was his peak level. They lined up every strength they could against the known weaknesses and they didn't let any of luck they got slip way. They still earned the win. But they still needed all the luck they got to capitalize enough to win. Play the game 10 times GB probably wins 8 of them (I'm willing to say NY could have found another way to win). Sadly I don't live in one of the 8 other universes where GB won.

 

So yeah 2011 was special and not getting more out of it sucked. Nelson's amazing receiving year was just one of the most visible results of it. It's what a great receiver can have happen when everything lines up for that 1 season. Let's look at my little metric for other Nelson years. I don't think you were saying that Nelson was purely a product of Rodgers in that offense for that year, but it's pretty clear that while that was when everything came together for that duo, they were still special in "lesser" years. Remember he missed 4 games in 2012

The last 2 numbers are the DVOA/DYAR geomean then the TGTS/DVOA/DYAR geomean
2011 - 96 tgt, 52.9% DVOA, 520 DYAR, 165.86, 138.22
2012 - 73 tgt, 31.9% DVOA, 257 DYAR, 90.54, 84.27
2013 - 127 tgt, 26.8% DVOA, 402 DYAR, 103.80, 111.02
2014 - 151 tgt, 26.8% DVOA, 482 DYAR, 113.66, 124.95
2016 - 152 tgt, 19.2% DVOA, 382 DYAR, 85.64, 103.96

So yeah things fall off but only 2016 or 2012 would be at the bottom of the table I originally used. 2013 and 2014 was Cooper Kupp 2021 with 40 - 64 fewer targets (and corresponding loss of DYAR from less chances) those targets absolutely matter but Nelson was still a stud. I still haven't built my own shadow DB fully so I can't easily say how many receivers have 3 seasons over 400 DYAR, but I can say Davante Adams only has 2. Adams never got to play with a corps like Nelson did but man I do miss how good Nelson was. Heck I miss just having 2 very good receivers.

I also think 2015 "what's wrong with Aaron Rodgers!" where he finish 17th in DYAR and 17th in DVOA (with a -1% DVOA at that!) had a lot to do with Nelson missing the season. Sure, peak Cobb, end of peak James Jones, 2nd year Davante Adams, and 2nd year Richard Rogers at TE is not garbage and potentially better than what the 2022 WR corps will be. It still really missed what Nelson could do on the outside though. They had a coach in McCarthy who still could not adjust his scheme for the players he had. The McCarthy offense is not a bad one, but McCarthy as a coach was just not as flexible as many others. I still would take him over at least half the other coaches in the league right now. But he had, and has, his flaws and that was one of them. Again I feel LaFleur is an upgrade in all the places they needed a coaching upgrade, including game time management even with some of the big moment head scratcher decisions.

 

Anyway, thanks for pointing me to this rabbit hole. Despite how it ended that was a great season with so many highlights.

44 I have a slightly different…

I have a slightly different take than you about why the Packers lost that game to the Giants.

Even with the injuries that you mentioned, The result was rather stunning. Neither I nor Vegas nor football outsiders nor practically anyone expected them to lose the way they did.

Then you look back on all of these teams that were unbelievable passing offenses. And all of them either got slowed down at some point during the postseason or outright lost. Off the top of my head only the Rams actually ended up winning the super bowl and even they were slowed down.

I think the point here is at some level you're going to need to win games with your defense because your offense is just going to get stopped. 

Remember it's not about covering all five receivers, It's really about covering the first few reads that the quarterback thinks the ball is supposed to go to and then getting the requisite pass rush on him such that he doesn't have time to find the open man/ gets rushed into bad throws. 

If you're able to land a few sacks, hold them out of the end zone and stop them on a key couple of third downs, you have largely neutered the offense. That sounds easy enough and most of the time it's not but there are going to be games where this condition is met

 

46 I think you're right about…

I think you're right about the 2011 Packers not able to win a low scoring slugfest due to defensive issues (and maybe weaker running game), and the Packers have been snakebit at home in the playoffs lately compared to their past.  Perhaps when you play on the frozen tundra, possibly the coldest January stadium in the NFL, you should design your team to be prepared for it.

63 Like you said our views are…

Like you said our views are only slightly different. I didn't expect them to lose that way either. I didn't expect them to lose at all. I went deep into factors because you don't expect a team to lose when the other team needs like 75% of all "what if" scenarios or high leverage plays to go their way. I also didn't even mention the death of Philbin's son the week before the game which had an effect on the planning and prep. It was just another small factor that helped influence things. Of course it was a stunning loss. Just because I can see how it happened and see the flaws the team had doesn't change that.

I realize I may have given the impression the team was built completely around the offense like the Manning Colts had been where everything was set-up even with the D to help that offense. That was not the case.

You need at least some defense
I also agree that you eventually need defense and while I mentioned that 2011 was a bad defense it's not like the front office and coaches were ignoring it. So more detail.

In 2009 it was 2nd in DVOA at -16.9% (fifth against the pass pass -14.4%, and 3rd against the run -20.5%). In 2010 it was 2nd in DVOA at -14.0% (1st pass at -15.4% and 12th run at -12.0%). Then in 2012 it was 8th at -6.5% (9th -3.3%, 13th -11%).  So what the hell happened in 2011 for it to be 26th at 9.8% (13.3% pass and 4.0% rush)? Bringing Capers in as DC in 2009 and switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 clearly worked to turn the defense around and the rebound in 2012 showed that while the league was starting to figure out the defense a 4 year trend of -16.9%, -14.0%, 9.8%, -6.5% indicated that 2011 was an outlier year. Sure defense is more variable than offense and less predictable, but that's an outlier.

The biggest issue was again an injury. 3 time pro bowl and 3 time AP2 free safety Nick Collins suffered a career ending injury in the 2nd game of the season. Let's be clear about how good Collins was. He was a legit threat to get AP1 in a league that had Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. He was on a trajectory to be better than HoF LeRoy Butler.

While the team had done a pretty good job of reloading the roster after the horrible damage that Sherman had done to it from 2000 - 2004, the demands of switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and initial focus on getting the offense set-up from 05-08 had left them thin at a few positions and Safety was one of them. I completely understand why some fans are worried about safety going into 2022 because it looks very much like what 2011 did. You have a solid starting duo but basically no bench. They had drafted Morgan Burnett in 2010 to replace Charlie Peprah at strong safety the safety position that had been a revolving door since 2001 after the LeRoy Butler career ending injury. So again they weren't ignoring the issue they just hadn't fully solved it yet. Collins and 2nd year Burnett looked pretty solid and you can't have depth everyone. It's the NFL though and injuries happen at positions you really hope they don't. When Collins went down they started Peprah back at SS where he started most of 2010 and tried Burnett at FS. They tried a few other things too. It never worked. Packers fans on this site have voiced basically this worry, what the hell do they do in 2022 if Amos gets hurt? Amos is not Collins level good and Savage is better than Burnett was but depth is no good right now either.

It's more than just Collins going down.

They had also let Cullen Jenkins go in the offseason which weakened the d-line more than I think they expected. For current fans think of Jenkins as like Kenny Clark. Jenkins was more of a 4-3 DT than a 3-4 end and that was part of the trouble with the contract. Jenkins had also missed 12 games in 2008 and 5 in 2010 to injury. So when you have a guy that would rather be a 4-3 DT with some injury concerns, letting him go instead of fighting the contract and cap made some sense. You had a great secondary and solid LB corps to make up for. They were also still bringing Pickett and Raji back after all. CJ Wilson and Jarious Wynn had been solid as spot starters and rotational pieces. The Matthews, Hawk, Bishop core of the LBs was coming back. You still had all pro Charles Woodson and pro bowler Tramon Williams at corner. You can't pay everyone and Jenkins was great but with basically the whole defense that had been top 2 in the league the past 2 years coming back surely you could absorb the hit that losing Jenkins would have.

Clearly getting a starting a LT to replace the retired Chad Clifton was more important and first round pick Derek Sherrod could handle that and you can play Bulaga at LT if Sherrod only turns out to be as good as his floor. Turns out he was less ready than thought then he breaks his leg in back-up duty against KC. The plans to replace Clifton didn't work at all. So the pass protection was a bit weaker than expected (comes into play vs New York again). But this is defense get a 2nd or 3rd round DT to help! When a Randall Cobb level talent falls to you at the end of the 2nd round you can't pass up on that either, you need to replace Driver eventually and he is instant impact on special teams. Speed Score of 107 Alex Green was there at RB in the 3rd and they new that what they had at RB was pedestrian so that seems like a good potential starting RB or at least another ST help. (ST was dead last in 2009 and 26th in 2010) giving it some draft priority was welcomed by this fan.

They weren't just flailing around or completely ignoring the defense potential issue. They weren't even designing a defense to help the offense. They HAD a defense that could win games on it's own in 2009 and 2010. They had spent two first round picks, a 2nd and a 3rd on defense over the 09 and 10 drafts to help with the conversion to a 3-4 to get that tough. They still took a lot of flyers on defensive guys in late rounds in 2011 including 7th round Lawrence Guy who was raw but I was super excited about. He took longer to develop than I and the team wanted but has started all but 4 games for New England since 2017. Too hopeful to assume he would be ready for big contributions in 2011 but again they didn't just ignore that Jenkins was gone and tried for some immediate help and potential future help.

With all that the team thought it had a defense. The fans thought the team had a defense. Even with losing Jenkins.

They actually did have a defense, right until they didn't. Sure NO, the 2nd best offense in 2011 with a 50.6% passing DVOA of their own dropped 34 points on them, but 34 was only NO's 7th best output on that season. They dropped points on everyone just like GB and New England (with a 55.1% passing DVOA). But GB still wasn't worried about the defense and that was still OK.

Then your safety who was a threat to be voted all pro in a league that had Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu had his career ended in the 2nd game. The adjustments you made to the scheme to deal with uncertainty at defense end aren't working so well. Now you lost that safety help in a defense that needs a safety (there is more than one reason Woodson ended up at safety). Things are falling apart. The scoring defense still looks pretty solid after that NO games. They held 7 teams under 20 points that seasons. But as fans of this site, we know a lot more than the defense goes into the scoring defense. DVOA reflects that. That scoring defense illusion just adds to the perception that 15-1 isn't completely built around an historic passing offense. 

Regardless the defense plummeted. It still had a lot of individual talent hence all the take aways but you couldn't rely on it to win games for you like it had in 2009 and 2010. So you lean even more heavily into that very special passing offense you have. Your hope that the 3rd round running back you picked up can have a rookie impact failed, but you can live with the Grant/Starks duo. But your attempt to get a more consistent running game that was more reliable had also failed.

You know the defense is an issue after losing Collins you have a full year of evidence but still 15-1 and what an offense! 2nd best points per drive offense (at the time) in NFL history! It's still 6th best ever behind 2007 NE at 3.37, 2018 KC at 3.25, 2020 GB at 3.22, 2018 NO at 3.21, 2019 BAL at 3.08, 2011 GB at 3.05, 2016 ATL at 3.04. That's it for teams that averaged better than a field goal per drive.

So yeah that playoff loss was a shocker. Even if you can look at it see the strange things. Even when you factor in everything. Even against a team that had become one dimensional it was still a loss that only happens maybe 2 out of 10 times.

Covering recievers
Against most QBs most of the time covering the first few reads is all you need. That is exactly what you need to do for the normal flow of the play. Part of what makes all mobile QBs dangerous though is that a significant portion of the time when a play breaks down being able to cover all 5 suddenly becomes more important. Let's not forget that at that point in his career Rodgers was more mobile than Mahomes is. He also still hadn't learned to accept that some plays aren't going to work and would hold the ball forever leading to the high sack rates that have always been his biggest criticism. Of course when you had so many receivers of above average skill it was hard to blame him because most of the time he was right to extend the play and most of the time one of them would get open. Note that Brady and Manning were also very dangerous with their abilities to navigate the pocket and extend plays without scrambling. Scrambling just makes it more obvious. 

The Packers still had a huge advantage with having 6 players that you had to worry about because McCarthy was actually still innovative around the edges in play design and play calling back then. If you have Nelson, Jennings, Finley, and Driver on the field who do you think is the first read on that play? The first 3 all had the ability to beat man and zone pretty consistently even if you guessed right and while Driver was declining he was the definition of wily veteran at that point and could still read a DB and make them look foolish at times. The play design was also still smart enough to shuffle up the read orders and Rodgers. Every player had multiple first or 2nd read options when they were on the field. Some of this I think is part of why Rodgers has historically been so hard on rookies. The system he learned in was pretty complex and the QB and WR were both expected to read the defense and adjust routes on the fly as well as multiple audibles. Every system has this to some degree but McCarthy really pushed it because he had the talent to really take advantage of it. It's actually possible that Adams took so long to really blossom because of this and then he exploded under LaFleur because LeFleur simply does not do nearly as much of it. I think that is also part of the reason they don't care as much about the WR position for star ability or depth. The system lets you learn your limited role and just do the one or two options on each route and those options are usually pretty cut and dry.

So yes you don't need blanket coverage on every receiver on every play. That's part of why every receiver thinks they are open on every play too. Sometimes they are but being wide open as the 3rd or 4th option is not nearly as valuable as being wide open as the 1st or 2nd because you are correct defense plan for this and even allow it to happen because it generally is still a win for them. The great QBs and teams make you pay way more often for that. 2011 GB had a team that had some of the best pieces ever for doing just that too.

 

 

So yeah I go WAAAAAAY off track
This whole series of post started because I actually wanted to help show how special Wes Chandler was in 1982. I let nostalgia really drag me off course.

But yes that Chandler season was something special. So was Fouts. Really everything I've written about in this thread in very tangential way does support that. I went nuts because of how special 2011 Nelson was and then we sidetracked because 2011 Rodgers was special.  Well 1982 Chandler and 1982 Fouts did something that was on par with all the words I expended on other players because I let my homerism and fandom get the best of me.

I'm sorry about that. Go look up highlights of Chandler and Fouts from 1982 and enjoy.  I'll start everyone off with this one. There are more and they are worth it because it was an awesome season.

56 Packers-Falcons

Same here. When it comes to pure passing and being in a zone, that game still stands out to me. And I’ve been watching the NFL for over forty years. Seemed as if every throw was a frozen rope right between the numbers, and usually on the sidelines, to boot. 

41 I don't think it creates it,…

I don't think it creates it, I think you've already got it with just DYAR and DVOA, it certainly makes it even worse though. Very valid to point it though. Like I said quick and dirty and fun, very flawed but not completely worthless (I don't think, maybe it is as you've got me thinking more....)

50 I wanted to raise a separate…

I wanted to raise a separate point about your exercise at measuring wide receivers.

I applaud the rigour you have put into this, but wide receiver statistics are one of the thorniest NFL measurements because they are inextricably linked to the quarterback in large part. DVOA can be biased by the type of route and targets the receiver is getting. 

Ultimately, I defer to being lazy and just looking at the raw production and consistency and call it mostly a day, with a subjective assessment of the QB in question.

I know I come off as a Stafford hater, but relative to the other qbs in comparison, I give Kupp additional brownie points for his season.

54 I know I come off as a…

I know I come off as a Stafford hater, but relative to the other qbs in comparison, I give Kupp additional brownie points for his season.

It starts coming off an unreasonable when Kupp's season wasn't even the most prolific WR season with Stafford as the primary passer.

He'd already done it with a different guy on a different team. It's like arguing Demaryius Thomas made Peyton Manning. 

65 Yep very entangled. You need…

Yep very entangled. You need a confluence of a good to great WR and a good to great QB to make something special like 82 Chandler, 11 Nelson, 18 Locket, 07 Moss, 89 Rice, 2021 Kupp. Yes, 2021 Kupp was special and I don't mind people putting it in the greatest receiver season ever conversation. I don't think it was the greatest ever because of what I value more. Examples, 2007 Moss was better, 89 Rice I think was better for me, there are probably more if I really think about it. Kupp was amazing with the very good efficiency coupled with MASSIVE volume. Despite what I did with giving volume even more weight in one of my calcs I still value efficiency pretty highly. Kupp was by no means a compiler, it's potentially a top 5 season of all time and I can't see it not being top 10. I haven't really tried to rank it and I don't know what you do with 1942 Don Hutson if I did try to rank seasons. But my subjective rankings actually bump Kupp down a little bit. Also for the record I think 2021 Kupp was better than 2011 Nelson even though I've spent a lot of words on Nelson and still think 2011 Nelson deserves to be in the conversation as one of the best WR seasons ever. I also don't think Nelson makes the best Packers WR conversation. He had some very very good years and possibly the best single season, but GB has a loooong history with WR.

For any great WR season you can't easily say how much was WR and how much was QB and how much was rest of the team and coaching. The best you can do for a player that really only plays with one QB is what I did for Nelson. So you show that while 1 season was transcendent it wasn't a fluke when 4 others end up top 5 in the league for a given year. Maybe it only works with Rodgers to Nelson for him to be top 5 but chances are better than average with anyone, validated by 31st in DYAR and 32nd in DVOA in has final season in the league with Carr in Oakland. We have plenty other Rodgers to X that worked to prove that WR didn't make the QB. Same for Brady to X, Brees to X, Manning to X, etc. You can do some disentangling.

On the flip side we have plenty of X to Moss, X to Owens, X to Sterling Sharpe (5 QBs in GB under 3 systems), and X to Demaryius Thomas examples that work well to allow us to fairly safely say that once a receiver manages say two 20% DVOA seasons (I haven't actually tried to figure the number out) that given at least an average QB that they can probably do it again or at least be a positive influence on any offense. They may only hit 40+ DVOA with really great QBs to produce the really amazing seasons of course. You are also less certain if they can be productive at all with crappy QB's unless you see that, that is harder to determine. But sometimes you get a Davante Adams data point where he managed 215 DYAR and 10.3% DVOA in 2017 catching the majority of his passes from Brett Hundley so it's pretty safe to say he isn't QB dependent.

This is why I'm not all that worried about Hill. Sure he may never again have seasons as good as they were with Mahomes, and since he is a bit more specialized than a Nelson or Moss or Thomas there is even more uncertainty. But 150 - 350 DYAR and 10 - 35% DVOA ranges is where I put him. That's still very good. If he hits that top end then he can retire after 1 year and walk into the hall as I discussed in that article. Low end he might need 3 to 5 years and it's well he wasn't as productive as with Mahomes but it was later in his career, and he was still good and look at what he did given his best circumstances that's a HoF WR!

47 Great read. Been waiting for…

Great read. Been waiting for this for a while, and I'm already excited to see 1981. As a 49ers fan that is essentially when the 49ers dynasty rockets off, so I'm curious to see how unremarkable the data hints at the 1981 team being. Perhaps that does explain why the very next season the team plummeted defensively, and their already lackluster run game was just completely God-awful. I've gone back and tried to read up on some articles at the time from the local press around the time of the 1983 season profiling the 1981 and 1982 season split. There were a few quotes going around, some citing a lot of young players getting too full of themselves after the Super Bowl 16 victory, and wanting credit. Maybe not taking that offseason as seriously. Apparently there was a drug problem going around that year, and as I heard Walsh say they probably just had too many injuries. I think Fred Dean had a groin injury that slowed him down, and their top tackle Bubba Paris who was drafted to replace Dan Audick on the OL got a knee injury, and missed his rookie year. Whatever the case was, the 49ers just crashed back down to Earth before bouncing back in 1983. 

55 Injuries would be my main…

Injuries would be my main culprit here, as well as the impact of the shortened season.   Missing four games in 1982 suddenly means you've missed half the year, and the 49ers had a ton of injuries, big and small, especially on the defense.  Dean and Dwaine Board were hurt all year (Dean fought through it, but really shouldn't have, 'cause he was no good).  Jim Stuckey, Lawrence Pillers, Willie Harper -- all of a sudden, that's more than half your front seven out, which isn't great -- and yup, there they are, 20th with 4.0 yards per carry allowed and 26th with 15 sacks.

The 49ers were 1-5 in one-score games; four games under .500 is the worst of the year.  A few clutch defensive plays here or there, and the 49ers probably go 5-4 and squeeze into the expanded postseason, where they'd probably get destroyed by Washington in the first or second round.  The other problem, of course, is that the 49ers weren't the FORTY-NINERS yet.  That comes up more in the 1981 DVOA, but there's a tendency to think that Montana and Walsh's 49ers were great off the bat because we know how the story goes on from there.

Also, I love that Walsh was considering quitting coaching after 1982, thinking that he was in over his head and couldn't manage both coaching and general manager duties simultaneously.  Even The Genius gets imposter syndrome.

66 That's right, I had…

That's right, I had forgotten that Board also was banged up, and played in just one game that year. From what I recall if the 49ers had won their final game against the Rams they would have made the playoffs, but I can't be certain. The squad most likely doesn't make it past the Redskins anyway. Good thing Walsh didn't quit. I'm sure sure Eddie D wasn't putting the squeeze on him at this point in their relationship after having just won Super Bowl 16 a year earlier, so maybe Bill was just being too hard on himself after the team fell back to Earth. 

57 After 81 is up

With a bigger bank of DVOA, an analysis of it and it's correlation to things like wins. Can't remember what it was last time. A reminder with more new data would be cool. 

67 Got this from elsewhere…

Got this from elsewhere. Looks like someone was "admiring" your handiwork regarding this write-up. It's a bit harsh, but I'd love to hear any response from FO to the criticism. Thanks. 

"It's interesting to look at DVOA retrospectively. It's terrible to use as a predictor tool, even within it's own season. DVOA tends to reward teams for having one big game against a 'tough' opponent as opposed to winning 3 games against weaker opponents. I'm not seeing any levels of excellence from the Jets, Giants or Lions in 1982, and those teams get the biggest DVOA write ups. The two teams with the best records, the Redskins and Raiders, have middling DVOAs. If you simply looked at records, you'd have predicted a Redskins-Raiders Super Bowl in 1982. With DVOA, you have a Jets-Giants Super Bowl, which is a difficult prediction considering the Giants didn't even make an expanded postseason.

So, the Giants missed the postseason in 1982, but you'd think they'd be the team to watch in 1983 because they had one of the best DVOA scores. And, they go 3-12-1! The #1 DVOA Jets finish in last place in their division in 1983. Both the Chargers and Bengals take a massive step backward in 1983, and they had elite DVOA scores. And, again, the two teams with little DVOA love in 1982 end up playing for the Super Bowl in 1983...the Redskins & Raiders.

The most frightening aspect of DVOA was the ranking of Richard Todd as the 3rd best QB in the NFL in 1982...what? Was Richard Todd ever any good? He had a nice year in 1982, but he played with the NFL rushing leader (McNeil), was sacked at a high frequency, turned the ball over, offered nothing in the run game, and lost 3 games to David Woodley. You'd think that the purpose of DVOA would be to downgrade Richard Todd's contribution to the overall team's effort. He simply wasn't very good, and his success was due in large part to his supporting cast. Yet DVOA claims the opposite. Again, trying to predict with DVOA is pointless. Todd led the NFL in INTs in 1983 and the organization shipped him to New Orleans (where he was even worse).

The bashing of Moseley is kind of funny. He did set the FG record, he did win several close games with his late FGs, and the Redskins were the best team in the NFL. Football Outsiders grudgingly 'allows' for this factual data, yet claims that Nick Lowery was the better kicker because he missed 2 fewer XPs. Talk about being tone deaf. Yeah, Fouts probably was more deserving, but the previous 3 seasons Fouts had set and re-set the single season passing yardage mark and won his division while not winning the MVP. Fouts again put up big numbers, the Chargers were worse as a team, so I can see why he would have a difficult time getting all the votes."

71 If the commenter didn't see…

If the commenter didn't see any signs of excellence from the 1982 NY Jets, he didn't bother to watch them.  The New York Sack Exchange arrived the year before with a 10-5-1 playoff season where they helped get the NY Giants in with a 28-3 demolishing of the Green Bay Packers.  In 1982 the Jets lost to the #2 team twice and KC, otherwise stomping everyone else.  I think the Packers game was close, most of the others weren't.  I can understand wanting to downgrade Todd's stats given his whole career, but Todd was really good in the 1981 and 1982 regular seasons.  Playoffs, not so much.  The commenter will probably be even more upset once FO publishes the 1981 article.  The commenter also does not understand that DVOA doesn't separate a quarterback's stats from the stats of the skill position players.

Perhaps the article is unfair to Moseley, but multiple people, including Bill Barnwell years ago, have pointed out the foolishness of giving the MVP to a kicker.  I wouldn't blame anyone for tilting at that windmill, it's a very appealing target.

76 I'm just going to post some…

I'm just going to post some notes on the Todd paragraph.

"Was Richard Todd ever any good?"

Yes.

"He was sacked at a high frequency"

The Jets were 14th in sack rate in 1982, perfectly average in a 28-team league.

"He turned the ball over"

The Jets threw 9 INTs in 1982, tied for third-fewest. Eight were thrown by Todd, one by backup QB Pat Ryan.

"offered nothing in the run game"

Negative rushing yards, this is true

", and lost 3 games to David Woodley"

He lost three games to the Miami Dolphins, who, as we discussed elsewhere in this thread, had the best pass defense DVOA we have ever measured, leading the league in both sack rate AND interception rate. This also means that two of Todd's nine starts came against that Dolphins defense, and that schedule boost gives him a much higher DYAR and DVOA than YAR and VOA. 

83 Response

I mean, we think DVOA is pretty good and predictive. If you don't think it is, you're welcome to not read the website! The funny thing here is that usually a criticism of DVOA is that it gives TOO much credit for beating bad teams and not enough credit for beating good teams, and this gentleman seems to be criticizing DVOA for the opposite.

As I admit in the article, the 1982 Giants are very weird. I'd really have to get into the weeds to figure out how they end up so high in DVOA. I'll take the criticism on that one.

There's no question that 1982 was Richard Todd's best season. He was only 12th in passing DYAR in 1981. But you know, nine-game season with weird schedules, weird things are going to happen like Richard Todd ranking third in DYAR. And I believe Vince points this out, he gets a massive bump in opponent adjustments for playing Miami twice. (So does Joe Ferguson of the Bills.) It's a nine-game stretch, we're not nominating the guy for the Hall of Fame here. He had a good nine-game stretch.

The idea that Moseley should have won MVP because the Redskins were the best team in the NFL is ridiculous. He's still a kicker! If you believe that someone on the team with the best win-loss record should be the MVP, then it should have been Theismann. Also, Moseley didn't win "several" close games with late field goals. It was two games. The idea that Moseley was more valuable than Dan Fouts in 1982 is completely insane.

94 1984 Marino threw more…

1984 Marino threw more interceptions than most other Greatest QB Seasons Ever. Among 500-attempt seasons, 1984 Marino ranks second in Sack% Index (sacks per dropback, adjusted for season) at PFR. (1988 Marino is in first place; 1989 Marino is in third. Absolutely nobody sacked this guy at his peak.) 1984 Marino also ranks third in both Yards/Attempt Index and TD% Index. He ranks 19th in Completion% Index, which is less important (2016 Sam Bradford is in second place, for God's sake). However, he "only" ranks 80th in INT% Index, and interceptions are important.

69 Aaron

Among every 50 catch eligible Eagles’ WR, is Harold Carmichael’s 24.4% DVOA the highest DVOA? And is Mike Quick’s ‘83 368 DYAR the highest Eagles’ WR’s DYAR?

74 Top DYAR Seasons, PHI WRs:…

In reply to by SportsPhan8

Top DYAR Seasons, PHI WRs:

Year    FO ID    DYAR
1983    QuickMik82$    368
2013    JacksonDeS08    358
2004    OwensTer96    307
1996    FryarIrv84    284
1992    BarnettFre90    273
2010    MaclinJer09    252
2018    JefferyAls12    251
1997    FryarIrv84    245
2014    MaclinJer09    222
2013    CooperRil10    212

Top DVOA Seasons, PHI WRs (minimum 50 targets)

Year    FO ID    DVOA
1990    BarnettFre90    25.3%
1982    CarmichaelHar71    24.4%
2013    JacksonDeS08    23.7%
1983    QuickMik82$    23.7%
2009    AvantJas06    21.6%
2018    JefferyAls12    21.1%
2013    CooperRil10    20.6%
2004    OwensTer96    17.7%
1992    BarnettFre90    17.2%
1992    WilliamsCal90    16.4%

77 I know it's very hard to…

I know it's very hard to separate WR and QB play, but those numbers are just so much lower than I expected for a team that has been as good as the Eagles in the DVOA era. No one breaking 400 DYAR (maybe that is more rare than I think). No one breaking 30% DVOA which again might be more rare than I think. A team like the Bears or Lions with no one hitting those milestones sure. But the DVOA era Eagles with Andy Reid offenses? Really surprised me.

Clearly even though I know I've been spoiled I still don't put it all into perspective. I'm missing a few eligible seasons which might change it but I don't think either the DYAR or DVOA would crack the GB top 5 for players or top 10 for seasons. That's insane because as the heartbreak rankings recently reminded us, Philly has been a very good team for much of the DVOA era.

I clearly need to put an even bigger mental adjustment on 30+ years of HoF QB when I think about things than I already try to do....

 

Somewhat related but different idea
I know other threads have brought up best franchise rosters by best season DYAR or DVOA before. I think you'd need to do some other adjustments because you could still get some outlier years really populating a roster. Though I suppose it depends on what question you are trying to answer. You could do an average of their 3 or 5 best seasons (weighted or not) for players to help really drive home the impression a player may have had on a franchise. That would minimize one year wonders which might be good or bad.
Then you could see something like (years) best year / 3 year avg / best 5 yr avg. Probably just pick one but got them both to some some of the differences with Packers order.
Nelson (11, 14, 13, 16, 12) - 520 / 468 / 408.6
Sharpe (89, 92, 94, 93, 90) - 425 / 359.3 / 281
Adams (21, 20, 18, 16, 17) - 423 / 354.7 / 301.8
Cobb (14, 12, 16, 11, 13) - 479 / 323 / 243.6
Driver (05, 02, 04, 09, 07) - 351 / 313.7 / 278.2

Lofton with 81 data might sneak in there his 80 season is probably better than several that I had to use for his top 3 and top 5 as well. Jennings and Freeman both have top 3 year averages over 300 as well. I think the averages are a bit more fun than 11 Nelson, 14 Cobb, 89 Sharpe, 21 Adams, 97 Freeman for just the top 5 receivers based on just their best DYAR seasons. Packers fans will want to see Driver up there for his moderate but quite long peak with that top 5 season average DYAR being just behind Sharpes and well ahead of Cobb for instance.

Of course that's just DVOA era and guys like Lofton have 3+ years of potentially better seasons out sucks. You also leave off a ton of NFL history. I mean Hutson is going into anyone's top 5 Packers WR.

But it would be fun to see who back-ups Tom Brady in NE (having Favre as the back-up to Rodgers is nuts). What about SF? Who do you get for WR seasons behind Rice? How do Young and Montana stack-up in the QB race. Single season and some sort of multi season averages are different kinds of fun for lots of teams.

78 There have been 84 receivers…

There have been 84 receivers who have topped 400 DYAR, or about two a year.  There have been 113 receivers who have cracked 30% DVOA (while qualifying for the leaderboards), or a little less than three a year.  So, it's not rare, per se, but it is uncommon. And remember, that a lot of those receivers are, in fact, the same guy -- Randy Moss did it 6 times, Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice did it 5 times each, there's the Brown/Bruce/Harrison/Nelson/Owens/Thomas/Wayne group with three a piece, and then Andre and Calvin Johnson, plus Wes Welker and Mike Wallace(!) with two each.  So those 84 receivers are really 53 guys, or a little more than one per year.

The Eagles aren't the only franchise without a 400 DYAR receiver in their history.  They're joined by the Chiefs, Raiders, Ravens, Browns and Bears, to varying levels of surprise.  The Chiefs get there if you add tight ends, as only Kelce and Gronkowski have topped 400 DYAR there; Tyreek Hill maxed out at 387.  Tim Brown got to 393 and 354, while Jerry Rice had 376 for the Raiders.  Derrick Alexander hit 383 for the Ravens.  The Browns and Bears have never been particularly close.

 

I have a bit on Young v. Montana in the 49ers QB race, but I'll save that for 1981 DVOA, which more or less finishes the conversation.  Montana only had eight starts in his first two seasons, so we'll be at essentially the entire career for both.  And it's Owens and Taylor behind Rice, all day.  The three of them make up the top 10 DYAR seasons in 49ers history, as well as 13 of the top 15 (with Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree slipping in once each).  As a 49ers fan, I think I'm required to love Dwight Clark, but, well, no.  Sorry, Dwight.

That's just receiving DYAR, though.  If you include rushing DYAR, Deebo Samuel gets over 400 DYAR as well and into the the top four, so he only trails Jerry Rice, Jerry Rice and Jerry Rice.  He needs another year like last year before he can talk about displacing the likes of Owens or Taylor on the DYAR-era 49ers.

84 Nice thanks! I do love this …

Nice thanks! I do love this "calibration" data. The meta data that really helps with the context of DYAR and DVOA. Everyone can go to PFR and see how rare an 18 TD season or 1600 yards or an 8.5 ANY/A. It's always been a bit trickier with DYAR and DVOA, even when I had premium (damn you medical expenses wiping out damn near every other budget, beans and rice gets old too). You get a feel for it, but without seeing all of it the benchmark lines don't hold as well yet as the traditional stats do. Even with this we know that 400 DYAR is quite special it's probably 1375 receiving yards rare (128 seasons with about 20 of those being TE or pre DVOA). 600+ would be that 1950 yard season rare. Where does that 500 line get you? Is that the 24 seasons that broke 1600? I just don't quite have that mental reference.

Not really asking for that data right now. Just thinking about things that could help DVOA/DYAR context. You don't have to make the data as freely available as PFR either. I get putting some of that behind the paywall. IP has value. But a meta data page that just says. There have been 52 teams that finished a season over 30% DVOA. There are 23 seasons with 500 receiving DYAR so you get one about every other season, 113 with 400, 532 with 300 (just making all kinds of numbers up here). It still makes the top 10 all time articles fun. It still let's all that best through X weeks stuff cool. But you've crossed the 40% of NFL history line now so that context is likely pretty stable. If you are at the full conversion to a real db back end that stuff just updates itself as it happens too build your query be done with it.

So 53 receivers have topped 400 receiving DYAR. A combined DYAR would be cool too. Very valid to bring up Deebo getting there with rushing. I do think adding rushing DYAR should matter but I get that's likely going to be an obvious sort out for a quick comment. There are probably only a dozen seasons or so where it might push a WR over a benchmark line when you are talking about these really high marks like 400. If we were looking at running back DYAR, receiving DYAR pushing a RB past some milestone seems like it would be more likely because they consistently catch passes more than WR consistently run.

I feel even more blessed that 4 of those 53 players and and 6 of the 113 seasons were by my favorite team.

It was also nice to learn that only 6 teams haven't had a 400 DYAR receiving season. That was kinda the level I was thinking and it just adds to my surprise that the Eagles were one of the six! The Chiefs and the Raiders would be the next most surprising teams for me behind the Eagles. Ravens, Browns, and Bears not all that surprising.

 

All good stuff. Really excited to see 81. I was excited for 82, but knew with the shortened season that it would be weird.

Even with 81 I expect that Montana will be Young's back up for any type of weighting (1, 3, or 5 seasons) but I don't dig into them as much as my homerism drives me to look at GB.

88 It doesn’t convert to…

It doesn’t convert to yardage directly.

Remember, DVOA punishes long receptions, which count for tons of yards.

Which as we creep into the early 80s, may not be as justified as it was when DVOA was created. We’re now before the west coast offense.

89 Yes I'm VERY aware that its…

Yes I'm VERY aware that its not a direct conversion.  I was using yardage as an example of how to eyeball how rare types of seasons are. I could have gone with TDs like 12 TD seasons are about as rare as 400 DYAR seasons and 15 are probably about as rare as 500 DYAR seasons. Or I could have swapped to QB's and said that a 400 DYAR WR season is about as rare as a 7.40 ANY/A passing season.

I was not trying to equate yards and DYAR (Eyards would be a much better direct compare). I was just trying to get a perspective on how rare a certain benchmark is. That's why I went into the next deal about having a meta data page about how common certain things are.

A good portion of the value of DYAR and DVOA, to me, is to give insights into why traditional stats can be misleading. Not all 1700 yard receiving seasons are as valuable. So yeah if my wording in the first post didn't make it clear as to what I was getting at it this should clear that up. I actually still would have preferred DPAR instead of it being converted to DYAR. I get why it was changed way back when. People weren't used to looking at advanced metrics and Defense Adjusted Points Above Replacement just wasn't going to hook a reader as much, even though DYAR is just a transformation of DPAR. The stats were also being used by Fox and casual fans really didn't get it. Today when people are more used it, it being just DPAR and not having that transform might actually help people understand it better. People are used to thinking about different kinds of stats. Of course there is no real reason to go back to DPAR either. Though DPAR also had a much smaller range of values so there I will give that to DYAR it's easier to get a feel for the difference between 300 and 400 DYAR than it is between 50 and 75 DPAR (I don't remember the exact conversion but I think those are close to the same values).

I actually think it could be funny if they just went and listed DPAR as well and see how many people started arguing that DPAR is better than DYAR or vice versa when they measure the exact same thing.

 

Edit: I also find it amusing that part of what I want still is better context around DYAR and DVOA and that the change from DPAR to DYAR was in part to help make the context of stat more accessible.  The thing is with 40+% of NFL history now in DVOA all the context you need for any stat is basically available in that history.

So if they wanted to introduce a new stat now you could likely just throw it out there, let folks know what it's trying to measure and then let them look at those 41 years of history and see that Ah Peyton Manning lead the league in Bender's Fancy Men and his best season was 3 better than anything Rodgers or Brady did and double what most QB's get. Damn he's really good at Bender's Fancy Men and wow look at that Kirk Cousins is surprisingly high. Take all that with DYAR, DVOA, ALEX, ANY/A, etc and it's clear that he's great when the play is on script but just can't handle it when things break down and now I have some numbers to back up that perception!

Of course back in 2007 when there was only like a decade of DVOA related stats, couldn't do that.

70 I was re-reading the dynasty…

I was re-reading the dynasty articles, inspired by the heartbreak articles. Great content, both series.

In the blurb about the 78-85 Dolphins (#44 dynasty), it says their 1982 pass defense DVOA was estimated to be the third best in history.

We have the answer now! Where did it end up?

Edit: https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2020/dynasty-rankings-part-ii-nos-41-50

72 It appears to be #1!  They…

It appears to be #1!  They hit a whopping -64.5% -- the previous record in actual DVOA belonged to the 2002 Buccaneers at -49.1%, with the 1991 Eagles and 1985 Bears also being over 40%.  There are a few other teams over 40% in estimated pass DVOA, mostly in Pittsburgh and Minnesota in the 1970s, but nothing like the -64.5% the Dolphins put up.

Usual caveats about nine-game seasons, as I believe there are few nine-game stretches that gets up in the Dolphins' neighborhood, and the Miami rush defense was bad enough that they don't crack the top 25 in defensive DVOA in general.  But that pass defense, man.  4.5 yards per pass attempt allowed is insanely good.  It's not just the best since the 1978 rule changes, they're one of just seven teams since then to hold their opponents under five.

They held five teams under 100 yards net passing, including both New York and Washington in the playoffs.  That is tied for sixth-most since the merger, and again, they played in a shortened season.  Some of that is "why pass when you can run", but it's still very, very impressive.

82 I totally missed it.

I totally missed the Dolphins' having the best pass defense ever when I was doing the write-up. Like I said, there were a lot of "best evers" in 1982. Here are all the pass defenses that have ever been below -30% since 1981:

1982 MIA -64.5% (9 games)
2002 TB -49.1%
1991 PHI -45.3%
1985 CHI -43.0%
1988 MIN -37.5%
1986 CHI -37.3%
2009 NYJ -33.2%
1991 NO -33.0%
2004 BUF -32.5%
2019 NE -31.5%
2008 PIT -30.8%
2013 SEA -30.2%
1984 CHI -30.1%

The Dolphins also have the best pass defense ever through just 9 games, even if you only measure every other team just through 9 games. Tampa Bay 2002 would be second at -57.2%. Here are the teams with pass defenses below -40% through nine games since 1981. For teams that had their bye week after the ninth game, I'm looking at their rating BEFORE the bye week, not the week afterwards.

1982 MIA -64.5%
2002 TB -57.2%
1989 MIN -53.3%
2019 SF -50.3%
2019 NE -50.0%
2012 CHI -47.0%
1991 NO -46.9%
1990 CHI -45.3%
1996 GB -41.2%

85 Thanks for that info too! It…

Thanks for that info too!

It's a pretty nice illustration of why all the extra games can matter and the caveats you always point out when comparing even the 16 to 17 game seasons.

Leaving out Miami we've got 12 teams finishing over 30%. We've got 8 over 40% after 9 games. Only 3 of the 8 made it. Sustaining that level of excellence is hard. Of the 3 they all dropped basically 12 - 20 percentage points over their final 7 games. I'm quite happy to use that small sample of other historically great through 9 games teams to say Miami likely ends up in the 44.5 - 52.5% range. Sure they may have fallen father but they had a bigger margin to work with. They may not have held on for best ever, but holding on for top 5 feels very likely.

I'm just highlighting again the point that the site always makes with the best through X lists. I love them and I think they provide great context and info, but we all know how hard it is to sustain that kind of excellence in this league for just 4 games, doing it for 14, 16, or 17 is clearly that much harder.  Sadly the whole 1982 season has to come with that caveat. Still shouldn't diminish what those players did. It just, like 87, puts and * on basically everything for me.