1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

The two daytime games on Thanksgiving are, pardon the pun, total turkeys. But the NFL Network's first-ever game Thanksgiving night is actually a good one. The AFC West features three of the best teams in football, and some of the most heated rivalries. The four teams of the AFC West have all been fighting it out in the same division since September 10, 1960, when the Los Angeles Chargers scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull out a 21-20 comeback win over the Dallas Texans in the second AFL game ever.

Right now, the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are both playing second fiddle to the San Diego Chargers, but once upon a time, these bitter rivals were the two best teams in football. In fact, once upon a time was nine years ago. Readers have seen random 1997 DVOA ratings thrown into articles since Pro Football Prospectus 2006 hit stores, but I still had not found the time to get the ratings onto the website and write some commentary notes. Thanksgiving's important Denver-Kansas City game seems like the perfect time to revisit 1997, because Denver (27.6%) narrowly edged out Kansas City (27.4%) for the top spot in DVOA. Kansas City won the division, but wild card Denver shocked everyone by going into Arrowhead Stadium and beating the Chiefs 14-10 to move on to the AFC Championship. Of course, that surprise was nothing compared to the surprise when Denver -- a double-digit underdog -- toppled defending champion Green Bay to win the AFC's first Super Bowl title since the 1983 Raiders.

Of course, if Football Outsiders had existed back in 1997, every single reader would have put money on the Broncos with that point spread. In fact, the Packers were not the best team in the NFC according to DVOA -- that honor goes to the team they beat in the NFC Championship game, the San Francisco 49ers. Honestly, the top four teams were so close together that we might want to consider it a virtual tie, with the rest of the NFL lagging a bit behind.

Before we discuss 1997 further, let's show the numbers. These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1997, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league averaged based on situation and opponent in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

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

1 DEN 27.6% 12-4 31.5% 22.8% 5 17.3% 1 -8.3% 8 2.0% 9
2 KC 27.4% 13-3 31.3% 30.7% 2 8.5% 6 -13.3% 4 5.7% 2
3 SF 26.7% 13-3 34.3% 26.1% 3 2.3% 13 -23.5% 1 0.9% 15
4 GB 26.0% 13-3 25.3% 31.9% 1 10.1% 4 -13.1% 5 2.7% 6
5 PIT 18.4% 11-5 14.1% 25.7% 4 5.0% 8 -15.5% 2 -2.1% 20
6 JAC 17.7% 11-5 15.0% 19.7% 7 17.1% 2 1.7% 23 2.4% 7
7 DET 13.4% 9-7 13.7% 19.8% 6 4.9% 9 -7.5% 9 1.0% 13
8 NE 11.1% 10-6 11.1% 4.3% 12 2.9% 12 -6.9% 11 1.4% 10
9 TB 6.1% 10-6 6.6% 0.8% 14 -3.4% 15 -7.2% 10 2.4% 8
10 BAL 3.3% 6-9-1 -0.9% -2.1% 16 -5.2% 19 -5.0% 13 3.4% 3
11 WAS 3.0% 8-7-1 3.1% 3.6% 13 -2.6% 14 -5.0% 14 0.6% 16
12 NYG 2.8% 10-5-1 9.6% 6.6% 9 -9.0% 23 -14.9% 3 -3.2% 25
13 TEN 1.8% 8-8 4.2% 6.0% 10 3.5% 10 -0.9% 17 -2.5% 23
14 DAL 0.9% 6-10 2.2% -9.2% 21 -6.8% 22 -1.1% 16 6.6% 1
15 SEA -1.4% 8-8 -0.2% 0.7% 15 7.6% 7 0.4% 21 -8.7% 30
16 MIN -2.2% 9-7 -0.8% -3.4% 17 8.5% 5 7.9% 26 -2.8% 24
17 NYJ -2.4% 9-7 -2.1% -6.8% 18 -5.5% 20 -0.1% 19 3.1% 4
18 CIN -3.1% 7-9 -7.0% 4.5% 11 13.2% 3 15.1% 30 -1.2% 19
19 ATL -3.2% 7-9 0.6% 7.0% 8 -4.1% 18 0.2% 20 1.1% 12
20 MIA -4.3% 9-7 -1.3% -7.7% 19 3.2% 11 8.7% 27 1.3% 11
21 PHI -6.2% 6-9-1 -8.2% -9.1% 20 -4.1% 17 -1.2% 15 -3.3% 26
22 STL -10.9% 5-11 -10.1% -11.6% 22 -10.8% 25 -6.5% 12 -6.5% 28
23 CAR -11.7% 7-9 -13.8% -12.4% 23 -9.5% 24 1.3% 22 -0.8% 18
24 BUF -15.3% 6-10 -19.2% -15.0% 25 -22.6% 28 -12.2% 6 -4.9% 27
25 IND -17.8% 3-13 -16.5% -13.7% 24 -6.2% 21 9.2% 28 -2.4% 21
26 OAK -18.1% 4-12 -21.1% -26.6% 30 -3.9% 16 11.7% 29 -2.4% 22
27 ARI -24.7% 4-12 -31.2% -25.3% 28 -18.0% 27 6.3% 25 -0.4% 17
28 CHI -25.4% 4-12 -25.8% -23.4% 26 -14.8% 26 2.6% 24 -8.0% 29
29 NO -25.7% 6-10 -27.3% -24.6% 27 -35.2% 30 -8.6% 7 0.9% 14
30 SD -26.0% 4-12 -28.6% -25.4% 29 -29.2% 29 -0.5% 18 2.7% 5

The Broncos did not enter the postseason on a high note, and they finished just fifth in weighted DVOA. They lost three of their final six games, although the drop wasn't that big because of opponent adjustments. The three losses came against Kansas City, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh -- ranked 2, 3, and 5 for the year. (Also, although this is not considered in DVOA, all three losses were on the road.)

The Chiefs led the NFL by allowing just 232 points, but San Francisco actually had the top defensive DVOA, by a healthy margin. San Francisco allowed just 4.4 yards per play, compared to 5.2 for Kansas City, and took away more turnovers. But Kansas City's defense was the best in the league in the red zone, which is why there were 33 field-goal attempts against the Chiefs but only 20 against the 49ers. Terrell Davis finally broke Kansas City's bend-but-don't-break defense in the playoffs.

For the most part, the DVOA ratings mirror the standings for 1997, although there were some notable exceptions. I would like to be able to say that Baltimore ranking tenth despite a 6-9-1 record is DVOA suggesting the long run of defensive dominance yet to come, but it's not. Baltimore didn't build its defense or get to .500 before 1999, and the Ravens were 15th in DVOA for 1998. The losing record is a combination of some tough close losses and some bad luck recovering fumbles. Six of Baltimore's losses came by four points or less, and the Ravens recovered just eight of their 25 fumbles on offense.

On the other hand, Dallas ranked in the top half of the league despite a 6-10 record, a sign that the Cowboys weren't necessarily ready for rebuilding. The Cowboys went 10-6 and won the NFC East in 1996, and they went 10-6 and won the NFC East in 1998.

What about teams ranked lower than their records? I have no idea what's going on with Miami, who ranked 20th despite going 9-7 but weren't in decline at all. Again, it isn't schedule and it isn't really luck either, and the Dolphins ranked sixth in DVOA a year later.

Carolina, however, was coming off the season where it made the NFC Championship as a second-year expansion team. The Panthers were a little disappointing at 7-9, but I don't think anybody at the time thought of them as one of the five worst teams in football, which is where they came out in DVOA. The next year, they went 4-12.

The really interesting team here is Atlanta. The Falcons are 7-9 and ranked 19th, which seems like it shouldn't be a big deal -- until you look at weighted DVOA, where the Falcons were eighth. The three worst losses of the season came in Weeks 2-4, and although they lost their final game, the Falcons were really turning things around at the end there. The next season, of course, they came out of nowhere to go 14-2 and win the NFC. (Then again, Dallas was declining at the end of the year and didn't collapse, so the system certainly isn't perfect.)

One more wacky team: New Orleans. 1996 is the earliest year for which we have play-by-play, although I haven't been able to finish breaking it down for DVOA yet. But you don't need DVOA to know that the 1996 Saints had the worst run defense in the history of humanity. They allowed 6.1 yards per carry!!! Honestly, that makes the current Colts look like the 2000 Ravens. So here we are, one year later, and the Saints have an above-average DVOA run defense at -4.8%. What the hell?

Let's hit a few individual highlights to finish up.

  • I love doing these older years, because I get to say things like this: Dan Marino led the league in DPAR, followed by Steve Young and Brett Favre. John Elway ranked ninth. But what's really remarkable is the quarterback who led the league in DVOA, or value per play: Boomer Esiason. Have you ever looked at Boomer Esiason's numbers from 1997? Esiason wanted to retire after a lousy season with the 1996 Arizona Cardinals, but the Bengals talked him into coming back for one more year to back up Jeff Blake. When Blake was terrible through the first half of the season, the Bengals gave Esiason the starting job for the last five games (he also played at the end of two other games). Esiason completed 63.4 percent of his passes, averaged 7.9 yards per attempt, and had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13-to-2. The Bengals won four of those games and lost the other one 44-42. They wanted him to come back and be the full-time starter in 1998, but he turned it down to go be on Monday Night Football -- which didn't exactly work out well.
  • The least valuable quarterback of 1997, in last place with -39.4 DPAR, was Heath Shuler (D-North Carolina). Rick Mirer was last in DVOA -- so hey, good trade there, Chicago!
  • OK, I know this is the personal competition everybody is going to ask about:
Player DPAR Rk DVOA Rk Runs Yards Yd/Car TD SucRate Rk DPAR DVOA Passes Yards TD Cat%
Terrell Davis 59.1 1 23.8% 2 369 1763 4.78 15 57% 2 -2.6 -18.4% 57 287 0 74%
Barry Sanders 53.2 2 24.2% 1 335 2053 6.13 11 46% 22 5.2 14.2% 50 305 3 66%
  • The top four tight ends in DPAR were Troy Drayton, Shannon Sharpe, Ben Coates, and Wesley Walls. Troy Drayton???
  • At the end of the year we rank wide receivers based on a minimum of 50 passes. Because there's more variation in smaller sample size, the best and worst DVOA ratings usually belong to receivers who are closer to that minimum. But last year, Steve Smith led the league in both DVOA and DPAR, becoming the second wide receiver to accomplish that feat. The first? Jake Reed for the 1997 Vikings. 57 of his 68 catches earned a first down or a touchdown. Reed had a DVOA of 31.3%, while Cris Carter -- who, let's be honest, was probably attracting most of the double teams -- ranked 50th in DVOA with -2.9%. And how did the Vikings react to this amazing season? They found themselves in position to draft Randy Moss, and they demoted Reed to third receiver. (By the way, after 11 weeks of the 2006 season, Reggie Wayne is leading the league in both categories.)
  • Do you ever get the sense that second-year guys like Troy Williamson and Roddy White are busts? Give them a little more time. After all, not all the great wide receivers from the Class of 1996 started out at the top of the league. Near the bottom of the DPAR rankings for 1997, we find Eddie Kennison (71st), Bobby Engram (74th), Eric Moulds (77th), and Muhsin Muhammad (78th). In last place (81st) is another guy from that class, fourth-round pick Charlie Jones of the Chargers. Unlike those other guys, he didn't really develop. Out of all those wide receivers taken in the 1996 draft, the one with the most DPAR in his second year was some guy taken at the end of the third round named Terrell Owens (7th). And he was never heard from again!

Final note: Yes, I know the individual numbers for 1997-1999 aren't available on the site yet. We'll get to it at some point. Really. Hope you enjoyed this exercise in nostalgia, and happy Thanksgiving!


60 comments, Last at 28 Dec 2006, 4:16am

1 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary


God, but did I hate Terrell Davis this year. He was an unstoppable monster. Was this the year he ripped the Eagles limb from limb with, like, just four runs?

2 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

And now that I've actually read the article...

That was fun. Many of my memories of the mid-90's tend to run together, so having key facts like "Barry Sander's 2000+ yard season" really put that into perspective. Seeing him and TD trade off 1-2 in DPAR and DVOA is quite amusing.

And I think my clearest memory is relating to Boomer Esiason - I picked up a team defense to play against him and the Bengals on a Monday night, and he ended up hanging 300+ yards and about 50 points on them. I clearly remember someone on espn.com (did they have Page 2 back then?) writing an article that said "Let's tell one of the two AFC wildcards that they have to cede their spot to the Bengals, who are playing the best football in the league right now".

Somewhat amazing, the stuff that sticks in your memory, eh?

3 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Aaron: you said 1997 is the first year you have Play-by-play for. Is it possible for you to get the earlier years, or will we never get to see the numbers for the teams in the early 90's that I consider some of the best ever? Also, the 85 bears.

4 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Cris Carter's DPAR is low because his YPC sucks? I know one reason is because his TDs are undervalued by DPAR.

For those who might argue Cris Carter's DPAR is low due to his YPC I will direct you to:
2001: Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Troy Brown, Keenan McCardell.
2002: Marvin Harrison (although that performance would lead me to believe Cris Carter's 2 120+ catch seasons would rank him very high in DPAR) and Hines Ward
2003: Hines Ward
2004: Hines Ward
2005: Keenan McCardell

From conventional stats I would expect him to have done much better in 1999 and 2000... on DPAR.

Yes, I've looked at WR DPAR and YPC going back from 2000-2005 and even have mostly done some type of article on the merit of Art Monk into the Hall of Fame.

These stats would lead me to be Cris Carter is a big over-rated, as other WRs have put up poor YPC numbers but done well in DPAR. Although maybe I should be looking at DVOA instead?

5 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Here's the scoop on earlier years. We have 1996. We needed to get some missing bits of early weeks from the gamebook archives at the Hall of Fame, but we have them, and we'll finish it up in the spring.

That's it for PBP on the Internet. To do any year before 1996, we need to go to the Hall of Fame and mimeograph the gamebooks one by one. Now, I think we've got readers in Ohio who will do this, and I'm happy to spend the money. But the problem is that the mimeographs are HORRIBLE. We have yet to find a scanner program that can actually read them as anything other than total gobbledy-gook. So, what we would need is either a super awesome scanner, or a bunch of people willing to actually sit and mindlessly type a ton of gamebooks into the computer. Ugh.

6 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Well, I thought that last post might've seemed a little exuberent.
1) Excited to see more individual data on WRs.
2) Notice how the # of WRs with low YPC and high DPAR ranking has dwindled since 2001.
3) Surprised that Carter is ranked so low. It can't just be due to TDs.

I don't want to say it but Jake Reed was better than him for 1 season at least?

7 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

1997... what a year. Jim Fassel won a well-deserved Coach of the Year Award with a Giants team that had NOT ONE good offensive player. They had a RB by committee, Danny Kanell was the starting QB, and their leading WR Chris Calloway had more catches, TDs, and 42 less yards receiving than all the other WRs combined. Luckily, the defense was very good and the schedule was bad. Too bad they completely imploded and lost a home playoff game they had no business losing. Strahan, Toomer, and Barber were all on that team.

8 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Two ties in the same year? That's got to be the only time that's happened since the advent of sudden-death OT.

I was stupidly scanning the top half of the list for my Colts before remembering that they had the worst record in the league in 1997. 25th is surprisingly high, all things considered. And at least they made good use of the first pick -- some schmuck named Peyton Manning. And he was never heard from again!

9 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

DVOA/DPAR doesn't adjust for being the #1 or #2 WR, I think. When Keyshawn had his big year with the '98 Jets, Chrebet rated higher than him in one or both stats. I suspect Carter vs. Reed suffers from the same problem...

10 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Well... I knew that... but I thought the game charting showed that for the most part the top CB/WR do not match up against each other.

Also, for the most part in good passing offenses both WRs show up in at least the Top 25 in DPAR. I know Aaron listed the DPAR but a rank of 50 is really bad.

Again, I've consolidated data to look at Art Monk, but I think some of the findings will apply to WRs across the board. I'll do a similar analysis of Keenan McCardell's career when I put everything together. Unfortunately catch % and first down data is not known until a full analysis is done on PBP. I guess since Carter has a poor DVOA we can assume he caught signifncantly less passes for TDs and first downs.... although I think his DPAR rank would be higher.

I've assumed that in 1997 Cris Carter was still as good as past years and then experienced a resurgence playing next to Randy Moss later in his career.

12 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I'm just curious, since this was the year Parcells lost all confidence in Neil O'Donnell, leading to the infamous Leon Johnson game in Detroit that kept the Jets out of the playoffs (which apparently they deserved to be, but still) - how bad was O'Donnell? Was Parcells right?

And a halfway serious question: Any chance you could apply for a research grant to fund getting the old information into a computerized format?

13 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary


I'd be more than willling to be a part of the "game transcribing" project. I think good typers could finish a game in about an hour; so it'd be about as feasible to finish up a season in a season's span as it is to chart it. This way, you could have two seasons more per season - the charted one and the transcribing one. Even three, considering the offseason. And that's with conservative estimates.

And I bet you can get more volunteers to transcribe than to chart - less material needed, more dull but less complicated, and its something I know for a fact a whole lot of people are interested in.

Anyway, I'm all for a project like this.

14 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Aaron, this so totally rocks! I bet if you had the mimeos and a handful of spare computers in one place, you could hire enough competent data input temps. Not exactly cheap, but not too expensive. And you'd have to audit their work for accuracy. No idea what your revenue stream is like nor what the actual benefit is, but if I were independently wealthy, I'd forward the money for three back-seasons each year to get us back to the merger by about 2015.

DrewTS, what a wasted pick. Those losers had the most #1s of any team in the past 30 years and never could do it right.

Art-freakin'-Schlichter. Thank God we're not living in a Greek tragedy or I'd have plucked my eyeballs out long ago.

Oh... wait... okay, everything I said, but only up til the time when they drafted Faulk at #4 or so. Then they got good with their 1st rounders. Harrison, Glenn, that anti-Ryan Leaf guy, Edge... remember scratching your head when they picked Wayne--"The U's" second WR in the first round? I know I did. Long live 1997 in Indy, when I'd go into morning classes in grad school in Seattle telling everyone "We're first int he Peyton Manning derby!" and all these Packer and Niner fans looked at me like, yeah, right, whatever.

15 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Indy's top draft choices since 1994:

1994 Marshall Faulk
1995 Ellis Johnson
1996 Marvin Harrison
1997 Tarik Glenn
1998 Peyton Manning
1999 Edgerrin James
2000 Rob Morris
2001 Reggie Wayne
2002 Dwight Freeney
2003 Dallas Clark
2004 Bob Sanders
2005 Marlin Jackson
2006 Joseph Addai

Total busts: 0
Borderline busts: 1 (Morris)
Solid selections: 5 (Johnson, Glenn, Wayne, Clark, and Sanders)
Home runs: 5 (Faulk, Harrison, Manning, James, Freeney)
Jury still out: 2 (Jackson, Addai)

That's a pretty incredible string of good picks. Especially when one considers that Jackson has been solid so far, and Addai has been great.

16 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Personally, I can't wait for 1996 because we'll get to see Deion Sanders as a wide receiver.

17 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I think I asked this in another e-mail but the 49ers realatively low pass DVOA vs their conventional stats must be due to sacks or fumbles or something.

18 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Even though I know it must be a decade or more away, I find myself excited by the prospect of DVOA numbers going back to 1980. . .

19 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

OK so here's the deal - next summer every FO reader spends their holidays at the Pro Football Hall of Fame transcribing old PBP reports.


20 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

These yearly summary articles are always my favourites. Jake Reed?? I thought he was good, but wow. I'm not sure if this reflects a problem in DPAR methodology, fans and commentators looking at the wrong things when analysing receivers, or bad gameplannning by defensive coordinators in not paying enough attention to guys like Reed. Possibly all three. By the way, who were the other top 5 receivers that year?

Even though I'm a Raiders fan with absolutely zero interest in the Bengals, Boomer Esiason's last hurrah has always stuck in my mind. It was amazing to watch at the time. Also, that was the year Corey Dillon exploded on to the scene. What was his DVOA/DPAR like?

Speaking of the Raiders, I'd be interested to see how a weekly graph of their performances would look. They lost a few total heartbreakers at the start of the year, were very competitive until about week 10 then ended with the most blatantly mailed in 6 weeks or so ever. My favourite memory of 1997? My favourite player ever, Napoleon Kaufman, gashing the hated Broncos for 220+ yards. Sadly from the looks of the Raiders rushing DVOA he doesn't appear to have been too good in every other game.

Why was Terrell Davis' receiving DVOA so bad compared to Barry Sanders? His catch percentage was better. Pointless yards on third downs?

Finally (yes, finally) I didn't need Football Outsiders to tell me that the 10 point spread in the Super Bowl was beyond ludicrous. I hit the jackpot that day. Actually, THAT might have been my favourite football related memory of 1997.

21 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Hey, I do data entry for a living. Puzzling out semi-legible mimeographs is pretty much my bread 'n 'butter, and doing it with football stats would be a nice break from health insurance claims. Drop me a line if you want a data entry intern... ;)

22 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary


Count me in as a volunteer for transcription.

I think you'd need 31 volunteers in total - one for each team, and one for the playoff games. They'd only have to do 16 games. Should take maybe 20 hours of free time if they can type.

Lets try to at least get back to 1990 and the commencement of the modern playoff format.

23 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Ah, 1997. In the 8th year of existence, the SRFL finally had my team make the championship game- something that would not occur again until 2004.

Naturally, I lost. My opponent Favred me, which was particularly annoying because they were playing my beloved Giants. Worse, Rodney Hampton scored for the G-men, against me. IIRC, Favre did get hurt that game, but the damage was done.

What was most annoying is that I could have won. I got a -1 from Steve McNair, while either Jake Plummer or Warren Moon would have scored me 24 points. Ricky Watters gave me a zero, but Antowain Smith would have given me a dozen.

As then, as with today, my wideouts sucked ass. Zeros across the board.


24 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I'd do some transcription too. Mail me one, and I will type it. No problem; I am a fast typist and would not mind doing one or two.

27 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

"I think you’d need 31 volunteers in total - one for each team, and one for the playoff games. They’d only have to do 16 games. Should take maybe 20 hours of free time if they can type."

Actually, they'd only have to do 8 games plus playoffs-- each team should only do their home games lest we have every game done twice.

28 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary


Aaron, this so totally rocks! I bet if you had the mimeos and a handful of spare computers in one place, you could hire enough competent data input temps. Not exactly cheap, but not too expensive. And you’d have to audit their work for accuracy. No idea what your revenue stream is like nor what the actual benefit is, but if I were independently wealthy, I’d forward the money for three back-seasons each year to get us back to the merger by about 2015.

You don't need data input temps. Put the project on Mechanical Turk. After you get the results, put them on Mechanical Turk for proofreading. You can pay whatever you want. Check the link.

29 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Ahh, 1997. The beginning of the "Kordell Stewart as starting QB" era. What a crazy year for the Steelers. It opened with a 30 point home loss to Dallas- the only road win for the Cowboys all season. Then there was the Week 4 Monday Nighter against Jacksonville. The Steelers lined up to kick the winning FG at the end of regulation- and had it blocked and returned for a TD- and Bill Cowher nearly tackled the returning player. Then the week 6 game against Baltimore, when the Steelers fell behind 24-7. Will "Who?" Blackwell returned the second half kickoff for a TD to spark the comeback, as Kordell threw three TD passes and ran for two more, including a 74 yarder. The game against Denver, when the Steelers fell behind 21-7, but rallied and won. 5 more TDs from Kordell- 3 passes to Yancy Thigpen and two runs. The crazy comeback against the Patriots. Trailing by 8 late in the game, Drew Bledsoe turned into, well, Drew Bledsoe, and turned the ball over. Steelers got the TD and tying 2 pointer to force OT, and got the victory.

And then one of the most boring playoff games ever. Aside from a 4o yard TD run by Kordell, that game against New England was completely dull. 16 punts and 5 turnovers between the two teams.

And then the AFC Championship game, where it all came crashing down. The ill-advised INT in the endzone. John Elway leading the Broncos quickly down the field at the end of the first half to make it 24-14.


Kordell Stewart: The original Michael Vick.

30 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Aside from a 4o yard TD run by Kordell, that game against New England was completely dull.

Er, that should be "...a 40 yard TD run..."

32 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I appreciate all the folks willing to type in play-by-play. Not sure if you realize how much there is, and how much drudgery it is. But there's no point in all naming yourselves here. I'll try to put a "are you willing to transcribe pre-1996" question in the awards balloting. And if you own a sweet scanner that might actually be able to help us, e-mail me separately.

To give a few brief answers. Neil O'Donnell 7.4 DPAR, -9.6% DVOA (31st and 32nd out of 46). Glenn Foley has a DVOA of 32.2% in limited action replacing O'Donnell. The original Michael Vick really was Steve McNair -- his DVOA in 1997 was -11.8% (34th) but he blew everyone away with 21.2 DPAR rushing, and almost 200 rushing yards more than Stewart.

The 49ers conventional passing stats actually weren't that spectacular in 1997 -- they were fourth in net yards per pass attempt but 22nd in net passing yards and took 45 sacks. Remember that this is the year Jerry Rice was lost for the season in Week 2, so T.O. started opposite J.J. Stokes.

Corey Dillon is 3rd in rushing DPAR, Robert Smith 4th, Jerome Bettis 5th. Napoleon Kaufman is 46th. Even that game with the 200+ yards was barely replacement level! He had runs of 83 and 57 yards, but also eight runs of 0 yards or less, seven runs of 1-2 yards, and a fumble -- plus, Denver's rush defense was ranked 20th (their only weakness, really). Top 7 WR: Reed, Keenan McCardell, Antonio Freeman, Tim Brown, Irving Fryar, Herman Moore, T.O.

33 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

"Not sure if you realize how much there is, and how much drudgery it is"

But that is the beauty of it. All you need is 31 people who don't realize, and who would be too proud to back out once they do realize.

Granted, you would then need 31 more for the next year, but cross that bridge when you get there... ;-)

35 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I wonder what Favre's DPAR/DVOA were in 1997. It was the last of his string of four great seasons. If DPAR/DVOA doesn't like Favre in 1997 it never likes him.

37 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Are there commented version for the other years too? Because in the Archives I find only the stats.

38 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

1997 was looking so good for San Fran until Marshall Faulk broke his collarbone against the Chiefs late in the season. The offense went in the tank after that game.

Green Bay came in and totally shut down the Niners offense in the NFC Championship Game. There were some dubious calls that result in about a 14 point swing, enough to cover Green Bay's margin of victory, but that's old news at this point.

As Aaron pointed out, Jerry Rice was injured on a vicious facemask by Warren Sapp. Steve Young was knocked out in the same game on a late hit to his helmet as well, causing some to call Tampa a dirty team. (Sapp has since gone on to injure others on dubious plays.) The Niners went conservative the rest of the year with an excellent defense and good rushing attack led by Hearst, who was named the Comeback Player of the year.

Good times for us Niner fans considering how bad things have been recently.

39 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

It's nice to see that Sanders had such a high DPAR. That was the year Favre and Sanders split the MVP. What a joke that was, that's the year the major backlash against Favre started for me.

Peter King voted for Carnell Lake (?) of Pittsburgh for MVP. Surprise, he almost voted for Favre, and if he had, Favre would have been MVP as the third best QB over a 2000 yard season by Sanders. I still get pissed thinking about it.

40 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

That wasn't the year Hearst ripped off a 96 yard run to beat the Jets in overtime, was it?

You all have good memories... I think this could've been "Gus Frerotte headbuts a wall" year for us Redskin fans. What a completely non-descript year for their offense. I think Norv Turner loves calling screens.

I think this might be the one time Norval beat the Cowboys.

41 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary


Page through the archives there, and in between various weeks you'll find 1998-2001. Be aware that those numbers are the old version of DVOA, and some of them have changed a bit with system upgrades.

43 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Wow. Already we have about half of the minimum required people. FO rocks!

BTW, Aaron, if you could send me a mimeograph by mail to see what it looks like... that'd be great...

44 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Should I sit Napoleon Kaufman or Robert Smith this week? Also, someone offered me Danny Kanell for Glenn Foley... should I do it?

45 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

"Napoleon Kaufman is 46th. Even that game with the 200+ yards was barely replacement level! He had runs of 83 and 57 yards, but also eight runs of 0 yards or less, seven runs of 1-2 yards, and a fumble." Ugh. Thanks for ruining my childhood memories, you bastard! Yeah, Kaufman was really the king of boom and bust. Still my second favourite player ever though (I inexplicably forgot about Tim Brown upthread. I'm an idiot.).

Re #38, "1997 was looking so good for San Fran until Marshall Faulk broke his collarbone against the Chiefs late in the season. The offense went in the tank after that game." Um, what? Marshall Faulk? 49ers? What am I missing here?

46 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

That Bengals offense was a blast down the stretch in 1997 (I think Corey Dillon just scored again). I wanted to see Boomer come back as well . . . oh, what might have been. Instead, the team tanked the next few years after that, "The Curse of Boomer" my peeps and I called it.

47 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

A couple things come to mind about transcribing play-by-plays:

- They're likely to vary much more from stadium to stadium than they do now. (NBA play-by-plays lost a lot of flavor when standard software was introduced.)

- Corrections that were made from films may be harder to come by than they are now. This shouldn't have a major effect on season totals.

- Once the play-by-plays are in machine-friendly format, it would be great if they ended up on line somewhere in best Retrosheet fashion. This assumes that the league doesn't have a problem with it; maybe they or the Hall of Fame are interested enough to sponsor the transcription.

48 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

15 - I suspect that Bob Sanders will also be considered a home run before long. Of course, he'll need to stay healthy, which might be tough for a little guy who plays so physical.

50 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Can you scan them into PDF/TIFF and just send them around? Should be easier to distribute and I know for one I'd love to kill a few minutes here and there transcribing stuff for a good cause.

51 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Hearst's run was in the first game of the 1998 season. He came back strong from that first surgery.

52 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Holy crap, I called Garrison Hearst as Marshall Faulk by mistake.

My bad, I don't know what the heck I was thinking. Hearst broke his collarbone on a long run against the Chiefs.

53 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

God, but did I hate Terrell Davis this year. He was an unstoppable monster. Was this the year he ripped the Eagles limb from limb with, like, just four runs?
Davis only faced Philly once in his career- in 1998, when he was 20/168/2 against them.

Anyway, I'd like to wax all nostalgic here, too... but as a Denver fan, I have a hard time remembering anything remarkable about this season. Nope, no sir, nothing really stands out in my mind about 1997...

55 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I remember playing Garrison Hearst's 96-yard TD. I had him on my fantasy football team as my third running back (he got a promotion after that game). Good times! Then he broke his collarbone. Not good times... bad times *sigh*

Just in case anyone's wondering, I have/had Donovan McNabb this year. I hate fantasy football!

56 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Just as I've suspected for a long time. Time for me to pimp my old article about the SB that year again (in link) titled, "Was Denver's victory in Super Bowl XXXII really an upset?" Anyway, because of the late season, I did think that setting Green Bay as the favorite was reasonable, and weighted DVOA shows that as well. It just shouldn't have had a spread of 14 points.

The thing is, not just readers of FO, but readers of any statistical site should have guessed that Denver would beat that spread. Bud Goode may not have been as advanced, but his computers showed Denver should win. My guess based on simple PYTH W/L showed Denver should win. And baseball statistician Rob Neyer wrote an article for ESPN showing that the spread was ridiculous.

57 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

re 29:

Actually, Randall Cunningham beget Kordell Stewart who beget Michael Vick. All had incredible talent, could throw beautiful looking passes, could run fast and make circus plays look routine. And in the case of Cunningham and Stewart, could punt too.

Of course, none of them could pass with accuracy or read a defense, but hey, no one is perfect.

58 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

57 - Cunningham did finally develop as a passer late in his career, though. Stewart never did...

59 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

#56. I didn't read any of that stuff at the time, but I still knew that the double digit spread was ridiculous. It was all based on stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with the actual game. Green Bay were the defending champs, Elway "couldn't win the big one" (ha), and the NFC's streak of consecutive SuperBowl wins. None of which meant anything tangible, which was why I cleaned up. If only all gambling was that easy.

60 Re: 1997 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

What a great thread.

1997 stands out as a great year for pro football in terms of the quality and competitive balance among the top teams and the 'stars' of the league were much bigger than today's. Compare ELway, Marino, Favre, B Sanders, S Young, M Allen to today's star players and there is no comparison.

As a lifelong Bronco fan, all I can say is thank you Marty Schottenheimer for starting Elvis Grbac instead of Gannnon in the divisional game. KC has had many teams with inflated records over the years who seemed to get by on luck, but this was team was awesome and Denver was fortunate to win. ALthough the score was low, it could be the best and hardest hitting playoff game I have ever seen. Besides starting Grbac, Marty went for a fake FG that forced KC to drive for a TD at the end rather than a FG. Marty really blew it for the CHiefs, and although San Diego is by far the best team this year, I would not be surprised to see he Bolts lose.