DVOA Analysis

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1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1995, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league averaged based on situation and opponent in order to determine value over average.  (Explained further here.)

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

1 SF 41.0% 36.5% 38.4% 1 11-5 18.3% 4 -24.7% 1 -2.0% 23
2 DAL 30.7% 27.7% 27.1% 3 12-4 28.6% 1 1.4% 13 3.6% 5
3 KC 27.2% 29.0% 34.8% 2 13-3 2.7% 12 -17.7% 2 6.9% 1
4 PIT 18.1% 19.9% 21.3% 5 11-5 1.2% 15 -13.2% 4 3.6% 4
5 ATL 16.9% 18.6% 23.7% 4 9-7 19.2% 3 6.7% 19 4.5% 3
6 MIN 15.8% 10.6% 13.2% 8 8-8 5.2% 10 -11.0% 6 -0.4% 16
7 DET 15.7% 14.4% 19.0% 6 10-6 20.8% 2 1.9% 14 -3.2% 27
8 GB 10.5% 8.5% 14.5% 7 11-5 17.5% 6 6.1% 18 -0.8% 18
9 CHI 6.4% 5.3% 4.3% 12 9-7 17.7% 5 7.8% 23 -3.4% 28
10 DEN 6.2% 7.6% 6.9% 9 8-8 17.0% 7 13.3% 28 2.5% 8
11 OAK 5.9% 7.7% -6.6% 18 8-8 -2.3% 17 -8.2% 9 0.0% 13
12 SD 2.2% 0.5% 2.8% 13 9-7 3.9% 11 2.4% 15 0.7% 11
13 NO 1.5% -2.2% 5.3% 10 7-9 9.2% 8 7.0% 20 -0.8% 19
14 MIA -0.8% 2.3% -7.6% 21 9-7 6.3% 9 7.7% 22 0.6% 12
15 BUF -1.8% -0.4% -4.2% 15 10-6 -6.3% 21 -5.1% 10 -0.6% 17
16 HOU -2.9% 0.7% 5.2% 11 7-9 -10.7% 25 -8.8% 7 -1.0% 20
17 PHI -5.8% -2.2% -1.1% 14 10-6 -12.6% 26 -13.4% 3 -6.7% 30
18 WAS -7.5% -6.8% -6.8% 20 6-10 -3.3% 18 7.6% 21 3.5% 6
19 NYG -7.8% -13.5% -6.1% 17 5-11 -6.0% 20 2.7% 16 0.9% 10
20 STL -8.0% -10.5% -17.3% 25 7-9 -8.0% 24 -3.1% 11 -3.1% 26
21 CLE -9.1% -8.9% -18.8% 27 5-11 -3.6% 19 10.5% 25 4.9% 2
22 CAR -9.7% -12.3% -5.0% 16 7-9 -23.8% 29 -11.5% 5 2.6% 7
23 CIN -10.5% -9.2% -14.5% 23 7-9 2.0% 13 14.5% 29 1.9% 9
24 IND -10.9% -6.1% -6.6% 19 9-7 2.0% 14 9.1% 24 -3.7% 29
25 SEA -12.1% -8.8% -8.8% 22 8-8 -0.4% 16 10.6% 26 -1.2% 21
26 TB -17.4% -18.2% -18.3% 26 7-9 -12.6% 27 4.6% 17 -0.2% 15
27 NE -19.5% -21.2% -16.5% 24 6-10 -8.0% 23 11.5% 27 -0.1% 14
28 NYJ -23.1% -16.1% -22.5% 30 3-13 -30.0% 30 -8.7% 8 -1.8% 22
29 ARI -23.1% -26.6% -19.9% 29 4-12 -22.1% 28 -2.0% 12 -3.0% 25
30 JAC -24.3% -22.8% -19.3% 28 4-12 -6.7% 22 14.9% 30 -2.7% 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Single-Season WR DPAR, 1995-2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes on individual stats:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

102 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

103 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re # 92:

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

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

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

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

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

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

104 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re # 99-100,

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

105 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

106 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re #104

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

107 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

108 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

109 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Dickey's YPA in 1983 was 9.24.

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

110 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

111 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

112 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

113 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

114 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

115 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

116 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

117 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

118 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

119 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

120 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

121 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

122 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

123 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Re # 111:

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

124 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

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

126 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary


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

127 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary


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

128 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

129 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

130 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

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

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

131 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

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

132 Re: 1995 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

re:123 and 1991 season

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

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

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

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

A guy named Fritz.