DVOA Analysis
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1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

The time has come to add another year to our grand Football Outsiders DVOA database. This time, we're going all the way back to 1992. If you are a Dallas Cowboys fan, sad because your team didn't even come close to playing the Super Bowl in its home stadium this year, come sit and bask in the glow of the awesomeness that was the early-90's Cowboys.

When we broke down 1993 through 1995, we were surprised to see that, according to DVOA, "wrong team" won the Dallas-San Francisco rivalry each year. That's not the case in 1992, as the Dallas Cowboys are on top of the DVOA ratings. The Cowboys were even more impressive because they had to play in a killer division. The All five teams in the NFC East rated 16th or better in DVOA. The Randall Cunningham and Reggie White-led Philadelphia Eagles finished second in DVOA overall, ahead of the 49ers. The Washington Redskins, coming off one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, fell to 9-7 because of their schedule but actually finished sixth in DVOA. The 4-12 Phoenix Cardinals -- to make things easy, we're still going to mark them as "ARI" in our data -- finished 15th in DVOA, with their adjusted rating nearly 10 percentage points higher than their unadjusted rating.

The best team in the AFC, according to DVOA, was the Houston Oilers. So if you are a Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans fan who agonizes over the Frank Reich comeback game blowing your franchise's best shot at a Super Bowl title, well, here's another opportunity to feel sad. The Bills ranked second in the AFC, but the DVOA difference between Houston, Buffalo, and third-place Pittsburgh was pretty minor.

1992 also featured the worst offense in DVOA history, the most unbalanced team in DVOA history, and the most overachieving team in DVOA history, but we'll get to those after we run the big table.

* * * * *

Here are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1992, 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 DAL 35.4% 13-3 35.4% 41.1% 1 19.8% 2 -14.4% 7 1.1% 9
2 PHI 33.7% 11-5 27.0% 27.1% 4 6.7% 5 -24.7% 1 2.3% 3
3 SF 31.3% 14-2 32.9% 34.0% 2 29.6% 1 -2.4% 17 -0.7% 16
4 NO 23.6% 12-4 27.5% 32.0% 3 0.3% 11 -24.2% 2 -0.9% 17
5 HOIL 18.4% 10-6 20.4% 20.0% 7 9.0% 3 -10.8% 9 -1.4% 19
6 WAS 18.2% 9-7 12.4% 20.4% 6 4.9% 8 -14.8% 6 -1.5% 21
7 BUF 17.1% 11-5 17.8% 11.7% 9 5.9% 6 -9.7% 10 1.5% 6
8 PIT 16.9% 11-5 17.5% 10.7% 10 -0.2% 12 -15.8% 5 1.3% 8
9 MIN 14.1% 11-5 12.2% 14.8% 8 -4.5% 15 -17.9% 4 0.7% 11
10 SD 12.0% 11-5 23.5% 24.1% 5 4.9% 9 -6.9% 12 0.2% 12
11 MIA 10.2% 11-5 13.2% 4.6% 14 6.8% 4 -5.9% 14 -2.5% 25
12 KC 6.0% 10-6 10.1% -2.3% 15 -5.1% 18 -11.0% 8 0.1% 13
13 CLE1 -0.6% 7-9 0.5% 7.1% 11 -5.6% 19 -4.2% 16 0.8% 10
14 LARD -1.3% 7-9 -5.7% 4.9% 13 -8.4% 20 -8.4% 11 -1.4% 20
15 ARI -5.0% 4-12 -14.5% -7.6% 16 -4.5% 16 2.5% 22 2.0% 5
16 NYG -6.4% 6-10 -11.5% -11.2% 20 5.4% 7 7.6% 26 -4.2% 27
17 GB -6.6% 9-7 -2.5% 7.0% 12 -4.1% 14 0.4% 19 -2.1% 23
18 CHI -6.7% 5-11 -8.5% -7.6% 17 -4.9% 17 1.7% 20 -0.1% 14
19 LARM -11.8% 6-10 -14.3% -7.8% 18 1.0% 10 9.7% 27 -3.1% 26
20 NYJ -11.9% 4-12 -9.1% -10.8% 19 -17.2% 23 -6.5% 13 -1.2% 18
21 DEN -14.1% 8-8 -19.7% -18.8% 23 -20.4% 25 -4.9% 15 1.4% 7
22 ATL -15.4% 6-10 -14.4% -14.0% 21 -1.1% 13 17.3% 28 3.0% 2
23 DET -17.1% 5-11 -24.6% -27.0% 26 -18.2% 24 1.9% 21 3.0% 1
24 CIN -18.0% 5-11 -16.3% -18.4% 22 -11.1% 22 4.6% 24 -2.2% 24
25 TB -22.0% 5-11 -19.0% -33.6% 27 -10.4% 21 3.5% 23 -8.2% 28
26 SEA -25.0% 2-14 -27.4% -25.2% 24 -45.9% 28 -21.6% 3 -0.6% 15
27 IND -27.3% 9-7 -22.9% -25.3% 25 -31.6% 26 -2.1% 18 2.2% 4
28 NE -39.9% 2-14 -42.1% -35.8% 28 -32.2% 27 5.9% 25 -1.8% 22

DVOA for 1992 is now listed in the stats pages:

Positional stats pages are also now updated. Unfortunately, we have not yet had a chance to add the 1992 data to our premium database, or to our premium player database. We'll get to that sometime in the next couple weeks, at the same time that we update the player database with all the 2010 data and change the similarity scores from 2007-2009 to 2008-2010. We'll do all of 1992 and 2010 in one fell swoop, sometime in late February. Look for an announcement in Extra Points.

One of the craziest aspects of the 1992 season was the absurd lack of deviation in special teams. The top special teams belonged to Detroit, at just 3.0% DVOA. In the other 18 years of DVOA, number-one team with the lowest rating was Kansas City, which had 5.5% DVOA on special teams. Twenty-six of the 28 teams in 1992 finished with special teams DVOA between -3.1% and 3.0%. By the way, the lack of standard deviation has nothing to do with the old 35-yard line for kickoffs, as the special teams ratings in 1993 (the last year of kickoffs from the 35) look like pretty much any other year.

Way, way, way behind everyone else you will find the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who finished 1992 with -8.2% DVOA on special teams -- the fourth-worst rating in history, worse even than this year's San Diego Chargers. Tampa Bay actually got a solid year from punter Dan Stryzinski, but the return men were poor, the kickers were horrific, and the kick coverage was putrid. Ken Willis and Eddie Murray combined to go 12-for-22 on field goals, and they couldn't stop kicking the ball out of bounds. Willis kicked the first nine games of the season and hit it out of bounds five times. He averaged 60 yards per kickoff (not counting squibs or onside kicks) and had only five touchbacks, which is very low considering that kickoffs were still at the 35-yard line that year. Then Murray took over for the final seven games and didn't have a single touchback, while hitting it out of bounds three more times. He averaged only 55.5 yards per kickoff. The Bucs weren't the only other team with a single-digit touchback total, but at least the others -- New England, Green Bay, and the New York Giants -- had the excuse of playing in cold weather.

Maybe the coaches were asking Willis and Murray to kick it out of bounds in order to prevent kick returns. The kick coverage for Tampa Bay allowed an average return of 25.6 yards, the highest in the league by 1.6 yards and six yards higher than the league average. They allowed six different kickoff returns of 50 or more yards, including an 89-yard return by Mel Gray in each of their two division games against Detroit. (One was a touchdown, the other one he was tackled at the four-yard line.)

The lack of deviation in special teams is even stranger when you consider the high level of deviation in wins in 1992. Only one team went 8-8, and ten different teams had either 11 wins or 11 losses.

Of course, no discussion of 1992 is complete without a look at the mind-numbing offense of the 1992 Seattle Seahawks, which averaged only 8.8 points per game. The Seahawks' -45.9% offensive DVOA sets a new FO record, surpassing the 2005 San Francisco 49ers (-42.0%) as the worst offense we've ever tracked. It gets worse if you isolate the passing game from the running game. The running game was below-average -- Chris Warren was good, with 4.6 yards per carry, but for some reason the Seahawks gave fullback John L. Williams 114 carries at 3.0 yards a pop, which drags their rating down to 23rd. But the passing game was abysmal. Previously, only two teams had pass offense DVOA below -45%: the 2005 49ers (-57.9%) and the 2004 Bears (-51.2%). The 1992 Seahawks had pass offense DVOA of -71.0%. Longtime quarterback Dave Krieg had signed with the rival Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason, so the Seahawks started his longtime backup, Kelly Stouffer. After five horrible games, they handed the reigns to 1991's first-round pick, Dan McGwire, who was technically the third-stringer. McGwire at least managed to complete half his passes, but couldn't get more than seven yards per completion. McGwire was nice enough to fracture his hip halfway through his first start, so from then on, the Seahawks went with former Giants and Cardinals backup Stan Gelbaugh (except for two games where Gelbaugh was injured and Stouffer played again). This is just awful:

1992 Seattle Seahawks Quarterbacks
Player GS Comp Att C% TD INT Sack NetY/P DVOA DYAR
Stan Gelbaugh 8 121 255 47.5% 6 11 34 3.6 -48.1% -635
Kelly Stouffer 7 92 190 48.4% 3 9 26 3.1 -81.0% -950
Dan McGwire 1 17 30 56.7% 0 3 7 1.6 -105.5% -196

It didn't help things when an injury cost star receiver Brian Blades 10 games. As a result, Williams was the team's top receiver, at 556 yards. If your fullback is the top receiver, your team needs serious help, or you employ Larry Centers, or both. The top wideout was a guy from Montreal named Tommy Kane, who had 369 yards in 11 games and was cut by the team the following preseason. He played one season in the CFL, became a drug addict, and is currently in prison for killing his wife.

What makes this horrendous offense even crazier is that the Seahawks defense was really, really good. Cortez Kennedy had 14 sacks and won Defensive Player of the Year -- on a 2-14 team! Safety Eugene Robinson joined Kennedy on the AFC Pro Bowl roster, and outside linebacker Rufus Porter added to Kennedy's pass pressure with another 9.5 sacks, which is a very high number for a linebacker on a 4-3 defense. The Seahawks are the most imbalanced team in DVOA history, by far:

Biggest Offense-Defense Imbalances in DVOA, 1992-2010
Year Team Offense Rk Defense Rk Difference*
1992 SEA -45.9% 28 -21.6% 3 67.5%
2002 KC 38.0% 1 15.1% 29 53.2%
2010 NE 46.1% 1 5.5% 19 51.6%
2004 KC 32.9% 2 17.1% 30 50.0%
1997 NO -38.6% 30 -10.6% 7 49.2%
2008 DEN 24.0% 2 24.7% 31 48.7%
1998 SD -28.7% 30 -19.5% 2 48.2%
1998 OAK -28.1% 29 -19.5% 3 47.6%
2010 HOU 26.0% 2 20.9% 31 46.9%
1999 PHI -28.7% 30 -17.7% 4 46.5%
*Because defensive DVOA is better when negative, "Difference" here is offense plus defense.

Despite all this horror, the Seahawks did not get the first overall pick in the draft. The New England Patriots went 2-14 as well, and won the right to pick first overall by tiebreaker. The Patriots also fired Dick MacPherson and lured Bill Parcells out of the NBC broadcast studio, another way in which they completely dominated the Seahawks in the battle to turn things around. The advantage of Drew Bledsoe over Rick Mirer was nothing compared to the advantage of Bill Parcells over Tom Flores in the "let's lure a Super Bowl-winning coach back to the sidelines" sweepstakes.

You may notice that there is a team listed between Seattle and New England at the bottom of the 1992 ratings, however, and you may notice that team even had a winning record. That would be the 1992 Indianapolis Colts, possibly the luckiest team in NFL history. The Colts finished 9-7 even though opponents outscored them 302-216. They had 5.0 Pythagorean wins, and the biggest difference in NFL history between Pythagorean wins and actual wins. In the first part of the season, the Colts lost games 38-0 to Buffalo, 26-0 to San Diego, and 28-0 to Miami. They were 4-7 after losing 30-14 to Pittsburgh on November 22. Then they finished the year with a five-game winning streak -- but they won those games by an average of four points. This is where Jason Whitlock would point out that Jeff George just wins football games. It didn't hurt that the Colts recovered 59 percent of fumbles that season and had a below-average schedule.

Now let's take a look at the best and worst players by position:

Quarterbacks: Steve Young led the number-one offense in DVOA and was the top quarterback in DYAR by a hefty margin, even though he only attempted 402 passes thanks to a run-heavy offense. Between passing and rushing, Young was about 500 DYAR ahead of any other quarterback. You may notice on the quarterbacks page that the 49ers also have the top two players on the "secondary quarterbacks" table. Steve Bono had 89 DYAR in a couple of games where Young had to leave with injury, and Joe Montana had 59 DYAR when he came back from an injury that had cost him nearly two seasons and played his final San Francisco game in Week 17.

All the expected great quarterbacks of the early 90's appear high on the DYAR list for 1992. Dan Marino is second, Troy Aikman is third, and Jim Kelly is fourth. Some kid named Brett Favre finished 13th in DYAR in his first season as a starter for Green Bay, with a roughly average DVOA. However, two very good quarterbacks were surprisingly terrible in 1992. John Elway tried to play through a shoulder injury that came in the first game of the year against the Raiders, and was awful: 10 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, with -437 DYAR (44th out of 49 ranked quarterbacks). Boomer Esiason also had a terrible year for Cincinnati, completing only 51.8 percent of his passes with 4.2 net yards per attempt and -474 DYAR (46th).

Running Backs: Emmitt Smith adds another year to the argument that he was the best and most consistent running back of the DVOA Era, leading the league with 375 rushing DYAR. Between 1992 and 1995, Smith finished first in DYAR three times and was essentially tied for first in the fourth year (1993). Lorenzo White finished second in rushing DYAR in his only 1,000-yard season; you may remember that he completely collapsed in 1993, dropping by more than a yard per carry. White also ranked third among all running backs in receiving DYAR. Thurman Thomas was fourth in rushing DYAR and second in receiving DYAR, but the top running back in receiving value was San Diego's Ronnie Harmon.

Jonathan Stewart Vaughn of the New England Patriots was the least valuable running back in the league, with -120 rushing DYAR. He clearly stands very low on the historic list of Jonathan Stewarts, far behind both Jonathan Stewart Leibowitz and Jonathan Stewart who is not DeAngelo Williams. Dave Meggett, surprisingly, was the league's lowest-rated running back as a receiver, gaining just 3.5 yards per pass. Barry Sanders had one of his really horrible offensive lines and finished just 15th with 95 DYAR. His Success Rate of 43 percent was 35th out of 41 ranked running backs.

Wide Receivers: Michael Irvin once again tops the league in DYAR. Like his teammate Emmitt Smith, Irvin finished first in DYAR three times and second in DYAR once during the four-year period from 1992 to 1995. The more we go back in DVOA history, the more I wonder if Michael Irvin was the loudest underrated player in NFL history. The guy really was a machine, with valuable mid-length gain after valuable mid-length gain. I put him on my ballot for NFL Network's "Top 100 Players" and I'll stand by that vote.

At least this time, we have a good excuse for putting the Playmaker above Jerry Rice; Rice had an "off year" by his own standards, with just 1,201 yards and 275 DYAR (fourth). Sterling Sharpe and Eric Martin finished second and third, between Irvin and Rice. Rice's teammate John Taylor had a fabulous 54.4% DVOA in limited time, catching 25 of 35 passes for a 71 percent catch rate and 17.1 yards per reception. Cincinnati's Tim McGee and Carl Pickens were the least valuable wide receivers of 1992 according to DYAR.

Tight Ends: Brent Jones leads all tight ends with 188 DYAR, but 1992 was not a really strong year for tight ends. Jay Novacek and Mark Bavaro finished second and third. (Quick, raise your hand if you remember that Bavaro played a year for the Cleveland Browns in 1992.) Seattle's Ron Heller was the least valuable tight end, with a 41 percent catch rate and -103 DYAR. Don't confuse him with Philadelphia's Ron Heller, who was a left tackle. We have to mark them R.Heller-TE and R.Heller-T in our database.

Great players who appear in the DYAR/DVOA stats for the first time include James Brooks, Ottis Anderson, Freeman McNeill, Al Toon and Roy Green. Defensive players whose careers ended in 1992 include Chip Banks, Bob Golic, Mike Singletary, and Fred Smerlas. It was also the final year for the great offensive tackle Anthony Munoz.

We have to thank all the readers who participated in the 1992 transcription project: Jeremy Billones, Nathan Jahnke, Peter Koski, Kevin Mayo, Sander Philipse, Jonathan Schafer, and the ridiculously prolific Jeremy Snyder. Jeremy not only did more games than anyone else, he also took care of translating the gamebooks for various teams whose official scorers were using non-standard play descriptions back in the pre-Internet Stone Age. Next stop: 1991, which is about two-thirds transcribed at this point.


171 comments, Last at 17 Aug 2012, 9:11am

1 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I can't wait for the 1991 DVOA ratings. I wouldn't be surprised if the 1991 Redskins were better than the 2007 Patriots.

Detroit's kick returner was Mel Gray, not Mel Gay.

12 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

The two teams have identical Pythagorean Expected W-L (13.8-2.2). P-F-R's Simple Rating System gives the Pats a significant edge (20.1 to 16.6), but the difference is nearly identical to the difference in their per-game point differential ... so they likely played schedules of roughly similar difficulty. The Patriots did have the benefit of three extra defensive touchdowns (6 to the Redskins' 3), which pads score differential a bit, but would not affect DVOA. As for play-based stats, the Redskins had a very slight edge in turnovers (+18 to +16 for the Patriots), and a fairly significant advantage in both passing and rushing net yards per play:

PASS OFF____8.1_____7.8
PASS DEF____4.9_____5.3

RUN OFF_____3.8_____4.1
RUN DEF_____3.9_____4.4

I think you're right that there's a chance the 1991 Redskins will have a shot at the '07 Patriots, but it will be awfully close...

107 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

The 49ers made at least the conference championship every year from 1988 through 1994 except for that year, when they missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker, lost a game on a 50-yard Hail Mary, and were a holy terror down the stretch. The Eagles, also, were terrific. They were probably the two best threats to the Redskins, and neither made the playoffs.

94 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

1991 is also going to present the most interesting Eagles team of my lifetime (and I've been a fan since 1978). I'm not sure what the top defense of the DVOA-era is (2002 Tampa?), but I think the '91 Eagles defense is going to be absolutely loved by DVOA. Buddy Ryan's players combined with Bud Carson's mind led to the only defense I would put up against the '85 Bears.

And ... the Eagles had 5 quarterbacks take snaps that season, including starter Brad Goebel and two guys who weren't even in the league at the start of the season, Jeff Kemp and Pat Ryan. Kemp even started two games! I suspect we will be seeing the table of "Largest Discrepancies" again for 1991.

Overeducated Layabout

2 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Oh my gosh, Ronnie Harmon. As a Raiders fan, how I respected and hated that little mother*$&#er.

- aj

EDIT: Wikipedia says Harmon was 6'2", 220 lbs! Can that be right?

3 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I think you understate the difference between Bledsoe and Mirer. You could certainly argue that Flores didn't accomplish much outside of his tenure at the Raiders, but at least he had those two Super Bowl wins. (Which is, incidentally, exactly as many as Parcells has.)
Mirer was simply awful. Maybe he wasn't Ryan Leaf-awful, but he's certainly near that level. And while Bledsoe wasn't ever good enough to win a Super Bowl, he did QB an AFC championship winning team a few years before Mr. Brady came along.

14 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I think the two Super Bowl wins are down the list, in terms of impressive accomplishments, for Parcells. The 2nd one, especially, which came after Roger Craig dropped a handoff in the closing moments of the conference championship game, and Scott Norwood went wide right, seems more of an artifact of random outcomes. I think five concecutive turnarounds, from bad team, sometimes simply horrendous team, to playoff team (counting Miami), with three of those teams going deep into the playoffs, is really remarkable, perhaps unprecedented.

Actually, I think taking a a really bad Dallas team, with Quincy Carter at qb, and Troy Hambrick at running back, to a 10-6 record, is as good a coaching job that I have seen.

110 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Remarkable, yes. Unprecedented, no. Marty Schottenheimer coached for 21 years with 4 different teams. During those 21 years, he's posted a losing record just twice. And those were some bad teams he took over- Cleveland was 1-7 when they switched to Schotty at midseason, and they went 4-4 the rest of the way. KC went 8-22-1 in the two years before Schotty arrived, then posted a 53% winning percentage or better in each of the next 9 seasons. Washington was already decent when Schotty took over, but San Diego was 6-26 in the two years before he arrived. In 2004, one San Diego beat writer famously quipped once the NFL released that season's schedule that he'd taken a look at San Diego's schedule, and the worst team on it was San Diego. The Chargers went 12-4 that year and won the division (Football Outsiders' formula predicted the turnaround, and even Aaron Schatz thought that it had lost its mind).

I cannot for the life of me understand how Marty Schottenheimer is still unemployed. Say all you want about his playoff record, but for a team like Denver or Carolina, you should be more concerned about just being in a position to make the playoffs within the next 3 seasons than you are about what you might do when you get there.

141 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I couldn't agree more. And I'm a Raiders fan! The really sad thing is that Marty would be just about a perfect coach for the Raiders -- very discipline-oriented, wouldn't need personnel say, etc.

- aj

169 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

It is not clear. He has a radio show, that I guess he enjoys doing. When the Ravens were interviewing coaches after the 2007 season, Big Schott was on their list (Ozzie played for him in Cleveland). The Baltimore Sun reported at the time that he told the Ravens he did not want to be considered unless his son Brian had been eliminated as a candidate. So I guess he's at the stage in his life where he's pushing his son ahead of him.

There was a cool moment in Hard Knocks this preseason, when Buddy Ryan and Marty were both visiting the Jets training camp, to bask in their sons' success and soak up some football. You could just see how much they enjoyed the sights & sounds, written all over their faces. At one point Marty is on-camera declaming in the Jets offensive staff room, saying something cryptic – I don't have it exactly, but from memory it went something like:

(to Brian) "You know what I've always said about quarterbacks." (expectant pause) "If a quarterback has some success his rookie year, if you get him to replicate those same numbers in his second year, he has improved."

I'd love to see Marty coach again.

25 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I would buy that:


59 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

That week one game really sticks in my memory. There was something really compelling about the setup, with Testaverde going down, and the rules requiring Tom Tupa to come in and hold the fort until the start of the 4th quarter since Mirer was listed as the third QB.

It's emblematic of Rick Mirer's career that Tupa, despite having not played quarterback for something like six seasons, produced a couple TD passes and really excellent numbers, while Mirer entered the game to throw a couple of picks to help the Jets cough up the lead.

74 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

That was the beginning of the end for Wannie and his personnel department, so it was probably a blessing in disguise.

Oh god, why did I look at that draft again? TE John Allred in the 2nd round, followed by (martial arts expert, blocking novice) Bob Sapp in the 3rd. But hey, it's not like Seattle did anything with the pick they got from the Bears.

62 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I took it to mean, Parcells implemented a blueprint for success that New England eventually capitalized on through Belichick. Had they not hired Parcells, would they have gone with his old coordinator? Wasn't Belichick hired in part because he fit the philosophy that Parcells laid out for them? This is just guessing on my part.

64 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

And yet he probably played better as a rookie than did Bledsoe. I remember the big debate that raged at the time between who was better. Lot's of people were absolutely convinced that Mirer would be the better QB. Joe Montana comparisons were not uncommon. After their rookie seasons, it was still up in the air. Mirer threw for more yardage, had a higher completion percentage and led his team to more wins.

Of course, things changed pretty quickly after that.

What's funny is that during the great Manning/Leaf debate of '98, everybody was comparing Leaf to Bledsoe (I guess if you go to the same school, then you *must* be similar -- although it should be noted that Bledsoe was a pretty good analogue for Leaf in terms of size and arm strength).

4 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Dan McGwire's benching had little to do with his minimal yards per completion - he fractured his left hip during that Week 6 game and was placed on injured reserve soon after.

6 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I have a bitter memory of those 1992 Seahawks. The Broncos went up to the Kingdome to play them on a Monday night, and at one point the announcers illustrated their offensive prowess intuitively: at that time in the season, they had more punts than points.

Of course, the Broncos, who were 7-4 going into that game, lost, with the immortal Tommy Maddox at the helm. http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199211300sea.htm

I wonder if any hall of fame quarterback has put up a season as wretched as John Elway's 1992 campaign. 10 TDs, 17 INTs, several games missed due to injury, messy divorce with Dan Reeves at the end, -457 DYAR, -31.1% DVOA. Yet the team was 8-4 when he played and 0-4 when he didn't. If I remember correctly, there was a stretch during that season when the Broncos switched their backup qbs, Maddox and Shaun Moore, on EVERY PLAY. Gee, I wonder why you would fire the coach after that. The season is really the turning point in Elway's career:

Pre-1992: 54.7 c%, 148/140 td/int, 6.95 y/a
Post-1992: 60 c%, 142/69 td/int 7.3 y/a

84 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Since 1969, this is at least a starting point: http://pfref.com/tiny/hjDDD

Terry Bradshaw's 1970 is tough to beat for badness out of a Hall of Fame quarterback: 83/218 (38.1%), 1410 yards (6.47 y/a), 6 TD, 24 INT (2.06 AY/A), 25 sacks for 242 yards (0.86 ANY/A). Obviously we don't have DVOA that far back (and won't for a long time), but that season was spectacularly bad even without DVOA.

101 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Sure, but Bradshaw was a rookie playing in the era before rules changes opened up the passing game. When you consider era and the "typical" career arc for a QB, I find Elway's line to be more shocking.

That said, Bradshaw's 1970 still looks awfully ... awful.

104 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

True enough, but even if you adjust for era by using ANY/A+, Bradshaw's 1970 comes out at 65 (for the sake of comparison, JaMarcus Russell had a 64 in 2007) while Elway's 1992 comes out at 86 (equal to Derek Anderson's 2010 . . . as an Elway worshipper, it pains me to write that).

I think, considering where it was in his career and staying post 1978, the closest thing to Elway's 1992 season is Kurt Warner in 2002 and 2003. Obviously, he is not in the Hall of Fame at the moment (and may never be), but he had three excellent seasons prior to that, then suddenly went 144/220 for 1431 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, 75, 21 sacks for 130 yards, ANY/A+, -17.3% DVOA, -95 DYAR in 2002 and 38/65 for 365 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 6 sacks for 38 yards, 85 ANY/A+, -67.3% DVOA and -243 DYAR in 2003. He didn't immediately turn around and start posting career-best numbers, so it's not exactly the same, but it's as close as I can think of.

When I did the above-linked pfr search, the one that really surprised me was Troy Aikman showing up below Elway's 1992 three times (1989, 1990, and 2000). I knew he had awful numbers while competing with fellow rookie Steve Walsh on an awful team in 1989, but I had not realized that he had two other seasons that horrendous. He has at least something of an excuse for each of them (being a rookie and a second-year player on a truly awful team in 1989 and 1990, concussions in 2000), but it was still a surprise to see that he had, in a 12-year career, had three seasons that bad.

127 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Bradshaw's is the worst of the bunch, but Donovan McNabb (69), Aikman (72), Eli Manning (74), Steve Young (75), and Elway (79) are all very good QBs who put up a putrid ANY/A+ figure as rookies. Joe Namath and Kurt Warner are probably the best players with a mid-career ANY/A+ as bad or worse than Elway's in 1992, with Archie Manning and Vinnie Testaverde being the other notable names. Of course, Manning, Testaverde, and Elway were all similarly screwed in the "teammates" department...

132 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

There may be very similar forces at work for Archie Manning, Testaverde, and Elway. All three basically had to carry awful offensive teams on their backs for several years (with varying success both individually and for their teams), fell apart for a year (or 2 in Manning's case), and then were given by far the best offensive teammates they'd ever had and their statistical peak arrive relatively late in their careers (age 29 for Manning, 30 for Testaverde, 33 for Elway).

135 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I agree with the general point, but the 1998 Jets were easily Testaverde's best supporting cast, and he was 35 by that point. His next best, in approximate order, were probably the 1996 Ravens (age 33), the 2001 Jets (38), the 2004 Cowboys (41), and the 2000 Jets (37). Conventional wisdom is that Testaverde's peak came very late, but I think that list tells a much more compelling story about his career.

Also, I think it speaks volumes about Fran Tarkenton that the same could be said about his help, but not about his production.

157 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

I agree about Testaverde. I meant it was the best offensive supporting cast he'd had to that point in his career (which was a very low bar--so low that I feel pretty safe in saying that the 1993 Browns cleared it). Jason Lisk did a post at pfr talking about the quality of his teammates a while back (http://www.pro-football-reference.com/blog/?p=5449) and while it definitely doesn't show that the 1993 Browns were talented, they are quite easily above the 1988-1992 Buccaneers.

And his career was absolutely fascinating. I could spend days discussing Vinny Testaverde and Steve DeBerg--which may speak volumes about what a loser I am.

And yes, it does say a lot about Fran Tarkenton--he's vastly underrated in the public consciousness.

138 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

Don't overlook the difference made by the relative quality of defensive teammates as well, especially prior to '78, when playing from behind was even more difficult, given how receivers could be mugged, defensive linemen could use the head-slap, and offensive linemen weren't allowed to use their hands nearly as much.
Testeverde and Manning the Senior had really crappy defenses constantly putting them in an early hole, and Manning had to try to come back from behind in games where doing so was a far more daunting task.

Also, I'll once again note that Tarkenton is underrated, given that he did not have even a decent team around him until his 12th year, when he was past his physical prime.

147 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

You could make the teammates argument for Aikman as well, since it was year 1 of the Jimmy Johnson era and the team was gutted and went 1-15. He 0-11 that year but did however set an NFL rookie record (at the time, since surpassed by Kevin Kolb) of 379 passing yards vs. the Cardinals.

Ephemera: He only once eclipsed that mark, in 1998, in a blowout loss to the Vikings.

40 Re: 1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

It doesn't always show up in the numbers, but 1992 was a critical year for several of the teams and individuals who would dominate the next decade or so:

— Dungy got his first job as a coordinator;

— The man who hired him was a first-year head coach, the now underappreciated Dennis Green. Funny that Green is now remembered for a postgame meltdown rather than the ten years of very good Viking teams he put out, whereas his predecessor's much more entertaining postgame meltdown is sadly overlooked;

— That #1 offense which Aaron refers to as "run-heavy" was coordinated by Mike Shanahan, emerging from relative hibernation to begin his "Avenging Al" tour in the Bay Area, ex-home of the Raiders, before taking it back to the AFC West;

— Shanahan took over from Mike Holmgren, who got his promotion to head coach courtesy of the Packers. Holmgren and Green (and, to a lesser extent, Shanahan) were part of a wave of 'West Coast' gurus who were changing the way offense was played. League-wide yards-per-completion fell below 12.0 for the first time ever in 1992;

— While the Packers were putting in place an innovative offense, an incredible trinity of defensive minds was implementing the newish zone-blitz defense down in Pittsburgh. Bill Cowher was the Steelers' first new head coach since the 1960s, and he hired Dom Capers from the Saints to be his defensive coordinator, as well as Dick LeBeau to coach the secondary (replacing, incidentally, Dungy).

— Since 1992, the Steelers have the best regular-season W-L percentage of any team (.631), and the Packers are second. Apparently, even as recently as 2010 those teams have been doing okay. New England, which fired Dick McPherson at the end of 1992 and hired Bill Parcells, is a close third. The Vikings are 8th; the Broncos, who eventually hired Shanahan, 5th. Cincinnati, which hired Dave Shula as head coach in 1992, has a better W-L percentage than Detroit — and no-one else.

Between them, top '92 hires Dungy, Green, Shanahan, Holmgren and Cowher have been head coaches for 73 seasons and made the playoffs 48 times, winning 5 Superbowls. The fourth-best NFL head coach hired in 1992, Bobby Ross by the Chargers, has a career winning percentage of .540 and took a team to a Superbowl. Ross, Green, Holmgren and Cowher were all first-time NFL head coaches (please take note, TMQ); in fact the only newbie hired in 1992 who failed was Shula.

By contrast, the retreads were a disaster: Flores in Seattle, Chuck Knox in St Louis, Ted Marchibroda in Indianapolis, and Sam Wyche in Tampa Bay. Flores and Knox were given three years to turn their teams around, the others a mighty generous four years. As the 1992 table shows, none of them got off to a great start, their teams ranking 19th, 25th, 26th and 27th. It wouldn't get any better: none of them ever managed a season of positive DVOA for those teams:

Ted: -27.3, -38.6, -6.2, -8.3
Sam: -22.0, -33.1, -16.3, -18.6
Tom: -25.0, -7.4, -9.2
Chuck: -11.8, -21.0, -10.8

for a magnificent 14-year total of -255.6%, an average of -18.3%. (Shula managed -79.6% in his four full seasons in charge of the Bengals: it was definitely a year of haves and have-nots in the hiring stakes.)