1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary
1992 DVOA Ratings and Commentary
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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 by Olbermann for … (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 12:48pm

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.

Points: 0

#12 by dmb // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:26pm

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...

Points: 0

#57 by Dave Bernreuther // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:33pm

I can't wait for the 91 rankings because I want to see how they stack up against the rankings we wrote for Tecmo Super Bowl back in college. We had some epic tournaments back then on inferior technology. The neighbors had N64, but we had the NES and much more fun.

Points: 0

#65 by thok // Feb 01, 2011 - 5:12pm

I just want to know how utterly screwed out of a playoff spot the Niners were in 1991. Unless something weird happens, they'll should have the largest DVOA by a nonplayoff team by a large margin.

Points: 0

#107 by t.d. // Feb 02, 2011 - 3:06am

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.

Points: 0

#94 by ElJefe // Feb 01, 2011 - 11:17pm

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

Points: 0

#2 by Alaska Jack // Feb 01, 2011 - 12:53pm

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?

Points: 0

#33 by Formersd (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:54pm

Ronnie Harmon was a fun player to watch as a Charger fan. I always felt he could have been even greater on a team that had him as the main rusher a little more often.

Points: 0

#3 by RickD // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:04pm

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.

Points: 0

#14 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:37pm

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.

Points: 0

#110 by An Onimous (not verified) // Feb 02, 2011 - 5:22am

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.

Points: 0

#141 by Alaska Jack // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:24pm

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

Points: 0

#152 by Thomas_beardown // Feb 02, 2011 - 4:55pm

Is it clear that Schottenheimer wants a job at this point?

Points: 0

#169 by JimZipCode // Feb 07, 2011 - 11:36am

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.

Points: 0

#19 by Spielman // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:58pm

I think there's a good argument to be made that Rick Mirer is the worst QB to get the kind of playing time he got.

Put the cutoff at 2000 career pass attempts, and I'll pick Mirer as the worst of the bunch.

Points: 0

#25 by Ben Stuplisberger // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:24pm

I would buy that:


Points: 0

#20 by JasonC23 // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:59pm

And the Bears later traded a first-round pick for Mirer. I don't think I'll ever completely get over that.

Points: 0

#34 by Travis // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:56pm

Then Bill Parcells panicked late in the 1999 preseason and traded a 4th rounder for Mirer, which wouldn't have been so bad had Vinny Testaverde not torn his Achilles Week 1.

Points: 0

#59 by Spielman // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:39pm

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.

Points: 0

#113 by Jetspete // Feb 02, 2011 - 9:05am

Even more emblematic of Rick Mirer's career is that Ray Lucas went 6-3 as a starter in 1999, beating 4 playoff teams in a row to close the season, and 2 of the 3 losses were nail-biters to the 13 win Colts.

Points: 0

#74 by TomC // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:48pm

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.

Points: 0

#165 by BigCheese // Feb 06, 2011 - 1:11am

*Looks at the 1997 draft to acertain wether that was sarcasm or not.*

Walter Jones...

*Sobs uncontrollably*

- Alvaro

Points: 0

#170 by tabsports // Feb 08, 2011 - 8:13pm

Actually, the Mirer pick was used to get Shawn Springs.

Points: 0

#62 by Jacob Stevens (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 5:00pm

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.

Points: 0

#64 by jurb // Feb 01, 2011 - 5:10pm

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).

Points: 0

#118 by Scott de B (not verified) // Feb 02, 2011 - 10:27am

I think a lot of the controversy was due to the Notre Dame effect -- I mean, that's about the only thing Mirer had in common with Montana.

Points: 0

#4 by Travis // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:05pm

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.

Points: 0

#7 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:13pm

You'd have to drag me off the field in chains if I fractured my hip!! If there's anything I can't stand, it's a guy with bad body language after he fractures his hip!!! I'm OUTRRAAAGEDDD!

Points: 0

#9 by Aaron Schatz // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:19pm

OK, I actually e-mailed Mike Sando to ask about that... I'll edit above.

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#102 by Temo // Feb 02, 2011 - 2:27am

I like that you know not only exactly why a terrible QB playing 20 years ago suddenly stopped playing, or that it was in week 6, or that the specific injury was a hip fracture, but that it was due to a left hip fracture.

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#6 by solarjetman (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:13pm

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

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#67 by Bright Blue Shorts // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:06pm

Don't most teams have more punts than points if they punt on their first possession!?

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#84 by Shattenjager // Feb 01, 2011 - 8:08pm

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.

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#101 by dmb // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:23am

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.

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#104 by Shattenjager // Feb 02, 2011 - 2:54am

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.

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#127 by dmb // Feb 02, 2011 - 11:44am

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...

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#132 by Shattenjager // Feb 02, 2011 - 12:27pm

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).

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#135 by dmb // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:07pm

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.

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#157 by Shattenjager // Feb 02, 2011 - 7:08pm

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.

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#138 by Will Allen // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:11pm

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.

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#158 by Shattenjager // Feb 02, 2011 - 7:10pm

Fran Tarkenton would be the starting quarterback on the all-time underrated team, no question.

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#166 by BigCheese // Feb 06, 2011 - 1:27am

I'll postulate that Fran Tarkenton is the best QB the NFC Central ever saw.

- Alvaro

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#147 by Temo // Feb 02, 2011 - 3:54pm

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.

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#8 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:16pm

Tony Dungy did a terrific job for the Vikings as defensive coordinator, starting in 1992.

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#40 by ammek // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:39pm

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.)

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#42 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:45pm

Nice perspective. One minor correction; I think Dungy came to the Vikings via the Chiefs. For reasons I've never read, Dungy had been fired as defensive coordinator for the Steelers back in the late 80s', although it certainly did not inhibit Dungy, in later years, from continuing to express great admiration for Chuck Noll.

It's kind of weird how two former Vikings defensive coordinators in the last five years have been the coach of Super Bowl winners.

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#47 by ammek // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:07pm

You're right about Dungy.

Also, it was only 10 years ago that another ex-Viking coordinator coached the Ravens to the title. And you ended up with Brad Childress???

Marchibroda's Colts would have been a headache for Aaron if FO had existed back in the early 1990s. They exceeded their estimated wins every year from 1992 to 1995, and had two nine-win seasons despite ranking 27th and 24th in DVOA — and were a dropped hail Mary away from the Superbowl in one of those seasons. When Marchibroda took over the Ravens the next year, however, he suffered the opposite fate. Baltimore ranked in the top half of DVOA in each of Ted's three seasons, but undershot their estimated wins by 1.8, 2.2 and a ridiculous 4.7 wins in 1996.

We shall have to wait for the numbers from 1975 to settle the question of whether DVOA loves or hates Ted Marchibroda.

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#66 by jurb // Feb 01, 2011 - 5:28pm

1992 was also the year of the infamous Mike Ditka/Jim Harbaugh meltdown. The 2-3 Bears were up on the 4-1 Vikings 20-0 in the 4th quarter when Harbaugh called an audible on 3rd and short. Miscommunication, due to crowd noise in the Metrodome, led to a pick 6 leading Ditka to visibly berate an obviously dejected Harbaugh on the sideline (and I mean berate...he tore him a new a-hole). The wheels fell off and the Bears lost the game. They managed to win their next two games to get to 4-4, but those same Vikings came into Soldier Field and blew them out and the Bears went into a tailspin.

It led to the end of Ditka and the beginning of the Dave Wanndstedt era (i.e., a decade of mediocrity).

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#134 by Jimmy // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:00pm

I was really hoping that wouldn't come up. It was one of the first times I got to watch the Bears play on TV and as they only started showing the game in the fourth quarter it couldn't really have gone much worse. Of course it did as Wanny was given the reins and well, Wannstedted the roster. A few guys have destroyed rosters in the NFL but I can't think of many who ruined two teams in a ten year span.

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#58 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:34pm

Childress was the worst thing an otherwise good owner has done, and I think in some measure it was the result of him (the owner) being very new to the role when he had to make his first head coaching hire; he kind of rushed into hiring The Chiller after firing Tice. Tice actually did a pretty decent job under absolutely horrible ownership. The sad thing is that it was obvious that Mike Tomlin was a far better coach than Childress, within about two months of Childress hiring Tomlin. I kept trying to hope that Wilf would see it as well, and figure some way to ease Childress out.

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#88 by Jerry // Feb 01, 2011 - 10:33pm

I think Dungy came to the Vikings via the Chiefs....

After the Steelers went 5-11 in 1988, upper management demanded changes in what had become a dysfunctional coaching staff. After Noll seriously considered resigning, he and Dan Rooney agreed on some changes that included demoting Dungy back to defensive backs coach. Dungy wasn't willing to take the demotion, so he resigned and became defensive backs coach in Kansas City under defensive coordinator Bill Cowher.

The next year, the offensive coordinator resigned after having been with Noll since 1977. He felt that Noll was about the only support he had left in the organization. He went to the Vikings as quarterback coach, then bounced through Detroit and New Orleans before he landed with the Colts. Tom Moore ended up having a pretty good career.

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#41 by Jimmy // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:43pm

As a Bears fan operating from another country with very little information and no real idea of schemes beyond 4-3 or 3-4 I could never understand how the Vikings defense kept producing at a high level despite losing players most offseasons. Now I suspect they had stolen a march on the league in terms of being the first team using what is now known as the Tampa2, with good results.

I assume you were watching (whilst I was unable), is there any truth to my musings?

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#45 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:04pm

The Tampa 2 has a longer lineage than many people suspect. Versions of it were being played in the '70s. The key to the Vikings success, after Bud Grant, and under what was really quite bad ownership until Zygi Wilf bought them, was in good part due to two extremely good scouts, and one former coach, that few know the name of, who each worked for the Vikings for a very long time. Jerry Reichow and Frank Gilliam scouted colleges, especially small colleges, extremely well. Guys like John Randle, undrafted free agent who became a HOFer, and 3rd rounder Henry Thomas, were Vikings because of good scouting. Paul Wiggin, former pro and college coach, joined the organization in 1985 as pro personnel scout, continues to work today, and does a great job. Dungy is a good coach not because of some tremendous strategic insights, but mostly due to the fact that he manages people very well, and gets guys to play to their potential. The Vikings have had a lot of good players through the years, however.

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#89 by Jerry // Feb 01, 2011 - 10:36pm

In Jaworski et al's The Games that Changed the Game, they credit Bud Carson with developing the Cover-2 in Pittsburgh in the '70s. One guy who played in it as a nickel back was Tony Dungy.

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#136 by Jimmy // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:09pm

I get that the cover two defense was the staple of the Steel Curtain teams which is why I referred to the Tampa2. What I mean by this is the emphasis on smaller front seven players who are able to get penetration through their gap and who pursue quickly. I suppose mainly the emphasis in on speed and gap discipline as opposed to size and power up front. Guys like Thomas and Randle are the epitome of what I am talking about, both were fantastic in their scheme but would have been embarrassingly bad if regularly asked to control two gaps.

I never saw the Steel Curtain play but they were before the rule change limiting the DB's to five yards of coantact. I had always assumed that this was part of the reason why the scheme lost popularity in the eighties.

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#140 by Will Allen // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:22pm

Alan Page was a more talented John Randle, who could thus play the run more honestly, while still being a devastating pass rusher. The Vkings defense, since Bud Grant's arrival in '67, have always played something that could be recognized as something similar to the cover 2.

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#10 by RickD // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:23pm

Have to say I'm distressed at the similarity between the 2010 Patriots and those Chief teams from 2002 and 2004. I think that such a large disparity between offensive and defensive quality bodes poorly for playoff prospects.

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#151 by JonFrum // Feb 02, 2011 - 4:36pm

The Patriots defense this year was loaded down with rookies. No surprise that they would suffer under playoff conditions. A rising tide of experience should help next year. Still plenty of needs, but they shouldn't be flat out bad next year.

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#11 by First_Nathan (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:24pm

Incredible, and entertaining work as always.

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#13 by Vincent Verhei // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:29pm

The one number missing from that Seahawks quarterback table is fumbles. McGwire had one, Gelbaugh had nine, and Stouffer had 12. The amazing thing about Stouffer is that he only had 26 sacks and (officially) nine runs, meaning he lost the ball roughly one-third of the time he hit the ground. Gelbaugh had 34 sacks and 16 runs, so he lost the ball roughly one-fifth of the time he went down.

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#16 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:40pm

Holy Cow, if Stouffer had been an overworked running back, he coulda' had 100 fumbles! What immortality!

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#22 by Spielman // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:01pm

Wow. Stouffer's numbers are Kurt Warneresque.

I'd wager that is the ONLY circumstance in which the above sentence has ever been used, or ever will be used.

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#55 by Whatev // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:30pm

I don't think I'd want to start a quarterback who was "bad Warner" all the time.

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#63 by Spielman // Feb 01, 2011 - 5:04pm

Well one fumble for every three times hitting the ground is only a slight exaggeration of where Warner was from 2002 until he retired.

It's a simplistic and imperfect way of looking at things, obviously, since a bunch of QB fumbles happen on botched snaps, not when the QB is tackled. Still, Warner goes from having an essentially normal ratio of hits to fumbles from 1998-2001, to having a rate that far surpasses the next closest guy, Mark Rypien. I guess the lesson is not to have four major throwing hand injuries in three seasons.

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#79 by NWebster // Feb 01, 2011 - 7:29pm

Actually on the '91 Redskins team a previous poster noted as the offensive equivalent of the '07 Pats Mark Rypien fumbled 9 times on 7 sacks and 15 runs. I recall reading somewhere that he had actually fumbled on all but 1 sack - but who's counting?

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#81 by Spielman // Feb 01, 2011 - 7:50pm

Well, I was talking about Rypien's career numbers. Career wise, he's at 20.09% (45 fumbles/(97 sacks + 127 rushes)). Warner is at 23.56% (102 fumbles/(260 sacks + 173 rushes)).

From 2004 through 2009, I've got Warner at 28.52%, which tells you how much better those numbers were in 2001 and previous, since the career numbers are five percentage points lower.

And as far as fumbleriffic seasons go, I see your Mark Rypien's 1991, and give you Kurt Warner's abortive 2003 season, featuring six fumbles versus six sacks and one rushing attempt. One of those fumbles did take place on an abortive snap, though, so Warner did manage to hold onto one sack and the rush. Kurt Warner's right hand is a disaster area.

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#93 by ElJefe // Feb 01, 2011 - 11:06pm

The 1991 DVOA article is going to be real fun. I think the most interesting thing about Rypien's 1991 fumble statistics isn't the number of fumbles, it's the number of sacks.

There is not a typo in the OP; Mark Rypien started 16 games in 1991 and was sacked 7 times. That's pretty incredible. But ... if you look at the 14 games he started against teams other than the Philadelphia Eagles ... he was sacked four times. Four sacks in fourteen games!

Overeducated Layabout

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#111 by Will Allen // Feb 02, 2011 - 8:24am

The First Commandment on the Joe Gibbs tablets is "Thou shalt protect the quarterback".

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#137 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:10pm

The 'Skins line that year was playing ridiculously well. Seemingly anyone they put in at RB gained four yards, and Rypien had enough time that Gary Clark could run under his overthrown bombs...

The next year, it didn't work out so well.

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#15 by Bryan Knowles // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:39pm

1992-1994 Steve Young: Has any QB ever had a better three-year run? Hell, has any player ever had a better three-year run?

Just looking at his conventional statistics--68.4% completion, more than 11,000 yards passing, 89-33 TD/INT ratio, 8.65 yards per attempt, with 1200 yards rushing and 13 rushing TDs to boot...

It's enough to make a 49ers fan cry today :P

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#17 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:47pm

Reggie White from 1986 through 1988 was pretty damned impressive. In the strike-shortened year of 1987, White had 21 sacks, 76 tackles, and four forced fumbles, in 12 games, while getting constantly double-teamed.

Ol' Reg' could get it done.

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#28 by bravehoptoad // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:35pm

So strange to look at the charts to find "SF." My eye instinctively starts at the bottom and works its way up. And up...and up...and then remembering that SF at the top of the charts seemed like a birthright in 1992...sigh....

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#43 by DisplacedPackerFan // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:48pm

Well if you want conventional stats for QB's there is one playing right now that isn't that far off.

Aaron Rodgers over the last 3 years.
12,394 yards, 64.6% completion, 86-31 TD-INT, 7.99 YPA, with 879 rushing yards (4.94 YPA) and 13 TDs.

I don't think that is as good as Young's peak, but it's not that much worse. I also don't think Rodgers is at his peak yet.

The 86-88 Reggie White as mentioned was a BEAST, though I'm not positive that was his best 3 year stretch.

57 sacks, 307 tackles, 6 forced fumbles (1 returned for a TD). That's pretty insane for defensive end.

You can drop 86 and do 87-89. You lose 7 sacks, but you pick up 2 forced fumbles and 25 tackles. Of course just about any 3 year stretch for that man looks really damn good and the 87 season was only 12 games for him as mentioned. He was amazing to watch play.

But certainly Young's peak was a truly amazing thing to watch.

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#49 by Arkaein // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:12pm

Favre's 3 year peak wasn't too shabby either. More INTs (42) than Young or Rodgers, but also more significantly more TDs (112 passing and 6 running), even after adding in Young's/Rodgers' rushing TDs. Even had close to 400 yards rushing in his MVP years.

YPA not quite so impressive at around 7.5, and his completion percentages hovered around 60%, good for those days but not as heady as Young's peak.

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#53 by dryheat // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:22pm

I've got to imagine Jerry Rice had as an impressive 3 year window than anyone from 1993-1995. Eric Dickerson's first three years were also monstrous...If you took his 1st, 2nd, and 4th, I think he'd be the clear winner. And while I'm at it, Jim Brown's 2nd-4th years playing 12-game seasons were mighty impressive.

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#56 by Thomas_beardown // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:31pm

When I hear peak I think of Kurt Warner. 1999-2001.

12,612 yards, 67% completion percentage, 98 TDs, 53 picks, 9 y/a. Plus, he did it in 43 games, missing 5 in 2000.

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#97 by Aaron Brook's … (not verified) // Feb 02, 2011 - 12:43am

Terrell Davis from 1996-1998. Then his knee exploded. Twice. Played a total of 16 games after the '98 Super Bowl.

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#98 by Aaron Brook's … (not verified) // Feb 02, 2011 - 12:50am

Manning, 2003-2005.

12571 yards, 108-30 TD/INT, 67% completion, 8.3 yds/att. Not much rushing, though, those years. You also have to account for him taking three games off because of locked up playoff seeding.

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#112 by ammek // Feb 02, 2011 - 8:34am

Young's accomplishment was all the more remarkable because quarterbacking around the league was at an all-time low. In the 1993 DVOA thread I argued that the period 1990-93 was the worst for passing offense since the rule changes of 1978. Well, 1992 was the very leanest of those lean years.

The most striking statistic is pass attempts. Teams in 1992 attempted fewer than 30 passes a game for the only time since 1979. Collectively, they threw 542 fewer passes than in the previous year, 1991, and 1006 fewer than in the following year, 1993. Just three seasons later, in 1995, NFL offenses were attempting five extra passes per game.

Passes were not just rarer, they were shorter too. Yards per completion fell below 12.0 for the first time ever in 1992. The trend towards short passing was quite new, for y/c had remained very consistently around 12.7 between 1979 and 1989, dropping to 12.5 in 1990 and 12.0 in 1991. It dipped to 11.9 in 1992, then 11.6 in 1993 and 1994, and has averaged around 11.5 ever since, only reaching 12.0 once more, in 1998.

Predictably, as passes became shorter, completion percentage rose. The 1992 average of 57.5% was the highest ever, more than three percentage points above the 1988 nadir of 54.3%. This did not stop yards per game declining to 187.6 per game, some 6% lower than the previous year and 11% below the 1989 high of 211 yards per game. In 1993, the average was back above 200 y/g, where it has remained ever since.

Less predictable, however, was the effect on pass protection. The 1992 season is a major outlier in sack rate:

1988… 6.8
1989… 7.2
1990… 7.3
1991… 6.6
1992… 7.8
1993… 6.8
1994… 5.9
1995… 6.1

But the sacks weren't at all evenly distributed. Here's a complete list of offenses that have had a sack rate of 12% or more since 1988:

2002 Hou 14.5%
2005 Hou 13.2%
1992 NE 12.8%
1992 Det 12.7%
1992 Sea 12.3%

2004 Chi 12.3%
1992 Phi 12.0%

In fact, only 18 offenses have had a sack rate above 11% in the 23 seasons since 1988. Four of them came in 1992, and they were all above 12%.

Add to this litany of offensive shame the fact that the interception rate rose season-on-season for the first time since 1980, and you can see that 1992 was a seriously crappy year for quarterbacking. FO's stats confirm it:

Cumulative DYAR, QB qualifiers:
1992: 4362
1993: 6489
1994: 13680

Worst average DVOA per QB qualifier, 1992-2010:
1992: -6.35
1999: -4.28
2001: -3.27
(Average 1992-2010: -1.94)

So, in short, QBs in 1992 dropped back to pass less often, and were sacked at a ridiculous rate when they did; they attempted ever shorter passes, gaining fewer yards, although they were intercepted every bit as frequently as before. How to explain this unparalleled awfulness?

One interesting angle thrown up by FO's numbers is the sheer number of QB 'qualifiers' (which in FO's terms means those who dropped back to pass at least 100 times in a season). For 1992, there were 49 qualifiers, third-most in the DVOA era — but this was only a 28-team league, and there weren't very many pass attempts to go around:

Most QB 'qualifiers' per team, 1992-2010:
1992: 1.75
1998: 1.63
1993, 1994, 1999: all 1.61
(Average 1992-2010: 1.50)
(Lowest: 2008: 1.28)

Lowest average number of dropbacks per QB 'qualifier', 1992-2010:
1992: 283.3
1998: 325.8
1993: 327.3
(Average 1992-2010: 360.9)
(Most: 2001: 409.0)

So there was an unusual amount of chopping and changing at the quarterback position. Only eight QBs started every regular-season game, and one of those, Jim Kelly, missed most of the postseason. Without data from years prior to 1992, it's hard to know if this was unprecedented, or if back in the day a lot more QBs got injured or benched. What we can say is that, compared with more recent years, an extraordinary number of these QBs played poorly: 23 of the 49 qualifiers (46.9%) had negative DYAR, the most ever. (On average, 35% of qualifiers are 'below replacement level'. The only season that's close to 1992 is 2009, where 21 of 46 (45.7%) qualifying QBs had negative DYAR. This was a weird outlier, since both 2008 and 2010 were below 25%. Might it help explain the mysterious 2009 DVOA projection problems?)

QB badness, however, was not shared equally in 1992. Nineteen of our 49 qualifiers were aged 30 or more at the beginning of the season: cumulatively they put together 4814 DYAR, and 13 of them finished with positive DYAR. As Aaron notes, two of the six that didn't — Elway and Esiason — were having an off-year or playing for Dave Shula. Of the others, Bubby Brister and Ken O'Brien barely dropped back enough to qualify; Gelbaugh's excuse is described by Aaron in the commentary; and Jay Schroeder was about done.

On the other hand, there were 16 qualifiers aged 26 or younger, and only four of them managed positive DYAR: Favre, Aikman, Neil O'Donnell and Rodney Peete. The last three were already 26: after Favre (-1.7%) the second-best DVOA by a QB aged 25 or younger was Peter Tom Willis's -22.8%. This was not a one-off: the list of young QBs in 1992 contains more giant busts than a series of Temptation Island. Several of them were obviously playing in poor situations — Klingler and Maddox were on the same teams as Elway and Boomer; Marinovich's VOA isn't that much worse than Schroeder's — but the dire passing numbers of 1992 can't be explained away by “the rules were different back then”. This was simply a generation of bad quarterbacks.

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#160 by ElJefe // Feb 02, 2011 - 9:09pm

I'll go one further and ask that this post and post #40 be included in the text of the article. Both are sufficiently insightful and informative that people shouldn't have to dig through the comments to find them.

Overeducated Layabout

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#144 by zlionsfan // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:45pm

Very nice work.

The appearance of the '92 Lions on that list shouldn't be a surprise: the line that led Detroit to a first-round bye (!) and home playoff win (!!) and NFC title game appearance (!!!) in '91 was devastated by tragedy and injury. Mike Utley's on-field paralysis in '91, Eric Andolsek's off-field death prior to the '92 season, and injuries to mainstay C Kevin Glover effectively left Detroit with Lomas Brown and backups. (I'm not sure why Scott Conover replaced Eric Sanders at RT; it could simply have been a case of declining skills, although Conover didn't stick in the lineup after '92 and thus may not have been much better than replacement level, literally.)

Through the first two months of the '91 season, the Lions finally had a solid offense ... the losses of Andolsek and Utley, fourth- and third-year players respectively, destroyed much of the nucleus of a line that could have been the ticket out of mediocrity for Detroit. (This is the one time where I think "curse" is applicable; the gross mismanagement by the Fords had nothing to do with either event.) Instead of being able to build the defense and turn the Lions into an NFC power, Fontes ended up patching the line ... even though the offense worked pretty well in '95 and '97, the defense never really turned things around, and after Moeller failed to join Fontes and Ross in taking the Lions to the playoffs, Millen was hired, and the rest is infamy.

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#146 by ammek // Feb 02, 2011 - 2:56pm

Looking at it from the stats, the line was clearly the problem. All three starting QBs had sack rates above 11%, although Andre Ware outdid Kramer and Peete to post an estimable 15.7%.

One other oddity about the 1992 Lions was that they had so few plays. Their offense only ran 843 plays — 40 fewer than any other team, and 115 fewer than the NFL average. Yet the defense only faced 976 plays, or less than 2% above the average. I don't know what could have caused such a lack of action: maybe a mix of all those sacks plus some Barry Sanders twist-and-twirl runs that took 20 seconds and gained 2 yards.

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#150 by Temo // Feb 02, 2011 - 4:19pm

High completion rates, plus more running, plus more sacks (instead of incompletions) will certainly result in fewer time stoppages and burning more time off the clock per play.

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#18 by JasonK // Feb 01, 2011 - 1:58pm

Ray F***ing Handley...

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#90 by ElJefe // Feb 01, 2011 - 10:43pm

From all Eagle fans:

Ray must Stay! Ray must Stay! Ray must Stay! ....

Overeducated Layabout

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#21 by Spielman // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:00pm

"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."

That'll happen when one of your starters gets paralyzed the previous season, and another starter gets killed by a truck in the offseason.

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#91 by ElJefe // Feb 01, 2011 - 10:46pm

The lineman in the second tragedy, Eric Andolsek, died in a Spinal Tap-esque "Freak Gardening Accident". He was killed by a truck while in his yard.

Overeducated Layabout

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#96 by Aaron Brook's … (not verified) // Feb 02, 2011 - 12:40am

And he still lead the league in rushing TDs and rushing yards/game.

In terms of rushing statistics versus Emmitt Smiff, one has to remember that Smiff met his first defender two yards downfield, whereas Sanders met his two yards in the backfield. He starts with a 4-yard penalty.

He may also have been the only late-bloomer of the great RBs. A RB usually peaks somewhere around his 3rd season (+/- 1). Sanders' peak was between seasons 6-9. Fittingly, Payton and Brown are the two other examples.

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#23 by Tom Gower // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:13pm

One could arguably date my interest in smarter analysis of football that ultimately led to my FO involvement to this 1992 season, when I argued that the Oilers and Bills were the two best teams in the AFC, only to receive the rejoinder that they obviously couldn't be the two best teams because they were playing in a wild card game. #1 and #2 in DVOA = vindication at last.

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#26 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:32pm

That 1992 Redskins squad was damned good 9-7 team as well. I recall that the Hogs, in their divisional playoff game against the 49ers, was starting to physically take over a tie game late, when a Redskins running back had an unforced fumble, and the 49ers then went about 50 yards for the winning td. Yeah, the Cowboys probably would have beat them in the Conference Championship, but it wouldn't have been a sure thing.

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#31 by Travis // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:43pm

For the record, the 49ers were leading 17-13 with about 9:30 to go when the Redskins' Brian Mitchell muffed a handoff at the 49ers 23. The 49ers then took up the next 7 minutes driving for a field goal, and the game ended 20-13.

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#32 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:48pm

Ah, you are right. I just remember that the Redskins offensive line was starting to knock the 49ers defensive front off the ball, when the ball got dropped for no good reason.

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#27 by RickD // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:33pm

The AFC playoff teams that year included four 11-5 teams and two 10-6 teams. The Dolphins won a tiebreaker over the Bills based on conference record, which seems to be a silly tiebreaker.

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#35 by Floyd (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:58pm

The 11-5 Steelers ended up getting the #1 seed. I think they went into the final day needing a ridiculous set of circumstances to even win the division. That they got the top seed is testament to how bunched up the conference was.

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#37 by Travis // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:07pm

The 1992 Steelers had clinched the AFC Central after Week 15, but needed a win + a Dolphins win + a Bills loss to clinch homefield going into Week 17. A loss + a Chargers win in Week 17 would have cost the Steelers a bye.

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#29 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:38pm

I'm just happy to read something where the Bills don't suck!

If DVOA gets to 1990, it will be really interesting to see where that Bills team ranks - or even the 1991 version.

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#51 by dryheat // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:15pm

One thing that Bills and that Oilers team had in common was that they each lost to the 2-14 Patriots. At least in my memory they did. I should probably look it up, but where's the fun in that?

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#24 by Joseph // Feb 01, 2011 - 2:18pm

One of the glory years of the Saints terrific D. The best LB core of all time (as rated by NFLN), with the other 7 guys who knew what their responsibilities were, plus an average offense= 12-4. If they only would have had a decent passing QB...
(By the way--regarding those responsibilities--for the 3 DL, it was soak up blockers; for the DB's, it was jump routes. If you don't remember, they played a 3-4 which went to a 4-3 on passing downs--they rushed LB's Rickey Jackson & Pat Swilling from the outside, and I believe the 2 DE's became DT's.
The other LB's were Sam Mills & Vaughn Johnson. One year, all 4 went to the Pro Bowl! [when that meant something] and iirc, the same year all 4 were named All-Madden--back when that meant something too. Those 4 guys carried those teams.)

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#38 by Steve C (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:17pm

Hebert was #4 in passing DVOA that year. Also surprised to see how bad the rushing offense (#25) was with Heyward, Hilliard and Dunbar.

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#46 by Will Allen // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:07pm

Yeah, even advanced passing stats are highly context dependent. Bobby Hebert was a decidedly mediocre quarterback.

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#54 by Spielman // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:29pm

Look, only one professional football team from my home state has won anything worth winning during my lifetime, so you, sir, will keep a civil tongue in your mouth when you discuss the greatest of the Michigan Panthers, Mr. Bobby Hebert.


Seriously, the most football obsessed kid at my high school wore a Bobby Hebert Saints jersey, and would not hear a word said against him. He was crushed when the Saints got bounced from the playoffs that year. At least he was better than Eric Hipple, I guess.

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#86 by mm (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 9:16pm

Hebert was good (not great) and was vastly better than any other QBs they had in that era. Most years they were held back by an offense that didn't call enough passing plays. In this year (1992) the RBs were so bad they had to throw more, leading to Hebert getting 5th in DYAR while the underrated Eric Martin finished 2nd in receiving DVOA and 3rd in DYAR.

The one year that Hebert sat out (1990) the Saints offense was totally horrendous. To bad, too, because that may have been the greatest defense of the Jim Mora era. Hebert left the Saints after 1992. The offensive DVOA went from 0.3% (11th) to -19.6% (25th).

On the RB's that year. Dalton Hilliard had briefly been a superstar, but injuries had broken him by '92. Dunbar was never good. I was never sure about Heyward. He was always miscast as a FB but I think this year they had him mostly at halfback.

Looking forward to seeing how badly the Saints underperformed in the playoffs during the Mora era. At least this year they lost to a team that finished slightly ahead of them in overall DVOA (Philadelphia), even if the Saints were ahead in the weighted rankings.

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#73 by yoyodyne // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:46pm

Any real football fan or of good writing simply has to read Mark Bowden's [yes that one] 'Bringing the Heat,' about Buddy's 1992 Eagles, culminating in a great run-through of the playoff game at NO. Mark was da Iggles beat writer that year and would go on to bigger and better things.

NO is up 20-7 at home, going into the 4th Quarter. After Randall hit Arkansas Fred for a 35-yd TD, Buddy's Boys showed the 'All-Madden' Defense of the Aints what great Defense really looks like:
Seth Joyner INT leads to 6-yd td run,
White safeties Hebert, leading to a 40-yd fg for Ruzek, and finally
Eric Allen 18-yd INT for TD.

within a few minutes, the D turned a 20-14 deficit into a 36-20 laugher. Would have been one of the most amazing comebacks of the playoffs in recent history, but forgotten after that 35-3 game...everyone forgets the Eagles scored 29 pts in less than 10 minutes, on the road, whereas Buffalo had almost the entire H2 to tie up their game.

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#92 by ElJefe // Feb 01, 2011 - 10:47pm

Buddy Ryan did not have his contract renewed in 1990. The Eagles were coached by Richie the K in 1992 (and 1991).

Overeducated Layabout

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#36 by andrew // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:01pm

As a vikings fan I'm curious to see how (when we get there) the 1988 squad stands up to their 1998 team. I think they were more dominant, at least down the stretch, if not for the inability to beat a 4-12 Packers team... or the Niners bent on exacting revenge for the playoffs in '87. ah well.

I know its a long ways off, but there's also that legendary 1981 Colts team to look forward to, it ought to challenge for the "worst ever defense" designation...

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#99 by Aaron Brook's … (not verified) // Feb 02, 2011 - 12:56am

I'm excited for 1991, and the only good Lions team since the mid-1960s.

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#130 by dmb // Feb 02, 2011 - 11:51am

Hey now, 1970-72 were some good teams, as were the squads from 1995 and 1981. Sadly, the '81 team underperformed their Pythagorean projection pretty badly...

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#143 by zlionsfan // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:32pm

True, but the '91 team had better luck: facing Buffalo in the final week of the season, when the Bills were resting their players, rather than earlier on ... playing a fourth-place schedule ... getting a good performance from a QB in a playoff game.

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#154 by Aaron Brooks' … (not verified) // Feb 02, 2011 - 5:17pm

The 1995 team was a good offense, but a pretty horrific defense. They patched things up long enough in the second half in order to hemorrhage fewer points than the offense could score, then imploded in the wildcard game to the tune of a 45-7 deficit.

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#163 by Spielman // Feb 02, 2011 - 11:04pm

Scott Mitchell - 13/29 for 155 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs.
Rodney Peete - 17/25 for 270 yards, 3 TDs and 0 INTs.

I gave up on the Scott Mitchell era that day, his quite good 1995 season notwithstanding. Rodney Peete, for crying out loud. It might not have been a totally rational reaction, but given the rest of Mitchell's career, I didn't exactly wind up being wrong.

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#39 by Chill-Bill (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:20pm

Love the great work charting how good teams were each year. As a Redskins fan I can't wait to see just how good the 1991 team using advanced metrics. We layed the smackdown quite a bit that year and had a point differential of over 16 points per game. Maybe one of the most underrated teams in NFL history when we talk about greatest teams ever. I suspected the 1992 Cowboys were the best Dallas team at least statistically out of the 4 years of dominance they had. Keep up the great work Football Outsiders!

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#44 by ammek // Feb 01, 2011 - 3:53pm

Quick, raise your hand if you remember that Bavaro played a year for the Cleveland Browns in 1992.

Not me. I don't remember Al Toon as a Bill either, nor Willie Gault in Los Angeles (Al Davis must have been in heaven). And Roy Green was an Eagle? Wow.

It's cool to see James Lofton in the top handful at WR. Lofton was about the most exciting player I've ever seen. The 1992 season wasn't his last, but he didn't have much left. Incidentally, for 1993 he's listed on FO as a Ram; in fact he played for two teams, but caught 13 passes for the Eagles, versus only one for LA. Can we call this the 'Marshawn Lynch bug'? And get it fixed ("2TM"?)?

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#50 by Travis // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:15pm

Al Toon never played for a team other than the Jets - it must be a typo on the receivers page.

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#68 by ammek // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:07pm

A fun game to play with historical DVOA: which is the first player on the list whose first name you can't remember? For 1992, mine are T Waddle at WR and J Bunch at RB. Half of the TEs listed are a total mystery.

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#69 by Thomas_beardown // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:28pm

As a Bears fan, I know of Tom Waddle, but I never saw him play. However, I would eliminated much sooner. I have no idea who C. Duncan is for the Oilers.

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#72 by TomC // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:41pm

As a Bears fan, I know of Tom Waddle, but I never saw him play.

That's too bad. "Too-much-love-for-the-white-guy" syndrome aside, he really was a lot of fun to watch. He was as fearless and as good as getting open over the middle as Bobby Engram, but he was nowhere near as good at avoiding big hits. As a result, he had a short career with lots of cover-your-eyes highlights, the most famous of which was in a playoff game against Dallas after the '91 season, when Madden kept playing the replay and yelling "He's perpendicular!" (by which he meant "he's parallel [to the ground]").

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#142 by Jimmy // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:26pm

Tom Waddle used to be my favourite player. Mainly because I sort of knew a lot of the team wasn't all that good and many players were prone to massivley under-performing whereas you could never slag off Waddle for not giving everything he had. I remember him scoring on a 70 odd yard catch and run and it seemed to take up most of the quarter and I have never seen a team make as many blocks down the field as that play (until Lynch entered Beast mode against the Saints but that was ridiculous). The other reason to love him as a young kid was that however small you were you could look at Waddle and think, 'If that guy can play in the
NFL, I could.' Now I never have but it was nice to dream as a kid.

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#76 by Boots Day // Feb 01, 2011 - 7:00pm

You obviously didn't go to Northwestern, or you'd know exactly who Curtis Duncan is.

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#71 by TomC // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:37pm

Waddle, really? He was a "folk hero" at the time, and he's all over Chicago radio & TV still, but he also does NFLN stuff regularly. Jerrod Bunch, on the other hand....

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#167 by BigCheese // Feb 06, 2011 - 1:58am

Wasn't 92 the year Waddle made the All-Madden team AND had the best hands in Tecmo by far'

- Alvaro

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#75 by yoyodyne // Feb 01, 2011 - 6:48pm

If you can't come up with Tom Waddle and Jerrod Bunch, you're clearly under 30 and likely an AFC fan.

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#77 by Raiderjoe // Feb 01, 2011 - 7:19pm

Can remmeber them all,.

Did not reaf whole article yet or all of comments b ut will do it laterr and make dome comemnt at that time. Wathcing jeopardy rihvht now

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#78 by Lance // Feb 01, 2011 - 7:26pm

Unfortunately-- or not-- I was playing fantasy football back in 1992 and as the commish of my league, I was poring over the USA Today every Monday to cull stats for scoring. I recall a LOT of those guys...

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#119 by Aaron Schatz // Feb 02, 2011 - 10:34am

Yes. Looks like we incorrectly give Toon an incomplete pass that should belong to a Buffalo receiver due to a typo. Off to fix it now...

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#164 by Bright Blue Shorts // Feb 03, 2011 - 10:02am

You don't remember Willie Gault at the Raiders ... try this ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUS8sHmdeMo ... funnily enough James Lofton gets a look in too.

In other news was reading that Willie Gault now holds the over-45 world record for the 100-metres ... and that he clocked 4.27 in the 40 last year ... I'm pretty certain Al will be giving him another call soon ...

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#60 by djanyreason // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:41pm

Estimating Barry Sanders' DVOA by YPC (R^2 of .79, adding in fumble rate didn't improve the estimation), and then estimating his DVOA for '89-'91, he comes out with a career DVOA of 5.65%.

I'd like to know if the FO staff thinks this represents Barry Sanders' true value, or if they think this is a blind spot in DVOA's methodology.

For what its worth, his DVOA over the '92-'98 period for which we have data (i.e., where I'm not estimating) is 5.94%.

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#61 by Thomas_beardown // Feb 01, 2011 - 4:49pm

DYAR would be a better stat for measuring total career value.

As for Sanders's lowish DVOA, football is hard to measure and accounting for quality of teammates is almost impossible to do objectively. So a great player on a bad team will always be "blind spot" in DVOA.

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#100 by Yaguar // Feb 02, 2011 - 1:01am

Being able to produce an average NFL running game for 300 carries a year is extremely valuable. But Barry Sanders wasn't just average, he was significantly better than average.

5.65% doesn't seem like very much. It's not a big number, and QB/WR DVOA often varies by much more. But this is over the course of a career, and everyone has some strong seasons and some weak ones. Chris Johnson happened to be in the negatives this year. We don't think less of him because of it.

If you look at LaDainian Tomlinson's 10-year career, much of it played behind Kris Dielman and Marcus McNeill and Mike Goff and Lorenzo Neal, he exceeded that 5.65% mark only four seasons out of ten.

Sanders' DVOA is the subject of a lot of scrutiny because he's supposed to be the exact sort of player that DVOA grades down. If you take the time to look at other Hall of Fame RBs, though, you'll find that they too often have "subpar" seasons.

Ultimately, the FO stats tell exactly the story we've all known all along. Particularly incredible is Sanders' final season, 1998. The Lions offensive line ranked 29th (out of 30) in adjusted line yards. Curiously, though, they were #1 in 10+ yard runs by a significant margin. Just like they were the year before that, and the year before that.

*Addendum: Barry's running style didn't hold back the Lions' ALY; the year after his retirement, the Lions actually managed to move down to 31st out of 31 teams.

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#80 by Your Friend Fricka (not verified) // Feb 01, 2011 - 7:46pm

"LARD" -- Seriously?!
For an Art Shell -led Raiders team?!
That's cold, even if it wasn't a playoffs year for 'em!

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#82 by big_jgke // Feb 01, 2011 - 8:00pm

Hilarious, 18 years later and you guys still go out of your way to overrate the Eagles.

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#95 by Lance // Feb 02, 2011 - 12:08am

As a Cowboys fan and real Eagles hater, I have to say that this is a crazy statement. I lived in Philly in 1992 and still recall vividly their Monday Night match-up in week 5-- 3-0 Dallas vs. 4-0 Philly. Madden sang high praises for both of the teams, and actually predicted that one of those teams would be in the Super Bowl.

Dallas lost-- badly, unfortunately-- and I wore my Cowboys sweatshirt inside out to class that day to show my shame. The reason of the season, Dallas and Philly both got lots of press, and that play-off game was hardly considered a win for Dallas. The defense rightly gets lots of the credit, but I recall being pretty afraid of Cunningham. And hating Via Sikahema, who, when he returned punts and kicks for TDs, would go up to the goal post and treat it like some punching bag. He later did weather for a news station in Philly...

Anyhow, point is, Philly was hardly "overrated" in 1992. Or at least, the FO numbers are hardly out of sync with popular opinion...

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#87 by langsty // Feb 01, 2011 - 9:34pm

good ol HOIL and LARD

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#103 by Temo // Feb 02, 2011 - 2:31am

Long live Irvin.

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#106 by Bobman // Feb 02, 2011 - 3:05am

Aaah, the beginning of the 90s. The kind of retrospective that makes Colts fans, even in 2011, contemplate locking the bathroom door and shaving their wrists very, very deeply.

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#108 by t.d. // Feb 02, 2011 - 3:10am

DVOA seems to prefer Smith to Sanders (in the context of their offenses) decidedly

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#121 by Temo // Feb 02, 2011 - 10:47am

Right, throwing all matters of "who was better", it'd hard to say that the Cowboys didn't have a better running attack than the Lions, which is really what individual DVOA rating for RBs is saying.

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