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16 Jul 2012

1991 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

Here's the moment that Washington Redskins fans have been waiting for -- at least, the Washington Redskins fans who read Football Outsiders. With the official unveiling of the 1991 DVOA ratings, the Redskins pass the 2007 Patriots as the highest-rated team in DVOA history.

Washington may have been the most well-rounded team in NFL history. We now have DVOA ratings for 645 teams, and in that whole group, the 1991 Redskins rank 17th in offense, 16th in defense, and 13th in special teams. They rank fifth all-time in pass offense and 11th in pass defense. They aren't ranked as highly on run offense and run defense, but were still among the top ten teams of 1991 in both ratings. The Redskins were the best defense and the third-best offense in the second half with the score within a touchdown, which helps make them the first team to ever hit 16.0 Estimated Wins.

WAS 1991 14-2 56.9% 27.2% 1 -21.1% 3 8.6% 1
NE 2007 16-0 52.9% 43.5% 1 -5.8% 11 3.6% 7
NE 2010 14-2 44.6% 42.2% 1 2.3% 21 4.7% 8
GB 1996 13-3 42.0% 15.2% 3 -19.3% 1 7.4% 2
SF 1995 11-5 40.0% 18.6% 5 -23.7% 1 -2.2% 22
PIT 2004 15-1 37.6% 16.3% 8 -18.9% 3 2.4% 10
PIT 2010 12-4 35.4% 14.3% 5 -20.7% 1 0.4% 16
DAL 1992 13-3 35.1% 23.6% 2 -9.5% 5 1.9% 8
NE 2004 14-2 34.2% 23.3% 3 -10.7% 7 0.2% 16
STL 1999 13-3 34.0% 17.7% 4 -13.5% 3 2.8% 9

The ratings for past teams will look different from the ratings currently listed on our stats pages because they represent the new DVOA v7.0, and we haven't yet had time to get all the stats pages updated with the newer version of the stats. As I noted a week ago when the book came out, we'll get to that in the next couple of weeks and then run a few articles showing updated top-ten lists and how DVOA v7.0 has changed the historical rankings.

But I digress; back to the Redskins. A lot of the best teams in NFL history got a little extra boost by picking on an easy schedule, but not Washington. They had an average schedule, and a harder-than-average schedule of opposing defenses. One reason for that: 1991 was not only the year of the best overall team in DVOA history. It was also the year of the best defense in DVOA history, which showed up on Washington's schedule twice: the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles.

* * * * *

Here are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1991, 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 WAS 56.9% 54.5% 14-2 27.2% 1 -21.1% 3 8.6% 1
2 SF 26.0% 22.0% 10-6 24.0% 2 -4.8% 8 -2.8% 22
3 NO 19.6% 18.8% 11-5 -1.7% 17 -24.5% 2 -3.2% 23
4 BUF 19.1% 28.0% 13-3 21.5% 3 2.1% 16 -0.2% 16
5 PHI 17.9% 18.1% 10-6 -24.6% 26 -42.4% 1 0.1% 14
6 KC 17.8% 17.1% 10-6 13.3% 5 -2.1% 9 2.5% 6
7 HOIL 11.8% 16.5% 11-5 9.2% 9 -5.8% 7 -3.2% 24
8 DAL 9.9% 3.4% 11-5 17.6% 4 11.4% 24 3.6% 2
9 CHI 7.3% 5.1% 11-5 5.3% 10 -7.7% 6 -5.7% 28
10 NYG 6.1% 0.5% 8-8 12.5% 6 7.0% 22 0.7% 12
11 ATL 5.8% -1.8% 10-6 3.5% 14 1.2% 15 3.6% 3
12 DEN 3.5% 9.0% 12-4 -1.8% 18 -10.2% 4 -4.9% 27
13 LARD 1.9% -3.5% 9-7 -0.9% 16 0.3% 12 3.2% 4
14 SD 1.6% -4.8% 4-12 4.7% 11 3.6% 17 0.5% 13
15 CLE1 1.0% 3.3% 6-10 3.7% 13 1.1% 14 -1.7% 20
16 MIN 0.5% 6.5% 8-8 11.8% 8 10.6% 23 -0.7% 18
17 DET -1.2% 1.4% 12-4 -2.6% 19 0.9% 13 2.3% 8
18 MIA -1.3% 3.4% 8-8 12.2% 7 14.5% 28 0.9% 10
19 SEA -3.8% -5.8% 7-9 -14.9% 22 -8.2% 5 2.9% 5
20 NYJ -4.4% 2.4% 8-8 4.7% 12 5.2% 19 -3.9% 26
21 PIT -7.6% -7.5% 7-9 -8.6% 20 0.3% 11 1.3% 9
22 LARM -10.7% -24.1% 3-13 0.4% 15 13.5% 26 2.4% 7
23 GB -15.4% -11.2% 4-12 -15.9% 23 -0.8% 10 -0.2% 15
24 CIN -24.3% -29.0% 3-13 -9.8% 21 14.1% 27 -0.4% 17
25 PHX -24.3% -35.1% 4-12 -20.4% 24 4.6% 18 0.8% 11
26 NE -31.5% -28.4% 6-10 -23.7% 25 5.9% 20 -1.9% 21
27 TB -38.1% -41.3% 3-13 -28.4% 27 5.9% 21 -3.8% 25
28 IND -47.7% -40.1% 1-15 -32.8% 28 13.5% 25 -1.5% 19
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles.
  • WEIGHTED DVOA is adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important. It better reflects how the team was playing at the end of the season.
  • 1991 SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#28, most negative).
  • PYTHAGOREAN WINS represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#28, highest variance).

RANK 1991
1 WAS 56.9% 14-2 16.0 1 52.4% 1 0.1% 17 13.9 1 12.6% 15
2 SF 26.0% 10-6 11.0 4 31.2% 2 3.3% 10 12.3 2 16.9% 21
3 NO 19.6% 11-5 10.2 7 14.6% 6 1.3% 12 12.0 3 15.8% 20
4 BUF 19.1% 13-3 11.2 2 21.1% 3 -14.3% 28 11.4 5 10.3% 11
5 PHI 17.9% 10-6 10.3 6 20.3% 4 4.4% 8 9.4 8 21.9% 27
6 KC 17.8% 10-6 11.1 3 12.4% 7 4.9% 6 10.2 7 8.8% 8
7 HOIL 11.8% 11-5 10.3 5 10.9% 9 0.9% 14 11.8 4 5.2% 2
8 DAL 9.9% 11-5 9.8 8 15.3% 5 6.4% 3 8.9 11 18.7% 24
9 CHI 7.3% 11-5 9.1 9 4.0% 14 1.0% 13 9.0 10 15.1% 17
10 NYG 6.1% 8-8 8.9 11 2.8% 16 5.4% 5 7.5 19 7.1% 4
11 ATL 5.8% 10-6 8.6 12 12.2% 8 4.8% 7 8.6 13 14.1% 16
12 DEN 3.5% 12-4 8.0 15 -1.8% 18 -4.4% 21 10.3 6 8.7% 7
13 LARD 1.9% 9-7 8.0 14 4.9% 12 2.4% 11 8.0 15 17.5% 22
14 SD 1.6% 4-12 7.7 16 5.2% 10 4.2% 9 5.9 22 4.9% 1
RANK 1991
15 CLE1 1.0% 6-10 7.4 18 -1.7% 17 -0.6% 19 7.8 17 7.9% 6
16 MIN 0.5% 8-8 8.5 13 4.1% 13 -8.2% 25 7.8 16 18.3% 23
17 DET -1.2% 12-4 8.9 10 3.5% 15 -2.7% 20 9.3 9 19.1% 25
18 MIA -1.3% 8-8 7.7 17 5.0% 11 -10.6% 27 7.8 18 7.8% 5
19 SEA -3.8% 7-9 7.2 20 -7.0% 20 0.4% 16 8.5 14 9.8% 10
20 NYJ -4.4% 8-8 7.4 19 -4.0% 19 -10.0% 26 8.7 12 10.9% 12
21 PIT -7.6% 7-9 7.2 21 -9.6% 21 0.6% 15 6.4 21 11.7% 14
22 LARM -10.7% 3-13 5.9 22 -10.6% 22 8.9% 2 3.6 24 6.6% 3
23 GB -15.4% 4-12 4.5 25 -10.8% 23 -4.7% 22 6.7 20 8.9% 9
24 CIN -24.3% 3-13 4.7 24 -24.0% 25 5.6% 4 3.6 25 20.0% 26
25 PHX -24.3% 4-12 4.9 23 -22.0% 24 12.2% 1 3.5 26 15.2% 18
26 NE -31.5% 6-10 4.2 26 -26.9% 26 -6.5% 24 4.8 23 15.5% 19
27 TB -38.1% 3-13 3.7 27 -46.1% 27 -0.2% 18 3.1 27 27.1% 28
28 IND -47.7% 1-15 0.0 28 -47.1% 28 -5.8% 23 1.6 28 11.4% 13

DVOA for 1991 is now listed in the stats pages:

Statistician Eddie Epstein wrote a book a few years ago called Dominance, about the best teams in NFL history. He chose the 1991 Redskins as the second-best team ever, behind only the 1985 Bears. Doing these ratings definitely has me thinking about just skipping the late '80s for now and going straight to 1985 so I can compare the Bears to both the Redskins (overall) and the Eagles (on defense).

If you look closely at the ratings, you can get a bit of a sense of how two units -- the Eagles' defense and the Redskins' special teams -- really overwhelmed the rest of the NFL in 1991. Remember, with the new version of DVOA, every year is normalized to average 0%, so there should generally be 14 teams above average and 14 teams below average. On defense, you'll notice there were only 10 teams above average in 1991, with 18 teams below average. And while special teams are split 14 and 14, the difference between the Redskins and second-place Dallas is bigger than the difference between Dallas and 18th-place Minnesota.

The Redskins might actually be even higher in DVOA if they had not rested their starters for most of their Week 17 game against Philadelphia. Backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge was 6-for-16 in that game, and the Eagles scored 17 points in the final quarter to beat the Redskins 24-22. Even with that fourth-quarter flop, the Redskins had a 49.9% DVOA for that loss. The Redskins didn't have a below-average DVOA in a single game all season. In fact, the Redskins only had DVOA below 20% for one game all year, a 17-13 win over the Giants in Week 9. Their DVOA for that game was 19.5%.

Washington started the season with a ridiculous 45-0 slaughter of a Detroit team that was missing Barry Sanders due to a rib injury. That's a team that eventually went 12-4. I know Barry Sanders was good, but the guy was not 45-points good. The Redskins' single-game DVOA of 149.6% sets a new record for the strongest game we've ever measured, passing the 1999 Steelers' dismantling of the debut expansion Browns and the 1994 Eagles' shocking upset of the eventual champion 49ers. The Redskins bookended their season by clobbering Detroit (this time with Sanders) 41-10 in the NFC Championship. I don't have DVOA for that one yet because I haven't had a chance to run all of the historical playoffs with the new formula; that's an August project.

The 1991 Redskins are also famous for Tony Kornheiser's "Bandwagon" columns that followed the team throughout the year, considered by some to be the best series ever written by a sports columnist. You can find those linked here.

As great as the Redskins were, the Eagles may have been even more interesting. The 1991 Eagles completely lap the field in terms of defensive DVOA. Only the 2002 Bucs had a better pass defense, and only the 2000 Ravens had a better run defense, and the Eagles were much more balanced than either of those teams.

1991 PHI 10-6 -42.4% -48.6% 1 -34.9% 1
2002 TB 12-4 -31.8% -51.9% 1 -8.8% 8
2008 PIT 12-4 -29.0% -32.8% 1 -24.2% 2
2004 BUF 9-7 -28.5% -34.7% 1 -21.9% 2
2008 BAL 11-5 -27.8% -27.1% 2 -28.6% 1
2009 NYJ 9-7 -25.5% -36.5% 1 -13.9% 7
2000 TEN 13-3 -25.0% -23.0% 2 -27.4% 2
2003 BAL 10-6 -25.0% -29.5% 1 -19.9% 3
1991 NO 11-5 -24.5% -33.1% 2 -12.3% 5
2000 BAL 12-4 -23.8% -14.8% 7 -36.6% 1

It probably seems strange that there are no teams from 1992-1999 on this list, but they do show up when we get into the teens, with teams like the 1995 49ers (11th) and 1998 Dolphins (14th).

It's crazy to imagine how few points the Eagles might have given up if they were playing with a halfway-decent offense instead of losing Randall Cunningham to a torn ACL in the first game of the season. The Eagles were stuck depending on an over-the-hill Jim McMahon for 11 starts, plus Jeff Kemp for two and Brad Goebel for two. McMahon actually wasn't half bad, with 6.9% passing DVOA, but the other two quarterbacks were awful, especially Goebel who had no touchdowns with six interceptions. And the running game was dreadful, with 3.1 yards per carry as a team.

Still, the Eagles were fifth in the league in points allowed, and first in yards allowed by nearly 400 yards -- and the team that was second in yards allowed is also on that top-ten defenses list, the 1991 New Orleans Saints. The Eagles allowed 3.9 yards per play, where no other team allowed fewer than 4.5. As bad as their running game was, their run defense was even better, allowing 3.0 yards per carry. Three-fourths of the starting defensive line was All-Pro (Reggie White, Jerome Brown, and Clyde Simmons). Linebacker Seth Joyner and cornerback Eric Allen made the Pro Bowl as well.

The Saints and Redskins had really good defenses as well that year. The Saints of course were led by their linebackers, with Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson, and Pat Swilling all making the Pro Bowl and Rickey Jackson being awesome without getting a trip to Hawaii. It wasn't really the easiest year to find space on the NFC Pro Bowl defense, was it? The Redskins only got two guys onto the Pro Bowl roster, defensive end Charles Mann and cornerback Darrell Green. That defense was also a source of future general managers, both good (cornerback Martin Mayhew) and not-so-good (Matt Millen).

You definitely see the NFC dominance in the DVOA ratings for 1991. Buffalo, the AFC Champion, ranks fourth, the highest AFC team and one of only three AFC teams in the top 11.

Three other teams stand out in 1991, for being overrated (Detroit), underrated (San Diego), and just plain dreadful (Indianapolis).

The Lions were one of the most inconsistent teams of the year, which is what happens when you win 12 games but lose 45-0 (to Washington) and 35-3 (to San Francisco). Otherwise, it's a little hard to tell why they ended up only 17th in DVOA. The Lions didn't have too many super-close victories, but did go 4-0 in games decided by a touchdown or less. They didn't particularly take advantage of long plays that are discounted by DVOA, with only four gains of 50 yards or more. They did benefit a little extra from fumbles on defense, recovering 15 of 23. They also benefitted from poor opponent special teams, ranking third in Hidden special teams value.

San Diego was the opposite, somehow going 4-12 despite being an average team by DVOA with the league's lowest variance. The Chargers went a horrifying 2-8 in games decided by a touchdown or less. (They were 2-1 in games decided by eight points, but in 1991 that didn't count as a touchdown or less because there was no two-point conversion.) They didn't have particualrly bad luck on fumbles, and their schedule was ninth in the league, so it wasn't all about opponent strength. They just kept losing close games. Part of San Diego's problem was a significantly unbalanced offense, which ranked second in rushing DVOA and 19th in passing DVOA. That made it tough for them to come back from a deficit, and they just happened to end up with more fourth-quarter deficits that needed erasing than fourth-quarter leads that needed protecting.

When San Diego went 11-5 the next season, it wouldn't have been a big surprise to Football Outsiders readers, if there had been Football Outsiders readers in 1991. Or if there had been an Internet. Or if I had not still been in high school (my 20th reunion is this Saturday).

Finally, to finish up discussion of teams: Yes, Indianapolis is listed there with 0.0 estimated wins, one of only two teams to hit that mark. The other was Detroit in 2009. It's the flipside of Washington; the Colts were the worst offense and defense in the league in the second half of close games, and the worst offense in the league in the first quarter. Their only win all season came by one point over the 8-8 Jets, and they scored more than a touchdown only five times. For this disaster, they won the right to draft Steve Emtman, whose career was derailed by injuries. The next season, they may have been the luckiest team in DVOA history, going 9-7 despite ranking 27th in a 28-team league in DVOA. In 1993, they were back to 4-12.

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

Quarterbacks: Mark Rypien, was you might expect, is the leading quarterback of 1991 in both DYAR and DVOA. Rypien had a season that was somewhat equivalent to the one Aaron Rodgers just had for the Packers; the passing game was so efficient and the team so good overall that Rypien didn't have to throw as many passes as the other top quarterbacks of his era. Rypien started all 16 games but had just 434 pass plays, including DPIs. Warren Moon is second in DYAR, and in the run 'n' shoot he had 686 pass plays. That's ridiculous in other direction. The average team in 1991 had 540 pass plays, including DPIs.

The top DVOA guys, other than Rypien, are generally guys who didn't play the whole season for one reason or another. Steve Young (second in DVOA) missed five games with injuries; when he was out, Steve Bono came in and was fourth in the league in DVOA. Troy Aikman (fifth in DVOA) missed four games; when he was out, Steve Beuerlein came in and was third in the league in DVOA.

The worst quarterback in the league, based on total value, was Jeff George, who was in his second year with the Colts. George comes out with -590 DYAR despite having an above-average completion rate: over 60 percent when the NFL average was 57.4 percent. The issue here wasn't really turnovers, as George threw only 12 picks. However, George was Captain Checkdown with a league-low 8.3 yards per completion, and he took a league-leading 56 sacks. He did this against one of the easiest defensive schedules in the league. Also having a really bad season was Tom Tupa of the Cardinals, in his only season as a regular starting quarterback. He was strictly a punter and third-string emergency quarterback from then on.

Finally, teaching a lesson in not getting roped in by small sample size, Todd Marinovich started the final game of the regular season for the Raiders and had 49.2% DVOA and 152 DYAR.

Running Backs: 1991 was the year of Thurman Thomas, who led the league in both rushing (306) and receiving (290) DYAR. He's seventh all-time in receiving DYAR for running backs, and tenth in combined rushing-receiving DYAR for one season. Emmitt Smith, in his second season, was second with 266 DYAR. He had strange receiving numbers, too. Emmitt Smith early on was much like LaDainian Tomlinson early on, with awful receiving DYAR because he was so often getting hopeless dumpoffs. Smith had -55 receiving DYAR despite an 82 percent catch rate, because he had just 5.3 yards per reception and fumbled three times on receptions for good measure.

Barry Sanders actually led the league in rushing YAR, but he drops to fifth in DYAR because of strength of schedule. It's a bit of an odd schedule; on the surface, it doesn't look like Detroit's schedule of opposing run defenses was that easy. The Lions missed the Eagles, but they did have to play six games against the teams ranked sixth through ninth in run defense DVOA: San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, and Green Bay. Except Sanders didn't play against Washington in Week 1, and he had only seven carries against San Francisco in Week 8. His two highest-carry games came against the two worst run defenses in the league, Miami and Indianapolis.

Rod Bernstine of San Diego, a converted tight end, was third with 260 rushing DYAR and actually led the league in rushing DVOA.

The least valuable back in the league was rookie Leonard Russell of the Patriots. Man, was Leonard Russell bad. In 1991, the Pats made him the 14th overall pick out of Arizona State and gave him 266 carries at 3.6 yards per carry. They resisted the urge to throw him many passes, at least, just 26 of them. He caught 18 and had just 4.5 yards per reception. So that's -151 rushing DYAR and -47 receiving DYAR. The year after, 1992, Russell got another 123 carries at 3.2 yards per carry and was second-to-last in the league with -89 rushing DYAR. In a six-year career, Russell never averaged more than 3.6 yards per carry, although he at least had positive DYAR in 1993 and 1996.

Eric Dickerson was also near the bottom of the league with -124 rushing DYAR. 1991 was the year he finally fell off the cliff, with 3.2 yards per carry at age 31.

Wide Receivers: DVOA loves Michael Irvin. Just loves him. Michael Irvin finishes first in receiving DYAR for 1991, which means he now ranked first in four out of five seasons from 1991-1995. In the other season, 1994, he ranked second to Jerry Rice. Here's the rank of those seasons in all-time receiving DYAR according to the new formula, in order: 20th, 19th, 23rd, 42nd, and first. Wow. Irvin was also first in DVOA in both 1991 and 1992, ahead of the part-time receivers who make our rankings despite having only one-third as many passes. Wow.

Gary Clark of the Redskins finished second in the league in DYAR and fourth in DVOA. Art Monk was 15th, Ricky Sanders 21st. The Redskins had the best three-wide attack in the league, although other teams had more impressive duos. The Bills had Andre Reed (third) and James Lofton (fourth). The 49ers had Jerry Rice (10th) and John Taylor (seventh). And the Miami Dolphins had Mark Duper (eighth) and Mark Clayton (ninth).

The least valuable wideout in the league was a depth guy for the Houston run 'n' shoot named Tony Jones. He had -45.3% DVOA when no other receiver with at least 50 targets was below -27.7%.

Tight Ends: Tight ends just weren't a big part of offenses in 1991 when compared to 2001, or especially when compared to 2011. Eric Green of the Steelers led the league with 170 DYAR one year after he was taken 21st overall in the 1990 draft. (It's remarkable how few highly-drafted tight ends have been busts.) Green was one of only three tight ends with at least 100 DYAR. Last year, by comparison, there were 13 different tight ends with 100 DYAR.

A fairly obscure undrafted H-back out of Stanford named Jim Price led the league in receiving DVOA and was tied for second in DYAR. Here's an article about him for those curious. He eventually played limited time for the 1993 Cowboys Super Bowl team. He was tied with Ethan Horton of the Raiders. Jay Novacek was fourth and Steve Jordan (gratuitous Brown reference!) fifth. The least valuable tight end in the league was San Diego's Derrick Walker, who had a miserable 6.7 yards per reception and converted just one out of seven passes on third down.

Usually in these articles, I note the great players who show up in our play-by-play breakdowns for the first time, but there were surprisingly few great players whose careers ended in 1991. Players who appear in the DYAR/DVOA stats for the first time include Gerald Riggs and Mike Rozier, and a lot of ex-USFL guys including Marcus Dupree. A few coaches show up as players for the first time, including Gary Kubiak, Mike Mularkey, and Jimmy Raye.

(Correction: This Jimmy Raye is actually the son of Jimmy Raye the offensive coordinator. The younger Jimmy Raye is Director of Player Personnel in San Diego.)

The 1991 play-by-play is available almost entirely because of the work of one man, Jeremy Snyder. After using multiple volunteers for previous seasons, Jeremy ended up basically doing 1991 by himself, except for the game I had to transcribe myself off a DVD. (1991 was the first season where we couldn't find every single gamebook somewhere, but I found a Falcons DVD collector who was able to send me the missing Minnesota-Atlanta game, and I transcribed the play-by-play myself.) Jeremy has done a great job of translating the gamebooks for various teams whose official scorers were using non-standard play descriptions back in the pre-Internet Stone Age. He's already done most of 1990, too, but we're missing a few games from that season and I'm going to need to contact the teams looking for gamebooks, and after that NFL Films looking for any videotapes. For those curious, the list of missing 1990 games:

  • Week 3 WAS-DAL
  • Week 5 LARM-CIN
  • Week 7 LARM-ATL
  • Week 8 ATL-CIN
  • Week 11 LARM-DAL
  • Week 16 ATL-LARM
  • Week 17 ATL-DAL
  • Week 17 LARM-NO (second quarter only)

The 1991 stats are now available for both team and position stats page. The 1991 data is not yet in the premium database, because we need to get all the new DVOA v7.0 data in there. We'll be doing that soon. We also don't have the 1991 data on player pages yet, because of the player page permission issues we've been struggling with, as noted in this article. We'll work on getting that taken care of as soon as possible.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 16 Jul 2012

218 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2012, 7:12pm by zlionsfan


by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:02pm

If their 30-24 loss to the Rams was any indication, a good part of the blame for the Chargers' 2-8 record in games decided by 7 points or fewer belonged to their coach, Dan Henning. In that game, the Chargers:

1. Ran a play from their own 1 with one second left in the first half. Marion Butts was tackled for a safety.

"I felt the best thing to do was to take our No. 1 short yardage play, which generally covers every defense that we face," he said. "We ran it and they outdefensed us. (The Rams) either made a mistake or they're smarter than we are."

2. Called a draw on 4th-and-10 with 2:08 left. Ronnie Harmon gained 7 yards.

Henning still believes the draw was the best call.

"You ask anybody in this league . . . one of the most devasting plays in the game is a fourth down draw," he said. "They work as much or more than passes do under those conditions."

Reporters continued to press Henning on his play selection. Finally, he flatly was asked if he blew the draw call.

"After I made that explanation and you continue to harp on it," he said. "What you should do is go back and join one of the staffs on the Senate Judiciary Committee and beat your (expletive) brain out all day."

Henning never had a head coaching job in the NFL after 1991.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:32pm

"You ask anybody in this league . . . one of the most devasting plays in the game is a fourth down draw,"

That is a thing of beauty, it could be straight out of a spoof football film.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:05pm

Well, he is technically accurate. It certainly is devastating.

by Temo :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:55pm

That is priceless.

by Olbermann For President (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 12:06am

Henning strangely fired his offensive coordinator after Week 1.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 8:47am

Ironically, Henning was hired as the Lions OC in 1993 because they wanted to get rid of the run and shoot and run Barry Sanders out of a two back set more. Unfortunately Sanders was lost for the year in week 11, the offense went from mediocre to terrible (wasting a pretty good year from their defense), and Henning was blamed. After a 13-0 home loss to Minnesota, he was fired by Wayne Fontes, and the Lions decided to go back to a hybrid run and shoot (3WR, 1TE) After cleaning out his office, he quipped to a reporter, "I'd better get out of here before Wayne changes his mind again." (obviously referencing Fonte's legendary indecisiveness when picking a starting QB).

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:14pm

Finally, teaching a lesson in not getting roped in by small sample size, Todd Marinovich started the final game of the regular season for the Raiders and had 49.2% DVOA and 152 DYAR.

FWIW, Marinovich also started the following week's wild card game and threw 4 interceptions on 23 passes. Both games were against the Chiefs.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:30pm

Is the Top-10 Defense DVOA table updated to reflect v7.0?

If so, I'm glad that the 2002 Bucs hold onto the all-time pass-defense DVOA, because that team was just silly good defending the pass (I'm curious to know what Gannon's DVOA and DYAR for teh Super Bowl is given how good the Bucs were). I was born in 1991, so obviously I wasn't there. I have heard about how incredible the 1991 Redskins were, how well built they were on offense with the Hogs. Had no idea about this incredible 1991 Eagles defense.

I agree that 86-90 will be a bit of a letdown compared to what '85 and '84 can bring with the Bears and 49ers (475-227 point differential), but those years might do give you three great Giants defenses, some other great defenses, the 49ers in '87 and '89, and a team that could contend for among the worst Super Bowl champions.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:37pm

Yeah, I certainly understand wanting to go back and see the '85 Bears, but in '90, you've got arguably the best Bills team of the NFL era, the end of the 49er Joe Montana era (I, for one, am ready for the Irrational Montana v. Young thread)...

Lots of good in 1990. Finish off the decade!

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:40pm

1. Montana
2. Yoing

by Richie :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:23pm

1990 will also introduce us to Vincent Jackson.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:48pm

'86-'90 also gives you the bizarre 1987 Vikings who outscored opponents by one point and made the playoffs at 8-7 and then proceeded to blow out a very good Saints team and easily beat a 49ers team that was probably the best team in the NFL that season.

'87 also gives you perhaps John Elway's finest season while his team is among the worst Super Bowl participants ever.

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:10pm

8-7, but 8-4 with regular players. Their replacement QB hadn't played a professional game since 1980, and it looks like none of their regulars crossed the picket line before the strike ended and none of their replacement players were any good (no one on the roster Week 6 made it to Week 7).

by MJA (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:11pm

It's important to remember that the Vikings team which beat the Saints/Niners in the playoffs went 8-4; '87 was the strike year and some other guys went 0-3. (Oh, god, Tony Adams.)

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:27pm

You know, I thought about that but saw they started the season 2-1 with a combined score of 71-58 and thought they were fine. I had never realized that the replacement players were not the first three games of the season, which I had just assumed. I'm not sure why I had assumed that, but I had.

So the '87 Vikings just became far less interesting. Phooey.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:56pm

Man, I have no idea quite what I will do when we hit 1987. I suppose I'll do the scab games completely separate from the other 12 games.

by Walshmobile :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:01pm

Make Curtis Painter league average for scab games

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:47pm

I wouldn't even bother to quantify the scab games, given that some teams had significant talent cross the picket line, and other teams none.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:56pm

I'm curious to see an all-scab DVOA. That's sort of like finding out which 1987 GM was best at fantasy football.

by Urshgur (not verified) :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 4:03am

Yet the scabs that crossed the line are by definition scabs (as in strike breakers)too, so count their sorry Sean Payton-esque carcasses as well.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 12:46pm

The first two games of 87 were played by the regulars, week 3 was cancelled, weeks 4-6 by replacements/scabs - then back to the regulars for the last 12 games.

The Vikings lost all three replacement games ... http://www.jt-sw.com/football/pro/results.nsf/Teams/1987-min

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:26pm

Well the 49ers bounced out of the tourney because Bubba Paris was too fat to block Chris Doleman.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:11pm

And Anthony Carter channelled his Steve Smith v.2005

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:28pm

Well, let us not discount Anthony Carter catching 230 yards worth of passes. It's interesting how similar the 1987 Vikings team was to the 2008 Vikings team; tremendous on the line of scrimmage, good to great talent at running back, and a big gaping hole at quarteback. I was at the Vikings Redskins game in the regular season at the Metrodome, and if Wade Wilson doesn't play like Tommy Kramer after Tommy's usual Saturday night refreshments (the game was on a Saturday night), the Vikings would have won by two touchdowns intead of losing in overtime. Then they lost a few weeks later by a td in the NFCCG,coming within an inch of forcing ot.

The '87 team, of course had a big edge over the '08 team at receiver, but I think the '08 team was better on the line of scrimmage. I know Doleman is in the HOF, but there is no doubt in my mind that, comparing peaks, Jared Allen is better.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:32am

OK, I'd forgotten about Anthony Carter, my bad.

As for comparison between Doleman and Allen, while you are probably right I'd just like to point out that teams seem to throw a lot more nowadays than back in the late 80s. I think Allen has a lot more opportunity to rush the passer (and the left tackles in the NFC are a woeful bunch, especially the NFC North, which is without any decent blindside protectors).

by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 9:44am

What used to frustrate me about Doleman was that, in a division with the Ditka Bears, and a conference with the Parcells Giants, Gibbs Redskins, and a Walsh Niners that was still using a more run-heavy West Coast (until about '89 or so), Doleman would not make a decent effort to play the run honestly, so focused he was on boosting his sack totals. Allen, playing a cover-2 that emphasizes having the end getting upfield even more than was the case 25 years ago, in an era where passing is everything, still manages to play the run better than Doleman did. Your point about today's conference not having the Jumbo Elliots, Jimbo Coverts, and Joe Jacobys at tackle is a good one, however.

I don't want to be too harsh on a guy who delivered a lot of big plays and has, after all, the ugly yellow blazer hanging in his closet, but such is the lot of a fan of a team which lost in 4 straight Super Bowl appearances, and then followed with losses in 5 straight Conference title game appearances; the shortcomings of even great players drives you nuts. I remember one year, with the Vikings locked in a late season race for the division with the Bears, when the Vikings lost a close one, and Doleman was quoted about how happy he was to get a couple sacks, with Pro Bowl selections soon to be announced. Ugh.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 07/21/2012 - 12:39am

I know it's not kosher to dump on a legend, but isn't the bigger common factor in those 4 straight SB losses the coaching? In the vast majority of cases teams at the conference championship or Super Bowl level are pretty comparable in talent -- it's the innovativeness of the coaching that is a bigger factor in championship or SB wins. (Not to make you suffer unduly, but note the dismemberment of the Vikings by the Giants in the 2000 NFC championship.)

The vast majority of those losses came under the regimes of Bud Grant and Dennis Green. It's easy to blame players, but when it comes down to awful losses by supposedly very talented teams, the blame has to rest with the coaching.

by Jerry :: Sat, 07/21/2012 - 4:23am

Usually, getting deep into the playoffs is a sign of good coaching. There are occasions where players are good enough to drag along a lesser coach, but a coach who gets to the Super Bowl has already accomplished a lot.

by LionInAZ :: Sat, 07/21/2012 - 8:08pm

The more precise point was that the deeper you get into the playoffs, the more important game-planning becomes, because the teams that make it to the conference championship level all have very good talent. But those teams that put together the better game plan (e.g., 2009 Saints against Indy) are the ones who walk away with the trophy. Neither Grant, Levy, nor Green ever won that ultimate challenge in the end. Even if you think there were players who didn't put forth their best efforts when it counted, the coaches bear some blame for that too, since motivation is part of the job description.

by Jerry :: Sun, 07/22/2012 - 4:25am

With apologies to Bills fans, how much blame does Levy get (or credit to Parcells) because Norwood happened to miss that field goal? It may be that there are coaches who would have won Super Bowls with those Buffalo teams. I'm sure there are many more coaches who'd never have gotten them close to a Super Bowl.

Barry Switzer won a Super Bowl, and he'll always have the ring, but I'd rather have Grant, Levy, or Green (among others) coach my team. I suspect you would, too.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 07/21/2012 - 4:23pm

LionInAZ - absolutely.

TMQ (for all his writing sins) once put forward that as great a coach as Marv Levy was in the regular season, his flaw was not motivating the Bills enough in the postseason. As you say, come the playoffs just executing as a well-oiled machine isn't enough, you need to have some wrinkles AND to motivate and fire up the players which Parcells/Belichick of the Giants and Jimmy Johnson of the Cowboys did very well with their teams. I'd be interested to know which camp Gibbs falls in because he has always seemed quite quiet and not overly motivational in which case the Levy/Bills theory falls apart somewhat.

Nonetheless I always felt Tony Dungey had the same problem with the Colts and that is why they were never quite as effective in the postseason under him as they were in the regular season. (Alternatively you could blame it on the Polian who was the GM of both Bills & Colts).

by Raiderjoe :: Sun, 07/22/2012 - 1:58am

Do not buy theory. At that point plauoffs all yeans should be high motivated. T. Flores like Gibbs considered quiet compared to other coaches but yhose 2 combine for 5 super bowl titles.

Think motivation from coaches happen in training camp and throughout reg season. Especially comes through after a loss or losing streak or bad situation with dead man walking coach. Like aramms last year w:the s. linehan. That's when you see a coach motivate a tezm

That is all known too drink to finish

by Lance :: Sun, 07/22/2012 - 11:50pm

Re: "TMQ (for all his writing sins) once put forward that as great a coach as Marv Levy was in the regular season, his flaw was not motivating the Bills enough in the postseason."

This, to me, is bonkers. There's never been any actual way to measure "motivation" in any way, and I am convinced that the sports punditocracy brings up things like "Team A just wanted it more" when they really have no idea what they're talking about.

Moreover, I can't imagine how someone would be such a great motivator through the regular season and the start of the play-offs and then, once they've won the AFC Championship, suddenly forget how to motivate. "Hey guys, now that we've almost gotten to the title, let's dial it back and take a break. This isn't so important anyhow.... I'm tired." For real? And are we to imagine that 50-something adult men-- men who have won championships at multiple levels, had award-winning performances-- they're all going to see this coach somehow dial down the motivation factor and just be OK with it? That's crazy.

Are we to imagine that Peyton Manning didn't win as many play-off games because Tony Dungey didn't motivate him? What does that even mean?!? Likewise, does just excitedly saying "How 'bout them Cowboys?" somehow take a run-of-the-mill NFC Championship team and make them a dynasty?

Look, Marv Levy may be to blame for the Bills' Superbowl disasters. But to get to the bottom of that, one would have to do a lot more than write an intellectual-lite mostly-sports column for ESPN while having no real insight into football or how it's coached.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 07/23/2012 - 12:34am

If Levy's Bills weren't successful in the playoffs, it's the first I've heard of it. They had a winning record in the playoffs (11-8). They made it to the championship game four times. Once, they lost on a late missed field goal. The other three times, they lost to historically great teams that were much, much better than they were. I see no evidence that any lack of motivation held the Bills back -- they played well in the playoffs.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 07/23/2012 - 12:35am

Double post deleted.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 07/23/2012 - 4:19pm

Ok don't want to misrepresent his comments ... here's what he actually wrote on 31-Aug-2004 ... debate as you will ...

TMQ has always admired Levy, one of the few accomplished coaches who really believes sportsmanship matters more than victory. If you could have any famous NFL coach to your house for dinner, you would do well to choose Levy: he's a warm human being in a profession where many of the successful are cold at heart. But Levy's admirable qualities may have held him back from Super Bowl triumph, as the farther you go in the playoffs, the more important game plans and psych-ups become. In that environment, win-at-all-cost types tend to prevail.

Levy won four AFC championships, but consider the incredible talent he had in the Jim Kelly-Bruce Smith-Thurman Thomas years -- 17 players from that era made the Pro Bowl, and several will make Canton. During the Kelly-Smith winning run, Levy's teams were 97-47 or .674 in the regular season but fell to 11-8 or .579 in the postseason. Through the regular season in 1990s, Levy was 14-2 against NFC East, during his Super Bowl appearances in the same period, Levy was 0-4 against the same division. At the Super Bowl pressure-cooker, that extra level of total determination seemed missing. Levy did not enforce Super Bowl curfews, for instance, relying on his players' good judgment not to go out and party; many went out and partied, and it showed on game day. During the regular season, Levy consistently beat Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Johnson: at the Super Bowl, when game plans and psych-up tactics mean more, he was blanked by these three. In the regular season, Levy was king; in the postseason, one of the princes.

by Lance :: Tue, 07/24/2012 - 12:19pm

Fair enough. I'd still quibble a bit with his analysis. To begin, having "incredible talent" guarantees nothing. We've all seen teams that looked incredibly good that went to the Super Bowl far less than expected (e.g. the Colts) or didn't even go at all (e.g. the Chargers). So for Levy to actually take that talent and go to the Super Bowl four straight times is, in my opinion, something to be commended, and not derided.

I don't understand where he gets that 14-2 stat, and I certainly thing that it's been taken out of context. Note: he takes Levey's stats during the whole of the 1990s (like anyone cares about Levy's coaching in 1997, when the Bills were obviously no longer contending). That's just Easterbrook trying to slant the argument by manipulating the data. Let's look at the regular season during just their Super Bowl run:

1990: W vs. Cardinals (45-14-- week 10); W vs. Giants (17-13-- week 15); L vs. Redskins (14-29-- week 17 game)
1991: No games vs. NFC East
1992: No games vs. NFC East
1993: W vs. Cowboys (13-10-- week 2); W vs. Giants (17-14-- week 5); W vs. Redskins (24-10-- week 9); W vs. Eagles (10-7-- week 15)

So that's their Super Bowl run-- and let's agree that it's impressive. 6-1 vs. the NFC East. But then again, some of those wins weren't impressive (e.g. vs. the Cardinals, or their 13-10 win against the Cowboys playing without their MVP Emmitt Smith, who was holding out for a bigger contract, or the 1993 Redskins, who had quickly fallen down to earth after their dominating 1991 season). And even most of their wins were close-- in 1990 the beat the Giants just 17-13. Their win against the Eagles in 1993 was just 10-7.

None of this, though, seems like it's overwhelming evidence that Levy had some NFC East hang-up when it came to the play-offs. He didn't "consistently" beat Jimmy Johnson in the regular season. He did once, when the focal point of their offense (and the best player in the game at the time) was holding out. He didn't "consistently" beat Bill Parcells. He beat him once in a close game. During the rematch, Parcells won thanks to a missed field goal. (I guess by some definition, winning one game out of one could be called "consistent" winning, but that's not really what most people think when they hear "consistent".) He was 1-1 versus Joe Gibbs during this time-- a win against a declining team in 1993, and a meaningless loss in week 17. That hardly sounds like domination.

So again, I reject Easterbrook's notion that something just "happened" in the play-offs wherein Levy suddenly became an inept coach.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:41pm

The 2002 Bucs also benefited from having the 2002 Raiders' entire playbook, as well as the guy who wrote it. They were good enough without knowing Gannon's plays before they started.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:59pm

To me, that story has always been a little overblown. I have no doubt they might have known some of the signals and audibles, but it's not like they knew what every play was. It takes away from the best defense of teh past 20 years.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:12pm

The 2002 Bucs (and NFL Films and the Sporting News) seemed to think it made a big difference.


by Alaska Jack :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 9:48pm

I also think that Barrett Robbins' absence had a huge impact. That year, he was just the most dominant center I've ever seen. Just taking good tackles and clubbing them senseless play after play. (Which, let's be fair, could very well have been steroid-fueled.)

lllll Alaska Jack

by nath :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:15pm

Jon Gruden was playing scout-team QB, that's how well he knew Gannon and the offense. The Raiders didn't bother to change any of their terminology, and the Bucs were frequently able to call out what the Raiders were running on offense before the play started.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:51pm

On paper it does look incredibly stupid but consider this ...

The Raiders were headed to cap hell

They had 37-ish year old QB and mid-30s WRs that really made a great offense.

Your window for success is definitely closing.

The team you just traded your headcoach to does not appear on your schedule for another two years so the only possibility is that highly remote, unlikely, odds-against chance that you meet in the Super Bowl.

I'd assume changing all your terminology is a preseason / training camp thing ...

So up until the moment you win the AFC Championship game and then find out that the Bucs have won the NFC you've made a good wise decision based on a low risk possibility.

What do you then do given that you only have one week between Championship games and SB. If you change the terminology now you risk total confusion vs not changing and hoping the Bucs don't learn yours or figure it out quick enough.

AND as another poster said losing Barrett Robbins was a huge loss to the offense. As good as Adam Treu was he got shoved around that day by a great Tampa d-line and that meant he needed guard help which left the tackles struggling to protect Gannon.

by tuluse :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:56pm

I think you come up with a dozen or so fake calls, where you try to get the Bucs to guess what play you called and you run a counter for it. This does not seem too difficult to accomplish in one week.

by AndersJ (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:39pm

I wonder how less sucky the Eagles offense had to be for them to stack up to the Redskins.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:47pm

They needed to be the 1991 Bears. Or basically, they needed Jim Harbaugh, not Jim McMahon.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:25am

No, they just needed McMahon, but they couldn't even catch a break keeping their back-up QB healthy. If Cunningham doesn't go down, they would have been right up there beside Washington as the best team in the league. The 1991 Eagles ranks as one of the most crushing "could've been" teams of all-time.

by BigCheese :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:44am

Well, when your back-up QB is McMahon, you really need to factor in about a third of the season missed to injuries form the get-go.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by chemical burn :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 12:14pm

Yeah, but at a certain point, i think expecting to only need your back-up QB to start a handful of games is reasonable. They lost their 3rd stringer to injury as well. It was a brutal year. And then Jerome Brown dies in the off-season, which meant there would be no chance of ever seeing a defense that good again in Philly - that season ends with the playoff blowout loss that would define our fans' hatred of the Cowboys for a generation. In 1993 everything falls apart: infuriating tightwad Norman Braham decides to save money by letting Reggie White walk, Rich Kotite reverts to his true form, the teams burns through 3 starting QB's including Bubby Brister & Ken O'Brien (creating fears later proven correct that Cunningham would never, ever stay healthy) and then "poof" it's over. In 1991, it seemed like they would have a legendary defense for another 5 years, everybody was reasonably young and in their prime...

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 8:06am

Bryce Paup should die of ghonarhea.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 2:07pm

Yeah... when everybody starts talking about how QB's are coddled today, I think of that hit, which realistically had no chance of being a sack, and think "why the fuck should we let desperate defensive players take those type of shots?"

Anyways, I've been perusing stats from that season since FO put this up and I gleefully remembered something I had forgotten all about: the game where the Eagles sacked Troy Aikman 11 times in a single game. That's beautiful.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 2:39pm

Thought the 1991 resfskind were one of top 4 teams of last 30 years and DVOA support it

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:16am

I always wondered why the 88-90 and post-91 teams were so much worse though - presuming it was something to do with the Hogs or the defense as the QB/RBs weren't exactly amazing anyway.

by bigbadbazz (not verified) :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 6:32pm

Nah, the '89 and '90 squads were pretty good - despite many injuries, they won 10+ games during the NFC East's heydays. The '91 team also had many of the same players that brought the franchise to the SB 3 times in previous 10 years.

I think what made their 1991 season so great is that with many of their top players in their 30s, they sensed it was their final chance to make history. They were truly single-minded and played with urgency. We don't see many teams like that anymore - with free agency, it's hard for many players to team up for a decade.

By 1993, those players were indeed too old and banged up and became one of the worst teams in the NFL. That year also showed how huge Jim Lachey's contribution was to the '91 passing game - with him gone almost all season, Rypien had one of the worst numbers for a starting QB. In 1991, with Lachey protecting his blind side, Rypien had all the time in the world to throw rainbows (he was sacked only 7 times all season).

by RickD :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 2:58pm

"refskind" would be "child of the referee" in Germany :)

by TomC :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:19pm

I'm a lifelong Bears fan (with strong memories of '85), but I'm not sure where I come down in the debate between the '85 Bears and '91 Philly defenses. The Bears had fewer weak spots (I would claim Mike Richardson was the only one in the starting 11), but Philly's raw stats look a bit better. When you do get to that comparison, please throw the Bears' 1986 season into the mix as well---the '85 unit didn't completely hit its stride until the 2nd half of the season, but the '86 unit was pretty dominant from day 1.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:27pm

DVOA makes Buddy Ryan look like a bit of a genius doesn't it?

by Cro-Mags :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:39pm

Bud Carson was Eagles DC in '91.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:38pm

But Buddy Ryan was the HC and pretty involved in the Defense (and not at all in the offense).

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by mickeyribs :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:44pm

Actually Ryan was fired after the 1990 season. Your coach for the '91 Eagles...Richie Kotite. On a random note you had Kotite and the immortal Ray Handley coaching in the NFC East at the same time. That's some baaaaad coaching...

by BigCheese :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 2:10am

I KNEW I should have double-checked that before posting. My mistake.

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:35am

Buddy built that D. Carson was their Switzer.

by Jerry :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:09am

Careful. Carson was Noll's defensive coordinator through the first couple of Super Bowls, so he knew something about elite defenses.

by Walshmobile :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:21pm

Le sigh, as a Skins fan who was only 9 during the '91 season, it's sad I don't really remember the dominance, just the Super Bowl win.

Edit: And to see the sad state of the team since, le double sigh

by AnonymousD (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 8:09pm

I hear many NFL fans, including fans of the Redskins, remark that the Redskins have been bad since Snyder bought the team.

That's true. But really - the Skins have been bad since Gibbs left after the '92 season.

by Walshmobile :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:25pm

It's also good to know that I loved the posse because they were plain awesome, not just because they were the skins' WRs

by Matt Bowyer :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:37pm

First season I ever saw, first team I ever loved (hometown!), all downhill from there.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:44pm

A handful of statlines by notable quarterbacks against that Eagles defense:

Warren Moon: 24-of-46, 262 yards, 52% accuracy, 5.7 YPA.
Don Majkowski: 16-of-42, 201 yards, three interceptions.
Mark Rypien (best QB in football that year): 10-of-27, 130 yards, one interception.
Troy Aikman: 11-of-25, 112 yards, 3 INTs.
Mark Rypien's other game: 13-of-23, 204 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs.
Phil Simms: 7-of-23, 100 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs.

More here: http://pfref.com/tiny/Df90B

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:51pm

Counting the playoffs, the Redskins allowed just 9 sacks that season. The Eagles had 5 of them.

by Eddo :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:58pm

Tom Tupa: 6/19 for 218 yards! I'm intrigued.

The completions (in no particular order):
51 yards to Johnny Johnson (TD);
59 yards to Ricky Proehl;
16 yards to Ricky Proehl;
53 yards to Ernie Jones;
9 yards to Ernie Jones;
30 yards to John Jackson.

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:08pm

Tupa was 5/14 for 203 yards at halftime, and his last completion (the 16-yarder to Proehl) happened with about 10 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.

by tuluse :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:08pm

Wow, Ricky Proehl played forever.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:50pm

Holy cow, you're right. 17 seasons?! It's gotta be nearly unprecedented for a player with as modest a peak as Proehl to last for 17 years. Most guys that play that long are either in the Hall of Fame or are borderline HoFers, unless they're kickers or long-snappers or something. But in a receiver, maintaining that kind of adequate, unspectacular play for that long is an amazing feat.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 8:06pm


There are seven WR who have ever played at least one game in 17 seasons. Three (Jerry Rice, Charlie Joiner, and James Lofton) are in the HOF, two (Tim Brown and Henry Ellard) are at least borderline HOF candidates, and the last two are Proehl and Irving Fryar (who also had a higher peak than Proehl).

There are some relatively similar players who lasted 15-16 seasons: Joey Galloway, Derrick Mason, Keenan McCardell, Troy Brown, and Haven Moses. However, I would say it's probably true that all of them had higher peaks than Proehl as well except possibly for Troy Brown.

There certainly aren't many like Ricky Proehl.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 8:58pm

Wow, I didn't even know you could do customized searches like that on PFRef. Thanks for pulling together the data I was too lazy/ignorant to gather myself.

Troy Brown doesn't have Proehl's career numbers, but I think Brown's peak was higher. In 2000 and 2001 he was probably the Pats' best offensive player. I had never heard of Haven Moses - it's a bit hard to compare him because he mostly played in a defense-dominated era. But he seems to have been a pretty consistent deep threat and I think you're right that he was better than Proehl.

You'd expect an OK-but-not-great player like Proehl to be out of the league by his early 30s as his athleticism diminished. But he managed to stick around and make himself useful to teams for quite a long time.

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 9:05pm

Not that it really matters, but that PFR search is buggy. If a player appeared on multiple teams during a single season (as Rice, Joiner, Lofton, Ellard, Moses, and Moss did), PFR counts each stint as a separate year. Lofton and Ellard only played 16 seasons, and Moses 14.

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:16pm

I see the problem. I don't see another way to do the search to avoid that, though, do you?

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:25pm
by Shattenjager :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:27pm

I feel like an idiot for that one. That was a more obvious way to do the search than how I first did it and avoided the multiple teams issue.

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:31pm

That same table with receptions added: http://pfref.com/tiny/l1JbD

Proehl really stands out with his 0 Pro Bowls and starting fewer than half his team's games.

by Eddo :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 11:03pm

This is great stuff guys, thanks to both of you for making the effort.

by bigbadbazz (not verified) :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 6:42pm

Clarification: Mark Rypien's "other" game was during the first Skins/Eagles matchup of the season. The 10-27 game was the final game of the season with Washington at 14-1 and plyoff home field advantage already gained. They were leading 19-3 when they benched all starters. It's crazy how I can remember that season 10x more clearly than their 2011 one.

But I completely agree that the '91 Eagles had the best D I've ever seen. Just plain scary. I remember watching the Pro Bowl (when players actually took it seriously - ah, the old days) and it felt like half of the NFC's defense wore the Eagles helmet. If Cunningham didn't get hurt, the NFC Championship would have among the most exciting matchups ever. Truly fans' loss.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 3:51pm

Michael Haynes, ATL WR: fifth in DVOA and DYAR with a catch rate below 50 percent. Averaged 22 yards per catch with 11 scores.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:25pm

A nitpick: the Jimmy Raye who played in 1991 is the son of the Jimmy Raye who coached such illustrious units as the 2009-10 49ers offense. Jimmy Raye the coach was the QB of Michigan State's undefeated 1966 team, which would make him slightly too old to be an active player in 1991.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:29pm

I assume that the younger Jimmy Raye, having learned football from his dad made a career of running straight into defenders to little effect. Also, Jimmy Raye Jnr sounds even more like a grizzled 1950s blues man than plain old Jimmy Raye.

by Danny Tuccitto :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:40pm

We corrected that over 2 hours ago. Does the correction not show up for you?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 4:37pm

After a great regular season, the Redskins proceeded to kick the feces out three straight playoff opponents. The Super Bowl was not as close as the 13 point margin suggests. Really a great team, and the Gibbs I era in Washington is probably my favorite non Viking team of all time.

Next year historical DVOA features (although the game in question won't be in DVOA) what is perhaps the most momentous fumble in NFL history, in terms of coaching reputations. If Roger Craig doesn't drop the ball at end of the NFCCG, George Seifert is in the Hall of Fame, likely with the highest winning percentage of all time, Belichik may not be the shoo in he is today, and nowhere nearly as many people would be saying that Parcells belongs in yesterday.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:19pm

I agree other than the BB part. Unless you think that not having the opportunity to coach in SB XXV doesn't allow him to get the Browns job as quickly, I can't see how BB hasn't done enough as a HC (apart from Spygate, for whatever it part it may play in his HOF deliberation) to make him a lock anyway even if he never had a great resume from his time as a DC.

The Seifert part I truly agree with. I also think if his last year in Carolina is 8-8, he probably gets a much larger look. Hard to believe that I guy who coached teams that went 14-2, 14-2, 10-6, 14-2, 10-6, 13-3, 11-5, 12-4 can't even sniff the final cut. Yes, he inherited Walsh's team (but a team that was coming off of a year where it probably set the standard as the worst SUper Bowl winner until Eli/Coughlin and Co. came along), but by 1994 that was totally his team, with many new guys.

As for Seifert, I wasn't following football at the time, but why exactly did he leave after 1996. I believe officially he retired, but from what I've read in places it was sort of an informal firing/resignation. I've also read that he was never truly forgiven for the 1990 season and then getting rid of Joe. Would love to hear the story from people who were following it all at the time.

1990 doesn't have any all-time teams. I doubt the Bills will be that much better in the 1990 DVOA than in the 1991. Their regular season numbers are comparable in both. The 49ers were 14-2, but their offense wasn't where it was in 1989 or 1987. Should be interesting to see that year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 5:37pm

If the Giants lose to the 49ers, all sorts of counterfactuals come into play. Belichik isn't nearly the hot young prospect he was after the Giants stop what was thought to be a historically great offense. Parcells may have hung out in the Meadowlands longer than he did, meaning he doesn't go to New England, meaning Belichik isn't as familiar to that franchise later in the decade. Who knows what head coaching gigs would have ended up being available to Belichik, and although I certainly think he is an all-time great, maybe if he had been forced to try to get to, and win, multiple Super Bowls like Gibbs did, with three different qbs, none of whom is getting into the HOF without a ticket, he's be viewed very differently.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:04pm

To me, Gibbs's greatest accomplishment is getting there and winning with three different quarterbacks, none of whom is HOF worthy. It is amazing that he put together this offense and could have so many different QBs play well.

I believe other than Gibbs, the only other coach to win Super Bowls with two different QBs starting the game is Bill Parcells with Simms and Hostettler. Of course, those were defense-dominated teams for Bill. Gibbs's teams were primarily offense-heavy (at least in 82-82,8 87). Other than those two, just going with coaches to take (not necessarily win) multiple QBs gives you a lot bigger list: Shula, Landry, Vermeil, Reeves, Seifert, Holmgren, Cowher.

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:09pm

Seifert won Super Bowl XXIV with Montana and XXIX with Young.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 7:00pm

Can't believe I screwed that up. I even mentioned seifert in the next group. That sais his two were hall of famers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:17pm

Good grief, those Giants Redskins games from that era were tremendous. There is nobody Parcells had more respect for than Gibbs, and probably vice versa. I loved the Gibbs approach to offense, beginning with principal #1, that the qb will be allowed to feel comfortable in the pocket. Having to face prime time LT twice year likely strengthened that conviction.

The rules today work against that approach, of course, because receivers have such an easier time getting open, that coordinators are far more glib about saying that their qb should get the ball away quickly. I also just enjoy watching run blocking, so at the risk of being an old fogey, I'll admit that there are elements of the game from that era that I prefer, and the Gibbs teams personified them.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:32pm

Gibbs had to play against the Minister of Defense twice a year, too.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:23am

Personally I think Flores should be in HoF for winning 2 SB despite having to start Plunkett twice!

by BigCheese :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:45am

I second that. Also, isn't he the only guy besides Ditka to win a SB as a player, assistant and HC?

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

by Richie :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 8:03pm

I seem to recall the Seifert firing being a surprise. I found this old article, that backs up that assessment.


Essentially, I think the 49ers were planning to hire Mariucci as offensive coordinator and then to possibly use him to replace Seifert as HC in 1998. But the question of WHY they wanted to push him out is still a mystery to me.

by caw :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 3:02pm

It was because he couldn't beat Green Bay.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 12:26pm

Seems shortsighted, especially since his replacement lost the NFC Champioship in his first season at home to Green Bay.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 3:09pm

Yeah, I think the organization was still operating in the mindset that any season without a SB win was a bad season. Which brings a wistful tear to the eye of this Niners fan.

by Jetspete :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:25pm

You are absolutely right. Favre beat the 49ers in two consecutive years, and the team felt they needed a guy who "knew" favre in order to beat him. Enter Mooch. Of course, the next year they lost the NFC title game to Favre, at candlestick.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:03pm

It may be educational to take a gander at the offensive structures of the Lions, Bears, and Chargers in 1991. Middling to woeful passing games paired with above-average rushing attacks. I suspect a review of the game film will yield that Marion Butts and Neal Anderson were efficient power rushers behind pretty good lines, whereas Sanders was a high-variance scat-back. DVOA loves Woody Hayes.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:08pm

I'm not at all surprised the Lions had a negative DVOA. When you look at that roster, and watched their games (I was 15 at the time, but remember clearly, as it was the first time the Lions did anything of note in my lifetime), that team had no business winning 12 games.

What's shocking is that they trounced a really good Dallas team twice (regular season and divisional playoffs). Erik Kramer's incredible performance in that playoff game is what inspired my moniker (throwing against a defense that leaves 8 or 9 in box to stop Barry Sanders is pretty easy, apparently).

It's not surprising then, that the Lions promptly regressed to 5-11 in '92.

The Falcons looked like they were going to be a fun team to watch through the early '90s (Jerry Glanville makes any team interesting to watch), but then Chris Miller being unable to remain healthy derailed all of that.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:28pm

The early 1990s Lions were extremely high variance -- 12-4 to 5-11 to 10-6 -- and none of those teams was either that good or that bad. Those were functionally three 8-8 teams, based on aggregate numbers.

It's weirder than that for the 1991 team, really. Three of their 5 losses were to the #1 and #2 DVOA team, with 4 wins against the top-10 (2 over Dallas, split with Chicago, and a win over the Bills). They then turned around and lost to Tampa.

The true story for those teams is an almost pathological unwillingness to choose a QB. That worked for Shula, but Fontes didn't have the 70s Fins defense. Those Lions teams were pretty good under Erik Kramer (10-5), poor under Rodney Peete (14-14), and lucky under Andrew Ware (3-2), who was fortunately a more-oft injured version of Rodney Peete. They wasted a lot of seasons realizing Peete and Ware sucked and Kramer didn't. The crime of it was none of the three were ever healthy.

All of this makes Sanders' career all the more amazing. The run&shoot theory presumes the spread made Sanders work when a look at the Lions offense makes one suspect the threat of Sanders made the passing game functional. Walter Payton got to play with better QBs than Sanders did.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:50pm

Just a minor quibble, the win against the Bills was in week 17 when Buffalo rested their starters. Frank Reich started at QB, and Steve Tasker was a starting WR (and actually caught a TD pass!).

I agree that Erik Kramer would have given the early '90s Lions a much better chance of winning consistently. Although he wasn't great by any means, he excelled at not throwing as many ints as Peete/Ware and also throwing play-action bombs, 1970's-style. The rest of his passing in a Lions uniform was mostly meh, but I remember wishing in the '94 offseason that they kept him (his '95 season with the Bears showed what he was capable of) instead of signing Scott Mitchell (even without the benefit of hindsight). At least he played much better in the postseason than Mitchell ever did.

I think the Lions front office never forgave him for the two ints (including the 101 yard pick-six to George Teague) in the '93 wildcard loss to the Packers, even though he actually played pretty well overall in that game (or maybe it simply looks good compared to other Lions QB performances in the playoffs that decade).

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:26am

all the more reason why Tasker shd be in the HoF

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:26pm

No. S. tasker Greta special teams guy. Nothing more.. was not good enough to play from scrimmage regular basis. That is a hall of faner? Sorry that is NOT a hall of Gamer.

by Shattenjager :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:58pm

Chris Kluwe, Hall of Gamer.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 7:02pm

Buffalo rested their starters and still forced overtime, a fact not lost on the Bears fans with whom I was watching the game. (My response at the time: sucks to be you. I was more polite than that, actually, given that I was at my girlfriend's parents' house, they had a well-stocked liquor cabinet, and I had never actually experienced the thrill of a decent team ('83 was just meh)).

The knock on Ware was supposedly that by holding out prior to his rookie season, he lost the (golden) opportunity to learn the Lions' offense, and never really learned it well enough to execute at the NFL level. (I think it's more likely that Houston's schedule and Jenkins' stat-padding calls - 69, 65, 66, 95, 55, and 64 points? - made Ware look a lot better than he really was.)

I don't know that it was necessarily a QB issue, although certainly none of the various QBs played well enough often enough to deserve a long-term job. The offensive line suffered what were essentially three blows within a couple of years, losing Mike Utley to injury and Eric Andolsek to an off-season tragedy, and then trading the pick that became Willie Roaf to New Orleans for Pat Swilling. The Lions went from having four-fifths of a pretty decent line (with Lomas Brown and Kevin Glover) to having three-fifths of an unimpressive line; Brown moved on a few years later, and the Lions really haven't had a line as good as the '91 line since.

The dalliance with the run-and-shoot didn't help IME, but having to replace two good young OL in a year, when there were of course other needs on the team to fill, probably helped to cap the Lions' potential throughout the '90s. (Perhaps having a dedicated GM would have helped. I'm not sure any one person can both coach and manage the roster effectively; if there is someone who can do it, I'm almost certain it wasn't Fontes.)

by Duke :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 9:24pm

Growing up as a Bears fan, I always felt the Lions' record in those years was dependent on the schedule they faced, which was dependent on their record the past year...which made for a bunch of see-saw years.

I know previous year's record used to be a bigger factor in making the next year's schedule, but I don't remember exactly how much. If I wasn't on my phone I'd look up the Lions' SOS...

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:44am

Their SOS was 20th of 28 from a DVOA standpoint.

The position you finished in the division was much more important as far as strength of schedule prior to division realignment, as you would play the corresponding finisher in the other two divisions in your conference. And before '95 (when the Jags and Panthers joined the league), if you finished 5th in one of the five-team divisions, you got a 2 game series with the other 5th place finisher in your conference, as well as a getting to play the 5th place teams from the opposite conference. This definitely out the Lions in 1993, as they got 4 of their 10 wins from sweeping the Cardinals, and then beating the Patriots and Seahawks.

Although they managed to go 9-7 with a 1st place schedule in 1994 (they had the hardest schedule in the league that year), and then 10-6 again in 1995 (7th hardest schedule).

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 09/11/2012 - 7:12pm

Technically, it wasn't previous year's record as much as it was the organization of the league. With 28 teams instead of 32, it was a lot harder to set up common opponents (although not as bad as when they changed the schedule formula from what it was before), so significantly more of your schedule (especially, as already noted, for fifth-place teams) was based on last year's finish.

Now, with 14 of 16 games "common" within a division (the only two games based on your finish are against the two divisions in your conference you do not play as a whole), it doesn't matter nearly as much ... but expansion would break that up again.

by Thok :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:38pm

So, can we conclusively say that 1991 SF was the best team to miss the playoffs?

Also, what was the DVOA on the regular season Dallas-Detroit game? That was a weird game where Detroit won by 24, but had a fairly big yardage deficit.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 6:53pm

Incredibly with the new DVOA 2004 Bills still come out higher, I believe.

by Tom Gower :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 7:06pm

The 2004 Bills are still by DVOA the best team not to make the playoffs. Looking over the list of teams, I'm pretty sure the 1991 49ers are second, followed by the 2002 Dolphins.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:06am

They were also +4 on turnovers with a pick-6, as well as a blocked FG returned for TD. That has a lot to do with the play and yardage disparity. They were +4 in the playoff game, too.

Detroit was in that Washington game at halftime, too, down only 17-10. They fell apart when they had to start passing to keep up. No one did that well against WAS in 1991, and the 1991 Lions would have struggled to do it against the Skins' practice squad.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:51am

Kramer was actually okish throwing the ball in the NFCG(21-33 for 249 yards, 1TD 1INT). The Skins were just a machine that year, I don't think any team in the league would have kept it close against them.

by AnonymousBoob (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 7:05pm

As a Skins fan, I remember 1991 as the most utterly dominate team I have ever seen. They just creamed people, especially in the second half of the season as injuries caught up with others (I remember that they were exceptionally healthy that season, especially for a veteran club). Every player had a role, from Matt Millen (run stopping LB and defensive QB), Ron Middleton (run clocking behemoth), Gerald Riggs (short yardage plow), Ricky Ervins (quickness out of the backfield), to Jumpy Geathers (pass rushing specialist). It was a team of specialists built around a few above-average players (Rypien, Monk, Sanders, Mayhew, Collins, Byner) and a handful of stars (Mann, Marshall, Clark, Green). A truly remarkable team to root for.

I still am angry about the loss to Dallas, especially the 3rd and forever draw for a TD and the onside kick. I was convinced they were going undefeated, especially after the Houston OT thriller.

Oh well. Was the last time the Skins were really relevant. Amazing it was over 20 years ago.

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 1:43am

Oh my god, Jumpy Geathers. I haven't thought of that name in years and years.

by bigbadbazz (not verified) :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 6:49pm

Weren't they relevant in 2005 and 2007 when they made playoffs?

Yeah, people, this is how good Gibbs is - he took a Snyder-owned team to playoffs TWICE. Minus Gibbs, Synder teams made postseason only once.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 10:42am

Gibbs has been to the playoffs with 6 different QBs: Theismann, Schroeder, Williams, Rypein, Brunell and Todd Collins.

He's won a game with all of the first 5. I'm curious to know if anyone has been to and won playoff games as a coach with that many different starting QBs.

From what I can tell, Parcells went to the playoffs with six: Simms, Hostettler, Bledsoe, Testaverde, Quincy Carter and Romo, and won with the first four so he's close.

Shula went with five and won with five. There's Unitas, Morrall, Griese, Woodley and Marino.

Landry did 4/4: Meredith, Morton, Staubach and White. Cowher also went 4/4: O'Donnell, Stewart(!), Maddox(!), Roethlisberger. Dungy went with four, but won with only three (Dilfer, King, Manning).

I might be missing some (especially from the pre-SB era) but Gibbs record seems incredible winning with so many different QBs.

by Travis :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 12:12pm

Marty Schottenheimer coached playoff games with nine different starting QBs: Bernie Kosar (2-3), Don Strock (0-1), Steve DeBerg (1-2), Dave Krieg (0-1), Joe Montana (2-2), Steve Bono (0-1), Elvis Grbac (0-1), Drew Brees (0-1), and Philip Rivers (0-1).

Chuck Knox matched Gibbs, winning playoff games with five different QBs: James Harris, Ron Jaworski, Pat Haden, Joe Ferguson, and Dave Krieg, and losing with a sixth, John Hadl.

by tuluse :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 12:17pm

Bill Cowher went to and won a playoff game with 5 different QBs, O'Donnell, Tomczak, Maddox, Stewart, and Roethlisberger.

by Jetspete :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 12:52pm

dennis green went to the playoffs with:
92 gannon/salisbury (who took over late), lost rd 1
93 mcmahon lost rd 1
94 moon lost rd 1
96 johnson lost rd 1
97-98 cunningham, won
99 george won
00 culpepper won

so he took 7, but only won a game with 3.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 2:11pm

Deleted for double post.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 2:10pm

Since I'm bored at work, I'll do a list of many famous coaches and who were their main QBs in their playoff years and who they won playoff games starting from the guys who went there with the least amount of QBs. Just to make it easy, I will count a QB if he started a playoff game AND started at least 4 games in the regular season. It isn't a perfect way, but it is something.

First some more current younger guys (min. 6 playoff games):

Mike Tomlin (went with 1/won with 1): Roethlisberger (5-2)
John Harbaugh (1/1): Flacco (5-4)
Ken Whisenhunt (1/1): Warner (4-2)
Sean Payton (1/1): Brees (5-3)
Mike McCarthy (2/2): Favre (1-1), Rodgers (4-2)
John Fox (2/2): Delhomme (5-3), Tebow (1-1)
Andy Reid (3/2): McNabb (7-6), Garcia (1-1), Vick (0-1)
Jon Gruden (4/2): Gannon (2-2), Johnson (3-0), Simms (0-1), Garcia (0-1)

Now to the older/historical guys. I'm limiting minimum playoff games to 6, and for now, just the Super Bowl era.

Bill Walsh (went with 1/won with 1): Montana (10-4)

Marv Levy (1/1): Kelly (9-8) - obviously, Frank Reich is notable for starting the first two playoff games for the 1992 Bills, but he didn't start a single regular seasn game. No idea what to do with him.

Tom Flores (2/1): Plunkett (8-1), Marc Wilson (0-2)

George Allen (2/1): Gabriel (0-2), Kilmer (2-5)

Mike Ditka (2/1): McMahon (4-2), Jim Harbaugh (0-1) *technically, Steve Fuller, Mike Tomczak and Doug Flutie all started games for the 1980's Bears, but they played 2, 2 and 1 games in the regular season.

Bill Belichick (2/1): Testaverde (0-1); Brady (16-6)

John Madden (2/2): Lamonica (2-2); Stabler (7-5)

George Seifert (2/2): Montana (4-1), Young (6-4)

Jim Mora Sr. (3/0): Hebert (0-3), Steve Walsh (0-1), Manning (0-2)

Jeff Fisher (3/1): McNair (4-4), Vince Young (0-1), Collins (0-1)

Mike Holmgren (3/2): Favre (8-5), Kitna (0-1), Hasselbeck (4-5)

Mike Shanahan (3/2): Elway (7-1), Greise (0-1), Plummer (1-3)

Jimmy Johnson (3/3): Beuerlein (1-1), Aikman (6-0), Marino (2-3)

Brian Billick (4/2): Dilfer (4-0), Grbac (1-1), Anthony Wright (0-1), McNair (0-1)

Bud Grant (4/2): Joe Kapp (2-2), George Cuozzo(?) (0-2), Tarkenton (7-6), Tommy Kramer (0-2)

Dan Reeves (4/4): Elway (7-6), Simms (1-1), Chandler (2-1), Vick (1-1) - BTW, I was shocked to see that Dan Reeves went one-and-done just twice, his first two playoff appearances in '83 and '84.

I might add some later.

by Travis :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 2:22pm

Testaverde went 1-1 for Belichick in 1994.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 2:45pm

True. Misread that one.

by tuluse :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 2:35pm

Assuming Superbowls count, Lovie Smith has 6 playoff games.

0-1 in 2005 (Grossman started the playoff game, but only played in two regular season games starting 1)

Then 2-1 in 2006 with more Grossman

And 1-1 in 2010 with Cutler.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 1:28pm

To you and the two below, this is good stuff.

Can't believe I forgot about Marty. I guess I also forgot about Tomczak.

Originally, I was only looking back at SB Winning coaches, but that was an oversight.

BTW, I don't know the situation with all of these QBs, but some of them weren't really their teams main starting QB that year but were injury replacements late (Don Strock). I guess their should be some cutoff point, because Hostettler for Parcells, or even Todd Collins for Gibbs took over about halfway through. Again, I'm not sure what other QBs this effects, but for instance, Don Strock started 2 games for the 1988 Browns. He took a tema that Kosar and Mike Pagel led for most of the season.

by tuluse :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 1:35pm

I just looked at PFR's franchise index page for who was the coach and which QB was the passing leader for the year.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 1:59pm

Yeah, I thought about that, but you could get a situation where the passing leader was player x, but player y started and one a playoff game (Andy Reid in 2006, McNabb was the passing leader, Garcia won the playoff game).

I'm doing a big list, and basically, I am counting a QB if they started at least 6 games in the regular season. It's random, but it makes some sense I guess.

by Travis :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 2:19pm

If Strock doesn't count, can "not Bernie Kosar" count as a separate QB instead? The Browns went half of 1988 without Kosar.

By game:
1: Kosar (sprained elbow), Gary Danielson
2: Danielson (broken ankle - out for year), Mike Pagel
3-5: Pagel
6: Pagel (separated shoulder - on IR, but could be activated for playoffs), Don Strock
7: Strock
8-14: Kosar
15: Kosar (knee), Strock
16: Strock
WC: Strock (sprained wrist), Pagel

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 2:47pm

I have no idea. There is no good way to judge those type of seasons. Think about the Texans this year. Yates started five games, but say he started just the last two (Leinart started the other three). Kubiak wins a playoff game with Yates as starting QB, but went there mostly off the back of Schaub and in this hypothetical, Leinart as his QBs. I have no good idea of what to do, other than make a distinction that he had a playoff team with Schaub/Leinart (or player x in the general case) while winning a playoff game with Yates (or player y).

by Travis :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 8:11pm

1991 odds and ends:

Saints-Seahawks, Week 1: With 14 seconds left, the Seahawks' potential game-winning pass was ruled to be caught out-of-bounds. Dave Krieg (who had broken his thumb earlier in the game) ran from his sideline to the end zone to protest and was called for unsportmanlike conduct for leaving the restraining area. The Seahawks missed the game-tying 37-yard field goal on the next play.

Steelers-Chargers, Week 1 and Jets-Oilers, Week 7: Both the Chargers' Shawn Jefferson and the Jets' Chris Burkett are called for excessive celebration penalties after catching last-play touchdowns in games their teams lost.

Bears-Jets, Week 4: Blair Thomas fumbled just after the 2-minute warning, and the Bears scored the tying TD with no time left. In overtime, the Jets missed a 28-yard field goal; the Bears then drive the field and passed for the apparent winning score. With both teams in the locker room, the play was reversed on replay and the ball was put on the 1; Jim Harbaugh sneaked for the TD on the next play, which was again reviewed with both teams in the locker room.

Falcons-49ers, Week 10: The Falcons won on a Hail Mary to Michael Haynes, completing a head-to-head sweep of the 49ers and giving the Falcons the wild card tiebreaker.

Browns-Eagles, Week 11: The Browns blow a 23-0 lead, giving up the go-ahead touchdown three plays after Webster Slaughter fumbled a punt that he fielded at his own 1.

Saints-49ers, Week 11: "Official time out at 5:44. Time out to extinguish fire on Saints 40-yard line, caused by dropped burning debris from fire, structure above."

Redskins-Falcons, Week 11: Brett Favre comes in with 1:01 left, trailing 49-17. His first career pass is intercepted and returned for a touchdown, and his next drive goes incompletion, incompletion, sack, interception. (This wasn't his NFL debut - he handed off in mop-up duty two weeks earlier.)

Rams-49ers, Week 13: The Rams self-destruct on Monday Night Football. Trailing 14-0 in the first quarter ...

The [kickoff] bounced off the chest of [David] Lang, who was standing 7 yards deep in the end zone, slipped through his hands and rolled out to the 1-yard line. [Vernon] Turner, as instructed, fell on the ball.

But Turner, thinking he was still in the end zone, squirrled away from on-rushing tacklers and back into the end zone, giving the 49ers a safety, a 16-0 lead and the impetus for the victory. "I don't remember (what happened), to tell you the truth, Turner said. "The thing that was going through my mind was to recover it, because if they had it would have been a touchdown."

Yet if Turner had not been pinned for a safety, the Rams might have scored a touchdown and trailed by only seven points instead of 16 after one quarter. "That's two points," Turner snapped. "What did we lose by? And I'm being checked out for a safety?"

The next time the Rams got a kickoff, Marcus Dupree fielded it, dropped to one knee, then flung it about 20 yards behind him in disgust.

Was this the most embarrassing first half [John] Robinson had ever experienced? "I am at the point where ranking embarrassing first halves isn't high on my agenda," Robinson said.

Later in that same game: "'LARM-M.Charles PENALIZED 15 yards for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. M.Charles picked up penalty flag and threw it at official. M.Charles ejected."

Browns-Oilers, Week 16: The Browns missed a game-tying 19-yard field goal on the last play.

Jets-Patriots, Week 16: The Jets miss 23- and 27-yard field goals in the first half. During the halftime kicking contest, the winner makes from 15, 20, 25, and 30.

Lions, various: The Lions scorer liked to editorialize. Examples included ""Crockett stopped on the one on his return, did a little jiggle, and then stepped into the end zone," "Pass incomplete to W.Fontes," penalty "for [Crockett] being happy that he had made the interception," and sack "with intensity."

by preetamj :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 9:02pm

I remember the highlights from that Saints-49ers game in week 11. The halftime show at the Superdome included a halftime indoor fireworks display. A piece of hot debris landed on one of the rafters which then started burning (a small fire, but still a fire) in the early 3rd quarter. A brave Superdome worker used some sort of crane to go climb on the rafter to knock the burning debris loose, which floated to the field below. Members of the coaching staff from both sides than ran onto the field with their gatorade containers and dumped it out to extinguish the burning embers. It was pretty funny at the time, but I remember thinking what a disaster that could have been.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 11:59pm

Falcons-49ers, Week 10: The Falcons won on a Hail Mary to Michael Haynes, completing a head-to-head sweep of the 49ers and giving the Falcons the wild card tiebreaker.

With M.C. Hammer on the sidelines!


by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:54am

Haha, Jerry Glanville may have not accomplished much as an NFL coach, but at least his teams were never boring.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 4:47am

I could be mistaken but I thought that Favre's first career pass bounced off a defender where the soon-to-be-jeans-model caught it and was dropped for a loss. Can anyone clarify, perhaps I'm thinking of his first pass a a Packer?

by Travis :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 7:59am

That was his first career completion and pass as a Packer. Favre never completed a pass as a Falcon.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 8:53am

Yes, DVOA now goes back to the pre-Favre, pre-Holmgren years for Packers fans. A string of mostly awful years going back to 1967 with an occasional winning season (72, 82, 89). But mostly just god-awful. Fortunately for me, I was either going to college or in the service for many of these years and spent a lot of that time intoxicated, so I've either forgotten or mentally suppressed much of what happened during this time.

by t.d. :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 9:07am

Don Majkowski was magic!

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 9:38am

Wayne Fontes parlayed his interim coaching gig at the end of 1988 to a full-time job on the strength of two wins against a Packers team that was even more putrid than the Lions. His record against the Pack from 1988 to 1991 was 6-2. Unfortunately, once Ron Wolf and Brett Favre came to town, the Packers ended up kicking our butts more often than not.

by Jerry :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:10am

"Pass incomplete to W.Fontes,"

That's easy to imagine. Thanks for digging this stuff up.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 5:51pm

Way back in the day a local Houston radio station did a parody jingle to commemorate that Oilers win.

To the tune of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
Cleveland got run over by the Oilers
Playing football Sunday Afternoon
You may not believe in Santa
But we believe he looks like Warren Moon

They found Cleveland kicker's body
On the floor of a motel
No one knows who did it
But we believe it was Brown's owner Art Modell

by TomC :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 6:25pm

I hate you with a white-hot hate. Now I have to go dig up something awful (but not quite as awful) like The Romantics' Greatest Hits to get that horrible, horrible song out of my head.

by D :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 8:20pm

You know what stands out to me (besides how dominate the Redskins were)? How terrible the '99 Rams' schedule was. They scored 500+ points and set a ton of records and were still only the fourth best offense in the league according to DVOA.

by Red (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 9:29pm

The `99 Rams did have an easy schedule, but hardly anyone remembers that they scored 11 non-offensive touchdowns, which greatly inflated their season point total. They averaged exactly 400 ypg, which is not historically great by any stretch. Because they won the SB, and because of the Kurt Warner story, people remember the `99 team as a juggernaut offense, but in reality they were just very good. The 2000 and 2001 offenses were significantly better, but their scoring outputs weren't aided by nearly as many return touchdowns, and they didn't win the SB, so people don't regard them as highly.


Does anyone here know how far back the play-by-play data actually goes? In other words, will there be a certain point in history when DVOA will become impossible to calculate?

by D :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 9:57pm

The interesting thing is that the 2001 team didn't have an "elite" offense either (18.2%). That is very good but not historic. (Of course that is based on the old DVOA. It may improve in v7.0)

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:15pm

They turned the ball over a lot. This was a bigger issue in 2000 and 2001, but DVOA hates turnover-prone offenses, which always was an issue for the GSOT Rams.

by REDSKINWIN (not verified) :: Mon, 07/16/2012 - 10:11pm

regarding the rams in '99, going up against divisional opponents in the nfc west usually has been a recipe for success.

by td (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:43am

The '91 Redskins might not have had an easy regular season schedule, but they lucked out by drawing the Falcons and Lions in the playoffs, rather than the Eagles, 49ers, or Cowboys, who would've been real tests in a loaded NFC that year. At the time, I thought the 1991 49ers were the best team ever to miss the playoffs, and the Eagles' defense that season was incredible (I included the Cowboys as a dangerous opponent because they'd beaten the Redskins late in the season and were about to run off three Suuper Bowls in four years)

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 6:28am

I'm not sure the Eagles would have been that much of a challenge for the Skins. That team just had too hard of a time scoring any points against good opponents. It may be more accurate to say that the Skins lucked out that Randall Cunningham was lost for the season in week 1.

The Cowboys could have been a threat, but Jimmy Johnson from 1989-1991 seemed hellbent on finding any excuse to put someone other than Troy Aikman under center. In '89 it was Steve Walsh. In 1991, Aikman missed some games due to injury, and Steve Beuerlein stepped in and won all of his starts. Rather than reinserting Aikman back into the starting lineup, Johnson wanted to go with the "hot hand" and Beuerlein was named the starter in the playoffs, despite a YPA in 6's and a sub 50% completion percentage (sound familiar? Because he's a WINNER!). That divisional playoff game in Detroit MAY have turned out differently if Troy Aikman (getting all the 1st team reps) had started.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 6:33am

The '91 49ers were the forerunners to Norval's San Diego Chargers. They turned in on late in the season (won their last six), but it was too late to overcome their slow start.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 4:26pm

I am a Redskins fans and I still remember that year fondly, despite being reasonably young. You are right, the Redskins had fits with the Cowboys all year. Their one "true" loss was to them (as mentioned in the article, the Skins basically gave away the Week 17 game despiting being up 22-7 in the 4th) and they should have lost to the Cowboys in Week 2 if not for some poor Jimmy Johnson clock management. I guess that's to be expected between rivals, but having Detroit knock out Dallas was a huge blessing. Dallas would be dominant for the next few years.

by Lance :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:54am

As someone expressed, I worry that we're not going to be able to get back too much further as far as DVOA. We've seen how some of the "super teams" measure up (at least as far as DVOA is concerned...) for the past 20 years with curious/interesting results-- only twice do we see two teams from the same year, 2004 and 2010 (both times, the Steelers and Patriots), for instance, and while the Steelers get listed twice and the Patriots three times, the Cowboys and 49ers only make it once each despite having some incredible teams from 91-95 (they played in 3 straight NFC championships and the Cowboys went to another the following year).

What other great teams are ready to crack that list? The '85 Bears? Another 80's 49er team almost certainly, right? And the Dolphins in 84-85 were impressive, too. I don't recall the 70's much, but obviously there are classic Steelers teams that could crack the list, along with some Cowboys teams. Going back a bit earlier, we come to some great Vikings and Dolphins squads, along with the Colts of course Green Bay. And that takes us to the start of the Super Bowl era.

But again-- are we ever going to get there?!?

by Travis :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 8:30am

As of right now:

From 1983-1990, the NFL is missing about 10 games per year. Most of these missing games involve the Falcons and/or the Rams, with a few Redskins, Bengals, Chiefs, and Cowboys games thrown in.

From 1981-1982, the NFL is missing about 25% of the games.

1980 and earlier is not yet available from the NFL, but most of the gamebooks probably still exist. For example, the Broncos have every single game in team history available on their website, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame occasionally publishes old gamebooks in their Throwback Game of the Week series.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:26pm

85 Bears, sure, but I want to see what the 76 Steelers end up looking like.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 6:57pm

I think once you reach the dead-ball era, the numbers will just stop making sense in comparison to the modern game. I wouldn't be shocked if were two or three teams every year with a DVOA as good as the 1991 Eagles, just because of the nature of offensive production in those days.

by Aaron Schatz :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 11:23am

Well, with the new version of DVOA, every year will be normalized to zero with passing and rushing normalized separately, so theoretically this would not be a problem.

by Discount Double... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 9:24am

I question the value of all these fancy stats. I have been playing the 1991 season over and over and over and over again on Tecmo Super Bowl for 20+ years...and the Redskins are mediocre at best. The experimental evidence is overwhelming, lol.

by Olbermann For President (not verified) :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:51pm

Tecmo Super Bowl was based on the 1990 season. Wait for next year for 1990 DVOA ratings.

by Discount Double... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 3:34pm

Ah, that's right. It used the 1991 schedule...but the player attributes were based on the 1990 season. Whew. Now I don't have to try to reconcile the stats I love from FOA with the vast wealth of football knowledge I have from playing 100s of games with Christian Okoye "popcorn-ing" would be tacklers. Crisis averted.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 10:31am

Michael Irvin, 1991-1995: 7095 yards, 445 catches on 701 targets (10.12 yards per target, 63.48% catch rate)
Randy Moss, 1998-2002: 6745 yards, 415 catches on 729 targets (9.25 yards per target, 56.93% catch rate)

Clearly Aaron's stats are onto something legitimate. Irvin might be the most terrifyingly efficient receiver who ever played.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:14am

Definitely true, but Troy Aikman's otherwordly accuracy and ball placement helped, too (not trying to take anything away from Irvin). If Aikman played in an offense that asked him to regularly throw 30 passes per game, he could have set all kinds of records. But because he played in an offense that required a heavy dose of handing off to Emmitt Smith, his standard stats look pretty pedestrian.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:27am

Maybe true, but you could play those kinds of games all day. If Aikman had been asked to carry more of the load, maybe he would have buckled a bit and thrown 10 more picks a year. Or maybe the Dallas offense wouldn't have been on the field as much due to 3-and-outs and his numbers wouldn't have gone up so much. The "butterfly effect" of things like that are hard to guess at.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:42am

Yeah, but Cunningham and Culpepper's big arms and incredible deep passing were just as good a fit for Moss as Aikman was for Irvin...

(Also, I find the revisionist history that Aikman was just "pretty good" and not one of the all-time greats to be infuriating - I saw the man play on many occasions and the guy was as good as they come, even on a stacked team.)

by tuluse :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:46am

The weird thing is I see it coming from Cowboy's fans a lot. Like they have to apologize for being so good in the 90s or something.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 12:03pm

I think some of them are in the throes of trying to defend their legitimately good current QB who doesn't maybe get exactly much respect as he deserves (hey, even that's debatable - he certainly has tons of detractors is all I'm saying) by tearing down their legends a little bit. I know when McNabb was constantly getting booed in Philly, I was on more than one occasion attempted to go the "well, he's a hell of a lot better than Jaworski, who wasn't even THAT good route!" without even really thinking through what I was saying.

(Although, ultimately, I believe that McNabb is better than Jaworski, just to confuse my point.)

by RickD :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 3:11pm

Aikman just didn't produce the numbers that Steve Young did.

Of course, he didn't need to. With that running game, it would have been stupid to pass as much as the 49ers did.

The problem in arguing that Aikman was "one of the all-time greats" is that the numbers don't support it. He had the arm and the accuracy, but he wasn't relied on in the way most of the all-time great QBs were. So it's an unproven claim.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:18pm

If you love raw compilation stats then he's not an all-time great. And we all know there are no issues with compilation stats - that's why we come to FO. Our love of big TD totals! His efficiency stats from 1991-1995 go like this (in DVOA) #5, #3, #2, #5, #2 - and his competition includes Steve Young, Brett Favre, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Joe Montana, John Elway, even Warren Moon. You might have noticed some of those gentlemen are in the Hall of Fame and considered among the greatest of all time at their position. And Aikman was every bit as effective a QB as any of them. He was great and on the level with Favre, Young, Kelly - he has no immediate contemporary with a prime of the early-90's that can decisively be said to be better than him according to DVOA. His consistent excellence is a marvel in and of itself - Young's worst DVOA in the same time-frame is 7th, Favre's is 9th, Elway drops all the way to 26th, Jim Kelly to 22nd in 1993. When Aikman was in his prime, he was Top 5. Always. The same can't be said for the other guys. Aikman just threw the ball less because he had one of the greatest RB's of all time behind him so he didn't need to throw as much. You can't fault him for being on a great team, as much as everyone seems intent on doing.

The claim is proven, the case is shut. Aikman is an all-time great.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:35pm

Neither standard stats nor DVOA remove a player from his context.

"His consistent excellence is a marvel in and of itself - Young's worst DVOA in the same time-frame is 7th, Favre's is 9th, Elway drops all the way to 26th, Jim Kelly to 22nd in 1993. When Aikman was in his prime, he was Top 5. Always."

Hmmm. None of those other players had Emmitt Smith, perhaps you don't think that helped at all. He also had Irvin. Young had Rice. Those others, not so much.

Though why bother when the case has been declared proven and shut.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:47pm

Kelly has Thurman Thomas and a host of excellent receivers including Andre Reed. Young had an excellent offensive line, a perfectly good RB in Ricky Watters and JERRY RICE, at least as much of a game-changing factor as Smith would ever be. (I mean, fucking seriously, are you trying to say Aikman had Smith and all Young had working for him was poor ol' Jerry Rice?) Favre had Sterling Sharpe and Chimura. I do think Smith helped (of course), but treating it like Young was out there alone or Favre did it all himself is utter bullshit. All Aikman can do is play the hand he's given. It would have been almost inconceivable for him to do any better than he did.

My question for you is this: what would Aikman had to have done to prove he's as good as any of his contemporaries? Outperform them by any measure but counting stats? Because he already did that. Wildly outperform Steve Young? He did wildly outperform guys like Elway, Kelly and Marino in the same era (and of course that wasn't Marino or Elway's absolute prime, fwiw.)

Give me one reason other than "his team was great and smartly coached" to discount Aikman's accomplishments. Because Young, Kelly and Favre played on some pretty good goddamned teams themselves with some HOF caliber coaches. The case is shut. It's open and shut. It shouldn't even be an issue.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:56pm

I mean, I'm just sitting here laughing about the argument - other players on teams that weren't as good as the 90's Cowboys didn't play as well Aikman, so therefore Aikman is... what? Excellent? The argument isn't was Jim Kelly or Steve Young or John Elway an all-time great, but is Aikman? Finding excuses for Young's down year isn't what we're talking about here (and it is perfectly easily excusable and no way calls into question his achievements.) What folks are doing is calling into question Aikman's accomplishments and offering no proof beyond "he didn't throw for enough yards and TD's." Or, man, Young sure was great - and he only had a Pro Bowl RB, an excellent o-line and Jerry Rice to work with! Just imagine if he played for Dallas! His numbers would have definitely blown Aikman's out of the water!

I challenge you to find someone from the same era who was better. There isn't anybody who rises above the status of "arguably better." And if guys like Favre, Elway and Kelly aren't decisively better than Aikman by advanced stats (which, hey, look at that - they're not!) then Aikman must be considered one of the all-time greats.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 5:14am

Please point out who has said Aikman isn't a great quarterback, this thread started about Irvin and his stats. You are setting your own terms of reference to argue points that only you are trying to dispute. You are then immolating strawmen and being quite rude, get back under your damn bridge.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 8:57am

RickD says ”the problem with saying Aikman is an alktime great is that the numbers simply aren't there.” He's literally and clearly saying aikman isn't a great qb. I respond with numbers that prove otherwise. You wade into the new non-Irvin argument and I respond to you. That's not trolling and excuse me if I get irked by an absurd point of view that has aikman propped up by his teammates and steve young struggling to compete as he only took over one of the most dominant dynasties in football and only had jerry rice to bail him out. if you didn't want to get argued with on this point, you shouldn't have gotten involved in the argument. If you wanted me to be respectful of your opinions you should have said something less off-base.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 9:17am

You have removed Rick D's words from their context, as you did mine. I would suggest that even if you find someone's opinion to be disagreeable you should proceed in a more respectful manner, particularly as you seem to get in an argument with several people on almost every thread. Pick the billygoats out of your teeth, I can't be the only person you're winding up.

As you would belligerently say, case closed.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 12:27pm

You're putting me in the position of apologizing for being disrespectful to a fundamentally disrespectful claim. That the claim is flat-out wrong is only going to make me more disagreeable (like on the other thread where someone suggests Matt Forte is better/more valuable than LeSean McCoy.) But this is a comment board - arguing passionately is (part of) why it is here. I'm attracted to FO because of their willingness to explore contrary positions - positions that are fun to argue in-depth. I enjoy getting wound up while arguing and finding people to argue back. It's harmless when we're talking about football. Utterly harmless. Save your lectures for a different context... (Or maybe grow a tiny bit thicker of a skin when it comes to meaningless junk like sports.)

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 12:47pm

I always felt that Emmitt Smith was the guy you had to stop and as a result it ended up being Aikman to Irvin that ended up killing. Plus that line helped everything.

by tuluse :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:02pm

I think we need just look at the Campbell Oilers, Payton Bears, or Simpsons Bills, and realize even with the best conditions playing QB is really hard.

by RickD :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 3:14pm

Yes, well, Dan Pastorini, Jim McMahon, and Joe Ferguson were not great QBs.

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 3:36pm

Yeah, that's my point. Not great QBs don't look like great QBs even with a top 5 all time running back behind them.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:27pm

The question is how good does a qb have to be to look great with a top five all time runner.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:35pm

Well, don't expect to find agreement here that Smith was a Top 5 all-time runner. He was the product of a great team - the guy played with Aikman and Irvin, remember? And his line did all the work anyway.

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:42pm

I didn't actually say that Smith was a top 5 runner. I said the other QBs who played with top 5 all time running backs still didn't put up great stats.

Focusing on the "5" part isn't really constructive anyways. Expand it to 10 or 15 and you're still talking about the elite of the elite and how it has less of an effect than you expect the way people talk about Aikman.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:46pm

I'm responding to Karl, not you. My point is that Smith gets just as many "he was a product of his team" naysayers as Aikman. It's a circular argument. You'll find plenty of people who flat-out say "anyone would've been great at those positions behind those lines." With NFL history, I prefer not to play "what if" children's games and prefer to laud players for what they accomplished. There is little more Aikman and Smith could have accomplished.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 7:01pm

Absolutely, at some point you have to drop these what-ifs and and just say the performance is what it is. Archie Manning might be a Hall of Famer if he'd been drafted by the Steelers instead of the Saints. But on the planet Earth, Bradshaw's a Hall of Famer and Archie isn't because, whatever the reasons, Bradshaw's career was more successful. Maybe, say, Chris Miller or Chris Chandler would have been as successful as Aikman if they'd been in his situation, but who cares? That's not what happened.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:20pm

I think we need just look at the Warner Rams, Cassel Patriots, or Williams Redskins, and realize even with the best conditions playing QB is really easy.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:34pm

Yes. Because Warner didn't take another dismal franchise out of the dregs and lead them to the Superbowl. Clearly, before he arrived in Arizona, everyone in the league knew that playing QB there would be the best of conditions. And after his departure, the Cardinals remained a powerful force in the NFC and a championship contender.

Plus, Casse1l lead a team nearly identical to its record-shattering predecessor to 5 fewer wins and missing the playoffs while posting a 6.4%, 20th in league DVOA (and matching mediocre 17th ranked DVOA) shows how anybody could be Tom Brady, really. I mean Cassel's level of success was more or less comparable to Brady's league-leading 56.9% DVOA and its attendant mind-melting 2,788 DYAR. I mean essentially anybody can do that because Cassel more or less did. It's the situation, really.

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 5:38pm

Kurt Warner was also really good with the Cardinals with no running game and a weak offensive line.

Cassel in probably the best conditions for playing QB that I've ever witnessed was a stunning 20th by DVOA. This is a very similar DVOA to what McMahon posted on the '91 Eagles with a worse supporting cast and a more difficult rules environment.

Doug Williams was 9th by ANY/ATT in 1988. No one is confusing that for Troy Aikman.

by Lance :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 6:03pm

Tanier talked about Aikman quite fairly in his Top 5 Cowboys QBs Walkthrough bit. He says:

Aikman may be the last great quarterback in history who had his statistics severely hampered by the fact that he played for a great team. The 1990s Cowboys were heirs of the 1970s Steelers and Dolphins and 1960s Packers -- teams that didn't pass very often because they didn't have to. By the time Tom Brady came around, even a 14-2 perennial champion with a defense-minded coach was going to attempt 530 passes per season. Brady's numbers are certainly affected by his team's success, but it is nothing like the distortion seen in, say, Bob Griese's numbers. Aikman has more in common with Griese than Brady. We will never see a truly great quarterback throw 15 touchdown passes in one of his signature seasons anymore. By Aikman's era, we usually don't make the mental adjustments that we make for guys like Griese or Bart Starr, but for Aikman we must.

I'm an Aikman (and Cowboys) fan, and experiencing the Cowboys in the early 90's while going to college in Philadelphia was quite sweet-- so my bias is real. But I'm honestly surprised to see Irvin looking as good as he does in DVOA. Even at the time, I never recall the media hyping Irvin in the same class as other early 90's top flight WRs. Rice, of course, walked on water. And guys like Chris Carter deserve to be spoken of highly for that period. (And even Sterling Sharpe, whose career was cut short due to injury.) But people like Andre Rison and Herman Moore got a lot of play as being elite in a way that Irvin wasn't spoken of. Sure, Irvin was the star WR for a great team, but you didn't hear him talked about as being "the best" in the way that FO's DVOA suggests.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 9:50am

DVOA's really awful at assessing receivers as individual players (as opposed to the value of their production). I don't think anyone is seriously claiming that Irvin was actually better than Rice in this period, and that's not how DVOA should be interpreted.

by Lance :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 11:52am

I'm sorry-- I wasn't claiming that DVOA was saying Irvin was better than Rice. Rather, I am just surprised that it actually suggested that Irvin was a truly elite receiver. Given that the Cowboys really were a run-first team, and given that Aikman never put up otherworldly conventional statistics, my feeling back in the early 90's that Irvin was always thought of as just the best WR on a really good (running) team. On "top WR" lists of that period, I seem to recall that he seemed to fall behind not just Rice, but quite a few other guys who put up big numbers. But what DVOA seems to say is that in fact, Irvin really was elite-- perhaps an all-time great. If you watched and paid attention to football in the early to mid 90's, this was not the opinion of sports media people at the time.

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 12:06pm

You are aware the Irving was inducted into the HoF right?

I think plenty of people realize he was really good.

by Lance :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 7:06pm

Yeah, guy. Thanks for the snark. I'm a Cowboys fan and sort of know what's going on. All I'm saying is that at the time, Irvin wasn't spoken about in the same terms as true "all time great" receivers past or (then) present. And I haven't seen much since then to suggest that the people in sports media have since come around to say that Irvin was among the all time best.

Indeed, the Hall of Fame is just as much about putting in the "famous" as it is the elites (hence a good number of Packers and Steelers). And that's fine of course-- it is the Hall of Fame (and may the people who say "Hall of Very Good" rot in hell). But because it is a Hall of Fame, it doesn't mean that you're an all time great in the strictest sense if you're there. Lynn Swann is a Hall of Famer, but no one would say that he's an all time great in the strictest sense of the term, no?

But what DVOA has shown is that Irvin-- contrary to what seems to have been popular opinion let alone popular opinion during his elite playing days-- was actually an all time great. His conventional stats may not have been great, but that's because Dallas liked to run the ball (I think they had some guy named Smith who set a few records for rushing touchdowns). All I'm commenting on is that Irvin comes out in DVOA as a better player than he was perceived in the sports media of his day, and given that he was already thought of as quite good, that's saying something.

But again, tuluse, thanks for the snark. It's not like I haven't been posting here for the past 6 years as an obvious Cowboys fan nearing his 40's and know nothing about football or its history.

by tuluse :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 7:50pm

You're right I was unnecessarily snarky. I apologize for that.

The point I meant to make was that there has to come a time when you can't complain about a player being underrated. I think that point is when he's inducted into the HoF which is the highest honor than can be bestowed on a player.

by Lance :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 3:06am

No worries, tuluse. You've been around FO forever and I respect your opinion, so I just thought I was being treated unfairly. But it's the Internet, and it's sometimes too easy to let snark happen.

You're right that the HoF is as good as it gets, and perhaps I shouldn't mind much about the rest. It's just interesting for me to see Irvin appear to come out as among the truly elite during the early 90's era for Dallas, when conventional wisdom suggested that he was just another cog in the well-oiled Cowboys machine who was great, but not really great.

DVOA, of course, isn't the end-all. But it's interesting to see the stats it spits out and look back again at that era with those data in mind. I look forward to going back further in time and seeing what they have to say...

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 12:47pm

Deleted because I didn't make my point as well as I wanted to.

by sn0mm1s :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 6:39pm

I wouldn't say it is awful - but DVOA and DYAR do have flaws. I don't feel like rehashing old arguments (I am sure I can find plenty of them on this site) but in the case of Irvin, I suspect his DVOA is high around the dynasty years because he was the primary target on most 2nd/3rd and long conversions - plays which, if successful, have a big DVOA/DYAR number attached to them.

by Joseph :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 11:25am

I always thought of Irvin as a guy whose situation made him seem better than he was. The Cowboys offensive line was top-notch, Smith was great, Aikman was great, and TE Novacek to me seems a bridge from Winslow/Newsome/Christenson era of pass-catching TE's to Gonzalez/Gates/Witten who are now giving way to Gronk/Graham/etc. Novacek didn't have the numbers, but he was quite effective. Thus, Irvin could never be the focus of the defense because of all the weapons on offense the Cowboys had.

by Lance :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 12:01pm

Ugh. It's chicken-or-the-egg all over again! Couldn't we say this about a lot of the classically great teams? Montana, Rice, Craig, Brent Jones, John Taylor, etc.? I feel like we can say this about anyone-- in either direction. So-and-so was only good because he was on a team with lots of other good players-- or, so-and-so would have been so much better if he'd been on a team with better players.

by Aloysius Mephis... :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 12:52pm

Precisely. I take the opposite view on Irvin -- that he wasn't merely a product of his team's greatness, but rather was a driving force of that greatness. But the impossibility of separating individual performance in football means there can never be a definitive answer.

by t.d. :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 3:48pm

Irvin always seemed to get tackled inside the five yard line rather than scoring when he made big plays. Then Emmitt would take it in a play or two later. I thought he was the heart and soul of those teams, and when they lost him was when the era truly ended for them. The tried to replace him with big stat guys (galloway, anthony miller) but neither of those guys was remotely as effective

by batesbruce :: Sat, 07/21/2012 - 3:17pm

There's no way to know how many OPI's Irvin would have gotten in this era. As a bitter Redskin fan I always thought he was getting away with murder. Hey, give him credit; he used his size, they didn't call his pushoff's, so he was always open which explains his crazy catch rate. He owned HoFer Darrell Green in their matchups. His passion for gameday on the offensive side was right up there with LT's.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 1:49pm

With Rice and Montana, though, we at least have brief windows into their performance on less-blessed teams -- turns out they were pretty great regardless of the circumstances.

We have no idea whether Irvin could have been as good on a lesser team, or just how much many Cowboys' side-businesses as coke dealers was taking his attention from football. Even in the 1996 season where the Cowboys stumbled early when Irvin was suspended, how much of that was due to Smith also being injured is questionable.

What hurts Aikman historically is that he seemed to be the most easily replaced part. Dallas struggled when Irvin or Smith were absent, but the Cowboys were frequently successful when Aikman was on the sidelines.

by starzero :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:25am

oh the agony of jeff george and the '91 colts.

everyone hopes luck will be the second coming of manning, but george was a #1 pick too....

hail damage

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:30am

George was a special kind of head case (there were hints of that prior to the 1990 draft). By all accounts Luck is a 100 times more mature and better at handling (what little) adversity he had in college.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 1:44pm

I've never heard ex teammates rip a starting qb the way they do George. They really despise him, including the use of a label you rarely hear in the NFL. Jack Lambert use to say that there aren't any cowards in the NFL. Some of George's former teammates beg to differ.

by ErikKramer1Game... :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 3:05pm

Yea, the reason for him being bust was strictly from the neck up. If you transplanted Chad Pennington's brain into Jeff George's cranial cavity, you have a first ballot HOF.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 3:43pm

I don't know - Pennington's brain would still find a way to get injured.

by mickeyribs :: Tue, 07/17/2012 - 11:52am

I really hope that you're not serious about jumping ahead to '85. As a Giants fan I'm looking forward to see how DVOA hates the '90 Giants. The Defense and Special Teams should be relatively high, since they only let up 211 points in the regular season, and I remember Renya Thompson being a beast on Specials (I'm interested to see how my memories translate to reality). But hoo boy that offense. I just checked and Dave Meggett(!) had the most receptions with 39(!!). My lasting memory of that offense was it was so conservative and held onto the ball for so long that it seemed every game was over in about 2.5 hours.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 07/18/2012 - 1:58pm

Here's the moment that Washington Redskins fans have been waiting for

YES! My thought exactly!

by bubqr :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 7:14am

Is Travis the sober twin of RaiderJoe ?

by mrh :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 3:44pm

The '91 Chiefs. Martyball. Awesome at home, mediocre away (would love to see the DVOA splits). 33-6 over the Bills on MNF. Always losing to Elway (91 DEN a good example of a team winning with a 5th place schedule). Always beating the Raiders. Winning the Week 17 showdown with the Raiders (Barry Word, 35 carries, love the Martyball) and the right to host the wild card game with the same Raiders (Barry Word, 33 carries, love the Martyball). And a 37-14 blowout loss to the Bills to end the playoffs (it wasn't that close - curse the Martyball).

Check out the coaching entry at p-f-r:
Defensive Coordinator: Bill Cowher
Other Notable Asst.: Tony Dungy (Defensive Backs) and Herman Edwards (Scout)

by Lance :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 6:30pm

Question: DVOA, etc., is al by season, right? So when so-and-so posts a 40% DVOA (or whatever), that's just relative to the other teams that season? Or does DVOA make a bigger statement that a team such as the '91 Redskins with their highest DVOA ever are truly the best team in some absolute sense.

In other words, is it possible that the '91 Redskins just represent the greatest domination (in DVOA terms) against their '91 foes, but could, on a broader scale, not measure out against other teams from other years? My guess is that that '91 Redskins DVOA is just measured against other '91 teams. But I could be wrong. If I'm right, then how do we compare the '91 Redskins against other teams from other periods? Or is that just not a metric DVOA can measure (except to say that '91 Washington was more dominant in its season than New England (or Dallas, or Green Bay, etc. ) were in theirs)? And if it's not a metric that DVOA can measure, how can we get to a point where we can start to make those measurements?!?

by tuluse :: Thu, 07/19/2012 - 6:34pm

Right now all DVOA's except the 91 season are compared to the 2006 season (I might have the wrong year).

However, FO is in the process of comparing DVOA to teams from the current year instead.

by Jerry :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 7:21am

This is the rollout of DVOA 7.0, which is zero-based every year. So Lance's suggestion that this may not represent more than a dominant 1991 is reasonable. However, teams only play against other teams from that season, so there's an obvious limit to how easily teams from different years can be compared.

by Jetspete :: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 12:56pm

wow, just wow. this year was when the jets lost a pivotal division game to the colts, at home. It was the colts only win of the year. I just read the box score, and in the 4th quarter the jets apparently made two fourth quarter field goals of 25 yards or less despite the fact they were down 7 and 4 at the time, respectively. I cant imagine what the atmosphere around gate D was that day.