The Washington Redskins dominated the 1983 NFL season and they dominate our 1983 DVOA ratings as well. Or perhaps it is more appropriate to say that they dominated most of the 1983 NFL season, because in the Super Bowl they got destroyed 38-9 by the best team from the AFC, the Los Angeles Raiders.
Washington was nearly 10 percentage points of DVOA in total DVOA ahead of No. 2 San Francisco. Washington set a then-NFL record by scoring 541 points in the regular season and as you might expect they were No. 1 on offense. But Washington was a great all-around team in 1983. The Redskins finished fifth in defensive DVOA and sixth in special teams DVOA. They went 14-2 with both of their losses coming by just one point each: 31-30 to No. 5 Dallas and a surprising 48-47 upset to No. 24 Green Bay. Seven different Washington players made first-team All-Pro: QB Joe Theismann, RB John Riggins, LT Joe Jacoby, LG Russ Grimm, DT Dave Butz, FS Mark Murphy, and KR/PR Mike Nelms.
Washington's average of 33.8 points per game is still eighth in the history of NFL since the 1970 merger so you might be surprised to learn that although Washington had the top offense of 1983, it doesn't come anywhere close to the top offenses in DVOA history. That ranking in defense and special teams is a big part of it, as Washington took advantage of strong field position to score a lot of points. They finished only fourth in yards per play but were stunningly low in turnovers: only 18 of them when the NFL average was 40 per team. Washington didn't have particularly strong fumble recovery luck; instead, they had only 13 total fumbles when the average team had 34. Meanwhile, they had 61 takeaways for an astonishing +43 turnover margin. Not only is that the best turnover margin in history, but no other team since 1950 has been above +30.
San Francisco was second in DVOA despite going just 10-6. The 49ers were coming off the weird 1982 strike year, where they finished 3-6 despite outscoring their opponents. They went 1-4 in one-score games in 1983 but also put up some big dominating victories such as 48-17 over Minnesota, 27-0 over New Orleans, and 42-17 over Dallas. Washington and San Francisco played an awesome NFC Championship Game which you can watch on YouTube. Washington had clobbered the Rams 51-7 the week before and took a 21-0 lead over San Francisco into the fourth quarter. But Joe Montana came back with three touchdowns in less than 10 minutes, including a 76-yarder to Freddie Solomon. Washington took the ball back on their own 14 after a kickoff penalty, with 6:52 to go. They moved the ball down to the San Francisco 8 and got nothing out of three John Riggins runs, but Mark Moseley kicked a 25-yard field goal with 44 seconds left to send Washington to their second straight Super Bowl.
Adding 1983 now makes seven straight years where San Francisco had DVOA over 25%. The 49ers also had DVOA over 25% in five straight years from 1994 to 1998. No other franchise has ever had DVOA over 25% in more than four straight years. New England's Brady-Belichick dynasty never did it for more than two straight years.
Returning to 1983, the Los Angeles Raiders finished third in DVOA but were the top team in the AFC. That makes 1983 one of the rare years where each conference's best team from the regular season also made it to the Super Bowl. No matter what metric you use, the top teams in each conference historically don't often meet for the Lombardi Trophy for various reasons (such as better teams being on the road because they had fewer regular-season wins). For example:
Years since 1983 where the Super Bowl matched the top team in each conference by DVOA: 1983, 1984, 1991, 1997, 2002, 2013.
Years since 1983 where the Super Bowl matched the top team in each conference by Pythagenport wins: 1984, 1989, 1990, 1997, 2004, 2013, 2014.
Like Washington, the Raiders were a well-rounded team, although nowhere near as impressive on offense. They finished eighth on offense, second on defense, and fourth on special teams. Although tight end Todd Christensen was the only first-team All-Pro for the Raiders, five different defensive starters were chosen for the Pro Bowl. The Raiders also acquired disgruntled cornerback Mike Haynes from the Patriots in November in a legal settlement that gave the Patriots two high draft picks. But the Raiders' defensive DVOA wasn't actually any better once Haynes arrived: -16.0% through Week 11, and then -7.2% in the five games Haynes started in the regular season. Both offense and defense turned it up for the playoffs and the Raiders won their three postseason contests over Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Washington by a combined score of 106-33.
This was the second year for the Raiders after moving to Los Angeles, and the peak of the bitter battle between Al Davis and Pete Rozelle detailed in a recent 30 for 30 documentary. The fight with the Raiders was just one of the many problems the NFL was dealing with in 1983, as detailed in our Year in Quotes feature. Wounds were still fresh from the labor strike the year before. Drug problems, in particular cocaine, were an issue across multiple professional sports. And 1983 was the first year of the USFL, a spring league that competed for talent coming out of college and signed away a number of NFL players.
Before we talk about Dan Marino's big rookie season, the last really good year of the Tom Landry Cowboys, and the surprising identity of 1983's best defense, let's run the numbers for all 28 teams in 1983:
DVOA for 1983 is now listed in the stats pages:
- TEAM, including stats not listed above such as schedule strength and weighted DVOA
- SPECIAL TEAMS
- RUNNING BACKS
- WIDE RECEIVERS
- TIGHT ENDS
A reminder: These pages are not behind a paywall! It's a registration wall. You simply need to register for the site and make sure you are logged in to see these historical DVOA pages.
We've already discussed Washington and Los Angeles, but two other teams won at least 12 games in 1983. First, the Miami Dolphins, who finished No. 4 in total DVOA. The Dolphins were a team in transition. The previous year, a defense-oriented Dolphins team finished second in the league in points allowed per game and advanced to the Super Bowl, losing to Washington. The 1983 Dolphins were just slightly above average on defense but their offense had one very important player who wasn't there the year before: rookie quarterback Dan Marino. Marino first came into a Week 3 game against the Raiders which the Dolphins were losing 27-0, and he threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He replaced David Woodley again in Week 5 against New Orleans, and led another fourth-quarter touchdown drive.
Don Shula made Marino the starter in Week 6 against the Bills, and while the Dolphins lost that game in overtime, they then went 9-1 over their final 10 games. From Week 6 onward, only Washington had a higher pass offense DVOA. Marino finished the season second in player passing DVOA behind only Dan Fouts, who was limited to just 10 games that season because of injury. Marino's 33.8% passing DVOA is the highest ever for a rookie quarterback with at least 200 pass plays; his 885 passing DYAR are fourth all-time behind Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger. (If we look at combined DYAR with rushing included, he also falls behind Russell Wilson.)
Dallas finished fifth in total DVOA, the best rating for a Dallas team until the 1992 squad that won the Super Bowl. The Cowboys went 12-4 despite playing one of the 10 toughest schedules in the league. They started out 7-0, then went 5-4 in their final nine games. But their losses were primarily to better teams: three of their four losses in the regular season were to teams that were higher in DVOA, including the Raiders, 49ers, and Washington. Their wild-card loss to the Rams was seen as a clear sign the dynasty was over, but even that was a loss to a pretty good team that was ranked right below them in total DVOA.
The identity of the best defense of 1983 is a big surprise. How much do you know about the 1983 New Orleans Saints defense? The Saints finished second in the league with just 4.58 yards allowed per play despite playing the second-toughest schedule of opposing offenses by DVOA. They also get a little bonus for playing indoors, and that puts them ahead of the Raiders as the No. 1 defense of the league. This was years before the Dome Patrol, and you won't recognize most of the names on the Saints defense. Rickey Jackson was there in his second season; he was the only player to make the Pro Bowl. Defensive end Bruce Clark was the only first-round pick in the starting lineup. (Clark is an interesting story; he refused to play for the Packers when they took him fourth overall in 1980 and went up north to play two seasons in the CFL. The Saints dealt their first-round pick in 1983, 11th overall, for the rights to Clark and he played for them for seven years.) Guys like nose tackle Derland Moore, defensive end Jim Wilks, and cornerback Dave Waymer played long careers in New Orleans but I had never heard of them. No, the name you know from the 1983 Saints defense is the coordinator. Bum Phillips was the head coach of the 1983 Saints, and his son Wade Phillips was the defensive coordinator. Nepotism in the NFL isn't all bad.
The Saints came very close to having their first-ever winning record and playoff team. The second NFC wild-card spot was decided by a Week 16 game in New Orleans between the 8-7 Saints and the 8-7 Los Angeles Rams. The Saints took a 24-23 lead late in the fourth quarter when running back George Rogers fumbled the ball at the Rams' 1-yard line but guard Steve Korte hopped on it in the end zone for a touchdown. (The rookie Korte didn't even start the game, so I have no idea if he was a sixth lineman in the goal-line package or an injury replacement.) The Rams went three-and-out with a sack, punting it back to the Saints and then getting a 15-yard personal foul. So the Saints took the ball with a lead and first-and-10 on the Rams 39 with 2:48 left. The Rams still had all three timeouts plus the two-minute warning and the Saints could not run out the clock. Bum Phillips was left with a choice. He could go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Rams 32 and 2:00 left. He could kick a 49-yard field goal with Morten Andersen to extend the lead to four points. Or, he could punt with jack-of-all-trades Guido Merkens, because regular punter Russell Erxleben was hurt earlier in the game. Phillips chose to punt with the backup punter. Merkens put it in the end zone for a touchback and then Vince Ferragamo marched the Rams all the way from the 20 to the New Orleans 25 in less than two minutes, despite the Rams getting another 15-yard personal foul penalty. Mike Lansford kicked a 42-yard field goal with six seconds left to put the Rams into the playoffs and send the Saints home. That field goal was the Rams' only offensive score of the game; they also had a safety, a punt return touchdown, and two interception return touchdowns. The Saints defense was very good!
By the way, Russell Erxleben, the punter who got hurt, is a whole story by himself. He was a originally both a kicker and a punter, and the Saints took him 11th overall in the 1979 draft. A first-round kicker! The Chargers took Kellen Winslow two picks later. Erxleben washed out as a kicker within a couple years and was a punter only by 1981. The Saints drafted Andersen in 1982, and then drafted Brian Hansen to replace Erxleben as the punter in 1984. Oh, and Erxleben also served six years in federal prison for securities fraud from 1999 to 2005, and then was convicted again of investment fraud in 2014 and went back to prison. There's a good article about Erxleben here.
So if the Saints had the No. 1 defensive DVOA but were second in the league in yards allowed per play, what about the team that led the league in yards allowed per play? Well, that's kind of remarkable: the Cincinnati Bengals led the league with just 4.45 yards allowed per play but ranked only 13th in defensive DVOA! What is going on there? The issue is not a lack of turnovers, where the Bengals were slightly above average. The biggest reason for Cincinnati's low rating is opponent adjustment. Cincinnati played the easiest schedule of opposing offenses in the league, with seven games against the six worst offenses by DVOA. The Bengals improve from 13th to fifth without opponent adjustments. The other issue is that Cincinnati allowed a lot of third-down conversions that ended up just past the sticks. The Bengals allowed 4.52 yards per play on third and fourth down (10th) but a 43% success rate on conversions (23rd).
The Bengals also had a big first half-second half split in 1983. They started out 1-6 and then went 6-3 in their last nine games, and had 9.4% defensive DVOA (22nd) in the first eight games but -18.6% DVOA (third) in the last eight games. In fact, showing the basic inconsistency of defense, the top four defenses of the second half of 1983 were all below average in the first half of 1983.
|Top Defensive DVOA, 1983 Weeks 9-16|
The 1983 Giants defense is certainly worth talking about. You may have noticed above in the table that the Giants were 18th overall and fourth on defense despite going 3-12-1. They had better DVOA than two teams with winning records! This was Bill Parcells' first season as head coach of the Giants after Ray Perkins had left to succeed Bear Bryant at Alabama. Bill Belichick was technically not yet the defensive coordinator, although the Giants had no defensive coordinator in 1983 or 1984. Belichick, as linebackers coach, worked with Parcells to run the defense.
The 1983 Giants went 1-5-1 in one-score games. The most noteworthy was a Monday contest in Week 8 that Gary Myers of the New York Daily News later called the worst game in Monday Night Football history. The Giants lost a 17-10 lead on an aborted snap by Jeff Rutledge, then went ahead with a field goal, then let the Cardinals go downfield and tie the game on a field goal with 57 seconds left. Ali Haji-Sheikh missed a 66-yard attempt for the Giants as time expired. In overtime, the Giants just kept giving the Cardinals chances and the Cardinals could not score. The Cardinals' drives in overtime ended with a punt from the Giants 39, a missed 45-yard field goal, an interception, a missed 19-yard field goal with 1:06 left, and then, after Rutledge threw an interception, a missed 42-yard field goal with 25 seconds left. The game ended in a 20-20 tie.
There were two other reasons for the huge gap between the Giants' non-adjusted VOA and DVOA from the table above. On defense, the big difference was schedule. The Giants played the toughest schedule of opposing offenses in the league, with half of their schedule coming against the top eight offenses including Washington and Dallas twice. On offense, the issue was fumbles. The Giants offense was the worst in the league by DVOA, but they looked even worse than that because they fumbled 27 times and recovered just five of them.
Seattle had the best special teams of the year, and their 9.1% special teams DVOA ranks 11th all-time. The Seahawks got a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown, but more importantly they had the best kickoff and punt coverage in the league. On punts, Seattle allowed a league-low 4.9 yards per return (the average was 8.5) and forced six fumbles. On kickoffs, they didn't allow a single return to go past midfield.
Tampa Bay had the worst special teams, mirroring Seattle by ranking as the 11th-worst special teams in DVOA history. Most of that negative value came from kicker Bill Capece, who hit just 43.5% of his field goals (10-of-23) and missed three extra points back when they were still just two yards away from the goal line. The Bucs finally gave up on Capece before the final game of the year, with John McKay famously announcing that "Capece is kaput." They signed David Warnke, and Warnke missed an extra point and a 29-yard field goal. The Bucs then let guard George Yarno kick the final extra point of the season. He hit it, making him the most accurate kicker in Tampa that season.
Overall, once we normalize the entire year to 0 and adjust for weather and altitude, we have Tampa Bay placekicking worth -24.8 points below average for the season. That's the worst figure in our entire database. What's remarkable about 1983 is that it also had the second-worst placekicking we've ever measured, New England at -24.1 points. The original Patriots placekicker was John Smith. He missed from 33 and 36 yards in the first quarter of a Week 1 overtime loss. The Patriots eventually cut him after he missed a 37-yard field goal and an extra point in Week 5. In came Fred Steinfort, who was even worse. In Weeks 1-2, he had hit only 1-of-6 attempts for the Buffalo Bills, who cut him. He then came to New England and between Week 6 and Week 14, he hit just 6-of-15 field goal attempts and missed all six of his attempts from 40 yards or more. The Patriots finally tried Joaquin Zendejas (cousin of Tony, brother of Luis and Max) in Weeks 15 and 16, and he missed his only field goal try.
The Tampa Bay and New England field goal adventures were part of a wild year in placekicking with a colossal spread between the best and worst kickers. The NFL field goal average for 1983 was 71.5%, but that ranged from Cleveland (88%) and Pittsburgh (87%) at the top to New England (41%), Tampa Bay (42%), and Buffalo (42%) at the bottom. (Buffalo is not as bad as New England and Tampa Bay in Football Outsiders' values because their missed kicks came from a longer distance, including 0-for-4 from 50 yards or more by Steinfort's replacement Joe Danelo.) For a comparison: 1984 had three teams above 80% and four teams below 60%. 1983, by comparison, had 10 teams above 80% and seven teams below 60%.
So the best teams of 1983 were almost as good at placekicking as the Buccaneers and Patriots were bad. However, the best teams in Football Outsiders' FG/XP values are not the same as the best teams in raw field goal percentage. The 2016 Baltimore Ravens are still the best field goal kicking team of all time by our values, but No. 2 and No. 3 are now teams from 1983: Raul Allegre and the Baltimore Colts as well as Haji-Sheikh and the Giants. Allegre was third hitting 86% of his field goals, and was 4-of-5 from 50 yards or more. (The rest of the league was 23-of-66 from that distance.) Haji-Sheikh was tied for fifth at 83% and missed only one extra point. Remarkably, both kickers having two of the best placekicking seasons in NFL history were rookies! Allegre was undrafted, while Haji-Sheikh was a ninth-round pick back when there were such things as ninth-round picks. But wait, there's more! A third 1983 team, Kansas City, also makes it onto the list of the 10 best placekicking teams in Football Outsiders metrics. Nick Lowery is in the top 10 for both his 1983 and 1985 seasons. Here are the tables; remember that each season's values are normalized to the average performance of that specific year:
|Best Teams in FG/XP Value, 1983-2020|
|Worst Teams in FG/XP Value, 1983-2020|
|2017||LAC||-22.2||T.Coons, Y.Koo, N.Novak|
|1999||CHI||-21.6||C.Boniol, J.Holmes, J.Jaeger|
|2014||DET||-19.6||N.Freese, A.Henery, M.Prater|
The terrible special teams were a big reason for Tampa Bay's 2-14 record and next-to-last DVOA of -24.4%. However, the worst team of 1983 by Football Outsiders numbers was the Houston Oilers, the NFL's other 2-14 team. The Oilers were dead last in defensive DVOA and 25th in offensive DVOA. Houston had traded for Archie Manning the year before and Manning lost the first three games of the year. At that point, Houston traded Manning and tight end Dave Casper to Minnesota for two draft picks. Gifford Nielsen came in and lost seven straight games as the Oilers' starter before he got pulled. 1982 second-round pick Oliver Luck finally got his first start in Week 11 and led the Oilers to their first win; he was 2-4 over the final six games.
Now let's take a look at the best and worst players by position.
Quarterbacks: Joe Montana led all quarterbacks in 1983 with 1,501 passing DYAR. It is Montana's seventh season in the top four for DYAR and his second season at No. 1 along with 1989. MVP Joe Theismann was right behind him in DVOA, but a little further behind in DYAR at 1,301 because he had fewer pass attempts.
Two quarterbacks who only played partial seasons are ahead of Montana and Theismann in DVOA. We discused Dan Marino's amazing rookie season above, but Dan Fouts led the NFL with 8.10 net yards per attempt and had an even better 39.2% passing DVOA in 10 games. Hopefully we'll be able to get back a couple more years in play-by-play because our compilation of old DVOA is right on the edge of Fouts' prime of 1979-1982 and it would be really interesting to see how good those seasons come out.
While Dan Marino was near the top of the league as a rookie, John Elway was at the bottom. Elway struggled with just 5.03 net yards per attempt and twice as many interceptions as touchdowns, and finished last in passing DYAR. Pittsburgh's Cliff Stoudt was next-to-last in passing value.
One quarterback who had a particularly interesting 1983 season was Lynn Dickey of the Packers, who ends up sixth in passing DYAR. Dickey was second with 7.92 net yards per attempt, and Dickey and Fouts were way past the rest of the league. (Theismann was third at 7.04.) Dickey led the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and yards per completion. He had a career high in completion rate. But he also led the league with 29 interceptions. Dickey's 1983 season is a massive outlier in his career. He had only one other year above 20 touchdowns and only one other year above 20 interceptions. He had 58 yards per game more in 1983 than in any other season of his career, and beat his second-best season by 1.1 net yards per attempt.
Rushing totals for quarterbacks in 1983 paled in comparison to rushing totals for quarterbacks today, but I should note Mike Pagel of the Baltimore Colts who averaged over 10 yards per carry once you remove kneeldowns: 43 carries for 454 yards, or 90.0% rushing DVOA. And while you might not remember Montana as a mobile quarterback, he finished second among quarterbacks in carries (56) and third in DYAR (78) in 1983.
One other note: Joe Ferguson of the Buffalo Bills had one of the best single games ever in our database in Week 6, going up against Dan Marino in his first start for the Dolphins. Ferguson completed 38 of 54 passes for 419 yards and 5 touchdowns with one pick and one sack in a 38-35 overtime victory. He hit Joe Cribbs on fourth-and-1 with 28 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime, then led the winning drive after two overtime misses for Miami kicker Uwe von Schamann. With opponent adjustments for a good Miami pass defense, the game ended up with 304 passing DYAR.
Running Backs: 1983 was the year of William Andrews. Atlanta's fifth-year back led the league in both rushing DYAR and receiving DYAR with one of the best combined seasons any running back has ever put up. Way back in Pro Football Prospectus 2007, I wrote a long essay about the greatest running back seasons of all time, and at that point we ranked Andrews' 1983 season as No. 13. In actual DYAR stats, it comes out as the No. 10 combined running back season since 1983.
|Best Combined DYAR for Running Backs, 1983-2020|
Andrews was originally one of the last running fullbacks, but in 1983 the Falcons hired Washington assistant Dan Henning as their new head coach and he installed a Washington-style one-back offense which gave Andrews huge numbers. At the goal line, Atlanta often switched to their first-round pick from the 1982 draft, Gerald Riggs, who had 100 carries playing behind Andrews and actually led the Falcons with eight touchdowns. (Riggs is fifth in rushing DVOA, 15th in rushing DYAR.) When Andrews blew out his knee in training camp of 1984, Riggs took over, and he was No. 2 in rushing DYAR in 1984 and then No. 1 in 1985, although without Andrews' receiving value. Andrews lost two years to his knee injury and retired after 52 substandard carries in 1986.
Right behind Andrews in rushing DYAR was rookie Curt Warner of the Seattle Seahawks. Eric Dickerson may have gotten all the headlines by leading the league in rushing yardage, but it was Warner who was more efficient. One reason was a big opponent adjustment for Warner, taking him from 256 YAR to 361 DYAR. The other reason, starting a theme for Dickerson's whole career, was fumbles. Dickerson had 13 fumbles (12 rushing, 1 receiving) in his rookie year, knocking him down to fifth in rushing DYAR behind Andrews, Warner, John Riggins, and Earl Campbell. When Dickerson didn't fumble, though, he had some very strong games. Dickerson had three of the top five games in combined DYAR, all above 90 DYAR, including 237 combined yards against the New York Jets and 220 combined yards against Detroit in consecutive weeks (Weeks 4-5).
Speaking of Riggins, he set the new all-time rushing touchdown record with 24 touchdowns in 1983. Why isn't that worth more in our stats? Because so many of those touchdowns were so short. Riggins had 10 touchdowns of just 1 yard and then another 10 touchdowns of just 2 yards in 1983.
One player who is shockingly low in advanced stats for 1983 is Marcus Allen, who took over the Super Bowl with 191 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Allen comes in with -23 DYAR, ranking him 43rd out of 51 qualifying running backs with at least 100 carries. He was better in receiving, with 92 receiving DYAR (13th). Despite his outstanding reputation, Allen averaged less than 4 yards per carry in 1983, and it was Allen not Dickerson who actually led all running backs in fumbles. Allen had 14 total fumbles: 12 rushing and 2 receiving. He even had a fumble in that fantastic Super Bowl performance, although the Raiders recovered it.
A more surprising part of Allen's season is just how much he was used on halfback option passes. The halfback option pass was a much more popular strategy in the 80s than it is today, and Allen had 10 option passes in 1983. Antwaan Randle El in 2002 is the only other non-quarterback with 10 pass plays in a season in our data. Allen took three sacks but also completed 4-of-7 passes for 19, 21, 28, and 43 yards. Three of those went for touchdowns.
Returning to our article on historical running back seasons from PFP 2007, that same essay named Melvin Carver's 1983 season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the worst running back season of all time. It doesn't come out as the worst season in DYAR, in large part because Carver's receiving numbers were around replacement level. But wow, was it really bad on the ground. Carver averaged 3.04 yards per carry against an easy schedule with no touchdowns and 5 fumbles on just 114 carries. This works out to a -42.6% rushing DVOA, which is the worst rushing DVOA figure ever for a running back with at least 100 carries. He narrowly passes Chris Perry, whose 2008 season had worse raw numbers but came against a tough schedule. Carver's -165 rushing DYAR comes in as the seventh-lowest season in our stats. Tampa Bay had just 4.5 rushing first downs per game.
|Worst Rushing DVOA, 1983-2020 (min. 100 carries)|
Wide Receivers: The top wide receiver of 1983 was Mike Quick of the Philadelphia Eagles. In his second year in the league, Quick led the NFL with 1,409 yards and was second with 13 touchdowns. That translated to a league-leading 368 receiving DYAR despite a 53% catch rate. It was an impressive year although, we should note, not as impressive as the top receiver usually is. Quick's total of 368 DYAR was the second lowest ever for a receiver who ranked No. 1. Only Jerry Rice in 1990 (323 DYAR) led the league with a lower total.
Right behind Quick was Washington's Charlie Brown at 359 DYAR. Brown was an unlikely star, an undersized (5-foot-10, 182 pounds) eighth-round pick in 1981 who didn't play as a rookie but then made the Pro Bowl in both 1982 and 1983. Then Brown crashed with just 200 yards in 1984 and was traded to Atlanta, where he had one big season in 1986.
Mark Duper of Miami, Cris Collinsworth of Cincinnati, and James Lofton of Green Bay rounded out the top five as the other receivers with at least 300 receiving DYAR in 1983. Roy Green of the Cardinals led the league with 14 touchdowns and was sixth with 295 DYAR.
Another interesting season in 1983 belonged to Atlanta's Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, who had numbers that look a lot more like a modern slot receiver than a receiver from the mid-80s. Johnson's 77.1% catch rate was the highest of any receiver until Jim Jensen was at 77.3% in 1988. Johnson's catch rate was 10 percentage points ahead of any other wideout with at least 50 pass targets in 1983. Collinsworth was second at 67%, but Collinsworth averaged 17.1 yards per reception. White Shoes Johnson averaged only 11.1 yards per reception in 1983, third lowest of any qualifying wide receiver.
Mark Nichols of Detroit came out as the least valuable wide receiver by DYAR. He had a 29-437-1 line with a 43% catch rate and two fumbles. Surprisingly low was Earnest Gray of the Giants, in his only 1,000-yard season. Despite all those yards, Gray only came out with a 47% catch rate and thus had a DVOA below replacement level, giving him -43 receiving DYAR.
Tight Ends: It was Todd Christensen's world and the rest of the tight ends were just living in it. Christensen led all tight ends with 1,255 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, plus he had a 73% catch rate. He was easily the best tight end of 1983 and comes out with one of the top tight end seasons we've ever measured by receiving DYAR:
|Best Receiving DYAR by Tight Ends, 1983-2020|
Paul Coffman of Green Bay was second in touchdowns with 11 and also second with 222 DYAR. Kellen Winslow of San Diego was second in receiving yards with 1,172 and finished third with 186 DYAR. It was another year where Ozzie Newsome's advanced stats don't match his reputation. Newsome wasn't below replacement level like he was in 1984 but he did finish only 11th in receiving DYAR despite finishing third with 970 receiving yards.
Also, this has nothing to do with receiving totals, but Green Bay tight end Gary Lewis blocked five kicks in 1983, including three of them in one game in Week 2 (two field goals and an extra point). Lewis had another five blocked kicks in 1982, including one in the playoffs. These performances led to the "Gary Lewis rule" which prevents players from running up to block a kick if they come down on a player of either team (a.k.a. the "leaping" penalty).
If you've enjoyed the 1983 and 1984 DVOA ratings and commentary over the last couple weeks, you can go back and read our commentaries on other past NFL seasons. Note that the DVOA ratings in these articles are older versions of the formula and may not match what is listed in the FO+ database now. (The later you go in these commentaries, the earlier you go in FO history, and the bigger the difference between DVOA in the article and the current system.)
The next stop in our historical collection of play-by-play is 1981-1982. Here's a list of what we're missing from those years if anyone can help us out. In some cases we're looking for video that fills holes in video we already have.
1982 Week 1 Oilers at Bengals (video missing final 12:57)(FOUND) 1982 Week 14 (Game 6) Saints at Falcons(FOUND)
- 1982 Week 15 (Game 7) Vikings at Lions
1982 Week 16 (Game 8) Giants at Cardinals (video missing last series only)(FOUND) 1982 Week 17 (Game 9) Bengals at Oilers(FOUND)
- 1982 Week 19 (Divisional Round) Vikings at Redskins (video missing a few random plays)
- 1981 Week 1 Jets at Bills (gamebook missing fourth quarter, no video)
1981 Week 3 Packers at Rams (video missing multiple fourth quarter drives)(FOUND) 1981 Week 5 Bengals at Oilers(FOUND) 1981 Week 6 Cardinals at Giants (video missing first 2:00 of the last Cardinals drive)(FOUND) 1981 Week 7 Cardinals at Falcons(FOUND) 1981 Week 8 Giants at Falcons (video missing part of a Falcons drive)(FOUND) 1981 Week 11 Redskins at Giants (video missing multiple drives)(FOUND) 1981 Week 13 Falcons at Oilers (video missing last two drives)(FOUND) 1981 Week 15 Giants at Cardinals (video missing last 19 minutes)(FOUND) 1981 Week 16 Bengals at Falcons (video missing first 13:36)(FOUND)