Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Aug 2010

Who Is To Blame For Bumps, Bruises?

OK, hold on. A reader writes in to the mailbag of the Denver Post's Mark Kiszla...

"Seems to me the Broncos have been among the most injury-prone teams in the NFL for a number of years. Not to mention Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter or Ryan Clady, but isn't it time, with the Elvis Dumervil situation as a catalyst, for team authorities to examine and render insight into the impact of conditioning on elevated injury rates?"

Wait, what? That would be the team whose defensive starters missed ONE game a year ago? And whose offensive starters missed about a dozen games (most coming from one player, Ryan Harris)?

In all fairness, the Broncos did have a couple of years in the wilderness in 2007 (31st in Offensive AGL/20th in Defensive AGL) and 2008 (28th/12th). But they had the healthiest offense in the league in 2005, and were fifth in 2006. And they were the healthiest team in football last year.

So here's my question. I know this is one fan, but do you -- as a reasonably-informed fan -- have a good idea of how healthy or injured your team is, relative to other teams, during the year? Afterwards?

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 08 Aug 2010

21 comments, Last at 09 Aug 2010, 5:40pm by jbrown


by ChicagoRaider :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 12:54pm

My impression is that depth is very different with different teams. The Raiders seemed to be hit very hard by the Robert Gallery injury last year, even though there are a number of teams that would overcome that. But lets face it, Jamarcus Russell being injured would have been a good thing. Addition by subtraction. A QB injury to many other teams would have been a disaster.

So you have to be pretty sophisticated to understand not only who is injured, but what the backup is like to understand these things. I admit, I am better at part one of that analysis than part two, for teams other than the Raiders.

by tunesmith :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 1:03pm

This is most of what most of us (as Broncos fans) are upset about - the big question marks for the team were Elvis' contract, the offensive line depth, and the WRs after the loss of Marshall and Scheffler. So then Elvis goes down, Clady (and Kuper) go down, and then both of our drafted WRs go down. All that's left is for 2-3 of the new DL men to go down and the Broncos could stand a chance of actually being as bad as everyone else thought they would have been anyway. (It's been stylish for people to predict 3-13 records for the Broncos ever since McD became coach.) At least Barnwell is sticking up for McD here, in a sense, by not saying it's the coach's fault.

by Sporran :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 1:13pm

Like with a lot of things, people tend to have selective memories about injuries. It's human nature to attribute good luck to good skill and bad performance to bad luck. Injuries are memorable. A lack of injuries is not -- it's the way the world is supposed to work.

Meanwhile, most "experts" who are supposed to be objective like to pretend that injuries didn't happen the year before, unless it happened to a QB or there were a particularly large number of them. A year from now, we'll be hearing about how awful the Broncos D was this year, and using it as a basis for how they are expected to perform next year, with nary a mention of Elvis's injury. As proof of this, I'll point to the fact that Stewart Bradley is never mentioned when "experts" talk about Philadelphia this year.

by Sundar (not verified) :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 1:25pm

What experts are you talking about? All the Philly sports writers acknowledge Stew as being the key cog. Unless you're talking about the puppets on ESPN, which you shouldn't listen to anyway.

by Sporran :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 3:02pm

Yes, the locals, who follow the team closely, talk about it. I haven't heard any national pundits talk about it, however.

by Sundar (not verified) :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 1:20pm

I've lived in the Denver area since the Broncos won those 2 SB's and this doesn't surprise me at all. I don't want to generalize a whole fan base because it's a great town to enjoy a game. People are far more passionate, I think, than 90% of the cities west of here. There's uninformed fans everywhere but, even the fans who are knowledgeable here are consumed by blind faith. In fact, this is the central complaint of every other transplant I've met, and there's a lot of them. The McD era has tempered that blind faith a bit, though. I will make one reservation: no Denver fan that I know likes Kiszla. Whoever wrote this question is already suspect on that merit. Kiszla's answer is more political than it is relevant. It's too bad that this fan base doesn't have any outlet that provides informed analysis. I still remember Woody Paige writing an article not too long ago that the Broncos should draft Dan Lefevour because some dude strolled up next to him at a bar and suggested it.

by Brendan Scolari :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 3:44pm

"People are far more passionate, I think, than 90% of the cities west of here."

Um, what? There's only 4 places that even have an NFL team west of Denver (Seattle, the Bay Area, San Diego, and Arizona). Which cities are you referring to exactly?

by Sundar (not verified) :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 4:45pm

Let's do the run down...

San Diego- year-in-year out struggle to sell out all their games

Arizona - does this really even require an argument?

The Bay Area - Oakland has already moved to LA once, the 49ers are looking to move to Santa Clara, which is almost an hour outside SF. Both franchises are living off glory that existed a long time ago and have since patronized an already fickle fan base. Now, am I saying there isn't passionate fans there? Obviously, there is, but no matter whose fault it is, if you alienate a fan base it's going to lead to apathy.

Seattle - this one's arguable and I respect them for giving a damn in a city that hasn't experienced virtually any titles in any sports.

Compare this to Denver,
which set the Guinness Book of World Record for the loudest roar in 2000

Have sold out every Bronco game since its inception, aside from 2 games in the replacement 1987 season

Hold the MLB record for largest crowd at an MLB game

Hold the MLS record for largest crowd at an MLS game

Hold the 3rd longest consecutive sell out streak in baseball

Hold the 3rd longest consecutive sell out streak in any sport with The Colorado Avalanche from 1995-2006.

Considering how much smaller Denver is compared to the Bay Area-- this speaks volumes.

by Jerry :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 5:34pm

Not to debate your larger point, but attendance wasn't so good in the early AFL days. I remember seeing an article in the defunct leagues room at the Hall of Fame that talked about how tenuous the Broncos' situation was in Denver before the Phipps brothers bought the team.

AFL attendance numbers. (USFL and XFL, too.)

by Sundar (not verified) :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 6:01pm

Good call, my mistake

They've sold out every game since the merger in 1970

by tuluse :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 1:24pm

Honestly, I rarely see my own team as having good injury luck (although the Bears haven't since 2006).

My opinion fluctuates between they had average injury luck to poor injury luck.

by Basilicus :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 2:05pm

I'd tell you off the top of my head that the Bears have had a lot of bad injury luck in recent years, but that opinion is really just based on defense. It seemed like half our starting defense went down by Week 5 last year, and I know we had some O-line injuries.

As a Bears fan, I can also tell you that our perspective on injury is usually determined by our defense. No Bears fan really worries about offensive injuries, since we may get lucky and chance into a backup who approaches replacement level. Of course, then we'll overpay him and start him another 3-5 years no matter how badly he plays or how often he gets injured, and the cycle starts anew.

by Joseph :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 3:07pm

Personally, I couldn't tell you about any time other than the Saints. Regarding them, I can pretty much tell you how (I think) the team will be affected by so-and-so's injury. Just my two cents.

by Rocco :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 6:11pm

I think most fans a) think their team is hit harder by injuries than any other team, and b) is jobbed by officiating worse than any other team. It's mostly due to perspective- when that's the team you follow the most, you see everything that happens in the game and you can't really give that level of attention to other teams (unless you're unemployed or obsessed with fantasy football, in which case you're likely to end up unemployed).

by dmb :: Mon, 08/09/2010 - 8:30am

Yeah, this.

by Dales :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 8:00pm

I'd say my Giants are relatively healthy but have had a strange habit of concentrating their injuries within one unit (be it WR, LB, DL, DB depending on the year).

by buzzorhowl (not verified) :: Sun, 08/08/2010 - 8:28pm

I mean, obviously my Redskins are pretty bad where those things are concerned, but it's because we're so damn old as a team, not for any reason related to offseason conditioning or whatever this guy is arguing. I'd love for the league to legislate that we need to hire more young guys, but you can't make a rule against stupid hiring decisions.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 08/09/2010 - 1:45am

Is there any study that suggests that training at altitude would cause more injuries?

Could be a physiological reason such as less oxygen to carry white blood cells, or a concentration related one where the players get tired quicker so less co-ordinated.

by erniecohen :: Mon, 08/09/2010 - 6:10am

most fans will tell you that their team has worse-than-average injury luck in most years.

by Fan in Exile :: Mon, 08/09/2010 - 7:34am

I think the problem is that fans as a general rule don't know what the other teams injuries are as well as they know their own. We know when our third string RB is out with bruised ribs, but we never hear about that for another team, so it's easy to think that your own injury rate is higher. I would also point out that we would have lost more games last year if we would have had a legit back up to Kyle Orton. He should have been out but we couldn't start anyone behind him.

by jbrown (not verified) :: Mon, 08/09/2010 - 5:40pm

I remember times during the David Carr era when my friends and I hoped for more (and very specific) injuries on the Texans...does that count?

For the last few years I've felt like the Texans were pretty fortunate to typically only lose one main guy at a time--whether it was AJ, Schaub, ODaniels or whoever--instead of losing them all in bunches.