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Can the Super Bowl Loser's Curse Stop the Eagles?

by Ned Macey

It's all-Philly day at Football Outsiders! The Pro Football Prospectus 2005 book tour hits the Philadelphia suburbs tonight at Chester County Book & Music Company in West Chester, PA. Book signing and Q+A with Aaron Schatz and Mike Tanier at 7:30pm. This article is being edited thanks to wi-fi access at Cosi's at 12th and Walnut.

Most of the contributors to Pro Football Prospectus did not get to see the completed book until it arrived in our mailboxes a few weeks ago. Once I had read everybody else's chapters, my single strongest impression about the upcoming season was that the Eagles were far and away favorites in the NFC. Based on last year's results, I guess this should be obvious. The gap in DVOA (explained here) between the Eagles and the second highest NFC team, Carolina, was 24.5%, roughly the difference between DVOA leader New England and the tenth best team, Kansas City.

The Eagles also have underlying statistical indicators that would indicate improvement. Fumble recoveries are random, attributable primarily to luck, and the Eagles were in the bottom five of the NFL both recovering their own fumbles and their opponents' fumbles. They also had an offense worse on third down than on the first two downs, usually an indicator for future improvement. While Todd Pinkston is out with an injury, the Eagles had almost no off-season personnel subtractions, losing only two starters, Jermane Mayberry and Derrick Burgess.

They seem so strong that our projections have them with an 80% chance of winning at least 11 games and only a 1% chance of winning fewer than seven. The Patriots, on the other hand, have only a 36% chance of winning 11 games and a 17% chance of winning fewer than seven. No other team has even a 55% chance of winning 11 games or under a 10% chance of winning fewer than seven.

With the Eagles seemingly invincible, the most significant obstacle to overcome may be the supposed Super Bowl Loser's Curse. Since the 1998 Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and then followed it up with a 5-11 campaign, only the 2000 Titans have followed up a Super Bowl loss with a playoff appearance. The six teams who have tried to defend their Conference Championship since that date have averaged seven wins in their next season.

Some of this is certainly attributable to basic regression to the mean, but here is a chart with Super Bowl winners, Super Bowl Losers, and Conference Championship game losers with their average DVOA in the season they made it to that point and in the following season.

Final Result DVOA Next Season
Super Bowl Champ 28.8% 15.3%
Super Bowl Loser 21.1% 0.4%
Championship Game Loser 20.0% 13.6%

Obviously such a small sample size means that any wild data points completely skew the results. In an effort to see what may lie ahead for the Eagles, let us look at the fate that befell the previous seven Super Bowl losers. The reasons behind the declines may hint at why Super Bowl losers tend to struggle the following season.

1998 Atlanta Falcons

DVOA 1997 Unknown
DVOA 1998 32.5%
DVOA 1999 -14.1%

The 1998 Falcons must be considered one of the biggest flukes in recent football history. In 1996 and 1997, they combined for 10 wins. In 1998, they won 14 games and had the best team in football according to DVOA. In 1999 and 2000, they combined to win nine games. Much of the decline is usually blamed on the ACL injury to Jamal Anderson. After rushing for 1,846 yards in 1998, he was limited to 19 carries the next season. The team's leading rusher was Ken Oxendine, who split carries with Byron Hanspard. They averaged about 3.0 yards per carry combined.

The lack of running game crippled the passing game, where Chris Chandler went from averaging 9.6 yards per attempt to 7.6 yards per attempt. The departure of Tony Martin left the team without a legitimate second receiver. The overall offense tanked from a DVOA of 8.8% to -12.5%.

To make matters worse for the Falcons, the defense declined almost as much as the offense. The defense went from a DVOA of -19.2% to 0.8%. The defense faced no major changes, other than the departure of the aging Cornelius Bennett. Really, the 1998 Falcons are a major data point in the truism that defense is much more variable than offense. In 1997 (before we have play-by-play data to create DVOA ratings), the Falcons ranked 21st in the league in scoring defense. After ranking 4th in 1998, they fell to 25th in 1999.

1999 Tennessee Titans

DVOA 1998 0.6%
DVOA 1999 20.5%
DVOA 2000 36.1%

The Titans are the one team in recent history that has avoided the Super Bowl Loser's Curse. Instead, the 1999 Titans were building a great team and reached the Super Bowl before their time, much like the 2001 Patriots. The 1999 Titans were a growing team with a still-developing Steve McNair and young defensive players. The "Music City Miracle" allowed them to reach the Super Bowl the year before they actually peaked.

The emergence of young talented players such as Jevon Kearse and Samari Rolle made the Titans the second best defense in football in 2000, and they had the highest overall DVOA in the league. Ironically, injuries to McNair limited his development, and the offense declined slightly in 2000. The Titans, of course, fell to the Ravens in the divisional round in a game in which Al Del Greco missed three field goals, including one blocked that was returned for a touchdown. The Titans proceeded to cut Del Greco and spend their second round pick on a kicker ... oh wait, they picked up Joe Nedney for peanuts.

2000 New York Giants

DVOA 1999 -8.1%
DVOA 2000 9.1%
DVOA 2001 -6.2%

The 2000 season was much like the 2004 season in that the AFC was much stronger than the NFC. Last year, the Eagles were the only NFC team in the top 11 in DVOA. In 2000, the top 5 were all AFC teams, and only two NFC teams were in the top nine. The Giants were neither of these teams, ranking 13th overall and fourth in the NFC. Fortunately for the Giants, the two highest ranked NFC teams, Tampa Bay and St. Louis, got bounced in the first round by inferior teams.

The 2000 Giants were a very balanced team with an offensive DVOA of 7.7% and a defensive DVOA of -7.2%. The next year, the defense remained the same, while the offense fell off to -3.8% DVOA. Looking at personnel, you wonder how they achieved the 7.7% in 2000, as Ron Dayne led the team in carries. In 2001, they saw the emergence of Joe Jurevicius as a legitimate third receiver, and their running game remained roughly the same below-average unit it was in 2000.

The big difference was a pass offense that went from a DVOA of 24.2% (4th in the league) to -2.8% (14th). Most of this drop is attributed to Kerry Collins's inevitable decline after a career year. In 2000, he ranked sixth in the NFL in DVOA, while in 2001 he was 19th. In 2000, he had 22 touchdowns and 18 turnovers. In 2001, he had 18 touchdowns and 21 turnovers. The other major factor was the decline of Amani Toomer, who dropped from third in the league in DPAR to 28th. A year after catching 62.9% of the passes intended for him, he snagged only 50.7% in 2001. This decline in passing was the difference between a good team that made the Super Bowl by taking advantage of weak opponents and a mediocre 7-9 team.

2001 St. Louis Rams

DVOA 2000 18.0%
DVOA 2001 39.6%
DVOA 2002 -2.0%

The rise to greatness of the Patriots over the past couple seasons will lead history to forget that the Pats' victory over the Rams in the 2001 Super Bowl is one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. The Rams had won the Super Bowl in 1999. In 2000, they won 10 games and scored 540 points. In 2001, they were 14-2. Their 39.6% DVOA was comfortably the best in football. The Patriots were 11-5 coming off a 5-11 season. Their DVOA was -1.4%, 16th best in the league.

The 2001 Rams were a truly great team, so one wonders if there was any way to predict the Rams' fall to 7-9 the next season? Faulty memories may blame it on the injuries that drove Kurt Warner out of the lineup, but the Rams were actually 0-5 in the games where Warner got the majority of the snaps, leaving them 7-4 without him. When Marc Bulger got the majority of the snaps, the team was 6-0. Their defense did regress from a DVOA of -20.8% to -5.1%, but that was still the ninth best defense in the league.

The biggest problem was that their offense dropped from 25.6%, first in the league, to -5.7%, 25th in the league. Almost all of this decline was Kurt Warner's mysterious fall from grace. And that mysterious fall, well, remains rather mysterious.

2002 Oakland Raiders

DVOA 2001 16.4%
DVOA 2002 29.8%
DVOA 2003 -15.9%

Of the six teams in this study, the Raiders were the best team the year before they made the Super Bowl and the worst team the year after they made the Super Bowl. The Raiders' Super Bowl berth proved to be the last hurrah of an aging group of players. They had lost the AFC Championship Game in 2000 when Rich Gannon got hurt. In 2001, they lost the infamous "Tuck Bowl." In 2002, without Jon Gruden, they had their best season.

Much of this was credited to a short-passing attack expertly run by Gannon. The next season, Gannon completely fell off, watching his DVOA drop from 25.5% (3rd) to -7.5% (26th). When he went out for the season in Week 7, the Raiders were a dismal 2-5. Without an unknown gem like Marc Bulger on the bench, things only got worse from there. After backup Marques Tuiasosopo went down, the Raiders were forced to rely on Rick Mirer and his predictably substandard -11.4% DVOA.

Unlike with the Rams, the problems were not all with the quarterback. A Week 1 injury to Jerry Porter left the receiving corps without any deep threat. This problem was exacerbated by Father Time finally catching up with Tim Brown and Jerry Rice. Brown failed to catch 75 passes for the first time since 1992, hauling in only 52. Rice caught only 63 balls, his lowest total in a full season since his rookie year in 1985. Both Brown and Rice's careers as productive players were effectively over.

While the team's offense was the bulk of the decline, the Raiders defense also declined severely, from a DVOA of -8.9% (5th) to 8.7% (25th). Again, much of this was due to age. Bill Romanowski's career was ended. Rod Woodson missed six games and retired after the season. Trace Armstrong was injured, ending his career. Sam Adams and Tory James had moved on to finish their careers elsewhere, already hurting their defensive depth.

2003 Carolina Panthers

DVOA 2002 -16.6%
DVOA 2003 -5.1%
DVOA 2004 0.1%

Although the Panthers went from 11-5 and three points away from Super Bowl champions to just 7-9 the next year, according to DVOA they were actually better in 2004 than in 2003. The only team they beat in 2003 with a winning record was the Indianapolis Colts. Last season, the Panthers were decimated by injuries: Stephen Davis, DeShaun Foster, Steve Smith, and Kris Jenkins. Still, the defense was actually better according to DVOA, and the offense was above average for the first time this decade (albeit at 0.1%).

The Panthers in fact are a good representation of the common myth surrounding Super Bowl runners-up. They took advantage of a weak schedule to propel them into the playoffs and used three hot weeks to get to the Super Bowl. Injuries may have prevented them from taking a giant leap forward, but it is hard to call the Panthers' missing the playoffs the result of the curse given that they actually became a better team.

Adding it all together, the reasons for the Super Bowl curse do not seem to be so much a mysterious hex as predictable flaws. The 1998 Falcons turned out to be a fluke, and a massive injury to Jamal Anderson exacerbated the problems. The Rams and Raiders suffered from the decline of their quarterbacks, with the Raiders adding in a team-wide breakdown caused by an aging nucleus. The Giants and the Panthers were just not great teams: mild decline by the Giants left them out of the playoffs, and mild improvement by the Panthers was not enough when their luck evened out.

The Eagles do not seem to have any of the issues named above. They have been a consistently excellent team for the past five seasons and are unlikely to be one-year wonders like the Falcons. They were much better than the 2000 Giants or 2003 Panthers, so a mild decline would still be enough to get them into the playoffs.

The two more comparable cases are the Raiders and Rams, teams who had been very good for several seasons and excellent the year they made the Super Bowl. The Raiders fell apart because of an aging roster. The Eagles, thanks to shrewd management, have not held the same aging core together. Instead, they have constantly been reshuffling, bringing in and developing young players and letting older players leave via free agency. Their oldest projected starters this year are Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens, both of whom turn 32 this season.

We cannot yet project decline for individual defenders, but Dawkins certainly still appears to be very good. For offensive players, we can run similarity scores to get an idea of their upcoming contributions. Fears about Owens aging seem very misplaced. If you look at Owens' three-year comparables, the first name on the list is Jerry Rice after the 1992 season. The next year, all Rice did was catch 98 balls for 1503 yards and 15 touchdowns. Of Owens's top 10 most similar players, all but two had at least 900 receiving yards the next season, and four had 1399 or more yards. Considering everyone on this list was at least 29 in his most similar season, Owens appears to be in good shape.

As for the major stumbling block for the Rams, the sudden decline of Kurt Warner, the Eagles seem to have less to worry about with Donovan McNabb. Back to similarity scores, McNabb's top comp is also one of the game's greats: Joe Montana after his 1984 season. Among McNabb's top 10 comps are Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme from last year, and we don't know what they will do this coming season, but out of the other eight, only Steve McNair in 2004 failed to throw for at least 3000 yards, and he is only the 10th best comp. Given that McNabb sat out two games last season, his overall stats likely would have been even stronger, pulling in an even more impressive list of comparable players.

Still, the fact is that since 1999 only the 2000 Titans have made the playoffs after losing the Super Bowl the previous year, and then they suffered one of the most painful losses in recent playoff memory. No easily predictable reason may exist for the Eagles to miss the playoffs, but here are three possibilities:

Injuries: The Falcons, Rams, Raiders, and Panthers all suffered a rash of injuries that contributed to them missing the playoffs. The Eagles have already lost Todd Pinkston. Another wide receiver injury, particularly to Owens, would leave a team that made the NFC Championship with James Thrash as their # 1 on the outside a couple years ago. Also, a couple injuries to the secondary would severely limit the ability of defensive coordinator Jim Johnson to be creative.

Internal Dissension: Cory Simon, Brian Westbrook, and Terrell Owens are all unhappy with their contracts. I think once the games start this will have no impact, but it is certainly not ideal.

Madden Jinx: Not only do the Eagles have to overcome the jinx of Super Bowl losers, but Donovan McNabb is on the cover of the premiere NFL video game. The players who have previously been on the cover have struggled individually or battled injuries. Also, not one team which had a player on the cover has made the playoffs. If McNabb and the Eagles go down, it may prove that all the statistical indicators in the world cannot overcome two powerful curses.


by elhondo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 4:30pm

The frogurt is also cursed.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 4:32pm

Maybe the Madden jinx and Super Bowl jinx will counter-act each other.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 4:34pm

Does the frogurt come with a free topping?

by Josh (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 4:53pm

Well, apparently TO left campt today, not great news for Eagles avoiding the Super Bowl Loser curse

by goeagles (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 4:53pm

How about this curse: TO has left training camp.

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:01pm

I was looking at the 'Madden Jinx', and the players who were jinxed were Eddie George (who actually did make the playoffs and lost), Culpepper, and Vick. Perhaps the players are jinxed because EA chooses young breakout players who might not be as consistent as other players. Ray Lewis was on the 05 cover, and whether he's overrated or just doesn't fit the 3-4 is debatable. The point I think I'm trying to make is that EA's generally chosen players who are 'cool', not players who'll consistently have a good year (because who would buy a game with Curtis Martin on the front?).

On the supporting side, Madden himself being on the cover all those years would explain why he's gotten so bad in the booth. Maybe he was just jinxed since 1992...

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:02pm

The topping contains potassium benzoate.

That's bad.

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:04pm

Sorry about the double post...I wanted to link to this article, about Madden and other cover jinxes (cool if you're into video games). Also, I think Owens was told to leave, or at least that's what ESPN's site is saying. Somehow I don't think he's getting that new contract...

by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:07pm

One thing I'm interested in seeing, though, is the average DVOA the following year for teams not named "Eagles" when they lose the conference championship. Sure, it looks like losing it will result in less of a dip than losing the Super Bowl, but Philly does skew those numbers (especially last season).

And I don't believe in curses, so I won't fall back on those if I don't see da Iggles pull it out this year.

by Ned (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:34pm

Ask and you shall receive. Taking all three Eagles performances out has little impact. The overall DVOA the year they make the Conference Championship goes to 19.2%. For the following season, it falls to 10.3%, still much better than Super Bowl Losers.

Every Conference Championship loser besides the Vikings after their loss to the Giants had a positive DVOA the next season.

by Ray (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:36pm

TO leaving camp is worrying. But I still think he'll be back to play in the games. I'm more worried about a Carolina-like rash of injuries. It could happen to any team, including the Eagles.

by Teddy (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:38pm

Curse or no, playing without their top 3 wideouts from the year before (whihc would be the case if TO's fit of pique today somehow extends through the RS) would be about the only thing that should stop Philly in the NFC.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:48pm

Somehow I doubt the Eagles are going to struggle to replace the impact of Fredex and "Ow, my Pinkie"-ston.

by El Angelo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:50pm

Isn't a big chunk of the reason the Iggles are projected to hit such a high win number is their schedule? Consider who they play this year:

-Washington (2x)
-Dallas (2x)
-Giants (2x)
-@ Atlanta
-San Francisco
-@ KC
-San Diego
-@ Denver
-Green Bay
-@ St. Louis
-@ Arizona

Obviously, it's a bit foolhardy to predict who will be how good at the beginning of the year, but that's a RIDICULOUSLY easy schedule. If you gave the Bills that schedule, they'd be likely to win 11 games.

by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 5:54pm

If TO does leave, then the Ewing Theory (Effect) will counteract the Loser's Curse. Maybe that's Reid's plan.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 6:03pm

Ah, this article reminds me of Aaron's utter frustration with the Carolina Panthers during January of 2004. That was very amusing, as I believe it was one of my very first experiences with the site.

by Arkaein (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 7:02pm

Am I the only one who thinks that Kurt Warner's decline wasn't all that mysterious? Disclosure: I've never thought that Warner was all that great, but that he was merely a good QB surrounded by incredible talent.

The 2000 season provided some early evidence of this, as Trent Green filled in for an injured Warner and statistically the offense didn't miss a beat. A lot of people said that Green wasn't as good as Warner largely because the Rams weren't winning as much as the previous year, but I didn't buy it, and DPAR/DVOA backs me up. Green was terrific in 2000, while Warner was good but only 9th overall by DVOA.

Warner was back on track in 2001 , and the real decline in the Rams offense came in 2002. What happened in 2002? My answer is that Marshall Faulk started to break down. He was one of the most dominant offensive players ever from 1999-2001, and fit perfectly into the Rams offense. In 2002 he battled injuries, and I think the added pressure on Warner to carry the offense did more than any of his own injuries to sink the Rams offense. Marshall Faulk was always the most important player for the Rams, and Warner was a big beneficiary.

by JCD (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 8:39pm

Is there a Madden curse? Eddie George had a great season after being on the cover:

"The Titans, of course, fell to the Ravens in the divisional round in a game in which Al Del Greco missed three field goals, including one blocked that was returned for a touchdown. The Titans proceeded to cut Del Greco and spend their second round pick on a kicker … oh wait, they picked up Joe Nedney for peanuts."

Culpepper and Faulk had worst seasons the year after their supposed cover cursed seasons and Ray Lewis was fine last year. Yeah Vick got injured, but aren't there always concerns about Vick getting hurt?

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 8:42pm

I think Warner is extremely accurate, fairly tough (he seems to take a lot of huge hits without flinching), extremely resilient and very smart.

His lack of mobility hurts. When protected, he's deadly.

I still don't know how long it's been since he has played under 100% health. All those thumb problems had to have hurt him. I thought he played well in New York last year despite a lack of protection. He fumbled 12 times (losing 4)! I bet that thumb still wasn't healed. Despite all the pressure he faced last year, he still completed 62% of his passes. Manning completed 48% for the Giants.

I'm not ready to throw dirt on his grave just yet.

Is it now?

by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 8:44pm

I don't know why my post says "is it now?"

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 9:03pm

The thing about Warner, I think, that is accentuated when a lot of pressure is put on him, is how he holds the ball. He holds it very far back, with only, I believe, his pinky on the laces. I think this makes it much easier to lose accuracy when throwing on the run and to fumble.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 10:12pm

I would suspect the 2003 Panthers may one of the few teams to EVER make it to the SB with a neagtive overall DVOA that season

I always thought the 85 Pats and/or the 94 San Diegos were the weakest teams ever to make it to the big game; maybe the Panthers were worser

by Vince (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 10:19pm

From Webster's:

fluke n. 1. An accidentally good or successful billiards or pool stroke. 2. A stroke of good fortune.

fluky also flukey adj. 1. Resulting merely from chance.

The 1998 Atlanta Falcons were not a fluke. They showed ridiculous improvement and then immediate decline, but that does not mean they were lucky to accomplish what they did. They played great almost all year, beat their division rival San Francisco in the playoffs, then went up to Minnesota and beat the league's best offense on the road. And before any of you mention Gary Anderson, don't forget that the Vikings had (I think) two more possessions to score in overtime and still couldn't do it.

And then the Falcons got spanked by Denver. I'm curious, if they had won the Super Bowl, would people still call them "flukes?"

by Arkaein (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2005 - 11:00pm

Richie, I think you have a pretty good assessment of Warner, but I don't know if I'd say he was good last year. His DVOA was just below zero. Of course his supporting cast didn't help.

I personally have a hard time calling any QB great when they can't put up at least above average numbers without a great supporting cast. Guys like Marino, Favre, Elway have had long careers where for at least a few years they've put up above average stats with some poor WRs. Between his thumb injuries and his age Warner may not really get a good chance to show his abilities with average support, but I just can't give him that much credit when I feel that at least a half dozen QBs might have matched his stats during his MVP years for those Rams teams.

by MrBobMan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 1:03am

Couple other facts related to Warner:

-Don't forget that he suffered a mild concussion during the season opener in 2003 against the Giants. I can't remember for sure but I think he also suffered another mild concussion sometime in 2002 also.

-Orlando Pace was injured for part of the 2002 season also. Considering the fact that Warner is known for holding onto the ball for a long time, I think this could be a strong factor in his decline.

by MMM (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 3:33am

Regarding the Madden/SI/runner-up/etc curse: This is usually an example of regression to the mean. A player/team will often get the cover of a videogame or magazine (or make it to the Superbowl) after a break out year.

Often, such extraordinary displays are due to exceeding one's actual ability. When this happens it is expected that scores will regress back to the mean. When this happens consistantly to a player or team that is made to stand out for their extraordinary accomplishments it makes the subsequent regression seem to be the result of a curse. In actuality, the player's stats are merely experiencing something that could more appropriately be considered a 'correction'.

This is why Peyton will not throw anywhere close to 49 TDs this year. His numbers started regressing back to his career mean of ~2TDs a game in the last month of the season. Had he kept up the pace that was threatening to shatter the record (rather than just dribble past it as he ended up doing) and returned to 2TDs a game this season it would have been deemed a disappointment.

by turgy22 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 10:02am

Regarding the Warner debate:
I always thought his severe decline was due to the horrendous playcalling at the beginning of the 2002 season. If I recall correctly, Martz had him throwing the ball 45-50 times a game, presumably because he thought Warner was some sort of infallible football tossing god (it also could have to do with Faulk's injury.) So every defense ignored the run, added extra coverage, put all the pressure on the QB and came up with a bundle of sacks. When Warner got injured, Martz had to deal with the inexperienced Bulger and dropped the passing plays down to 30-35 per game, which, of course, makes sense and forced defenses to be honest.
I don't really buy the "great supporting cast" theory mostly for this reason, since Bulger was basically dealing with the same personnel around him that Warner was.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 10:22am

And then the Falcons got spanked by Denver. I’m curious, if they had won the Super Bowl, would people still call them “flukes?�
Yes, they would.

As for Warner, I always thought his decline in 2002 was directly attributed to the pounding he took in SB 36. In 2002, he started getting rattled easier, and more significantly, his hand injury was drasticly affecting his throwing motion and his ability to hold onto the ball.

by MrBobMan (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 11:59am

One more fact about Warner's 2002 season:

-Warner started 6 games that season. 4 of those starts were against playoff teams (@Denver, NYG, @Tampa Bay, @Philly). 1 of them was @Washington w/out Marshall Faulk (he was injured). The other game was against Dallas at home, but he got injured and left the game in the first half.

I think a schedule like that would make any QB regress a little bit.

by Cameron (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 1:08pm

So several months ago (before I came across this site) I had wonder what makes a Super Bowl team, statistically speaking, a Super Bowl winner. I gathered, with my limited resources, the two contender’s regular season Win/Lose total and Points For/Against for the last 20 years. To track trends I divide them up into the last 20, 15, 10 and 5 year averages.

One thing I got a laugh out of last year was Ron Jaworski rolling out the Kansas City Chiefs “Super Bowl Blueprint� every Sunday and then having his teeth kicked every Sunday by his colleagues when the Chiefs underperformed. He clung to the notion of a huge Chief mid-season turnaround because they had the “Blueprint�. By the end of the season I thought about putting together a “Save Jaworski from the Blueprint� petition after seeing him look like a scolded dog every time KC flopped. I always wondered what was in that thing, whatever it was it had him convinced; I think the “Blueprint� wasn’t nearly at fault as was Dick Vermeils record of constantly underachieving teams.

Every time I saw that book I wondered, what is the difference between a Super Bowl winner and a Super Bowl loser? Just basing it off a few simple regular season numbers I didn’t expect to find much and because I couldn’t easily find 20 years of hardcore data like passing/rushing yrds/tds, penalties, sack/turnover numbers, etc. I went the easy route and came up with some fairly straight forward numbers to see if there was anything of interest.

5 Year Averages Wins Loses WP PF PA Margin of victory
Super Bowl Winners 12.6 3.4 .788 22.9 14.2 8.8
Super Bowl Losers 12.2 3.8 .763 24.9 17.4 7.5
Difference 0.4 -0.4 .025 -1.9 -3.2 1.3

10 Year Averages
Super Bowl Winners 12.7 3.3 .794 26.4 15.4 11.0
Super Bowl Losers 12.3 3.7 .769 25.4 18.2 7.2
Difference 0.4 -0.4 .025 1.0 -2.8 3.8

15 Year Averages
Super Bowl Winners 12.8 3.2 .800 26.4 15.3 11.1
Super Bowl Losers 12.2 3.8 .763 25.2 18.1 7.2
Difference 0.6 -0.6 .037 1.2 -2.8 3.9

20 Year Averages
Super Bowl Winners 12.8 3.2 .802 26.2 15.5 10.7
Super Bowl Losers 11.9 4.0 .750 25.1 18.0 7.0
Difference 0.9 -0.8 .052 1.1 -2.5 3.6

Over the last 20 years the Win-Lose record for the two Super Bowl contenders has narrowed from nearly a whole game to just under a half a game. The real interest comes from the points for and points against. The first 15 Super Bowl winners averaged over 26 points a game where the losers averaged about a point less a game, but according to this the last 5 years that trend has dropped by nearly 4 points for the winners and only half a point for the losers, but I want to go back to Dick Vermeil for a minute.

I remember an interview with Dick in his second season with the Rams. The interview was about him changing the spending and drafting of players for the Rams because his research showed that Super Bowl winners over the last decade scored “closer to� 30 points a game and his reasoning for the team becoming less built around defense and more around offense. The ’99 year the Rams won the Super Bowl they won in the regular season by a margin of 17.8 points a game (32.9 for 15.1 against). That is by far the largest total by any Super Bowl team in the last 20 years. The next 2 closest teams where the ‘91 Redskins 16.3 (30.3 for 14 against) and the of coarse the ’85 bears 16.1 (28.5 for 12.4 against). If you look at the 2000 season you will see a huge difference and possibly the philosophy change finally catching up: 2000 St. Louis Rams, a 10-6 record, 33.8 for 29.4 against for a 4.3 margin of victory. That’s a difference in defense of 14.3 points or two scores more a game. I think the view that Defense was not nearly as important as Offense caught up the 2000 Rams but that changed in 2001.

If you look at the numbers for points against for Super Bowl winners over the last 20 years you’ll a constant trend, they tend to average (keyword) 15.5 points a game. The ’99 Rams where right on pace with 15.1. If you jump forward to the 2001 season the Rams where back in the swing of things with a margin of victory of 14.4 a game (31.4/ 17.1) but came across the up and coming New England Patriots. The Patriots numbers that year where not real impressive: 23.2F / 17A / 6.2 MOV. Four teams scored more points a game and five teams gave up fewer points. Six teams even had a better margin of victory then the New England Patriots did but that was the difference. This was one of two Super Bowl anomalies.

The last 20 years show that the Super Bowl winner gives up fewer points than their loser counter part. For the 2001 Super Bowl that held true by only a tenth of a point. Only TWICE in the last 20 years this hasn’t held true. The ’97 & ’98 Denver Broncos. After 12 years of undisturbed statistical perfection the Denver Broncos came along and crapped on everything. The numbers:


Denver 12-4 29.5 17.9 11.6
Green Bay 13-3 26.4 17.6 8.8

Denver 14-2 31.3 19.3 12
Atlanta 14-2 27.6 18.1 9.6

What’s funny is that it was done by the same team in back to back years. If you looked at those two games you wouldn’t see anything crazy in the box score: Denver beat Green Bay by 7 and Atlanta by 15. If you add then together and divide by 2 you get 11 or almost their margin of victory over the regular season for the past two years. I guess the first reaction to describing this would be the clear difference in margin of victory but that brings us the other Super Bowl anomaly: The 2001 Super Bowl winning New England Patriots. Only 3 times in the last 20 years has a Super Bowl winning team had a below margin of victory to their Super Bowl opponent and that was the aforementioned, the 1990 New York Giants and the 1988 San Francisco 49ers.


New England Patriots 11-5 23.2 17 6.2
St. Louis Rams 14-2 31.4 17.1 14.3

New York Giants 13-3 20.9 13.2 7.8
Buffalo Bills 13-3 26.8 16.4 10.3

San Francisco 49ers 10-6 23.1 18.4 4.7
Cincinnati Bengal’s 12-4 28 20.6 7.4

The difference here? The points against. Unfortunately I don’t have any data to track these teams strength of schedule for these years but it would be interesting to see if there was any correlation, but this actually point to an increasing NFL trend. If you took every team that has made the Super Bowl the last 20 years and combined their numbers you would see this:

20 year Super Bowl Teams Combined (winner & loser)
Regular Season Averages
Wins Loses PF PA MOV
12.4 3.6 25.6 16.8 8.8

And then if you look at this:

5 Year Averages Wins Loses PF PA MOV
Super Bowl Winners 12.6 3.4 22.9 14.2 8.8
Super Bowl Losers 12.2 3.8 24.9 17.4 7.5

And this:

5 Year Averages Combined
Wins Loses PF PA MOV
12.4 3.6 23.9 15.8 8.15

A couple of things stand out. First the teams of the last 5 years have averaged the exact same win/lose record as the 20 year combined average. Next the average margin of victory for the last 20 years is the same as the last 5 Super Bowl winners. The difference in the margin of victory for Super Bowl winners and losers:

20 Year Averages Margin of victory
Super Bowl Winners 10.7
Super Bowl Losers 7.0
Difference 3.6

15 Year Averages
Super Bowl Winners 11.1
Super Bowl Losers 7.2
Difference 3.9

10 Year Averages
Super Bowl Winners 11.0
Super Bowl Losers 7.2
Difference 3.8

5 Year Averages
Super Bowl Winners 8.8
Super Bowl Losers 7.5
Difference 1.3

It would seem that not only are Super Bowl losers scoring more than Super Bowl winners, they’re closing the gap between them and the Super Bowl winners by MOV. Well, not quite, remember that one anomaly of 2001 where the New England Patriots had a MOV of 6.2 and the St. Louis Rams had a MOV of 14.3 yet the Patriots still won?


New England Patriots 11-5 23.2 17 6.2
St. Louis Rams 14-2 31.4 17.1 14.3

Well take that game out of the last 5 years and you get a MOV difference of…………wait for it…….. 3.6 or right on the 20 year average!

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 2:21pm

"Somehow I doubt the Eagles are going to struggle to replace the impact of Fredex and “Ow, my Pinkie-ston."

B's comment reminded me of something I saw on TV last night that I have to share with FO.

Last night I watched the premiere of "Wild On" on E! hosted by Tara Reid. Fantastic train wreck material, by the way. Highly recommended. Tara is in Greece hanging out at various clubs and hotels when who should she run across one day? None other than a vacationing Fredex! Thaaat's right. I straightened up in my seat, leaning toward the TV in anticipation of a Tara-Fred conversation that would blow the roof off Bill Simmons' Unintentional Comedy Scale. I was not disappointed. Tara explained to the viewers at home that Fred is a "legend" in the NFL. He proceeded to drop his shorts and walk around with his shirt tucked in to his tighty whities, rambling things like, "I'm not doin' nuthin', Mama." Wow. Must see TV.

by NYCowboy (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 3:41pm

That's awesome. I've got to see the rerun.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 4:01pm

Tanier and I were driving to the Philly book tour appearance yesterday and who shows up on WIP to talk about the Terrell Owens suspension but ... yep ... FredEx. That guy is everywhere!

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2005 - 10:04pm

When I'm running the NFL Network II, there WILL be a reality series starring Fredex, ala Being Bobby Brown.

by Yellowknifer (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 4:18am

The 98 Niners never would have lost to the Falcons had Hearst not gone down. He was literally running all over them. That was a depressing game.

by Rick "32_Footsteps" Healey (not verified) :: Fri, 08/12/2005 - 4:36pm

Beedubyuh, the world became just a bit mroe amusing because you shared that. I'm just imagining that in my mind, and I don't even need to see the rerun. That's getting filed in my memory right next to LaVar Arrington's chess room.

by wyote (not verified) :: Fri, 08/19/2005 - 3:39am

Another thing to consider:

The Eagles have improved every year under Andy Reid. Many observers say that they are yet better this year.

The Eagles actually return 23 starters: Derrick Burguess was a backup last year, until an injury to ND Kalu forced him into the starting lineup.

The other lost starter is replaced by Shawn Andrews, which should be a very big improvement, actually.

So, only two things are going to keep the Eagles out of the Super Bowl: a disappointing play-off performance, or a great showing by Carolina.

Finally, I think the TO circus will actually make the Eagles better, because they--the whole team, as well as TO personally--will have a chip on their shoulder despite being favored against everyone except God and Karl Rove.

by t.d. (not verified) :: Fri, 07/07/2006 - 6:04am

or,maybe the T.O. circus will be a problem and they'll implode