Brad is right in that Joiner generally played on very good passing teams. That wasn’t the case during his years in Houston, but beginning in 1974, Joiner generally played on top-5 passing teams for over a decade. With the Bengals and Ken Anderson, Joiner’s team ranked 4th in value added over average in 1974, defined as (ANY/A minus league-average ANY/A) multiplied by team pass attempts. The next year, his Bengals led the league in passing Value.
In ’76 and ’77, Joiner was with the Chargers, and San Diego was middle of the road then, ranking 12th (in a 28-team league) both seasons, and the team ranked 18th and 19th in points scored those years as well. But things changed in ’78, when San Diego began its famous ran under Don Coryell.
San Diego ranked 5th in Value in ’78, then 3rd in ’79 and ’80, and then 1st in ’81 and ’82. In ’83, the team was 7th, and rebounded to 4th and 3rd over the next two years. In ’86, Joiner’s final year in the league, the Chargers dropped to 22nd.
A quick count shows nine seasons where Joiner’s team — always with Anderson or Dan Fouts, of course — ranked in the top 5 in passing Value, including three seasons at #1. It’s tough to say exactly how much this was on Joiner; by way of comparison, I wonder how future generations will look at Wes Welker who was on the ’07 Patriots, the ’13 Broncos, and lots of great passing teams in between. But it is one way to craft a pro-Joiner case.
One thing we could do is compare how effective at passing Joiner’s team was in any given season to how large a percentage of the pie Joiner was taking. His best season, by far, in terms of percentage of team receiving yards was in 1976. That season he had 39% of the Chargers receiving yards, and he never topped 26% in any other season. That 39% mark was the 2nd best in the league, so you could say he was a very big part of the Chargers ranking 12th in passing Value. How does that compare to say, 1981, when he ranked 20th in percentage of team receiving yards (at 24%) for the top-passing team in football? I’m not quite sure, but let’s plot the information.
In the graph below, I have plotted in orange where Joiner ranked among all players in football in percentage of team receiving yards, all against the left Y-Axis. Then, I plotted in blue, where Joiner’s team ranked in passing value, measured against the right Y-Axis. Note that I excluded his ’69, ’72 and ’73 seasons.1 Presumably, the place to be is with both lines as high as possible on the graph, although it is up to each of you to determine which line is more important:
Taking a look at this, his ’76 season certainly stands out as noteworthy, and you can see what Brad is talking about with respect to him being a big part of a great passing attack, particularly in’79, ’80, and ’81. Here is the same information in table form:
|Year||Team||Pass Val Rk||Perc Rk||Perc of Tm Rec Yds|
So, what do you think of this as a way of evaluating a wide receiver’s career? Is there a way we can turn this into a metric to evaluate all wide receivers? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
- Why? I only wanted to do this post-merger, and since Joiner had just 77 yards as a rookie, I thought that season was meaningless. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with his ’72 season, since he split his time with two teams, and for ’73, he was hurt and had just 214 yards. It would have distorted the graph to include what is obviously not an important season for his career. [↩]