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In 2014, the Denver Broncos ranked 4th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt; in case you forgot, Peyton Manning‘s “struggles” last year were really confined to the back end of the season. This year, the Broncos rank 31st in ANY/A, as Manning has been terrible and Brock Osweiler has been far below average. The Broncos ANY/A has dropped from 7.67 to 4.90, a decline of 2.77 ANY/A.

But that’s not even the biggest decline of 2015. Last year, the Dallas Cowboys ranked 2nd in ANY/A at 7.96; this year, without Tony Romo, the team is dead last at 4.76, for a decline of 3.20 ANY/A. Here is the full list of how passing offenses have improved/declined from 2014, which also shows why Carson Palmer is a pretty good choice for MVP:

RkTm2014 ANY/A2015 ANY/ADiff
1Arizona Cardinals6.198.532.35
2Jacksonville Jaguars3.976.142.17
3Cincinnati Bengals5.817.972.16
4Oakland Raiders4.566.521.97
5New York Jets4.756.541.78
6Tampa Bay Buccaneers4.836.461.62
7Carolina Panthers5.847.251.41
8Seattle Seahawks6.727.861.14
9Buffalo Bills5.656.771.13
10Chicago Bears5.446.451.01
11Minnesota Vikings4.885.760.88
12New England Patriots6.927.690.77
13Washington Redskins5.956.700.76
14Kansas City Chiefs6.046.640.61
15Cleveland Browns5.606.000.40
16New York Giants6.666.920.26
17San Diego Chargers6.406.640.25
18Tennessee Titans5.495.680.19
19New Orleans Saints6.766.850.08
20Miami Dolphins5.825.69-0.12
21Detroit Lions6.065.78-0.28
22St. Louis Rams5.485.06-0.42
23Houston Texans6.285.84-0.44
24San Francisco 49ers5.595.08-0.51
25Philadelphia Eagles6.055.45-0.60
26Atlanta Falcons6.695.82-0.87
27Pittsburgh Steelers7.816.82-0.99
28Baltimore Ravens6.665.41-1.26
29Green Bay Packers8.396.50-1.90
30Indianapolis Colts7.275.13-2.14
31Denver Broncos7.674.90-2.77
32Dallas Cowboys7.964.76-3.20

Drastic swings in ANY/A more common long ago, when teams threw fewer passes (leading to unsustainable high/low ANY/A averages driven by small sample sizes) and interceptions (which cause large swings in ANY/A) were also a bit more varied. The 1932 Cardinals had a respectable 3.9 AY/A average1 which was the product of 2 TDs, 4 INTs, and a 5.0 Y/A average on 126 passes. In 1933, on 139 passes, the Cardinals averaged 3.4 Y/A with 3 TDs and … thirty interceptions, which caused the team’s AY/A average to plummet by 9.77 to -5.90. No other team in history is even within 3.5 AY/A of that sort of decline.

If we limit our sample to just the post-merger era, the Cowboys decline would rank as the 4th worst ever. The table below shows the biggest declines in ANY/A, year over year, from 1970 to 2014. It also lists the quarterback with the most pass attempts in both seasons:

RkTmYrYr N ANY/AQB Yr NYr N-1 ANY/AQB Yr N-1Diff
1ATL1974-0.02Bob Lee4.82Bob Lee-4.84
2MIN20104.08Brett Favre7.70Brett Favre-3.62
3GNB19702.42Bart Starr5.70Don Horn-3.28
4BAL19731.90Marty Domres5.06Marty Domres-3.16
5RAM19812.69Pat Haden5.82Vince Ferragamo-3.13
6BOS19701.07Joe Kapp4.14Mike Taliaferro-3.07
7WAS19925.31Mark Rypien8.33Mark Rypien-3.02
8MIN20054.94Brad Johnson7.95Daunte Culpepper-3.01
9SFO19714.62John Brodie7.60John Brodie-2.98
10BAL19782.44Bill Troup5.38Bert Jones-2.94
11OAK19774.15Ken Stabler7.08Ken Stabler-2.93
12OAK20034.08Rich Gannon6.94Rich Gannon-2.86
13NYG19733.39Norm Snead6.18Norm Snead-2.79
14NWE20086.00Matt Cassel8.77Tom Brady-2.77
15GNB20054.31Brett Favre7.05Brett Favre-2.74
16CLE20083.32Derek Anderson6.04Derek Anderson-2.72
17NYJ19733.38Al Woodall6.06Joe Namath-2.68
18CIN20083.46Ryan Fitzpatrick6.14Carson Palmer-2.68
19MIA20094.52Chad Henne7.19Chad Pennington-2.67
20BUF19823.34Joe Ferguson6.00Joe Ferguson-2.67
21SFO19994.56Jeff Garcia7.23Steve Young-2.66
22KAN19772.71Mike Livingston5.34Mike Livingston-2.64
23OAK20062.67Andrew Walter5.30Kerry Collins-2.64
24DET19772.14Greg Landry4.73Greg Landry-2.59
25STL20073.78Marc Bulger6.37Marc Bulger-2.59
26SEA19921.70Stan Gelbaugh4.22Dave Krieg-2.52
27DAL19724.09Craig Morton6.61Roger Staubach-2.52
28TEN20045.21Billy Volek7.73Steve McNair-2.51
29DET19964.53Scott Mitchell7.03Scott Mitchell-2.50
30BUF19763.35Gary Marangi5.85Joe Ferguson-2.50

In 1973, Bob Lee led a solid Falcons passing attack that averaged 4.82 ANY/A, good enough for 10th best in the 26-team NFL. In 1974, Lee, Pat Sullivan, and Kim McQuiklen were disasters, throwing four touchdowns against 31 interceptions, producing an ANY/A of -0.02.

In 2009, Brett Favre had one of the best seasons of his career; in what may have foreshadowed what has happened to Manning, he then had arguably the worst season of his career at age 41. A similar story involves Bart Starr, who fell off dramatically from his age 35 season in 1969 to his age 36 season in 1970.

At this page, the 2015 Cowboys will occupy the next spot on the list. It’s been that kind of year for Dallas. The Cowboys rank 1st in interception rate and yet in the bottom three in both touchdown rate and yards per completion; that sort of high-risk, low-reward passing attack is tough to pull off.

  1. For seasons prior to 1969, we have to use AY/A, not ANY/A, due to the lack of sack data available. []
    • That is the article that made me think of this.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Tony Romo was already showing signs of decline this season, and the Cowboys will likely have worse passing offense numbers moving forward from what Romo delivered in the past. He’ll be 36 next season, with a history of back and shoulder issues. Look for Dallas to target either Manziel or RG3 in the offseason, with a high draft choice at the QB position as well. No way will Jerry Jones will stand pat and hope Romo regains his 2014 form with a mediocre running game. Looking back, the window of opportunity in the Romo era probably ended with the GB playoff loss. Those 2014 Cowboys had a successful formula going, and had already knocked off Seattle at their place in the regular season.

    • Richie

      “Tony Romo was already showing signs of decline this season”

      How so? He didn’t really play enough to draw a conclusion like that, but he played pretty well before getting hurt. He played almost 2 games before getting hurt. During that time, he completed 75% of his passes with a passer rating of 98.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Aging QBs with injury histories can still occasionally perform well, but staying on the field becomes more difficult, and the bad results become more common. At 36 next year, I would be stunned if Romo completes a full season, and we’ll start to see his numbers drop. His mobility is declining, and the Dallas running game isn’t a threat like it was in 2014. I see 2016 as a transition season, with a 37 year old Romo in more of a reserve role in 2017. We never like to see the end of players we admire or root for, but father time is undefeated.

  • Wolverine

    Very surprised to not see the 1999 Falcons here. I remember that Chris Chandler had one of the great fluke seasons in 1998. In 1999, Jamal Anderson got hurt, and Chandler (himself battling injuries) came back to earth.

    • Richie

      It looks like Chandler took 45 sacks in 1998, which brought down his ANY/A. He averaged 9.6 yards/attempt that year!

      Interesting note I just saw: Most players with a Y/A over 9 have a lower ANY/A than Y/A, but in 2004 Manning was only sacked 13 times and bumped his 9.17 Y/A to 9.78 ANY/A. Wow.