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The Jacksonville Jaguars have what appears to be a historically dominant defense this year (more on this later in the week). But here’s a simple way to look at it: Jacksonville is allowing just 8.0 points per game in wins this season, and has won just one game where it allowed more than 10 points. The Ravens have had a similar run of success (3 of the team’s 7 wins have come in shutouts) and the Giants have won just two games (but the defense played well in both); the other teams have all allowed an average of 13 points per game or more in wins. You can see how many points each team has allowed in wins and losses this season here.

But I think we are all a bit surprised to see a Blake Bortles led team sport an 8-4 record, and it would hardly be surprising to see the Jaguars win 10 or 11 games this year (Houston and San Francisco are still on the schedule). So when we look back and say how the heck did this happen, well, obviously the defense dominating in wins played a huge role. How huge?

Among quarterbacks since 1950 to win at least 6 games in a season, only 58 played on teams that allowed fewer than 10 points per game in wins. Of those 58, 13 played between 1950 and 1969, another 16 played from 1970 to 1977, and another 9 played from 1978 to 1989.

That means just 20 played from 1990 to 2016, and only 8 from 2002 to 2016. That’s about one every two years, and right now, Bortles and Joe Flacco are poised to join the list. When you look back and see that Kyle Orton once won 10 games, or Mark Sanchez had a winning record, or a 37-year-old Jeff Garcia went 8-5, well, this list helps clarify things.

RkQuarterbackTeamYearWWin %PA/G in WsPA/G in Ls
1Mike KruczekPIT197661.0004.2--
2Pat HadenRAM197780.8005.922.0
3Brad JohnsonTAM200370.4386.624.2
4Bobby HebertNOR199180.8897.020.0
5Jim McMahonCHI198470.7787.130.5
6Otto GrahamCLE195490.7507.232.3
7Dave BrownNYG199660.3757.325.3
7Jim PlunkettSFO197660.5007.320.5
9Jim McMahonCHI198870.7787.430.5
10Mark BrunellJAX200160.4007.524.6
11Bob GrieseMIA197970.5837.622.6
12Kyle OrtonCHI2005100.6677.721.6
13Dave WilsonNOR198660.4627.824.7
14Trent DilferTAM199970.7008.121.3
15Gary CuozzoMIN197160.7508.216.5
16James HarrisRAM1975110.8468.221.0
16Billy WadeCHI1963110.8578.220.0
18Boomer EsiasonNYJ199380.5008.322.6
18Joe KappMIN1969120.9238.310.0
20Gary CuozzoMIN1970100.8338.316.5
21Bubby BristerPIT199090.5638.323.6
21Fran TarkentonMIN197760.6678.326.0
23Mark SanchezNYJ200980.5338.423.7
23Jeff GarciaTAM200780.6158.424.2
25Jake PlummerDEN200670.6368.426.5
26Jim McMahonMIN199380.6678.532.3
26Jude Adjei-BarimahPIT195060.5008.524.0
28Craig MortonDAL197080.7278.638.3
29Earl MorrallPIT195760.5458.723.8
30Earl MorrallBAL197170.7788.712.0
30Jack ConcannonCHI196770.6258.723.3
32Earl MorrallBAL1968130.9298.830.0
33Alex SmithSFO201260.7228.825.0
33Drew BledsoeBUF200360.3758.822.6
35Roman GabrielRAM196680.5718.923.5
36Danny WhiteDAL198260.6679.030.3
36Bob GrieseMIA197190.7319.020.7
36Bart StarrGNB1966110.8469.020.5
36Tommy ThompsonPHI195060.5009.014.5
40Craig MortonDEN197880.6159.116.0
41Craig MortonDEN1977120.8579.219.0
42Bob AvelliniCHI197670.5009.321.6
43Kerry CollinsCAR199760.4629.329.6
44Len DawsonKAN1968110.8469.429.0
45Jim HartSTL197080.6079.429.4
46Bart StarrGNB1962130.9299.426.0
47Bob GrieseMIA197860.6679.530.7
48Ron JaworskiPHI197890.5639.623.4
48Steve GroganNWE197790.6439.626.2
50Trent DilferBAL200070.8759.69.0
51Steve McNairTEN2000120.8009.618.7
52Rick MirerSEA199360.3759.725.6
53Steve RamseyDEN197670.5839.721.6
54Mark RypienWAS199290.5639.823.9
55Roman GabrielRAM197260.5009.830.5
56Russell WilsonSEA2015100.62510.029.5
56Ron JaworskiPHI1981100.62510.020.2
56Tommy O'ConnellCLE195770.83310.017.0

What stands out to you?

  • What popped out to me is how extreme the defensive support was for Jim McMahon, particularly in Chicago. When the defense was on, McMahon barely had to do anything to win (7 points!? No wonder he didn’t lose a start for four years). But there were some times where the defense would just completely fall apart. That 1988 Bears team in particular I remember. Probably the last year that Ditka’s Bears were actually a legitimate title contender. They were the number 1 seed in the NFC with a 12-4 record. They gave up 15 points or less in their 12 wins, but gave up 23+ in the 4 losses and were blown out 3 of 4 times. In the playoffs, they of course won the Fog Bowl in the Divisional Round and then hosted the NFC Title game. Despite an 8-1 home record and a forecast for freezing cold, the Bears were still seen as a paper tiger by the oddsmakers and where established as a 2 point underdog at home to a 10-6 49ers team that had been extremely disappointing in the previous three playoffs. Of course Vegas was right, and the 49ers destroyed the Bears 28-3, bringing about the official end of the Jim McMahon era in Chicago and arguably the unofficial end of Mike Ditka’s Bears as a feared contender.

  • Deacon Drake

    I’d like to create two categories. First is “QBs that made their defenses better by moving the chains and not turning the ball over”. The second is “QBs who benefitted greatly from dominant defenses”. Both popup on the list. The latter is easy to define as the “Trent Dilfer” group. The former is what I was going to refer to as the “Phil Simms” category, but he is oddly absent from this list… Ron Jaworski seems to be too aggressive, and Alex Smith Smith isn’t somebody we are going to remember 30-50 years from now the way we remember Jaws, Morton, Griese, Morrall.

    Several HoF QBs on here who enjoyed the luxury of a killer defense, but also the Dilfers, Plummers, Mirers, Sanchez, Bristers, etc…

    Still trying to determine if Griese is way overrated because the defense and ground game did all the work, or underrated because he lacked the opportunities to shine.

    • sacramento gold miners

      I think Bob Griese is fairly judged as a HOF QB, somewhere outside of the top dozen. When the Dolphins had to change their ultra-successful approach, Griese proved to be more than capable. Age was catching up to the Miami defense at this time, and the Dolphins could not compete with the elite of the AFC any longer. And while the early 70s Dolphins had the great defense and running game, Griese still had to make plenty of plays. Check out the 1971 AFC playoff at KC.

      Russell Wilson is a good comp for Griese, some thought he would struggle without the strong running game, but that’s not happening.

  • sacramento gold miners

    The chart reflects how much more difficult it is for defenses to carry the day, and I would use 2004 instead of 2002 as my cutoff point. After the 2003 season, the NFL clamped down more on contact between receivers and defensive backs.

  • Adam

    It would be interesting to see the QBs who won 6+ games with the MOST points allowed per game. I bet it’s mostly legends.

  • Josh Sanford

    Mike Kruczek didn’t throw a TD in his six winning starts in 1976. Is there a place that will let me bet that such a feat is never repeated by anyone in the NFL: an undefeated season with six or more starts without throwing a TD pass?

    • sacramento gold miners

      It’s sad QB Joe Gilliam let drugs ruin his NFL career, by 1976, he was out of football. Had Gilliam stayed clean, 1976 would have been a golden opportunity to showcase his skills with Bradshaw hurt. The Steelers might have traded Gilliam to another team where he could have competed for a starting job. I do remember how much of an unknown Kruczek was, he played at Boston College. After ending his playing career with the Redskins, Kruczek later became head coach at Central Florida, and helped develop Daunte Culpepper.

  • Josh Sanford

    Is it common knowledge that the often-injured Jim McMahon won 22-0 straight starts from the end of 1984 through the beginning of 1987? That seems kind of crazy to me.

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