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Joe Gibbs Inherited a Very Underachieving Team

theismannYesterday, we looked at the teams that overachieved their projected wins total by the largest amount based on the strength of their offensive and defensive passing games. Today, the reverse: the biggest underachievers. And that starts in Washington, D.C., the year before Joe Gibbs arrived.

The head coach was Jack Pardee, who was in Washington for three years, going 8-8 in 1978, then 10-6, and then 6-10 in 1980. Pardee was fired after the season, and you can see why: Washington didn’t just have a good pass defense in 1980, but a great one. It ranked as the 12th best pass defense from 1950 to 2013. Both corners, Lemar Parrish and Joe Lavender, made the Pro Bowl. Both safeties, Mark Murphy and Tony Peters, were in the primes of their careers, and would make a Pro Bowl under Gibbs.

Washington had an absurd 8.4% interception rate and a 9.9% sack rate, which helped the defense allow just 2.4 ANY/A, nearly a full yard better than any other team and 2.51 ANY/A better than league average. And the team went 6-10! The offense had Joe Theismann, Art Monk, and Wilbur Jackson; Theismann ranked 17th out of 30 qualifying passers in ANY/A, but that shouldn’t have been enough to keep the team out of the playoffs, let alone below .500.

Washington’s offense finished with a Relative ANY/A of -0.33, and its defense had a RANY/A of +2.51. The team had a 0.375 winning percentage, but “should” have had a 0.704 winning percentage. That means the team underperformed by 5.3 wins, the most of any team in the Super Bowl era.

RkTeamYearOff RANY/ADef RANY/AWin %Exp Win %Diff
1Washington Redskins1980-0.332.510.3750.704-5.3
2Cincinnati Bengals19710.840.390.2860.613-5.2
3Tampa Bay Buccaneers1983-0.830.150.1250.440-5.0
4Minnesota Vikings19721.362.040.5000.814-5.0
5Kansas City Chiefs19830.920.920.3750.671-4.7
6New Orleans Saints19800.33-1.900.0630.356-4.7
7New England Patriots1981-0.46-0.490.1250.416-4.6
8Detroit Lions19760.661.640.4290.714-4.6
9Tennessee Titans2014-0.64-0.360.1250.410-4.6
10Green Bay Packers20080.880.760.3750.652-4.4
11Tampa Bay Buccaneers20040.020.890.3130.587-4.4
12San Diego Chargers19661.761.560.5360.806-4.3
13St. Louis Cardinals19780.780.670.3750.634-4.1
14Kansas City Chiefs1977-0.84-0.300.1430.398-4.1
15Detroit Lions19680.240.930.3570.610-4.0
16San Francisco 49ers19790.33-1.780.1250.366-3.9
17New York Jets2005-1.160.980.2500.488-3.8
18Carolina Panthers2001-1.70-0.520.0630.299-3.8
19Los Angeles Rams19940.12-0.300.2500.485-3.8
20Green Bay Packers1988-1.130.910.2500.484-3.7
21Pittsburgh Steelers1969-2.14-0.040.0710.304-3.7
22San Diego Chargers2000-1.61-0.680.0630.293-3.7
23Detroit Lions20120.05-0.280.2500.480-3.7
24Kansas City Chiefs1988-0.630.710.2810.511-3.7
25Tampa Bay Buccaneers1985-0.50-1.110.1250.354-3.7
26New Orleans Saints1996-0.68-0.270.1880.416-3.6
27San Diego Chargers20102.061.090.5630.789-3.6
28Tampa Bay Buccaneers19811.501.630.5630.789-3.6
29New York Giants19691.470.200.4290.654-3.6
30Washington Redskins2009-0.14-0.160.2500.474-3.6
31Oakland Raiders2006-2.711.000.1250.349-3.6
32Buffalo Bills1976-0.72-0.780.1430.364-3.5
33Cincinnati Bengals2010-0.25-0.130.2500.467-3.5
34San Diego Chargers20150.25-0.620.2500.467-3.5
35Cleveland Browns2013-0.860.470.2500.467-3.5
36Buffalo Bills1967-1.741.700.2860.502-3.5
37St. Louis Rams2011-1.60-0.180.1250.340-3.4
38San Francisco 49ers19821.62-1.080.3330.549-3.4
39Oakland Raiders19971.05-1.420.2500.465-3.4
40New York Jets1995-2.100.980.1880.402-3.4
41Kansas City Chiefs2008-0.74-1.030.1250.339-3.4
42Green Bay Packers19681.170.770.4640.679-3.4
43Atlanta Falcons19711.231.470.5360.750-3.4
44Cleveland Browns2004-0.840.420.2500.464-3.4
45Philadelphia Eagles1975-0.380.350.2860.500-3.4
46Miami Dolphins2007-1.26-1.200.0630.276-3.4
47Cincinnati Bengals19691.55-1.160.3210.535-3.4
48Indianapolis Colts1997-0.55-0.550.1880.401-3.4
49Houston Oilers19840.28-1.370.1880.400-3.4
50New York Giants1973-0.50-0.710.1790.391-3.4
51Cleveland Browns1999-0.98-0.820.1250.337-3.4
52Houston Texans2013-1.13-0.690.1250.336-3.4
53Cincinnati Bengals1978-0.740.260.2500.459-3.3
54Arizona Cardinals20050.130.080.3130.521-3.3
55Indianapolis Colts1991-1.57-0.970.0630.271-3.3
56Tampa Bay Buccaneers2014-1.30-0.570.1250.331-3.3
57Jacksonville Jaguars2012-1.13-0.750.1250.330-3.3
58Cleveland Browns1984-0.680.820.3130.516-3.3
59Buffalo Bills1977-0.13-0.790.2140.418-3.3
60St. Louis Rams1997-0.240.390.3130.516-3.2
61San Francisco 49ers20002.08-1.220.3750.577-3.2
62Atlanta Falcons19890.03-1.240.1880.389-3.2
63Cleveland Browns19662.421.340.6430.845-3.2
64Detroit Lions1979-1.82-0.110.1250.326-3.2
65Cincinnati Bengals1994-0.60-0.660.1880.386-3.2
66Cincinnati Bengals19830.371.070.4380.635-3.2
67New England Patriots19730.250.310.3570.553-3.1
68Detroit Lions1986-0.790.850.3130.509-3.1
69Baltimore Ravens19961.04-1.630.2500.446-3.1
70Miami Dolphins19881.45-0.680.3750.570-3.1
71Detroit Lions2001-0.93-1.060.1250.319-3.1
72Tampa Bay Buccaneers1978-1.281.300.3130.506-3.1
73San Diego Chargers1989-0.761.450.3750.567-3.1
74Cleveland Browns19682.511.910.7140.906-3.1
75Carolina Panthers20040.600.760.4380.626-3.0
76San Diego Chargers20010.05-0.060.3130.501-3.0
77San Diego Chargers20082.33-0.270.5000.688-3.0
78Kansas City Chiefs19850.220.440.3750.562-3.0
79Cleveland Browns19910.75-0.080.3750.562-3.0
80Detroit Lions2006-0.45-0.940.1880.374-3.0
81Seattle Seahawks19810.660.000.3750.561-3.0
82Green Bay Packers19663.552.370.8571.043-3.0
83New York Jets1970-0.360.000.2860.469-2.9
84Buffalo Bills1985-1.70-0.430.1250.308-2.9
85Tampa Bay Buccaneers20030.251.030.4380.621-2.9
86Buffalo Bills19790.940.340.4380.619-2.9
87Houston Oilers1994-1.67-0.480.1250.306-2.9
88Kansas City Chiefs19761.28-0.870.3570.537-2.9
89Buffalo Bills2009-1.542.080.3750.554-2.9
90Minnesota Vikings20031.920.700.5630.741-2.9
91Tampa Bay Buccaneers1987-0.23-0.380.2670.445-2.9
92Cincinnati Bengals19870.19-0.820.2670.444-2.8
93Buffalo Bills19860.46-1.270.2500.426-2.8
94Baltimore Colts19720.78-0.420.3570.534-2.8
95Cincinnati Bengals1993-1.09-0.440.1880.363-2.8
96Green Bay Packers1991-0.84-0.010.2500.425-2.8
97New York Giants1987-0.160.900.4000.571-2.7
98Cleveland Browns2003-0.900.680.3130.483-2.7
99St. Louis Rams1998-1.130.220.2500.420-2.7
100New Orleans Saints1970-0.35-1.330.1790.348-2.7

Since the merger, only two teams have ever led the NFL in ANY/A allowed and finished below .500: Washington, in 1980, and Cleveland in 2001.

So why didn’t Washington win more games in 1980? Well, for starters, the run defense was really bad, ranking in the bottom five in first downs, yards per carry, and rushing yards. And while punt returner Mike Nelms made the Pro Bowl, the special teams wasn’t all good: a year before winning the AP MVP, Mark Moseley went just 18 of 33, although 8 of those misses were from 50+ yards. Meanwhile, opponents hit 13 of 17 field goals.

A 2-4 record in close games didn’t help things, and a -6 fumbles lost differential hurt, too.

But in the end, Washington just wasn’t very good at much other than stopping the pass. If the defense didn’t force turnovers, the team was toast. Washington went 0-8 in games where it had two or fewer takeaways, and 6-2 in games with 3+ takeaways. That included a 10-punt game against Dallas, when Washington lost despite winning the turnover battle 6-2.

  • sacramento gold miners

    .John Riggins held out for the entire 1980 season because of a contract dispute, and that really hurt the Redskins.

    • John

      Yeah, that loss to Dallas in 1979 was one of the reasons why John didn’t return. That may have set that team back. However, if they win that game, they probably don’t fire Pardee and replace him with Gibbs in 81.

  • Tim Truemper

    Yep. Riggins situation really hurt the team.

  • John Liberty

    so after reading this I came to the conclusion that this guys equation measures certain stats too high and or too low. So a team with a good pass Defense can score high in his rating as teams run over their linebackers on long slow grinding drives.