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Missing Links In The Dynasty Chain, Part IV

On Tuesday, we looked at three of the best teams on three of the greatest dynasties in football history: the ’53 Browns, the ’87 49ers, and the ’07 Patriots. Wednesday, the focus shifted to Lombardi’s ’64 Packers, while yesterday we looked at the ’76 Steelers. Today, we complete the series with some notes on the ’94 Cowboys, and how Dallas not only nearly became the first team to win three Super Bowls in a row, but the first team to win four.

Switzer wasn’t able to sustain Johnson’s success

Dallas won the Super Bowl after the ’92, ’93, and ’95 seasons, and lost in the NFC Championship Game against the ’49ers after the ’94 season. Given that the Super Bowl would have been against the Chargers, there’s little doubt that the Cowboys would have been Super Bowl champs had they defeated San Francisco. Back then, the NFC Championship Game — which was between the 49ers and Cowboys three straight years — was the Super Bowl. So was the ’94 version of the Cowboys worse than the other three teams? Let’s look at the rosters.

Well, first, a brief aside. Jimmy Johnson came to Dallas in 1989, and turned the Cowboys from 3-13 in 1988 to 13-3 Super Bowl champions in 1992.  He did a remarkable job, but the state of Texas wasn’t big enough for the egos of Johnson and owner Jerry Jones. So after the ’93 season, the two parties ways.  Jones replaced him with Barry Switzer, who coached the team from ’94 to ’97. It’s probably not fair to criticize Switzer for only winning one Super Bowl in ’94 and ’95, but Cowboys fans will always wonder whether or not Dallas would have won four straight Super Bowls if Johnson and Jones had simply been able to coexist.

QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, FB Daryl Johnston, WR Michael Irvin and TE Jay Novacek all started at least 60 games for the Cowboys from ’92 to ’95.  Alvin Harper was there from ’92 to ’94 as the other starting wide receiver, replaced by Kevin Williams in the starting lineup in ’95.

On the offensive line, LT Mark Tuinei and LG Nate Newton were there each year, too, with C Mark Stepnoski being a Pro Bowler in ’92, ’93, and ’94, before joining the Oilers in ’95 (and making another Pro Bowl).  The Cowboys had four different RGs during this stretch, while RT was manned by Erik Williams in ’92, ’93, and ’95, and rookie Larry Allen in ’94 (who played RG in ’95) when Williams was lost for the season after seven games following a car crash.

On defense, DE Tony Tolbert, DE Charles Haley, and DT Russell Maryland were there all four years, although Haley’s biggest year came in ’94. And while veteran Tony Casillas was the NT on the line in ’92 and ’93, Leon Lett (who as you know, was a backup but played a memorable role in the Super Bowl following the ’92 season) was the fourth starter in ’94 (when he made the Pro Bowl) and ’95. Jim Jeffcoat was a key pass rusher from ’92 to ’94, recording 10.5, 6.0, and 8.0 sacks those three years, but he moved to Buffalo in ’95.

At linebacker, the most notable name was Ken Norton, who started in ’92 and ’93 before moving on to the 49ers in ’94. Norton remains the only player to play in and win Super Bowls in three straight years. Dixon Edwards, Robert Jones, and Darrin Smith each started about 40 games for the Cowboys over those four seasons.

At cornerback, Larry Brown was a four-year starter, and the safeties were pretty consistent, too. It was Thomas Everett and James Washington in ’92, Everett and Darren Woodson in ’93, and then Washington and Woodson in ’94.  In ’95, Woodson teamed with Brock Marion.  The big change, of course, was the other cornerback position. For 9 games in 1995, it was Deion Sanders1; the rest of the Cowboys dynasty, it was Kevin Smith (in ’93 and ’94) and Issiac Holt (in ’92).

So which was the best Cowboys team of this era? Let’s look at the SRS.

There are arguments for all four:

  • The ’95 team was up two Hall of Famers in Sanders and Allen at LG (of course, Allen did play at RT on the ’94 team). A whopping 8 offensive starters made the Pro Bowl, and Woodson was a first-team All-Pro at safety.
  • The ’94 offense still had Harper and Stepnoski, which the ’95 team did not. Harper was perhaps the best deep threat in football in ’94, averaging 24.9 yards per catch and scoring 8 touchdowns on 33 receptions. The pass rush was dominant, with Haley (12.5 sacks), Jeffcoat (8.0), and Chad Hennings.  Lett and Woodson became stars in ’94, and the Cowboys had their best pass defense in ’94 (finishing 1st in ANY/A and passer rating).  The Dallas pass defense ranked around tenth in ANY/A and passer rating in ’92, ’93, and ’95, which gives ’94 a big leg up on the Super Bowl champion teams.
  • The ’92 and ’93 teams had Jimmy Johnson and Norton, along with a healthy Williams at right tackle. And the ’93 squad had 11 Pro Bowlers.

It’s not hard to argue that the ’94 squad had as much talent as the other Cowboys teams, if not more. But 8 minutes of bad football is enough to make this the least memorable Dallas team of that era. In the NFC Championship Game, the Cowboys had five drives start in the first quarter, and four were disastrous.

The first ended in a pick six to Eric Davis on the fourth play of the game. San Francisco responded with a touchdown.

The Cowboys second drive ended in three plays when Irvin fumbled after making a 3rd-and-17 catch. San Francisco responded with a touchdown.

Dallas fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the 49ers recovered. San Francisco responded with a touchdown.

With 7:30 left in the 1st quarter, the Cowboys were down 21-0.  Dallas responded with a touchdown on the next drive, and forced a 49ers punt, before driving down the field again.  But the fifth drive ended in disappointment: after a a 3rd-and-10 run call from the 12-yard line, the Cowboys missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.

Dallas did come back, and nearly got all the way there.  Trailing 38-21, Dallas went on a 91-yard drive into the 4th quarter to cut the lead to 10 points.  The Cowboys forced a three-and-out, and got the ball back with just over seven minutes remaining.

With just over six minutes remaining,Dallas had 2nd-and-10 at the 49ers 43-yard line.  Aikman went deep to Irvin, who had slipped by Sanders and was in position to catch a touchdown that would cut the lead to 38-35.   But then the pivotal no-call of the game happened: Sanders put his arm in between Irvin’s hands, and what probably should have been a pass interference was not called. A furious Switzer was flagged 15 yards for bumping an official, and a near touchdown was turned into 3rd-and-25.  Two plays later, Aikman was sacked and the drive ended, and the Cowboys threat was over.

If Johnson never left Dallas, do the Cowboys win the Super Bowl for a third year in a row?  If the Sanders PI is called, does Dallas come back and beat the 49ers?  From a talent perspective, there’s no doubt that the ’94 Cowboys were as good as the other Cowboys Super Bowl teams.  But the year ended with the sole missing link in a four year chain of success.

  1. With Clayton Holmes filling his shoes for six starts. That’s quite the dropoff. []
  • sacramento gold miners

    Some of the Dallas players from those years have spoken about the dropoff in discipline from Jimmy Johnson to Barry Switzer, and how that made a tangible difference, both on and off the field. Whereas George Siefert had been a 49ers assistant under Bill Walsh, Jerry Jones brought Switzer in from the outside. So the decline began, and even the 1995 club wasn’t as strong as the teams in the early 90s. I just think the Cowboys ran into a better team in San Francisco that day.

  • Corey

    My dad was a 49ers season ticket holder when I was growing up in the Bay Area in the 90s, so I got to go to a lot of 49ers games. The 1994 NFCCG was the most fired-up crowd for a game I’ve ever seen. The loudest I ever heard the Stick was on Eric Davis’ Pick-6. The place went absolutely berserk.

    Obviously I’m biased, but looking at the replay, it’s probably PI but it’s not as stone-cold as the narrative sometimes suggests. Sanders sticks out his arm and arm-bars Irvin but 1) he turns his head to look for the ball, which is something officials often key on, and 2) doesn’t grab Irvin’s jersey or really push Irvin. He just impedes Irvin’s progress to the ball. It’s probably like a 60/40 penalty, not a 90/10. The other important element is the context: Sanders and Irvin were both great hand-fighters and they had been shoving and pushing off of each other nearly every play the whole game. In that light, I don’t think it’s really an egregious no-call.

    If PI had been called, it also wouldn’t have been a TD; Dallas would have gotten a first down on about the 7 or 8 yard line. What’s the win expectancy for a 1st and goal from the 7, down 10 with six minutes left? It can’t be that high. As far as missed three-peats go, It’s not like Roger Craig fumbling in 1990 while running out the clock.

  • I think it’s fair to point out that, while Dallas had arguably their best team in 1994 and didn’t win it all, they did win it all in 1995 when San Francisco was arguably better. Dallas had the better record, but the 49ers had a better point differential, SRS, and DVOA. I call it a wash.

    • Corey

      SF also had a better record, point differential, and SRS in 1992 and 1994, although Dallas had a better DVOA both years.

      The other issue with SF’s 1994 stats is that they got better as the season went on, so full-season stats slightly underrate them. They didn’t have Sanders (who won DPoY) for the first two weeks of the season. They started the year 3-2, including a loss to Kansas City against Montana in which Young was sacked 8 times, and the 40-8 loss at home to the Eagles where Young got pulled mid-series in the third quarter and tried to fight George Seifert.

      They then closed the season winning their last 13 meaningful games (they lost a meaningless Week 17 game in which Young and Rice only played the first quarter), and almost all by lopsided scores. Only 4 of those 13 wins were by 10 points or less (which included both Dallas games), and their average MOV was 20.1.

      • I think it’s fair to say San Fran could have won titles in 87, 90, 92, and 95 had things gone just a little differently. The 92 and 95 missing rings are especially detrimental to Young’s legacy. If you remember when the NFL Network did the top 100 greatest players of all time a few years back, Aikman ranked higher than Young. I don’t remember ever thinking that, and I don’t know anyone who watched them both play (who wasn’t a Dallas fan) who honestly believes that. The stats certainly aren’t comparable. But those two titles are the difference between Young ranking in the 10-20 range on a lot of lists and ranking in the 1-10 range.

        • I always wonder how a 49ers-Bills SB XXV would have turned out if Craig hadn’t fumbled vs the Giants.

        • Corey

          I think, of the “great” QBs, Young is the most underrated historically. He had no longevity because of the USFL and then sitting behind Montana, so his career is basically 8 seasons and his career totals can’t compare to Brady/Manning types who have nearly double his output. But those 8 seasons were absolutely awesome. I think he’s a top-5 all-time passer, and he has by far the most rushing value out of any of the other great passing QBs. He has a plausible GOAT case if you value peak/rate stats more than career totals.

          • I’d probably call Jurgensen the most underrated, but Young and Tarkenton both have good cases.

            Unless you want to go all out and say Namath and Bradshaw are underrated by mere virtue of the fact that so many modern fans think they completely sucked.

            • Corey

              While I’m writing paeans to Steve Young, I’ll also note that Young was ahead of his time in a lot of ways, in that he missed out on the spread/QB run game evolution. His combined passing/running threat would have been even more lethal in the spread. In the modern game he would have been like a hypothetical combination of Drew Brees’ passing and Russell Wilson’s running in one player.

              • To balance the argument, in the modern game he wouldn’t have the benefit of being coached up by perhaps the greatest offensive mind in history. Nor would he had had time to perfect his craft in an innovative offense that the rest of the league failed to replicate. You could see a version of history where Young never goes to San Francisco and doesn’t get to find a coaching staff that sees enough in his inherent ability to be patient enough to drill footwork, timing and a pass-first mentality into him.

                These same types of arguments can be made for many all time great passers, but I think they’re especially important with guys who played for genius coaches (Luckman/Graham/Starr/Montana) or loaded teams (…Luckman/Graham/Starr/Montana…). Young had a little of both.

                • Young threw 170 passes under Bill Walsh. How much credit should Walsh get for developing Young (he should get lots of credit for buying him for pennies on the dollar, of course).

                  • Two years was enough to take Joe Montana from a third round afterthought to Super Bowl winner with exceptional efficiency stats. I imagine the two years of practice far exceeds the 188 passes in game time.

                    • Corey

                      Mike Holmgren was QB Coach in 87-88 and then Offensive Coordinator in 89-91, when he was replaced as OC by Mike Shanahan for 92-94. It wasn’t just Walsh.

                    • I think this only solidifies my point. His non-Walsh coaches are among the top offensive minds in recent NFL history. Well…not Mooch.

                • Richie

                  It’s not like Steve Young was Kurt Warner. Young was a high-pedigree player. A Heisman runner-up, and one of the most highly sought players for the USFL. Tampa Bay picked him first overall in the NFL’s draft of USFL players in 1984.

                  His USFL stats were OK, but the team was a disaster. I think there was a game where he took snaps from the tailback slot because the team had no RB’s.

                  Yeah, his performance in Tampa Bay was ugly – but whose wasn’t during that period? As Chase noted, Young’s numbers were instantly spectacular in limited duty in his first season with San Francisco. Yeah, I guess he got SOME coaching during that time, and his teammates were significantly better than they were in Tampa. But Jeff Kemp wasn’t able to turn that support into a 100 passer rating.

                  I’m confident that Young would have been great with any competent franchise.

                  Of course the coaching argument applies to many of the all-time great QB’s, who coincidentally, much of the time, played with great coaches. When you look at the HOF QB’s the only one who really didn’t play with a great coach was Warren Moon. Some others had interesting coaching histories like John Elway (the Reeves/Shanahan split was pointed out the other day. Elway probably doesn’t make the HOF if he retires before Shanahan becomes HC), Kurt Warner (Vermeil had a weird career and may actually be a great coach) and Sonny Jurgensen (he had an interesting collection of coaches: Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi, George Allen).

                  Great coaches/QB combos often seem to be a chicken-egg scenario.

                  • sacramento gold miners

                    Steve Young may have made a mistake by going with the money and the LA Express of the USFL. The Bengals were very interested in Young in the 1983 draft, and I think he would have excelled in that Sam Wyche offense.

                    • Richie

                      Yeah, in hindsight it was definitely a mistake.

                      It looks like in 1983, John Elway signed a 5-year/$5M contract with Denver. The next year Steve Young signed for 40 years/$40M with the LA Express. Theoretically this would have been a lot more money. Was it actually smart at the time to sign a 40 year contract? It looks like Elway ended up earning about $70M for his career. If the USFL took off and Young became a star, surely he could have renegotiated. But maybe not.

                      The upside for Young would have been if the USFL succeeded and he became a star in the league, perhaps the USFL version of Len Dawson or Joe Namath in the AFL.

                  • I think Young would have been really good just about anywhere he went, but I don’t think it’s at all off base to say he wouldn’t have had nearly the success on most other teams.

                    • Richie

                      Agreed. But my point is that what great NFL QB would that NOT apply to?

                    • The list of QBs I think would be great regardless of circumstance is very small. It includes Sammy Baugh, Fran Tarkenton, and Dan Marino.

                    • Tom

                      Aaron Rodgers?

                    • After watching him carry teams, I’d definitely include him too. I’d almost say that he’s so good that it’s giving the organization a false sense of how good they actually are. They’re lost without him.

                    • Tom

                      In agreement…if there’s ever a guy that is “dragging” his team to the playoffs, and in my opinion, is dragging them *through* the playoffs (except for 2010, where he played great *and* the defense played well) it’s Rodgers.

                    • WR

                      If Rodgers is so amazing, how come he struggled so much in a couple of his playoff losses, and how come his numbers went down in 2015? Surely a guy like you are describing would be immune to injuries around him.

                      And to a couple of earlier posts, what makes Bryan so sure Marino and Tarkenton would be successful elsewhere? Why does that apply to Marino, but not to other guys with better numbers? And I have to say, I’ve never understood why so many people around here are so high on Tarkenton. The guy’s numbers, even era-adjusted, aren’t that impressive, and he didn’t win anything. And any teams of his that were successful typically featured a great defense and a Hall of Fame coach.

                    • sacramento gold miners

                      Marino had the issue of a mediocre defense and little running game, while Tarkenton’s defenses were manhandled in three Super Bowls. In Miami’s SB appearance under Marino, the Dolphins’ defense was overmatched.

                    • Tom

                      Well, for starters, Rodgers can still be “amazing” and struggle in “a couple of his playoff losses”. He’s played in 16 games. He hasn’t been “amazing” in all of them, but I’ve looked at every game and there’s not one where we can lay the majority of the blame for a loss on him. In fact there are at least a few games where he played beyond what was needed for a win and didn’t get it.

                      And he can still be “amazing” even though his numbers went down in 2015…he was #1 in ANY/A in 2014, #21 in 2015, #6 last year. He had a down year…

                      I’m not claiming that he is immune to injuries around him…is that a requisite to being “amazing”?

                      Finally, I think he’s amazing because I watch the games. I’m not an expert, but I see him make incredible plays in routine situations and incredible plays in the clutch that I just don’t see other current players making on a consistent basis. He’s really, really good and I do believe that he carries his teams (not entirely, but significantly).

                    • He also didn’t play poorly in 2015, despite what the numbers say. Probably a top 5 QB on film.

                    • WR

                      First, i’m not trying to argue with you. If we just disagree, that’s fine. But when I hear someone (I think it was Bryan, not you) say that a guy is system-proof, or whatever the phrase was, I’m skeptical. I think Rodgers has been significantly helped by the team around him, just like other quarterbacks. The fact that his numbers went down in 2015, just like Brady’s did in 2013, shows that he’s not immune to changes around him. I also haven’t forgotten that for much of last season many people, including some of the commenters on this site, were saying Rodgers was in decline. Those people were wrong, but the fact that he struggled for as long as he did certainly doesn’t indicate that he is system proof.

                      When you get down to it, what have guys like Rodgers and Marino done that Brady and Montana have not? Brady has better numbers than Rodgers over the last 10 years, and has carried weak or mediocre defenses, too. If you’re saying that Marino and Rodgers are better because they were drafted higher, fine, although I think that’s a poor basis for rating players.

                      As to the claim that Rodgers has dragged his team through the playoffs, I must respectfully disagree. What about the game in Seattle where Rodgers played poorly, and couldn’t capitalize on 5 turnovers? Why does he get a free pass for that performance? What about in 2010, when he beat the Bears with a 55 passer rating and got help from his defense? The “system” argument is lazy analysis that fails to recognize that all quarterbacks operate within a system. Rodgers certainly does.

                      I respect your opinion, Tom. You have much better takes than some of the regular contributors to this site. But in this case, I think you’re buying into the Rodgers hype. He’s one of the best, but not significantly better than guys like Brady, Manning, Brees, Montana and Marino.

                    • Tom

                      Ok, I’m not at my computer with all my sweet spreadsheet data, so I’ll have to get back later on some of this stuff. Just real quick:

                      1. I certainly don’t think Rodgers is “system-proof” (even if I implied that). But I do not think he has been significantly helped by the team around him in the playoffs (except for 2010). For one thing, we can point to particular instances where coaching decisions by McCarthy have affected the outcomes of games (and his legacy.)

                      2. I don’t want to frame this as Rodgers vs. Brady vs. Montana, etc. We can get into that, but my comments were made about Rodgers, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of the other guys.

                      3. Regarding the playoffs, you mention two games in which he could have played better. In one game, at Chicago where they were 3.5 favorites , the defense bailed him out and he gets the win. In the other, in Seattle as 8.5 point underdogs, even with 5 turnovers, in the end, the defense lost that game. If I recall correctly, the Packers had two instances of 4th-and-goal and they kick the FG…those are points left on the field. He doesn’t “get a pass” but I don’t blame that loss on him, in the same way (and others disagree with me on this) I don’t lay the blame for the Pats two SB losses entirely on Brady.

                      Anyway, lot to chew on here, and I also respect your opinion. If we continue this discussion, I have some other thoughts, etc.

                    • WR

                      If you want to continue the discussion, we could do so offsite. I don’t think this comment forum is the right place to fully dive into this stuff, so I’d be happy to send you an email about it.

                    • Richie

                      This site is a good place. Some of us are following the discussion.

                    • Tom

                      Ok…here’s my deal: I’ve been developing a Win Probability procedure, based off Wayne Winston’s Mathletics formula that PFR uses, improved to match actual quarter-by-quarter results and using era-adjusted EP numbers I gleaned from Brian Burke years ago, while also looking closely at end of half, end of game situations where the formula falls apart. Yes, I’m out of my mind, but my intent is to come up with something solid that anyone could replicate with a spreadsheet if they felt like it.

                      I have used this procedure on every playoff game by Brady, Rodgers and Manning, I’m jumping on Brees next. The story these numbers tell is fascinating…the close wins and losses, the single I plays that can swing a game, etc. WP is not the “one ring”, but it gives us a different way of looking at a QB’s contribution within the framework of how a game was won or lost.

                      I say all of this because I want to dive into this stuff, but I want to do a series of posts on it, instead of just comments.

                      My initial comments about Rodgers come from my study…he has more than a few playoff games where he and the offense have to overcome, or were let down by, failings by the defense or special teams. It’s quite remarkable how poorly the defense has played…and yes, viewed from the WP perspective that can mean a single drive when the game is up for grabs (think of how many games the Packers have lost on that last drive).

                      Regarding Brady, as you might expect, he looks great using this kind of analysis, while also showing the substantial support he’s gotten (mostly in the earlier years). If he’s the GOAT, it’s because, in my opinion, when that support disappears (and coupled with his own poor play early on in a game), he’s stepped up to save the day, and for whatever reason, it’s usually in the Super Bowl.

                      Manning somewhat lags behind the other two, but is much better than what is commonly perceived , especially when he was with the Colts, when his defense and special teams let the team down in most games (I agree with Scott Kacsmar, though not to the same extent, that he’s been pretty unlucky).

                      This is a stupidly long comment just to say that I’ve got some fun stuff for us to get into, just need to write it up!

                    • WR

                      That sounds like some interesting data you have. I think a lot of people would like to see how you rate those guys one to another. If I seem a little testy, it’s because the Rodgers hype has really taken off since his return to form at the end of last season. I didn’t enjoy watching the Cowboys game, and hearing Joe Buck go on and on about the guy. Look, Rodgers is great. But so are all the other guys that are considered the best of their eras.

                      I’ve done some work on the postseason numbers for the guys you mentioned, nothing as sophisticated as what you have in the works, but looking at expected points, I generally agree with your assessment. But I do wonder if Rodgers’ postseason numbers will go down if he plays more playoff games, just because it’s hard to sustain that level over the long haul.

                      In the regular season, it’s not clear to me that Rodgers has outperformed Brady and Manning, despite what the superficial numbers say. Brady has better numbers over the last 10 years, and by making 2007 the cutoff, you’re missing the stretch from 03-06 when Peyton was incredible. Rodgers takes a huge number of sacks, and has a bunch of other plays, based on what I’ve seen, where he throws the ball away before getting sacked. So I would think his rate of “negative” plays is much higher than Manning and Brady, etc. I also didn’t fail to notice how far his numbers went down in 2015, when he didn’t have great receivers around him. Even in 2012, when Jennings and Nelson got hurt, his YAC% went up, and I believe that’s a function of the team around him. If there’s one guy Rodgers reminds me of, it’s Steve Young. And I’d probably say that Young was more talented than Joe Montana, but does that mean I have to say Young is therefore the better quarterback? Because I don’t believe that.

                      I’ll be interested to see how Brady does with Cooks, because I think a lot of the knocks on Brady have stemmed from the fact that he hasn’t had the quality of deep threats other people have, except only briefly. Give Brady or Montana the receivers that Rodgers has had in his best seasons, and I think they would reproduce his numbers.

                      Has this site ever done something like a live group chat session? If we can set up a time for it, this topic might be a good one.

                    • Tom

                      For some reason, I didn’t get the notice that you responded to my comment…went to my spam folder!

                      I generally agree with what you’re saying, but I’ll have to watch that Packers-Cowboys game again and listen to Joe Buck…don’t remember him going off, but then again, it’s these guys’ jobs to kind of heap all kinds of praise on players in the moment, etc…

                      Honestly, I’m a little light on the regular season stuff…it’s equally important (more or less depending on your opinion) to the playoffs, but I haven’t really looked at it too much. There’s so much great stuff that Bryan Frye and Chase have done (and others), that for regular season, I just try to find their stuff. That being said, I’m OK with his “negative” plays being higher if they actually aren’t negative plays…meaning, if throwing the ball away is better than taking a sack – from a down & distance, EP or WP perspective – then I’m OK with that. Of course, if he’s prematurely throwing the ball away, etc., then we can look at that. For me, that’s a little too much into the weeds…I’m very shy about evaluating plays, whether a QB should have thrown or not, what’s a real interception, a wide receiver drop, etc. (unless it’s obvious of course). I leave that to Pro Football Focus or other smart guys, etc.

                      Regarding Rodgers’ postseason numbers going down with more playoff games, yes, that’s what I’m really interested in right now. As far as leverage/WP goes, Rodgers is at a pretty high +0.25 per game, and he hasn’t had a “negative” game yet (though he’s had a few games very close to zero). Yes, he’s had some huge bumps due to a few incredible (fluky if you like) plays, but that’s exactly what this metric is for…measuring the plays that have the most impact (as I said, it’s not the “one ring”). It makes sense to me that those numbers will go down if he gets in to more playoff games…along the same lines, this is why Eli Manning’s playoff record looks so good and I’m assuming that his playoff WPA (when I get around to doing it) might be off the chart: he’s been in 12 playoff games, he’s been an underdog by an average of 3.7 points in each, and he’s won 8, two against probably the greatest dynasty in history. Brady’s WPA in the playoffs was a stellar +0.20 before he lost his first playoff game in ’05, so yeah, it would make sense if Rodgers numbers go down, but we’ll see.

                      FYI, I’ve got Brady at +0.16 WPA per game, and Peyton at +0.09. My playoff study for Manning mirrors what some people say regarding Manning’s interesting career arc: with the Colts, he’s not getting a lot of support (this means a lot more than “the defense isn’t good”, it has to do with crucial moments in games where things don’t go “his” way with FG’s, etc.) and he’s playing really well, with the Broncos, he’s getting better support and not playing well (his playoff game in 2014 is disastrous, the 2015 Super Bowl really isn’t much better). He’s at +0.16 with the Colts and -0.07 with the Broncos.

                      Starting in 2011, Brady has been remarkable, he’s at +0.22 WPA per game…that’s 16 games, which, interestingly, is the total number of playoff games for Rodgers.

                      OK, enough of that…yeah, a group chat session would be cool, not sure how we could set it up. When I’m done with Brees’ numbers, I’ll do a post…a follow-up to James (Four Touchdowns) post from a few months ago.

          • Young ranks 5th in era adjusted passer rating, even ahead of Rodgers.


            And above him are Graham and Dawson, whose numbers have some inflation due to players in non-NFL leagues, and Baugh and Luckman, who really played in different generations.

            • I’ve been watching a ton of old game film of late, and it really is incredible just how archaic offenses looked pre-Gillman. When you combine the hard to throw ball and the unsophisticated schemes, every legendary quarterback looked bad from a modern lens. Relative to their peers, they were amazing, but compared to modern players, guys like Graham and Luckman just look like really good rec league players.

        • Mark Growcott

          Yeah that NFLN Top 100 list from 2010 certainly did have some very contentious selections, notably at the very top. As you said they ranked Aikman at #80 and Young at #81. Whereas the Sporting News Top 100 list which was released in 1999 and what I believe to be a much fairer list, lists Young at #63 with Aikman at #95. There really should be no debate as to who is the better QB, Young is superior is every facet.

    • Yep. That’s a fair point.

      • Interestingly, at the time the 94 49ers and 95 Cowboys may have felt like better teams because they had the MVPs on them.

  • Said another way, Dallas had a loaded offense with most of the same cast of characters throughout the run. But the defense was only dominant one year: 1994.

    Here are the DVOA ratings, and I’ve flipped the defensive ratings (normally where negative is better) for ease of viewing.


    Dallas ranked #7 in pass defense DVOA in ’92, 15 in ’93, then 2nd in ’94, and 11th in ’95. And the rush defense was really strong in ’94, less so in ’93 and ’95.

    From an All-Pro perspective, the Cowboys defense had 0 All-Pros in ’92, Ken Norton as a 2nd-team All-Pro by the AP in ’93, then Darren Woodson as an AP, SN, and FW 1st-team All-Pro in ’94, Charles HAley as a AP/SN/FW 1AP in ’94, and even Lett as a UPI 1st Team All-Conf choice. In ’95, Woodson was against an AP/FW/SN 1AP, and Deion and Haley were UPI 2nd-team All-Conference picks (Deion was also a SN 1st-teamer).

    So I’d say the ’94 defense was both the most star-studded from an awards perspective and the best statistically.

  • Richie

    I’m pretty sure I used a high draft pick to take Alvin Harper in my fantasy league in 1995. I know my team finished 2-15 that season.