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The Billick Index

Touchdowns were at a premium in Billick's games

Touchdowns were at a premium in Billick's games.

The 2004 Ravens were hardly Brian Billick’s most interesting team. But those Ravens serve as a shining example of what you envision when you think of Baltimore in the 2000s: terrible on offense and great on defense. The team went 9-7 despite the Kyle Boller-led offense producing just 24 touchdowns, tied for the second fewest in the league. But Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Chris McAlister, and even Deion Sanders were on a defense that allowed only 23 touchdowns, the second best mark in the NFL. So Baltimore was +1 in net offensive touchdowns, but that doesn’t really demonstrate the type of team the Ravens were.

Here’s a better way: the average team in 2004 produced 35.9 offensive touchdowns. This means the Baltimore offense fell 11.9 touchdowns shy of average, while the defense was 12.9 touchdowns above average. So if you don’t like watching offensive touchdowns, the 2004 Ravens were the team for you: 24.8 fewer offensive scores came in Ravens games than in the average game that season.

That’s the 4th largest negative differential in NFL history, behind…

  • The 2002 Bucs (-25.1), who allowed 18.1 fewer touchdowns than average while scoring 7.1 fewer offensive touchdowns;
  • The 2005 Bears (-26.2), who allowed 14.6 fewer offensive touchdowns to opponents, and produced 11.6 fewer offensive touchdowns than average; and
  • The 1967 Oilers (-28.7), who allowed 17.3 fewer offensive touchdowns than average and scored 11.3 fewer offensive touchdowns than the rest of the AFL.

So why the focus on Brian Billick? Because 2004 wasn’t that much of an outlier year for him. Billick got the head coaching job in Baltimore after his work with the Minnesota offense in 1998 that scored 23 more touchdowns than average. But with the Ravens, a lack of offensive touchdowns — for both teams in Ravens games — defined his tenure. Take a look:

Year
Record
Off
Def
TD Below Avg
19998-8-3.27.210.3
200012-4-4.717.722.5
200110-6-3.36.39.5
20027-9-7.13.110.1
200310-60.28.88.6
20049-7-11.912.924.8
20056-10-11.67.619.2
200613-3-1.512.514
20075-11-10.6-1.49.1
Total80-64-53.574.5128.1

All told, Brian Billick’s Ravens offenses scored 53.5 fewer touchdowns than league average, while his defenses allowed 74.5 fewer touchdowns than average. Add those numbers together, and Billick’s Ravens produced 128 fewer touchdowns than league average during his tenure. That’s, by a decent margin, the most of any coach in NFL history. Hence, the name Billick Index.

The table below shows the top 75 coaches since 19321 in the Billick Index. Here’s how to read the line for Bill Cowher, who checks in at #2: He began coaching in 1992 and last coached in 2006, for a total of 240 games. His offenses, over those 15 years, scored a total of 5.6 more touchdowns than average, while his defenses allowed 105.4 fewer touchdowns than average. That means Cowher’s games produced 99.9 fewer touchdowns than average, or 6.7 fewer offensive touchdowns per 16 games.

Rk
Coach
First Yr
Last Yr
G
Record
Win%
OFF
DEF
TD
TD/16G
1Brian Billick1999200714480-640.556-53.574.5128.114.2
2Bill Cowher19922006240149-90-10.6215.6105.499.96.7
3Bud Grant19671985259158-96-50.6113.7104.390.65.6
4Lovie Smith2004201214481-630.563-50.139.189.29.9
5George Allen19661977168116-47-50.6910.998.187.28.3
6Steve Owen19321953254144-94-160.567-1.683.685.35.4
7John McKay1976198413344-88-10.331-70.314.384.610.2
8Dick Jauron1999200914260-820.423-69.913.583.49.4
9John Michelosen194819514820-26-20.417-35.633.669.123
10Bum Phillips1975198515982-770.516-44.72064.76.5
11Marion Campbell1974198911534-80-10.296-74.9-10.564.49
12Jon Gruden1998200817695-810.54-7.257.264.35.8
13George Wilson1957196916068-84-80.425-52.112.164.36.4
14Mike Ditka19821999216121-950.56-13.549.562.94.7
15Dan Reeves19812003357190-165-20.532-30.931.262.12.8
16Dave Wannstedt1993200416982-870.485-28.932.2615.8
17John Harbaugh200820139662-340.646-0.560.56110.2
18Mike Tomlin2007201311271-410.6347.966.158.18.3
19Chuck Noll19691991342193-148-10.56442.198.956.82.7
20Romeo Crennel200520128328-550.337-59.2-3.355.910.8
21Bill Parcells19832006303172-130-10.5686.662.455.82.9
22Vince Lombardi1959196913696-34-60.70648101536.2
23Pete Carroll1994201312871-570.555-15.935.951.86.5
24Ron Meyer1982199110454-500.519-23.127.650.87.8
25Red Miller197719806240-220.645-9394812.4
26Chuck Knox19731994334186-147-10.5573078482.3
27Jim Fassel1997200311258-53-10.518-27.918.946.96.7
28Rex Ryan200920138042-380.525-23.423.446.99.4
29Paul Brown19461975326213-104-90.653104.7151.346.62.3
30Herman Edwards2001200812854-740.422-36.79.746.45.8
31Jim Lee Howell195419608453-27-40.6318.854.245.48.7
32Dom Capers1995200512848-800.375-53.2-7.845.45.7
33Dan Devine197119745625-27-40.446-271744.112.6
34Steve Spagnuolo200920114810-380.208-48.3-4.743.614.5
35Jock Sutherland194019474528-16-10.622-15.527.54315.3
36Art Shell1989200610856-520.519-32.68.4416.1
37Eric Mangini200620108033-470.413-32.76.739.37.9
38Neill Armstrong197819816430-340.469-22.416.438.99.7
39Monte Clark1976198411951-67-10.429-18.918.937.75.1
40Jimmy Johnson1989199914480-640.556-4.430.434.83.9
41Darryl Rogers198519885818-400.31-29.53.5339.1
42Bart Starr1975198313152-76-30.397-38.2-5.832.44
43Tom Flores1979199418497-870.527-9.522.531.92.8
44Butch Davis200120045824-340.414-19.612.131.88.8
45Dave Campo200020024815-330.313-30.11.131.110.4
46Jim Harbaugh201120134836-11-10.751.130.929.89.9
47Jim Zorn200820093212-200.375-15.713.729.314.7
48Joe Philbin201220133215-170.469-14.115.129.314.6
49Joe Schmidt196719728443-34-70.512-3.225.228.45.4
50Ray Flaherty1936194912280-37-50.65619.447.127.73.6
51Joe Collier196619683013-16-10.433-14.512.927.414.6
52Marv Levy19781997255143-1120.56111.738.8271.7
53Pat Shurmur20112012329-230.281-24326.913.5
54Paul Schissler193319364614-29-30.304-22.44.426.99.3
55Hank Stram19601977238131-97-100.5540.266.826.61.8
56Hugh Devore19531957267-18-10.269-214.325.315.6
57Buddy Parker19491964188104-75-90.55310.134.924.82.1
58Bob Hollway19711972288-18-20.286-15.39.324.614.1
59Brad Childress200620107439-350.5276.630.323.75.1
60Phil Bengtson196819724721-25-10.447-11.312.323.68
61Ray Perkins1979199011742-750.359-52.8-3022.93.1
62Tony Sparano200820116129-320.475-10.511.722.15.8
63Mike Holovak1961197610852-47-90.481-16.35.221.53.2
64John McVay197619783714-230.378-22.5-121.49.3
65Ray Rhodes199519998037-42-10.463-18321.14.2
66Pete Cawthon19431944152-130.133-23.6-2.920.822.1
66Buster Ramsey196019612811-16-10.393-12.48.420.811.9
68Mike Singletary200820104018-220.45-9.410.920.38.1
69Harry Gilmer196519662810-16-20.357-1732011.4
70John North197319753411-230.324-27.4-7.519.99.4
71Jack Pardee1975199416487-770.532.322.219.81.9
72Mike Mularkey200420124816-320.333-20.7-1.319.36.4
73Al Saunders198619883917-220.436-21.3-3.218.27.5
74John Fox20022013192107-850.5579.126.917.81.5
75Abe Gibron197219744211-30-10.262-24.3-6.717.56.7

This was almost called the Lovie Index: I originally ran this study by looking just at offensive ANY/A, and Lovie Smith dominated that formula.2 Still, Smith comes up pretty high on this list, and his career — and his record and single Super Bowl appearance — is remarkably similar to Billick’s.

Billick’s “success” in this formula has been carried on by his predecessor, John Harbaugh. In fact, Baltimore finished 1st in this metric in 2013 (-11.9 offense, +5.9 defense). Speaking of the brothers Harbaugh, Jim Harbaugh has produced a nearly identical per-season average. Both deserve their low-octane reputations.

I thought Rex Ryan would finish higher in this3, but he winds up as “only” 28th on this list. Part of the reason: the Jets have only allowed 6.8 fewer touchdowns than average over the last four years combined. But here’s the more interesting Rex stat: in his five seasons and 80 games, the Jets have scored 158 offensive touchdowns and allowed 158 offensive touchdowns. That ranked tied for 4th over that time period in defense, and 10th from the bottom on offense.

Perhaps an even bigger surprise to me is Jeff Fisher’s low ranking. He doesn’t even show up in the top 75, checking in at number 87 on the list. Part of the reason is that he had some pretty bad defenses with the Titans: the ’01, ’04, ’05, ’06, and ’09 teams all allowed at least ten more touchdowns than average. His 2000 team does fare pretty well in the Billick Index: those Titans finished 1.7 touchdowns below average on offense, and 16.7 touchdowns better than average on defense.

And let me be the first to say that the Swamp Fox comes in at #11. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the reverse: the coaches whose teams most exceeded the average number of offensive touchdowns scored in their games.

  1. As always, coaches from prior to 1932 are included, but only their seasons beginning in 1932 are included. []
  2. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get comfortable with the methodology, so the project was scrapped. []
  3. As for his father? To my surprise, Buddy Ryan comes out as perfectly average in this formula, as his defenses simply were not great at preventing touchdowns when he was a head coach. []
{ 18 comments }
  • Dallas Robinson June 23, 2014, 12:37 am

    Interestingly enough, that 2004 Ravens teams was the one covered by John Feinstein in “Next Man Up.”

    Reply
  • ubrab June 23, 2014, 1:16 am

    I guess the 2012 Lions will end up somewhere in tomorrow’s list.

    Reply
  • C Bolton June 23, 2014, 2:32 am

    Total offensive touchdowns per season and defensive touchdowns per season is a very good choice of metric for NFL football.

    Reply
  • Duff Soviet Union June 23, 2014, 7:33 am

    I don’t know who’ll be #1 on the anti-Billick index, but I bet you his numbers are much less extreme than Billick’s. I think that generally speaks to the nature of football fans in general. A guy who continually runs crap offences but great defences will last a lot longer than a guy who continually does the opposite. The only coach who is really offensively biased is Sean Payton (Chip Kelly might be the same way, but it’s too early to tell for sure) and he’s pretty much how good of an offensive coach you have to be to stay employed with continually average to worse defences (I know last year’s was pretty good, but that’s an outlier in is career so far).

    Another two interesting coaches not ranked – Marty Schottenheimer and Tony Dungy.

    Also laughed at seeing “offensive guru” John Gruden in the top 15

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 23, 2014, 7:54 am

      You may be putting your face in your palm tomorrow.

      That Gruden ranking is pretty ugly: I hadn’t noticed at first glance, but he’s below average in offensive touchdowns. Ouch.

      Schottenheimer was at 16.8, or +0.8 per season. Pretty neutral. Dungy was at -3.9, or -0.3 per season.

      Reply
      • Duff Soviet Union June 23, 2014, 8:13 am

        “You may be putting your face in your palm tomorrow.”

        You’ve got me curious now.

        Reply
    • James June 23, 2014, 10:09 am

      Certainly Tony Dungy’s Colts more than cancel out his time with the Bucs. The Colts scored tons of touchdowns, and I bet they gave up at least an average amount on defense.

      Reply
  • Duff Soviet Union June 23, 2014, 7:42 am

    One thing I didn’t comment on: I just sorted by defensive TD’s above average and the gap between Paul Brown at #1 and Bill Cowher at #2 is bigger than the gap between Cowher and the guy ranked #13 (John Harbaugh).

    Another thing: You’ve mentioned the Swamp Fox, but how did Ray Perkins stay employed for 11 years with a .359 record? His offences were 53 TD’s below average and his D’s were 30 below average, so he didn’t really do anything well.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 23, 2014, 7:56 am

      Brown’s data includes his AAFC days, but yeah.

      Perkins inherited some bad teams, and never got out of his own way. He doesn’t fare

      Reply
      • Bryan Frye June 23, 2014, 8:57 am

        It is still insane that Brown ranks 29 on the list despite scoring the most points over average. Like you hinted at, his AAFC time really helps him. His point differentials were 286, 225, 199, and 168. He only surpassed 168 three other times in his coaching career. Also, I’m sure you knew all of this already.

        Reply
  • Chris June 23, 2014, 7:44 pm

    Odd to find Paul Brown in the top 30 seeing how he is credited for most of the changing of the offensive game. He sowed the seeds for the West Coast Offense.

    Reply
    • Duff Soviet Union June 23, 2014, 9:29 pm

      Brown’s offensive rankings were great. Sort by offensive TD’s and he’s first on this list by a mile. It’s just his defensive rankings were even better.

      Reply
      • Chris June 23, 2014, 9:34 pm

        That makes more sense.

        Reply
  • prowrestlingisstrong June 24, 2014, 1:10 am

    Winning 9 games while scoring 24 offensive touchdowns is amazing. I am going to venture out on a limb and say that is the only time in modern NFL history a team scored under 25 touchdowns in a season and had a winning record.

    Some recent history

    2013 Jags scored 23 touchdowns and went 4-12
    2012 Chiefs scored 17 touchdowns went 2-14
    Cardinals 21 touchdowns went 5-11
    2011 Browns 20 touchdowns went 4-12
    Rams 16 touchdowns went 2-14
    Chiefs 18 touchdowns went 7-9
    Colts 22 touchdowns went 2-14
    2010 Cardinals 19 touchdowns went 5-11
    Panthers 16 touchdowns went 2-14

    I am assuming most years would look similar the farther you go back. But regardless that 2004 Ravens team was pretty impressive

    Reply

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