Yesterday, we looked at the Billick Index, a measure of coaches who managed teams that were good at preventing offensive touchdowns and bad at creating them. Today, the reverse, which is appropriately named after Don Coryell. Coryell’s teams were slanted towards the offense even when he was in St. Louis, but the situation exploded when he went to San Diego. Here’s a look at Coryell’s year-by-year grades in the Coryell Index: for example, in 1981, his Chargers scored 23.1 more offensive touchdowns than the average team, while opposing offenses against San Diego scored 10.1 more touchdowns than average. Add those two numbers together, and there were 33.3 more offensive touchdowns scored in San Diego games than in the average game in 1981 (this is the same information presented as yesterday, but now the “Grade” column reflects the number above average).
Coryell’s 1985 team grades out as even more offensive-oriented than the ’81 version. In fact, with the ’85 Chargers at 35.6 touchdowns above average, they have the 4th highest Coryell Index grade in NFL history. Which other teams were in the top five?
- Lou Saban’s 1975 Bills — you know, the O.J. Simpson-led squad that was the greatest fantasy team in history — comes in at #5. Buffalo was 21.5 offensive touchdowns above average and allowed 13.5 more offensive touchdowns to opponents, for a total grade of 34.9.
- The Dick Vermeil Chiefs were extreme, even for Vermeil teams (the head coach checks in at #8 on the Coryell Index). The most offensively lopsided of those teams came in 2004, when Kansas City scored 483 points but finished 7-9. The Chiefs scored 22.1 more offensive touchdowns than average, but the defense allowed 14.1 more touchdowns to opposing offenses than average. Unfortunately, a 3-7 record in games decided by 8 or fewer points caused the team to miss the playoffs.
- Last year’s Broncos come in at number two. We all know about Peyton Manning, and the offense produced 33.1 more touchdowns than average. The defense was a bit less impressive, allowing 6.1 more touchdowns than average, giving the normally conservative John Fox an out-of-character1 a grade of +39.1.
- But there should be no doubt about the identity of the top team on the list: the 2000 Rams. St. Louis allowed 16.3 more touchdowns to opposing offenses than the average team, while scoring a whopping 29.3 more on offense. Together, there were 45.5 more touchdowns scored on offense during Rams games than in the average game in 2000. We’ll take a closer look at the mad scientist that was Mike Martz in a few moments.
Here’s the full list. As you can see, Coryell stands out at the top of the list (the Coryell Index grade is in the “TD” column below). After Coryell, some of the next coaches at the top of the list make it more on longevity, but here’s how to read Sean Payton’s line down at number six. Payton began coaching in ’06 and last coached in ’13; he has compiled a 73-39 record in his 112 games, for a 0.652 winning percentage. His Saints teams have scored 101.6 more touchdowns than the average team, but in a bit of a surprise, have allowed 12.4 fewer touchdowns than average (remember, a positive number means the defense was above average).2
|75||Norm Van Brocklin||1961||1974||173||66-100-7||0.382||-26.6||-43.8||17.1||1.6|
I’m a bit shocked that Martz wasn’t much higher on the list. His years as offensive coordinators in St. Louis in ’99 (+11.7)and Detroit in ’07 (+13.9) would have helped, but Martz only had one other Coryell Index-heavy year as head coach: a +19.5 grade in 2001. Of course, Martz still checks in as one of the most pass-happy coaches in history. He lacks the longevity to rank in the top ten, but in some ways, he was the closest thing to Coryell of this generation.
Allie Sherman was the Giants head coach in the ’60s, after he was the man who replaced Vince Lombardi as offensive coordinator in New York. His teams were great for the first three seasons and then fell apart, but overall, he wound up running some of the most one-sided teams of the decade. Sherman had several offensive stars (at various times, Del Shofner, Y.A. Tittle, Homer Jones (remember him?), Fran Tarkenton, and Rosey Brown), but the defense was generally bad, particularly in the latter half of his tenure.
John Madden shows up at #13 on our list. It’s easy to forget in the “boom/wham” modern era of Madden, but the man was a phenomenal offensive coach. His offenses produced 11.9 more touchdowns per 16 games than average, a higher number than even Coryell.
One defensive-minded head coach also shows up on the list: George Seifert was the 49ers defensive coordinator for years, and his defenses were well above-average when he was a head coach, but his monster offenses vault him to #11 on the list. Of course, Bill Walsh is the man who created all of those offenses, and having Steve Young and Jerry Rice helps. With all due respect to Seifert, he and Billick seem to be examples of how the Jerrys and Joes can matter more than the Xs and Os.
Speaking of Walsh, why does he fall so far down on the list at #67? A few reasons, the most prominent among them being he was a great coach, not just a great offensive mind. Another is that it really took Walsh’s 49ers offenses a few years to turn into offensive powerhouses. He took over a 2-14 team in ’78 that didn’t have its first round pick in ’79, which may be why his offenses sputtered for the first few seasons: