Friday, January 06, 2006
If They Can't Get Football Right...
It's when you read the sports pages, where all the facts and statistics are simple and readily available that you begin to realize how bad some newspaper writers are at getting their stories straight. Thomas Boswell builds up the Redskins' chances of going deep into the playoffs in his latest column by emphasizing Joe Gibbs's past success at taking weak teams to the Super Bowl. To do this he tears down the 1987 Redskins to make them appear much weaker than they were, and builds up their competition to appear stronger than it was. Boswell first runs through a litany of the '87 team's skill position statistics and compares them unfavorably with today's players. But Washington's stars only played 12 games because of the strike shortened season. (Did Boswell forget that? No, he mentions the strike early in the article.) Despite playing just 12 games Gary Clark managed to rack up 1066 yards receiving with a hefty 19 yard per catch average. Clark was third in the league in yards and tenth in TDs that year. Ricky Sanders also managed to pile up 630 yards and average 17 yards per catch. Oh, and don't forget Art Monk who, despite playing just nine games because of injuries, snagged 38 balls for nearly 500 yards. And while Washington had only three pro-bowlers in '87, the offensive line starters for that year were selected for a total of 13 pro-bowls between 1981 and 1988, and the defensive linemen from that team went to six pro-bowls during their careers. "Even the ['87] defense was none too special, allowing 19 points per game -- a bit more than the current Redskins (18)," adds Boswell. There's just one problem with that comparison, though: Point production changes from year-to-year in the NFL. The '87 Redskins were actually ranked sixth in the NFL in points allowed while this year's team is ranked ninth, despite allowing fewer points. More importantly, the '87 team ranked fifth in points scored versus this year's 13th place ranking. Next Boswell builds up the '87 competition. He notes that the 13-2 49ers were hotter than today's Colt's, winning their last three games by 124-7 and that the '87 Bears had gone 40-7 over the three previous seasons. But again he has problems: Washington never played San Francisco because the 49ers were knocked out by the 8-7 Vikings who, by the way, also dispatched the 12-3 Saints (thank you very much). Washington scraped by the Bears 21-17 on a 52-yard Darrell Green punt return TD, and returned home to edge the Vikings before blowing out the mediocre Broncos in the Super Bowl. The 10-4-1 Broncos had the second best record in a weak AFC that year (Cleveland went 10-5). And just how strong were those Bears? Well, it's true they were 40-7 from 1985-87, but four of those seven losses came in '87. In other words, they had the same 11-4 record as Washington (while scoring 23 fewer points and allowing just three fewer points than Washington for the season). There's a big reason why wildcard teams usually fare poorly in the playoffs: Home field advantage makes a huge difference in the NFL. Washington probably has a slightly better than even chance of knocking off the Bucs Saturday in Tampa, but realistically they have a very small chance of going deep into the playoffs. Savor a good season and appreciate the foundation Gibbs is building for serious playoff runs in the next few seasons.
Posted by AT at 12:03 AM