New York Giants: Coughlin's statistical Wyld Stallyns

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 08, 2012



By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts Wyld Stallyn


Coach Tom Coughlin and his Super Bowl champ New York Giants took pro football on a wild statistical ride in the early weeks of 2012.

In fact, the sport has never seen anything like it: a team that was dead by every emperical measure in late December after their loss to the Redskins and that failed to meet even the lowest statistical qualifications of an NFL champion. 
 
But then Coughlin's untamable statistical stallions went bucking wild. They first shook off some very average Cowboys on New Year's Day. And then it turned out that an array of the best wranglers on the gridiron were incapable of lassoing this little 9-7 doggie: speculative 49ers, company-town Packers, proud flag-waving Patriots and even history itself were all tossed to the dirt by Coughlin's stud horse.

In the space of about six weeks, Coughlin's Giants went from mediocre to (cue Bill and Ted) ... EXCELLENT!!

It's the second time in five seasons Coughlin's Wyld Stallyns pulled of an impossible feat of statistical derring-do.
 
Playoff football in most years is fairly easy to analyze. The Cold, Hard Football Facts have studied the length and breadth of football history, looking at the statistical hallmarks of every NFL champion since 1940 (the dawn of the statisitcal age of pro football). Champions almost always fall within a very narrow band of statistical paramaters, namely in scoring defense, passing efficiency, wins and losses, scoring differential and Passer Rating Differential.
 
Armed with only a couple key pieces of data you can typically pinpoint, with very, very high rates of success, the teams most likely to win a championship.
 
But then the 2007 Giants bucked all those trends just four years ago, knocking off the only 18-0 team in history along the way in the greatest statistical upset in football history.
 
The 2007 Giants had no business winning a championship, based on the parameters defined for us by NFL history since 1940. The 2007 Giants were, quite literally, the worst regular-season team that’s ever won a Super Bowl. And then the 2011 Giants replaced them as the worst regular-season team to win a title by almost every measure. See all the tables below.
 
Pro football history took a ride on Tom Coughlin's Wyld Stallyn and got tossed to the dirt ... again.
  
By all accounts, the 2007 and 2011 Giants had no business winning Super Bowls. Critics of the Cold, Hard Football Facts will argue that the Giants prove that “Stats don’t matter!!!”
 
Well, we deal with these rodeo clowns all the time. Stats do matter, provided you look at the right ones – such as our Quality Stats, which are "Quality" Stats precisely because they correlate so highly to wins and to championships.
 
The right stats provide a highly informative snapshot of each and every team and highlight for us the likelihood that they have what it takes to win a championship. If you look at the right stats, you’ll find that almost all champs throughout history fall within very definable statistical parameters.
 
Well, except for the Giants – who have fallen outside those parameters not just once, but twice now in the last five seasons.
 
If it were two different teams upsetting the statistical apple cart, we’d say that maybe it’s a sign of the changing nature of pro football. We have seen some unusual teams make Super Bowl runs in recent years – part of that traceable to the fact that the NFL began the practice of rewarding inferior teams with home games following the realignment of 2002. But that’s a story for another day.

But in this case, it’s been the same organization to win statistically implausible championships twice in recent years, with the same coach, same quarterback and same key players in several areas. This fact tell us that New York's two statistically implausible championships are a tribute to something unique about the Giants themselves. It's not an indictment of number-crunching stat-ology or a sign that the NFL has changed forever.

Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning has earned plenty of credit for his clutch-osity, and deservedly so. But New York's impossible Super Bowl wins tell us that Coughlin knows how to coach winners late in the year. Coughlin has been winning unwinnable games now for 20 years, as we discussed in great detail on SI.com before the Super Bowl.
 
Yes, we understand that the 2011 Giants had injuries, and that that they recovered late in the year. But there have been a lot of injured teams that recovered late in the year. None of them won championship with the statistical vital signs as weak as those that the Giants have displayed in recent years.
 
New York has bucked tradition in dramatic fashion now not just once, but twice in the last five seasons – and did it in manners that football history tell us simply shouldn’t happen.
 
Here’s how the 2011 Giants stack up against every NFL champion since 1940 in several key areas. You'll see that in almost every count, the 2011 and 2007 Giants fall outside the narrow  All these stats are since 1940, unless otherwise noted.
Worst record to win a championship
Year Champ Record Pct.
2011 Giants 9-7 .563
2007 Giants 10-6 .625
1988 49ers 10-6 .625
2010 Packers 10-6 .625
1957 Lions 8-4 .667
1951 Rams 8-4 .667
 
Notes: Only one team before the 2011 Giants won a Super Bowl with only nine wins; the dynastic Packers went 9-4-1 in the 14-game season of 1967, before winning their third straight NFL championship and second straight Super Bowl. You have to go all the way to the NFL's 12-game era (1947-1960) to find a nine-win champion other than the 1967 Packers and 2011 Giants.

Worst Defensive Passer Rating
Year Champ DPR
2011 Giants 86.1
2007 Giants 83.4
1998 Broncos 80.5
2006 Colts 80.4
1964 Browns 75.6
  
Notes: just four teams in history won a championship with a DPR worse than 80.0. The 2007 and 2011 Giants account for two of those four teams, including the two worst pass defenses of any champions in history. Hell, even Peyton Manning's much-maligned Colts defense was just a shade over 80.0 in 2006.

Most Points Allowed
Year Champ Games PA
2011 Giants 16 400
2006 Colts 16 360
2007 Giants 16 351
2009 Saints 16 341
1983 Raiders 16 338
1998 Broncos 16 309
1980 Raiders 16 306
1994 49ers 16 296
1988 49ers 16 294
1964 Browns 14 293
 
Notes: It's amazing. Before 2011, only six teams in history surrendered more than 300 points in a season and still managed to win a championship. The 2011 Giants are first member of the 400 club.

Most points per game allowed
Year Champ Games Points PPG
2011 Giants 16 400 25.0
2006 Colts 16 360 22.5
2007 Giants 16 351 21.9
1951 Rams 12 261 21.8
2009 Saints 16 341 21.3
1983 Raiders 16 338 21.1
1964 Browns 14 293 20.9
1959 Colts 12 251 20.9
1960 Eagles 12 246 20.5
1998 Broncos 16 309 19.3
 
Notes: Even if we break it down by points per game, which allows us to account for the differences between 12-game seasons and 16-game seasons, the 2011 Giants still come out at the bottom of the back and by a wide margin. And don't just think it's because scoring is higher these days. It's not. The three highest-scoring seasons in NFL history are 1948, 1965 and 1950. The 1948 NFL champ Eagles, for example, gave up just 13.0 PPG even in the highest-scoring year ever.
  
Lowest-ranked scoring defense (league-wide rank)
Year Champ Games PA  Rank
2011 Giants 16 400 25
2006 Colts 16 360 23
2009 Saints 16 341 20
2007 Giants 16 351 17
1983 Raiders 16 338 13
1976 Raiders 14 237 12
1980 Raiders 16 306 10
1977 Cowboys 14 212 8
1988 49ers 16 294 8
1998 Broncos 16 309 8
 

Notes: All but six NFL champs since 1940 finished in the Top 10 in scoring defense. The 2011 Giants are by far the worst in terms of league-wide rank, with the 2007 Giants not far behind.
 
Worst Scoring Differential
Year Team Champ PF PA Diff
2011 Giants 16 394 400 -6
1957 Lions 12 251 231 20
2007 Giants 16 373 351 22
1980 Raiders 16 364 306 58
1982 Redskins 9 190 128 62
1953 Lions 12 271 205 66
2006 Colts 16 427 360 67
1956 Giants 12 264 197 67
1988 49ers 16 369 294 75
1960 Eagles 12 321 246 75
1947 Cardinals 12 306 231 75
  
Notes: Talk about a chart that says it all. Every champion in history scored more points  than they surrendered over the course of a given season. The 2011 Giants join a very short list of its own. They struggled so badly during the regular season that they allowed more points than they scored. Yet still somehow had the wherewithal to pull it all together and win a championship that's singular in the history of pro football.

Worst Scoring Differential (16-game season)
Year Champ PF PA Diff
2011 Giants 394 400 -6
2007 Giants 373 351 22
1980 Raiders 364 306 58
2006 Colts 427 360 67
1988 49ers 369 294 75
 
Notes: It's not fair to compare point differentials in a 12-game season vs. a 16-game season.. But even here, when we look only at 16-game seasons, the 2007 and 2011 Giants stand out as the worst ever in the regular season.
  
Worst Passer Rating Differential
Year Champ Games OPR DPR PRD
2007 Giants 16 73.0 83.4 -10.4
1957 Lions 12 55.9 60.4 -4.5
1940 Bears 11 52.3 48.1 +4.2
1974 Steelers 14 48.9 44.3 +4.6
1964 Browns 14 80.8 75.6 +5.2
1956 Giants 12 66.0 60.0 +6.0
1947 Cardinals 12 59.9 53.9 +6.0
1986 Giants 16 75.0 68.6 +6.4
2011 Giants 16 92.9 86.1 +6.8
1980 Raiders 16 70.0 61.8 +8.2
 
OPR = Offensive Passer Rating; DPR = Defensive Passer Rating; PRD = Passer Rating Differential 

Notes: The 2007 Giants possessed what was easily the worst Passer Rating Differential in history. The 2011 Giants cracked the all-time top 10. The AVERAGE Passer Rating Differential of all NFL champs since 1940 is +27.5 ... so you can see how far off the mark these teams were.

Worst Passer Rating Differential, Live Ball Era (1978-present)
Year Champ Games OPR DPR PRD
2007 Giants 16 73 83.4 -10.4
1986 Giants 16 75 68.6 6.4
2011 Giants 16 92.9 86.1 6.8
1980 Raiders 16 70 61.8 8.2
2000 Ravens 16 72.7 62.5 10.2
1988 49ers 16 83.5 72.2 11.3
1987 Redskins 15 80.7 69.3 11.4
1983 Raiders 16 84.8 71.8 13
1998 Broncos 16 93.5 80.5 13
2005 Steelers 16 89.4 74 15.4
 
OPR = Offensive Passer Rating; DPR = Defensive Passer Rating; PRD = Passer Rating Differential 

Notes: The NFL changed dramatically in 1978, with the dawn of the Live Ball Era. But even then, the importance of PRD has remained a constant. Teams win titles when they dominate PRD ... or most do. The Giants organization remains a very rare exception with the three worst Passer Rating Differentials of any champs in the Live Ball Era.

Most Pass Yards Allowed
Year Champ Pass Yds Allowed
2011 NY Giants 4082
2009 New Orleans 3769
1998 Denver 3648
1999 StL Rams 3509
1994 San Fran 3501
2001 New England 3497
1986 NY Giants 3473
2004 New England 3400
1984 San Fran 3381
1987 Washington 3343
2007 NY Giants 3317
 
Notes:
We talked about this subject in great detail before the Super Bowl, in a piece called "The Day the Ground Game Died." The 2011 Giants are the first and only champion in history to surrender more than 4,000 passing yards in a season.

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