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Need to Know: Are yardage stats for losers like Haslett says?

Feb 15, 2014, 4:56 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 15, four days before the start of the NFL Combine.

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Earlier this week, Jim Haslett told ESPN 980 that he didn’t pay much attention to the number of yards his defense gave up. “That’s kind of for losers,” he said. Let’s put that to the test by taking a look back through Redskins history. Here are the five (plus three) Redskins teams who have ranked the highest in yards given up since the NFL merger and how those teams fared during the season.

1974, ranked 2nd—George Allen’s team went 10-4 and lost to the Rams I the first round of the playoffs. The defense featured Pro Bowl seasons by Hall of Famers Chris Hanburger and Ken Houston and a part-time farewell season for Deacon Jones.

1985, ranked 3rd—Under Joe Gibbs, this team wen 10-6 and missed the playoffs on tiebreakers. No Redskins defenders made the Pro Bowl even through Charles Mann (14.5) and Dexter Manley (15) combined for 29.5 sacks. Darrell Green was also in his prime.

1991, ranked 3rd—I’m sure I don’t have to tell you much about this team, probably the best in Redskins history. Green and Mann were among the eight Redskins Pro Bowlers. To be sure, it wasn’t all about the defensive yardage stat. They led the league in yards gained, turnover ratio, point differential and yardage differential.

2004, ranked 3rd—In the first year of Gibbs 2.0 the Redskins went 6-10 and finished well out of the playoffs. Gregg Williams was in charge of the defense and his unit got the job done in spite of having only one member selected to the Pro Bowl, linebacker Marcus Washington.

The Redskins of 1971 (lost first round of playoffs), 1972 (lost Super bowl), 1982 (won Super Bowl), 2000 (8-8, no playoffs), 2008 (8-8, no playoffs), all finished ranked 4th in the NFL in yards given up. The three teams that made the playoffs finished ninth or better in turnover ratio; the two 8-8 teams finished 16th and 17th in that category.

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—It’s been 48 days since the Redskins played a game; it will be about 204 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 4; NFL Free agency starts 24; Offseason workouts start 51; NFL Draft 82

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  1. colmac69 - Feb 15, 2014 at 6:09 AM

    Stats are nice but a lot are very misleading and dont give full picture…for example teams like patriots/packers had some of worst defenses (tot yds given up) still reached superbowls and won…eagles team from 1990 led league in pass/rush/tot yds def yet lost in playoffs to skins…..think when u look at stats things like 3rd dwn percentage comp/turnover ratio/red zone efficiency/pts per game etc u get better picture where teams are at…..1983 skins (imo one of best redskin teams ever and one that gets overlooked cos they ddidn’t win superbowl)that defense had like 66 turnovers (+45, 46 ratio) yet lost superbowl….2004 redskins that was mentioned above gave up 3.4 yds per run which was best in league but won six games..lots of examples where stats give misleading picture

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 15, 2014 at 8:23 AM

      Stats are useful but, you’re right, they don’t always give the whole picture. As I noted in reply to the other comment, more on this topic is coming.

  2. gholmesbm - Feb 15, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    Rich I don’t think you can look at just the yardage stats to evaluate Haz’s “loser” comment. The other half is that points given up are the important thing.

    His message is that, if you give up a lot of yards, but not many points, you still have a successful defense.

    So you need to look at the points given up as well as the yardage given up. I think many of these teams also did not give up many points. I havent done that because I dont have great internet access right now, but that would be a more insightful analysis.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 15, 2014 at 8:22 AM

      This isn’t supposed to be a comprehensive look at answering the question, This will be a frequent topic for the rest of the year. I will say that points allowed is also a flawed way to evaluate a defense as well since it can be skewed by horrid special teams and turnovers by the offense (see 2013 Redskins).

      Thanks for the the comments. Again, more on this topic, and more in-depth discussion, coming.

  3. kenlinkins - Feb 15, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    There are so many STATS today that IMO most of them have no real meaning. A good accountant can make stats tell just about any story they want. A good coach can spot a weakness by using some stats or to find patterns of another team. The Win/Lose stat is always number one but after that you can get lost in the numbers. Coach’s who spend more time trying to improve numbers fail as IMO the better coach will work on fundamentals and techniques which in turn will produce better numbers. On Defense I would watch the time a QB has to throw, yards allowed per play (run or pass) and if a defense set worked (like 3rd down conversion, yards allow on first down). So, to answer the question “are stats for losers”? I would have to say NO, but in the case of the 2013 Redskins, if our defense was so hurt my Special Teams poor play,poor starting field position, turn overs, dropped balls, poor 3rd down conversion and drives that stalled how did the Defense give up so many yards working with all those short fields? Oh wait, we were 15th out of 32 in the top half. Maybe stats do work, Oh wait we were 3-13 which makes us losers, So, YES, Stats are for losers, now if we go 13-3 in 2014 I will not go any deeper into the Stats (I will allow the losers to do that). Like I said, you can make any case you want with just a little bit of effort.

  4. alextwrs - Feb 15, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    Another interesting article, I agree with HAS. The bend but not flex scheme that worked in 2012 was helped a lot by better field position and time management due to our stout run game. We may have given up a lot of yards but they made crucial stops and got lucky sometimes with turn overs, for example londons interceptions. Right place right time, but the overall scheme worked because they had rest and field position. There is a lot to say about continuity between an OFF and a DEF. Special teams def hurt the overall DEF performance this yr as well. Just terrible. I think Jim is fired up and wants some tools to unleash on the NFC east. Archives

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