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The Schottenheimer Index

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 26, 2007

In the comments to The Dungy Index, Pat requested a different sort of coaching index. Today we're going to analyze post-season coaching records from another angle, by predicting how many post-season wins a coach or team should have based on their number of regular season victories*.

To start with, we need to break the modern era into three sections. From 1970 to 1977**, the NFL had an eight team playoff field, and a fourteen game schedule. In 1978 the NFL expanded the regular season to 16 games and the post-season tournament to ten teams. In 1982 and 1987, the NFL did not have 16 game regular seasons, so I've omitted the strike seasons from the data***. In 1990, the NFL again expanded the playoff field by two teams, and since then 12 teams have made the playoffs each year. In 2002 the NFL realignment changed the ordering of the playoff teams, but I've decided to ignore that small change for the purpose of this post. The added specificity isn't very probative, and unnecessarily reduces our sample size.

*The normal formula for victories is Wins + (Ties/2), since the NFL counts a 
tie as half a win. Here, I'm just using actual wins, which essentially equates a tie to 
a loss.

**From 1970 to 1975, the home team was chosen randomly, and not by best record. 
This should be kept in mind when analyzing those coaching performances.

***Yes, I know Redskins fans have a legitimate beef with this, since I'm erasing
two of Joe Gibbs' Super Bowls. My apologies, and I'll address this later.

The Early Years: 1970-1977

RW is the number of regular season wins, PW is the number of playoff wins, #TM is the number of teams that made the playoffs with that number of regular season wins, and AvgPW is the average number of playoff wins for teams with that number of regular season wins.


RW PW #TM AvgPW
8 1 3 0.33
9 3 8 0.38
10 18 27 0.67
11 13 14 0.93
12 15 10 1.50
13 3 1 3.00
14 3 1 3.00

So what coaches exceeded expectations the most? Below is the list of coaches from the early period, with both their actual and expected (based on regular season record) number of wins.


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Tom Landry 12 6 +6.0
Chuck Noll 8 5 +3.2
Don McCafferty 4 2 +2.4
Don Shula 8 7 +1.2
Dick Nolan 2 1 +0.6
Red Miller 2 2 +0.5
John Madden 8 8 +0.3
Jack Pardee 0 0 -0.4
Lou Saban 0 0 -0.4
Bud Grant 7 7 -0.4
Dan Devine 0 1 -0.7
Hank Stram 0 1 -0.7
Joe Schmidt 0 1 -0.7
Chuck Fairbanks 0 1 -0.9
Nick Skorich 0 1 -1.0
George Allen 2 3 -1.3
Don Coryell 0 2 -1.6
Paul Brown 0 2 -1.9
Chuck Knox 3 5 -2.0
Ted Marchibroda 0 2 -2.3

The Middle Years: 1978-1989


RW PW #TM AvgPW
8 0 2 0.00
9 11 17 0.65
10 13 27 0.48
11 19 23 0.83
12 25 21 1.19
13 3 2 1.50
14 13 6 2.17
15 6 2 3.00

And the coaches:


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Bill Walsh 10 6 +3.6
Tom Flores 7 4 +3.0
Chuck Noll 8 5 +2.9
Bum Phillips 4 2 +1.9
Raymond Berry 3 2 +1.3
George Seifert 3 2 +0.8
Sam Wyche 2 1 +0.8
Forrest Gregg 2 1 +0.8
Bill Parcells 5 4 +0.5
Bud Carson 1 1 +0.4
Ray Perkins 1 1 +0.4
Ray Malavasi 3 3 +0.3
John Robinson 4 4 +0.3
Chuck Knox 4 4 +0.2
Dan Reeves 4 4 +0.2
Jerry Glanville 1 1 -0.1
John McKay 1 1 -0.1
Dick Vermeil 3 3 -0.1
Joe Gibbs 4 4 -0.2
Joe Walton 1 1 -0.3
Jerry Burns 1 1 -0.3
John Mackovic 0 0 -0.5
Walt Michaels 0 0 -0.5
Neill Armstrong 0 0 -0.5
Don Coryell 2 2 -0.5
Monte Clark 0 1 -0.6
Bud Grant 0 1 -0.6
Marty Schottenheimer 1 2 -0.7
Sam Rutigliano 0 1 -0.8
Bullough/Erhardt 0 1 -0.8
Marv Levy 1 2 -0.8
Leeman Bennett 1 2 -0.8
Red Miller 0 1 -1.0
Tom Landry 5 6 -1.1
Buddy Ryan 0 1 -1.3
Mike Ditka 5 7 -1.8
Don Shula 3 7 -3.7

The Later Years: 1990-2006


RW PW #TM AvgPW
8 2 7 0.29
9 15 34 0.44
10 26 51 0.51
11 45 43 1.05
12 44.5 33 1.35
13 33.5 23 1.46
14 19 11 1.73
15 2 2 1.00

Note: The Colts and Bears have each been given a half win for their Super Bowl berth.

How do the most recent coaches look?


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Bill Belichick 13 7 +5.6
Jimmy Johnson 9 5 +3.8
Marv Levy 10 6 +3.7
John Fox 5 2 +2.9
Mike Holmgren 12 9 +2.8
Joe Gibbs 6 3 +2.8
Bill Cowher 12 9 +2.5
Barry Switzer 5 3 +1.8
Ted Marchibroda 2 0 +1.6
Andy Reid 8 7 +1.2
Brian Billick 5 4 +1.2
Bill Callahan 2 1 +1.0
Jon Gruden 5 4 +0.7
Mike Tice 1 0 +0.7
Bill Parcells 6 5 +0.7
Vince Tobin 1 0 +0.6
Sam Wyche 1 0 +0.6
Sean Payton 1 1 +0.5
Jim Haslett 1 1 +0.5
Norv Turner 1 1 +0.5
Jerry Glanville 1 1 +0.5
Dan Reeves 5 5 +0.4
Herman Edwards 2 2 +0.1
Dick Vermeil 3 3 +0.1
Pete Carroll 1 1 0.0
Lovie Smith 2.5 3 0.0
Ray Rhodes 1 1 0.0
Jim Mora Jr. 1 1 0.0
Rich Kotite 1 1 0.0
Mike Shanahan 8 8 -0.1
Bobby Ross 3 3 -0.3
Bruce Coslet 0 0 -0.3
Tony Dungy 8.5 9 -0.3
Art Shell 2 2 -0.3
Jeff Fisher 5 5 -0.3
Don Shula 3 3 -0.3
Dom Capers 1 1 -0.3
Jim Fassel 2 2 -0.4
Butch Davis 0 0 -0.4
Lindy Infante 0 0 -0.4
June Jones 0 0 -0.4
Eric Mangini 0 1 -0.5
Buddy Ryan 0 1 -0.5
Dave Wannstedt 2 3 -0.5
Chan Gailey 0 1 -0.8
George Seifert 7 8 -0.8
Mike Martz 3 4 -0.9
Marvin Lewis 0 1 -1.0
Mike Ditka 1 2 -1.1
Jack Del Rio 0 1 -1.3
Dennis Green 4 5 -1.4
Dick Jauron 0 1 -1.5
Tom Coughlin 4 6 -1.6
Steve Mariucci 3 5 -1.7
Mike Sherman 2 4 -1.7
Wayne Fontes 1 3 -1.8
Wade Phillips 0 2 -2.0
Jack Pardee 1 3 -2.3
Jim Mora 0 5 -4.6
Marty Schottenheimer 3 10 -6.5

Now, several coaches span the three eras, so we need to compile a career list. To avoid staring at 100 coaches, only coaches with at least 4 expected playoff wins are included:


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Chuck Noll 16 10 +6.1
Bill Belichick 13 7 +5.6
Tom Landry 17 12 +4.9
Jimmy Johnson 9 5 +3.8
Bill Walsh 10 6 +3.6
Tom Flores 7 4 +3.0
Marv Levy 11 8 +2.8
Mike Holmgren 12 9 +2.8
Joe Gibbs 10 7 +2.6
Bill Cowher 12 9 +2.5
Andy Reid 8 7 +1.2
Bill Parcells 11 10 +1.2
Jon Gruden 5 4 +0.7
Dan Reeves 9 8 +0.6
John Madden 8 8 +0.3
George Seifert 10 10 0.0
Mike Shanahan 8 8 -0.1
Dick Vermeil 6 6 -0.1
Tony Dungy 8.5 9 -0.3
Jeff Fisher 5 5 -0.3
Bud Grant 7 8 -1.0
Dennis Green 4 5 -1.4
Tom Coughlin 4 6 -1.6
Steve Mariucci 3 5 -1.7
Chuck Knox 7 9 -1.8
Don Coryell 2 4 -2.1
Don Shula 14 17 -2.8
Mike Ditka 6 9 -2.9
Jim Mora 0 5 -4.6
Marty Schottenheimer 4 11 -7.2

Now let me try and appease our Joe Gibbs fans. The 1982 Redskins went 8-1, which is close to 14-2. So we might want to give him 2.17 expected wins in 1982, except there was an additional round of the playoffs that year. That extra game was against the 4-5 Detroit Lions, so I don't want to give Gibbs too much credit here. Let's give him 3 expected wins with an 8-1 Redskins team, and since he won four playoff games that year, he should have one extra win in the "Diff" column.

The 1987 Redskins went 11-4, but won all three games with replacement players. We should probably put them at 8-4, which we'll make equivalent to 0.71 expected wins. Since Gibbs won three games, that's an extra 2.3 wins for him. So while Gibbs is listed at +2.6, it's probably fairer to place him at 5.9, which is right behind Chuck Noll for tops on the list.

General Thoughts
One problem here is sample size. Only two teams in the middle era made the playoffs with 8 wins, and neither won a game. Only two teams in the early era won thirteen or more games, and both won the Super Bowl. So John Madden and Don Shula get no credit for winning a Super Bowl since they were the only teams with those number of wins in the era, while Marty Schottenheimer and Bud Grant catch a break since the other coach also lost his playoff game with 8 wins. Note: this may be the only time I've ever seen it written that Schottenheimer or Grant caught a break.

Still, the data only has two real blips, when teams with more regular season wins are expected to have fewer post-season wins than teams with fewer regular season wins. Teams with ten wins in the middle years didn't fare very well, and to the extent that a coach had several ten win seasons over that period, he's probably not punished enough for his post-season losses (and he's overcompensated for his post-season wins). The other blip is in the recent era, where only two teams had fifteen wins, and both teams went one and done. Based on the expected wins trend for 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 win teams, I think we'd be better off expecting 2.00 wins from teams that win 15 games than 1.00 wins. So you might want to subtract one win in the "Diff" column from Dennis Green and Bill Cowher.

If you do that, you might notice that before last year, Bill Cowher would have 1.5 fewer actual post-season wins than we'd expect. Of course, last year he won four games in the post-season en route to a Super Bowl victory. That's not very surprising, though, because I don't think there's much value to any of the above data. Playoff numbers are overvalued, because the results mean so much more to fans, and the sample sizes are incredibly small. As a result, grandiose statements that aren't statistically significant, are made. I don't believe Bill Cowher changed anything in going from a "bad" post-season coach to tying the (Joe Gibbs) record for most post-season wins in 2005.

Which brings me to my last point. In addition to thinking the data doesn't have much predictive value, I'm not sure it has any value at all. We might look at Marty Schottenheimer's -7.2 rating and conclude that he's a much better regular season coach than playoff coach. We could say that Chuck Noll was a much better playoff coach than regular season coach, as evidenced by his +6.1 rating. And the data would support that. But we could just as strongly argue that Marty Schottenheimer gets the most out of average players in the regular season, but in the playoffs, coaching talent is much less important than player talent. Conversely, one could state that Chuck Noll couldn't reach his players, was a terrible coach, but because of how talented his team was, they always won in the post-season.

You might like the former theory better than the latter, but let's be clear: the data equally support both theories. To suggest that coaching ability matters more than player ability in the playoffs, or vice versa, is purely speculative, and not proven by anything presented here.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 26th, 2007 at 5:01 am and is filed under General, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.