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The Vick-less Falcons

Posted by Doug on August 29, 2007

A few weeks ago I wondered what the 2007 Dallas Cowboys season would tell us about Bill Parcells. But secretly I already knew what it would tell me. If the Cowboys slide to 4-12, it will be because Parcells ruined the team and left the cupboard bare. If they go to the Super Bowl, it will be because the talent had been there all along (which was none of Parcells' doing), but Parcells had been inept at translating it into production.

Similarly, the many Michael Vick haters --- I'm talking about those who disparaged Vick as a player --- already have several scripts written. Which one they use depends on the kind of numbers that Joey Harrington produces this year. The Vick-bashers are truly in a no-lose situation here. If Harrington posts good passing numbers, it'll prove that Vick was horrible and that White, Jenkins, et al weren't the problem. If he doesn't, well, he's Joey Harrington, the worst quarterback in the league. If the Falcons go 8-8 or better, it will put an end to the notion that Vick was ever responsible for those winning records the Falcons posted during his tenure. If they go 4-12, it will be because of the distraction created by Vick this offseason.

My contention (which I should admit is not backed by any objective evidence that I'm aware of, but which I persist in believing anyway) is that Vick's presence under center was an immense help to the running backs. Opposing ends and outside linebackers had to stay outside, which left bigger gaps in the interior line. For me, the real test of Vick's former value will be whether Dunn and Norwood see a drop in their yards-per-rush average this season.

My team data goes back to 1972. Since then, there have been 17 teams who experienced a yards-per-rush drop of more than one yard from one season to the next. I'd bet big money that this year's Falcons will be the 18th, and they may well set the record.

           YearN YearN+1
           Y/RSH  Y/RSH  DIFF
=============================
phi 1990   4.73   3.13  -1.60
ind 1985   5.03   3.66  -1.37
buf 1973   5.10   3.84  -1.26
pit 1972   5.07   3.86  -1.21
ram 1984   5.29   4.09  -1.20
nwe 1985   4.13   2.93  -1.20
nwe 1976   4.99   3.82  -1.17
mia 1973   4.97   3.84  -1.13
det 1984   4.52   3.40  -1.12
det 1997   5.51   4.43  -1.08
det 1981   4.69   3.61  -1.08
oak 2000   4.75   3.68  -1.07
nyj 2004   4.53   3.46  -1.07
sfo 2003   4.57   3.51  -1.06
car 1999   4.28   3.27  -1.02
det 1990   5.27   4.25  -1.01
sdg 1991   4.84   3.83  -1.01

But I'm being a little disingenuous. The Falcons' 5.47 yards per rush last season was largely due to the rushing of Vick himself. A more fair test would be to see what happens to the rushing average of the running backs. Last season, the Atlanta RBs were sixth in the league with an average of 4.64.

+======+======+======+======+
| team | rsh  | yd   | ypr  |
+======+======+======+======+
| sdg  | 461  | 2482 | 5.38 |
| sfo  | 343  | 1785 | 5.20 |
| jax  | 430  | 2206 | 5.13 |
| nyg  | 426  | 2121 | 4.98 |
| phi  | 354  | 1658 | 4.68 |
| atl  | 405  | 1881 | 4.64 |
| den  | 426  | 1887 | 4.43 |
| was  | 415  | 1824 | 4.40 |
| pit  | 415  | 1816 | 4.38 |
| stl  | 396  | 1725 | 4.36 |
| kan  | 470  | 2040 | 4.34 |
| ten  | 379  | 1632 | 4.31 |
| mia  | 358  | 1508 | 4.21 |
| dal  | 426  | 1795 | 4.21 |
| nwe  | 432  | 1818 | 4.21 |
| min  | 393  | 1648 | 4.19 |
| ind  | 416  | 1726 | 4.15 |
| gnb  | 396  | 1623 | 4.10 |
| chi  | 471  | 1916 | 4.07 |
| hou  | 365  | 1459 | 4.00 |
| nor  | 427  | 1707 | 4.00 |
| cin  | 393  | 1562 | 3.97 |
| car  | 389  | 1546 | 3.97 |
| bal  | 401  | 1518 | 3.79 |
| oak  | 352  | 1328 | 3.77 |
| buf  | 368  | 1370 | 3.72 |
| sea  | 449  | 1657 | 3.69 |
| tam  | 346  | 1273 | 3.68 |
| det  | 264  | 963  | 3.65 |
| nyj  | 426  | 1449 | 3.40 |
| ari  | 377  | 1256 | 3.33 |
| cle  | 313  | 1023 | 3.27 |
+======+======+======+======+

I predict that that falls below 4.0 this year.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2007 at 4:13 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.