Last week, early in the Buccaneers' mini-camp, Head Coach Jon Gruden stood with the local media after practice and spoke for a good 20 minutes. This is not say Gruden rambled; the length of the group interview was determined solely by how many questions were asked, and the coach was simply being accommodating.
But, suffice it to say, a lot of ground was covered. There were some topics that are covered in almost every post-practice interview, such as the players who missed practice (Charlie Garner, Ellis Wyms, Kenyatta Walker and a few others), and some that were specific to the situation, like the day's relatively bearable weather (the rookies don't know what they're in for).
There were some questions that seemed designed to get stock answers, like how Gruden feels about his current team (excited, confident in the team's nucleus). And there were others that don't really have an answer yet, like who will be starting on the offensive line (uh, like I said, no answer yet).
There were relatively new topics, like the kicker battle between Matt Bryant and Todd France (Gruden hopes to see one separate himself soon), and moldy old ones, like Keenan McCardell's 2004 holdout (the less said the better).
There was pretty much something for everyone, which is why the interview took so long in the first place. And why it took so long – seven pages! – for the poor Buccaneer staffer charged with transcribing the interview to get it all down in print.
The Answer Man was glad he did, though, because I wasn't present at the interview, and the transcription served as a nice synopsis of what's going on around here. Some of it was edifying, some of it was old news.
But lost in all of that, near the bottom of page two, were two little sentences that the Answer Man, a closet stathead, found interesting.
Gruden had been asked to name the one thing that his team most needed to fix heading into 2005. He named four. Three of them you would probably name in about 10 seconds: Better kicking, stronger offensive line play and fewer turnovers.
The fourth one is what got the Answer Man thinking. Here's what Gruden said: "And we've got to start better on defense. We can't come out and give up an opening touchdown in nine or 10 games."
Two questions popped immediately into my mind. One, how bad was the problem; or, to put it another way, how many times did the Bucs allow a score on the opening drive in 2004 (for our purposes, we're going to include opening-game field goals, as well)? And two, did that problem lead to Buccaneer losses.
Anyone who has read this column once or twice knows that the Answer Man likes a good research problem. Even better, however, is one someone else does the research, and that was the case in this instance. As willing as I would have been to look up the answers to those questions, another fine Buccaneer P.R. staffer had already done it a few weeks ago as part of his own project. Let's take a look at the results.
First, a note about the list. There were two games last year that are difficult to fit into the equation. At Oakland in Week Three, the Bucs forced and recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff. Does that count as an opening possession stop, or should we consider the first offensive series the Raiders had, a few minutes later, which led to a field goal? Then, against New Orleans in Week 15, the Saints returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown. Does that count as an opening possession score, or should we consider the first offensive series the Saints had, a few minutes later, which did not result in a score.
Well, the issue as Gruden posed it was, "starting better on defense," which would lead you to exclude the kickoff issues and go straight to the first possession. However, the Answer Man thinks that the basic idea of needing to start better on defense is that it's hard to overcome an opening score. To see how the Bucs fared when they were or were not in an immediate hole, the kickoff results should be included.
So I included them. The Raiders game counts as a "did not score on the opening possession" and the Saints came counts as a "did score on opening possession."
Now, last year, the Buccaneers allowed their opponent to score on the opening possession seven times, and went 1-6 in those games. They held their opponent without a score on the opening possession in the other nine games and went 4-5.
In 2003, the Bucs allowed opening-possession scores four times and lost all four games. They were 6-6 in the other 12 games. Tampa Bay did manage a 2-2 split in 2002 when allowing opening-game scores, but was a much healthier 10-2 when they did not commit that sin.
So, the last three years considered, the Bucs are 3-13 when they are scored upon to open the game, and 20-12 when they aren't. The Answer Man considers that pretty strong evidence that Gruden is right in identifying this as a significant issue.
Here's a related and interesting group of numbers. Over that same three-year span, the Bucs are 6-10 when they allow a score on the opening drive of the second half, and 18-14 when they do not. Those are less extreme numbers, indicating that a bad third-quarter start isn't as hard to overcome as a bad start to the game overall. Of course, one reason may be that the third-quarter score doesn't necessarily put the Bucs in a hole. (Actually, neither does the first-quarter score, but since the Bucs have only opened 13 of the last 48 games with a first-drive score, it usually does mean a quick deficit.)
Well, I hope you enjoyed that little stroll through the stats as much as the Answer Man did. Now on to your questions.
- Brian White of Torrance, California asks:
**Buc- Answerman: You are the best - I have learned so much about the game from your column that my neighbor thinks I have an inside source on the team. It's amazing, living here in California and having someone moves in next door that's also a Buc fan!
Anyway - Quick question - What is the Taxi Squad? How many players are allowed on it? And does it count against the cap? Thanks again for the great column.**
Answer Man: Ah, you're going to make the Answer Man blush. Quick question for you: Does your neighbor not have an internet connection?
Alright, the easiest answer to your question is: nothing. That is, there is nothing called a "Taxi Squad" in the NFL. However, I do understand that you are using that once common term to refer to the practice squad, so we can still get down on this topic. I just bring that up because the NFL specifically wants that unit referred to as a practice squad, rather than by your alternate term or the one the Answer Man used to use, "developmental squad."
Each team is allowed eight players on its practice squad (it expanded from five to eight last year), and each team makes full use of that option. Those players are not on the active roster, are not eligible to play in games and do not make salaries commensurate with the players on the 53-man squad (though they are compensated relatively well on a weekly basis).
Basically, and fittingly, players on the practice squad are allowed to practice. This roster bonus is designed to provide teams with two things: 1) Additional practice help, as teams often are short players due to injuries during the season; and 2) A spot to hold onto "raw" players who could eventually develop into a player worthy of a regular roster spot.
To become eligible to play in a game, a player has to terminate his practice squad contract and sign with a team's active roster. You actually see that happen quite a bit. Just off the top of the Answer Man's head, concerning the Bucs only, I can think of such examples as Aaron Stecker, Corey Ivy, Chartric Darby, Edell Shepherd and Ian Smart.
One note, a player on a practice squad is still a free agent of sorts. That is, he can at any time sign with the active roster of any team, even when he is on another team's practice squad. The purpose of this is to make sure that a player isn't taking away a greater opportunity by agreeing to sign with a practice squad. A quick example of this from recent Buc history: In 1997, the Bucs signed rookie safety Damien Robinson off the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad. The Bucs kept Robinson on their 53-man roster that whole season, making him inactive each game, then worked him into the lineup and eventually made him the starter in 1999.
Does the practice squad count against the cap? Excellent question. Answer: Yes. Anything that falls under the category of paying a player – salary, benefits, bonuses – is included under the cap, and that applies to practice squad players, too.
How much does it affect the cap? Well, in keeping with the team's policy of not releasing players' salary information, the Answer Man can't give you specifics. But there are eight players on the practice squad, and their total salaries for one season do add up to enough to represent at least one player on the active roster.
- Juri of Saarbrücken, Germany asks:
**Just don't have the time right now to formulate a long question, so I make a short one:
Why does John Lynch have one single run attempt as a Buccaneer (the season was 1996)? He get 40 yards if I can trust nfl.com and that should be enough to try a second attempt I think. Please let me know it, this question is nagging me the whole day so I decided to write you.**
Answer Man: That is an outstanding question, Juri, no matter how brief. And, yes, you can trust NFL.com on this.
John Lynch is the surprise answer to a tricky Buccaneer trivia question: Who has the best yards-per-carry average in franchise history. Lynch did indeed gain 40 yards on his only career carry, which occurred in 1996. Guess who's second.
Kicker Michael Husted! He had one carry for 20 yards. How about that backfield for the Bucs' all-time team, Michael Husted blocking for John Lynch (though it probably work a bit better the other way around).
The reason Lynch's big gain didn't lead to a more permanent job as a rusher was because it wasn't your typical running play. It was, instead, a fake punt.
One of the rolls Lynch played on special teams for several years was the position of "fullback" on the punt squad. That's the guy who stands about halfway between the snapper and the punter, the one who calls for the play to begin and is the punter's last line of protection. It is a position usually entrusted to a smart player.
Well, on September 22, 1996, the Buccaneers were playing Seattle in old Tampa Stadium when Lynch took up his customary position for a second-quarter punt. On this occasion, however, long-snapper Dave Moore fired the ball directly to Lynch, who ran right up the middle past the rushers who were trying to get to punter Tommy Barnhardt. The play worked so well that Lynch found himself all alone in the open field. He was eventually tackled 40 yards downfield, at the Seahawks' 20 by Seattle's return man…none other than current Buc Joey Galloway.
The Bucs scored a touchdown five plays later to take a 10-3 lead before halftime. Alas, Seattle would score twice in the final three minutes to take a 17-13 victory.
By the way, if Lynch should have gotten a look at running back due to that play, then the Bucs also should have tried running back James Wilder at quarterback. Wilder threw one pass during his career and completed it for a 16-yard touchdown. That gives him a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the best in team history.
Of course, in practice, statisticians apply minimums to these categories, so that no one will claim that Lynch is really the best per-carry rusher in Buccaneer history.
- C. Dobler of Mehlville, Missouri asks:
**Hey Answer Daddy:
Caught your last edition after returning from a visit to your hot and muggy state of Florida this June. Bet your players are happy that football season does not go thru the middle of summer, well not yet anyway!
Since you seem to love the research, here are two questions about the Bucs and the Hall of Fame in Canton. First, what Tampa players are in the hall? That is to say, in the Hall as Bucs, not players in the hall who may have spent some time on the Bucs team. Secondly, and one that only true football fans would know, who are the two teams that were the original NFL? Hint, one of them has a no championship streak that would rival the Cubs!**
Answer Man: Ah, where do I start with this one, another love letter from the fake (I hope) Conrad Dobler in the St. Louis area?
C-Dob, let's begin with your trip through Florida and your assumption about the season. In a word, wrong! The 2005 NFL season may not start until September 11 this year, but the Buccaneers will be very hard at work long before that…right through the dog days, in fact.
The Buccaneers report to training camp on July 28 and start practicing twice a day on the 29th. The first workout is in the morning, starting around 8:30 a.m., so that one is only slightly simmering. The second one is smack dab in the middle of the afternoon, when temperatures are really soaring and the humidity level is stuck somewhere between "70%" and "underwater." It's not unusual for a player to lose five or six pounds at a single practice. (Of course, heat safety is a top priority for Buccaneer trainers and coaches during these practices.)
The games start in August, too, though all the preseason contests are at night. However, September in Florida is pretty much still summer, so those early-season afternoon games are purty dang hot, too. Fortunately for the Buccaneers this year, they have only one September home game.
Alright, I guess that's enough time spent not answering your questions. Let's get to the real reason we're here.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the first question, Connie, because the Answer Man has already covered the "Bucs in the Hall of Fame" thing from several angles. For more detail, please check out previous discussions in Series 2, Volumes 13 and 11. To summarize, there are two and only two Buccaneers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of whom was just elected this past winter.
The first is defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, who spent his entire career (1976-85) as a Buccaneer and was inducted into the Hall in 1995. The second is quarterback Steve Young, who played only two seasons as a Buccaneer (1985-86) and is in the Hall based on his heroics with the San Francisco 49ers.
I see the objection against including Young in your question, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn't force players to represent a specific team, as you see with baseball players choosing what cap to wear. When Young made it, the list increased by one for both the Bucs and the 49ers. Count him or don't count him, whichever you wish. Also, the Answer Man does not count Anthony Munoz, a Hall of Fame offensive tackle who played basically his whole career for the Cincinnati Bengals. Munoz signed with the Buccaneers in 1993 after "unretiring" but was hurt during the preseason and went back to retirement. He does not count on the Bucs' all-time roster, having not been on the team during the regular season, and he is not listed among the Bucs' Hall of Famers by the Hall itself.
Okay, now on to the more meatier question you lobbed in my direction.
I see from the wording you chose that you obviously have the answer in mind. However, I don't think I'm going to say exactly what you expect.
It's not that I think you're wrong. I think what you're asking me is which are the two current NFL teams that were there at the inception of the league, and I imagine the reason you're asking is that one of the teams is the Cardinals. Though they're the Arizona Cardinals now, they were the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-87, and that's the team for which your namesake, Conrad Dobler, played. Before moving to St. Louis, they were the Chicago Cardinals, and that was one of the 14 teams in the first official NFL season, 1920.
The Cardinals went 6-2-2 that year to tie for fourth with the Rock Island Independents. There were no playoffs, and the 8-0-3 Akron Pros took the title. In 1925, the Chicago Cardinals finished 11-2-1, edging the Pottsville Maroons (10-2-0) by 13 percentage points for the title. The NFL started playing a championship game in 1993, and the Cardinals' first trip to the big game was in 1947, when they beat Philadelphia, 28-21, to take the league title.
And thus begins the streak to which you refer. The Cards were back in the championship game the next year, but Philadelphia got its revenge with a 7-0 victory. The Chicago-St. Louis-Phoenix-Arizona Cardinals haven't been back to a title game since. That doesn't really rival the Cubs (59 years to 97 years), but who does?
Besides the Cardinals, there are no other nicknames among the 14 teams in 1920 that have persisted to this day (and with such choices as the Triangles, Jeffersons, Staleys and Panhandles, the Answer Man considers that a good thing), but there was another team among that group that is still with us.
That would be the Chicago Staleys, the team you now know and loathe (if you're a true St. Louisan) as the Chicago Bears. After that first season, team owner A.E. Staley (now the name becomes clear) sold the Staleys to player-coach George Halas, of whom you may have heard a thing or two. Halas resisted the urge to change the team to the Chicago Halases (Hali?) and led the Staleys to the league championship in 1921 with a 9-1-1 record. He changed the team name to the Bears in 1922, at the same time that the league first adopted the name "National Football League," having gone by the name "American Professional Football Conference" during those first two years.
The next year, by the way, the Green Bay Packers joined the league and in 1927 a revolutionary cheesehead-molding process was discovered in Ashwaubenon.
So, though I disagree slightly with the wording of your question, I would say the answer is the Cardinals and the Bears. And maybe you, C-Dob, have learned a thing or two today, too.
- Matt Chrien of Durham, North Carolina asks:
Hey Answer Man, Often a player that is injured before the season begins will reach an "injury settlement" with the team. Two questions: Is the settlement based upon the player's existing contract? How does the settlement amount affect a team's salary cap?
Answer Man: Let's describe this process for the rest of the crowd, Matt, in case they don't know what you're talking about.
Let's say player John Smith signed during the offseason and goes to camp with the Buccaneers. He's having a good camp, may make the team, may not. Then he gets hurt, and it's an injury that will probably cost him a good portion of the season.
First, you should know that a player who has become injured while working with your team cannot simply be cut unless he passes a physical that says he is no longer injured. That's important protection for the players.
Now, there are several options for John Smith here. One is to be put on injured reserve, in which case he will be paid his season salary in full, and that salary will count against the cap. Another is to reach an injury settlement. In this case, the team and Smith agree on some lump sum and he is released. Yes, Matt, that settlement is based on the player's original salary. That is, the best thing for the player would be to get his entire salary and the best thing for the team (compassion aside) would be to pay no salary. The solution is somewhere in between.
Why take an injury settlement rather than stick around on injured reserve and draw a full salary while going through rehab. Well, in some cases a player may believe that he can return to health and continue his career with another team before a full season has passed. Once he's on injured reserve, he cannot play with that team for the remainder of the year. He can play for another team, however, if he is released with an injury settlement. Many players who are hurt in training camp choose this option.
And players don't have to make that decision the moment they are hurt. You can go on the injured reserve list, and then later work out an injury settlement and get your release. While the player is on injured reserve, his full salary counts against the cap. When a settlement is reached, the team's cap is credited back the difference between the original salary and the settlement. And, as in any situation in which a player leaves a team before his original contract has run its course, if there was any significant signing bonus the prorated portions of it will accelerate immediately to that moment. Generally speaking, however, the players who reach injury settlements do not have enormous contracts.
- Brian Pavlik of Tampa, Florida asks:
Answer Man, you can help me settle an argument with a friend of mine regarding the line of scrimmage. Understanding that 7 of the 11 players must be on the line of scrimmage, what exactly is the definition of that line in relation to the distance extending from the left and right side of the ball? I've been trying to think of the best way to explain my question, and here's what I've come up with: Say you have the usual suspects on offense (1 QB, 5 O-linemen, 1 tailback, 1 fullback, 1 tight end, 2 wideouts) and the ball is placed at the 20 yard line. Assuming that 7 players remain on the 20 yardline and 5 of these players are O-linemen, can these players line up anywhere on the 20? Can you have a single center in front of the QB, and have the remaining 6 players on the 20 all line up next to the sideline? My buddy seems to think that this scheme would work beautifully for a speedy QB like Vick. Without allowing myself to explain the lack of feasibility of this "scheme", would this even be legal? And assuming that it is legal, please explain to my friend why this would never work in the NFL.
Answer Man: So what your friend is proposing is sort of like an isolation play in basketball, right? Everyone clears out to the other side of the key and lets Michael Jordan go one-on-one with the defender.
Yeah, that would be legal. The seven men on the line of scrimmage can be anywhere on the line, as long as both ends of the offensive line are "covered." That is, there needs to be an eligible receiver somewhere to the left of the left tackle and somewhere to the right of the right tackle. You may have seen formations where it looks like all the receivers are on the right side, but you can bet that there was a tight end next to the left tackle, or that formation would be illegal.
So as long as you meet this criteria, yes, you could put the other four offensive linemen and both receivers as close to the sideline as you can get them. You even see a split-line formation once or twice a year in the NFL – Coach Gruden calls it a "Star Wars" formation – though it's more common in college. You might put the quarterback behind a center and two guards, and then put a running back behind two other linemen split off wide, with the idea that the QB might run himself, might throw downfield or might take the snap and throw it to the back for a ready-made screen pass.
But here's the main reason your friend's concept won't work: Five of the seven men on the line are ineligible receivers. In front of the quarterback, they can fill an important job by keeping rushers away from him (hopefully). Split out to the sideline, they are basically useless. As long as they're not blocking for a back such as on the play I described, then the defense can pretty much ignore them. That would mean they could keep plenty of defenders in front of Vick. Michael Vick is an unbelievable talent, but he's not going to make many big plays running straight into seven defenders with no blockers.
Still, your friend does have a valid point in there. It's incredibly entertaining when a coach in any sport tries something totally unorthodox, like Tony LaRussa batting the pitcher eighth a few years ago with the St. Louis Cardinals, or the Steelers putting Kordell Stewart into his "Slash" role. In baseball, the shortstop almost always stands halfway between second and third because that's where he's going to get to the most ground balls, but against Ted Williams he usually stood on the first-base side of second. It was the "Williams Shift," and it made sense to put the player in an unusual position. Couldn't there be some situations in which the five offensive linemen might be better deployed somewhere else than in the typical LT-LG-C-RG-RT line in front of the quarterback? Maybe, maybe not – the Answer Man isn't an NFL coach and never will be. But I would sure like to see it.
- Greg S. of an airbase in Kuwait asks:
**O Learned One of the oblong passion enjoyed by all in Bucland. Though my home state is Arkansas, I am proud to be representing the almighty Buccaneers from the hot and dusty country of Kuwait. May you be up to the daunting challenge of answering my inquiry this fine day.
I would like to know about NFL Europe. What influences the decision of which players go to play across the pond? Also, is every player over there an allocate of an NFL team, or are there Germans, Dutch, Spaniards, and the like involved in the action as well?
Thank you in advance for your generous sharing of your knowledge! Peace!**
Answer Man: "Peace!" That is an outstanding signoff for one of our men stationed on a military base. Thanks for keeping that peace.
I am indeed up to your daunting challenge, Greg. Let's start with your first question.
I can't speak for every team, but I'd imagine most front offices have the same motives as the Buccaneers. Basically, when determining which players on your roster you might want to send to Europe, you start off with all of the men who fall into this basic category: young, inexperienced, on the edges of the roster and potentially promising. That could be as many as 30 or 40 guys. Then you decide which of those men would be better off seeing some actual game action, and which you believe need more time with your own coaching staff.
See, that's the tradeoff, Greg. If you're a young free agent trying to beat the odds and make your way in the league, you might be best served to go over to Europe and put your in-game abilities on videotape. On the other hand, you might come out better by working with the Buccaneers' coaches for those three months so that you have the offensive or defensive system down pat when training camp arrives. This year, the Buccaneers deliberated quite a bit over which of the young receivers to send overseas; eventually, Derek McCoy and Terrance Metcalf went over while Adrian Madise and Derrick Lewis stayed stateside. It might work out for all four.
One thing that might help a player make up his mind to go to Europe: roster security. Players who participate in the NFLEL know that they have a very good shot of not only making it to training camp, but also sticking around until the final cut. NFL Europe players earn roster exemptions for their teams in training camp, but those exemptions must be used on NFLEL players. In most cases, the exemptions will be used on the very players who earned them, and they don't expire until right before the final preseason cut, so teams always keep those guys around while others are being released in the first cutdown to 65 players. There's no reason not to.
No, all of the players who participate in an NFLEL season are not allocated by NFL teams, though a majority of them are. The league also signs "free agents," players who are not currently on any NFL roster when the league begins to populate its rosters in February. In fact, Akili Smith was going to play in the league as a free agent before the Bucs decided to sign him and make him one of their allocates.
And, yes, there are a handful of players in the league who are not from the States at all. They are called "nationals," and every NFL Europe roster is required to have a few of them. Probably the best of the nationals this past year was British wide receiver Scott McCready, who actually played at USF. McCready was having a huge season before he got injured in Week Six; he still finished tied for third in the league in receptions despite missing almost half of the season.
This year, the Bucs will even have one of those nationals on their practice squad all year. German safety Claudius Osei, who actually played at Florida State and was most recently with the Hamburg Sea Devils of the NFLEL, will practice with the Bucs all year, though he won't be eligible to sign with the active roster.
- Mike from the Burbs of Philly asks:
**A. Man -
Mike from Philly again (Bucs in movies question guy). Thanks a lot for your answer and thanks to the rest of the Bucs loyalists out there who helped us out.
Anyway, on to my next question. In a recent Fantasy Football season, the team in my league that finished close to last, had one of the highest total points scored. What it came down to was bad weekly matchups. What I'm getting at is has there ever been a similar event in the NFL? I tried to figure it out myself but figured that you get paid for things like this. Good luck if you choose to tackle this one. If not, thanks again for the attention you paid to my previous question.**
Answer Man: Sorry, Mike, I had to edit out that long part of your question about "What's Happening" (a friend of his remembered a Bucs' reference by Rerun) for the sake of brevity. I need to save every inch of screen for my own endless ramblings.
Like the question, though. I am more than happy to do the research, though technically I don't get "paid." Money is of no use on my planet.
I guess what we're looking for here is the highest-scoring team, in relation to the rest of the league in that same season, to finish with a losing record. In addition, can we find a team that actually scored more points than it allowed while compiling a losing record?
Well, heck, maybe this won't take much research at all. To find a team that fits that second set of criteria, we have to flip the calendar all the way back to…2004.
Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs scored 483 points and allowed 435, and still finished with a losing record, at 7-9. You might remember those Chiefs from a visit they paid to Raymond James Stadium, which resulted in a very typical 34-31 outcome in the Buccaneers' favor. Here's how you win the points battle but lose more games than you win: You beat one team (Atlanta) 56-10 and another (Denver) 45-17, but you lose two games by 34-31 margins and another by a 24-21 score.
The Chiefs' 483 points was actually second in the entire NFL, which is amazing when you consider their 7-9 record. The league leaders, the Indianapolis Colts (522 points), finished 12-4 and the team that finished third in scoring behind the Chiefs, San Diego, was also 12-4. On the NFL rankings of points scored in 2004, the next team down the list that had a losing record was Carolina at 13th.
This has been an issue for the Chiefs for a few years, which is why the team concentrated on acquiring defensive players (Patrick Surtain, Kendrell Bell, Sammy Knight, Derrick Johnson) this offseason. In 2002, the Chiefs actually led the league in scoring with 467 points (almost 30 per game) while finishing 8-8. Doesn't fit your question, but it's an obvious pattern.
But maybe you want a more dramatic example than a 7-9 team, and I guess since I found the first example so quickly I have time for a bit more research. Let's see…
Ah, the 2001 Colts! That season, Indianapolis finished with a 6-10 record but was second in the league with 413 points. That's the power of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Dominic Rhodes, I guess. (Yes, Dominic Rhodes. Edge played in only six games that year and had 662 yards, while Rhodes led the team with 1,104.) I might also bring up the 1962 Dallas Cowboys, who tied for second in the league in scoring, 17 points behind the leaders (Green Bay) but finished 5-8-1. In fact, the Cowboys scored the exact same amount of points as the New York Giants, who finished in first place in the Eastern Conference (398 each). The difference was obvious: New York allowed 283 points while Dallas allowed 402, second worst in the league.
Those are really the most dramatic examples I can find in terms of high points and a bad win-loss record, unless you want to count the 3-5-2 Akron Pros of 1922, who not only finished third in the league in scoring (among 18 teams) but had a 146-95 scoring ratio. Or the 1927 Frankford Yellow Jackets, who were 6-9-3 despite finishing third in scoring (it was a distant third, though). I guess you could call your friend's team the Frankford Yellow Jackets of fantasy football.
While I was going back through the seasons, all the way to 1920, I stumbled upon some interesting teams that didn't necessarily fit the criteria of your question but were noteworthy in a related sense.
The AFC East division was very interesting in 1974, for instance. The New England Patriots had the most points in the division and a healthy 348-289 scoring differential, but they finished only 7-7, the same record that the Jets achieved with a 279-300 scoring differential. How does that happen? Buffalo was just 264-244 in scoring but was 9-5 and in the playoffs.
Or how about the teams that actually outscored their opponents but ended up with terrible records. Great example: The 1971 Cincinnati Bengals, who scored 284 points and allowed 265 but finished 4-10 and last in the AFC Central. Similarly, the 1963 Detroit Lions scored 326 points and allowed 265 but finished 5-8-1.
Of course, there is one important difference between your friend's fantasy team and these NFL examples, Mike.
If your friend's team really was among the highest scoring teams in the league, then it was also one of the better teams, just very unlucky. In other words, by scoring a lot of points, that fantasy team was succeeding in the only way it could; the win-loss record was a product of what its opponents did, and that wasn't something the team could control.
In the case of the Chiefs, their incredibly high-powered attack was undermined by a defense that tended to give up points almost as quickly. When it worked well, as it did against Atlanta, then a beautiful 56-10 victory emerged. When it didn't, however, as was the case quite often, then the result was a shootout and the Chiefs often didn't fire the last bullet. Kansas City had some control over its fate, in other words, while your friend's team was just unlucky.
Just a few quickies to finish it off this week.
- Craig Midkiff of New Port Richey, Florida asks:
**Dear Answer Man,
I believe that I have stumped you, oh "Sultan of the Stats." Here's one for ya, What was Cadillac Williams' (who will probably be the most prolific runner in the year of 2005) first job and the make and year of his first car? Happy Hunting!**
Answer Man: Here it is, Craig, you're looooong-awaited answer!
Actually, when I first started this answer a few weeks ago, I typed up some smack talk to answer yours. Stump the Answer Man…hah! But I figure, since it took something like three weeks to get you your answer, I've pretty much lost the right to boast. I did stick you at the bottom of the column, though…so there!
Anyway, there's not much to say here. Cadillac got his first job at the age of 11 and it was, appropriately enough, washing cars. His first car was a 1988 Nissan Maxima.
- Steven Sweet of Denver, Colorado asks:
What year did the Buccaneers draft a linebacker out Texas A&M named Tony Woods and how long did he play for the Bucs...I think the year was 1993.
Answer Man: Never happened. The Bucs have never drafted a player by the name of Tony Woods, nor has a player by that name ever appeared on the Bucs' regular-season roster. Here's a list of every Texas A&M player the Bucs have ever drafted: