Since I am planning to write a season review of every NFL team, I finally wised up and decided to put together an informational post for this series. As I’ve already said, these posts will follow a pretty much set formula. So, instead of writing that formula in every post, I will put it down here and link to this post from now on. For any of you who are interested in multiple teams, this will remove some of the redundance from each post.
As we all now know, the New Orleans Saints won their first title in franchise history by beating the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV. In a game of twists and turns that seemed like it could very easily be a Colts blow-out early on, New Orleans made some bold calls and had a very timely defensive TD to secure their first Lombardi trophy. Reviewing the box score, this really was an evenly played game until near the very end. Although the Colts outgained the Saints by 100 yards, 81 of those yards came on the final drive following Tracy Porter’s 74 yard interception return for a touchdown. So, those 81 were at a point when the game was pretty much decided. Certainly, there are tons of game recaps out there, but in this post I just wanted to take a look at the numbers and throw out some thoughts based on those numbers.
The 2009 season started well for the Seattle Seahawks, with a shutout win against the hapless Rams. Unfortunately for Seahawks fans, and Jim Mora, it was pretty much downhill from there. They would win only four more games last year, to finish with a 5-11 record. With Jim Mora taking over for Mike Holmgren, there was hope that some new blood would re-invigorate the team that had made 5 straight playoff appearances in the middle of the decade. The problem seemed to be that new blood was needed in more places than just the HC position. Walter Jones and Matt Hasselbeck had both been battling injuries in recent years, and neither were up to their former standards this year either. Certainly, there were other issues as well, as the defense did not perform particularly well last season. But, that is the purpose of this post. The Seahawks are next in my series of 2009 NFL Season Reviews.
With the 7th pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns are the next team in my 2009 NFL Season Reviews. This past year, the Browns started out horribly, costing GM George Kokinis his job, and nearly leading to wholesale change in the front office and coaching staff. New team president Mike Holmgren has decided to keep head coach Eric Mangini on, probably in large part due to the four game winning streak to end the season. After a disastrous 1-11 start, the Browns appeared to improve down the stretch. This post will review Cleveland’s performance with respect to their opponents’ averages for the season in an attempt to show where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
Next up on my continuing 2009 NFL Season Reviews is the Kansas City Chiefs, who have the 5th pick this year’s draft. Like the Rams, Lions, and Buccaneers, the Chiefs entered the 2009 season with a new head coach. They also had a new GM who brought in Matt Cassel to be his quarterback. While KC did get a signature win this year by knocking off the defending champs, they still lost many games to finish at 4-12. Still, that was a two game improvement over their previous year. Three of those four wins came after releasing Larry Johnson, who was probably their most famous player at that time. Jamaal Charles, shown above, filled in very nicely for the departed Johnson. With those signs of improvement and with changes that they made at the top of the organization, there is hope for a return to glories past.
The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints were the best teams in their respective conferences this year. So for the first time in years, we get to see the top seeds meet in the Super Bowl. Earlier this year, we were wondering if two teams could possibly go 16-0 in the same year, just two years after the Patriots’ run of 2007. Prior to this season, the NFL had never seen two teams even 11-0 in the same season. This year, these teams reached 13-0 before the Saints fell in week 15 to the Cowboys, and, some believe, the Colts turned their backs on history by resting their starters in the second half of week 16 against the Jets. Regardless of how the final 2-3 weeks ended, both teams showed that they were the class of their conferences in playoffs.
The Washington Redskins are next up on my list of 2009 NFL Season Reviews. At 4-12, they pick 4th in the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft. Of the teams that I’ve looked at so far, the ‘skins had by far the most disappointing season. Following their 8-8 season in 2008, in which they had a top 5 defense, many expected that this year the offense would improve enough to get them into the playoffs and back on the winning track. It didn’t quite work out that way. The defense was still solid, ranked 10th in yards allowed, but the offense didn’t really improve enough to get them into contention. The conventional wisdom is for them to look for the QB of the future with the 4th pick. Let’s take a look at their offensive and defensive performance compared against their opponents’ averages and see if that appears to be the biggest need.
For the third installment in the series of NFL Season Reviews, we will take a look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2009 Season. After an offseason of drastic changes in both coaching and player personnel, the Bucs finished the season at 3-13. After an 0-7 start, where they were outscored 93 to 203, they showed considerable improvement, tightening the points gap to 148 to 197 in their last nine games. Early on, it appeared quite possible that they would repeat the Lions’ 0-16 record from 2008, but they won their 8th game and then 2 of the final 3 games, showing that perhaps there is a bright future for new Head Coach Raheem Morris and rookie QB Josh Freeman. With that brief recap, let’s get into the statistical review.
Last summer, I wrote a post entitled Who was the Best Rookie QB to Start a Playoff Game (Since 1970)? where I compared the rookie seasons of each quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. Well, now we have another this season that has joined that group. Matt Sanchez has joined Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco as the only QB to win a playoff game his rookie season. He and Flacco are the only two rookie QBs to win two playoff games (I would give Big Ben plenty of credit for helping his team to the top seed in the playoffs, but I’m a Steelers fan). So far in this playoffs, Sanchez has played better than I would have expected him to. Since he has accomplished something that only Flacco did before him, I wanted to see how he matches up with the other rookie QBs that I compared earlier. For the data on those players, please refer to the link above.
Continuing the series of NFL Season Reviews that was begun with the Rams 2009 Review, we will now take a look at the Detroit Lions’ 2009 season. As I mentioned in the Rams post, I will try to follow, as closely as possible, the teams in order of the upcoming NFL Draft. At 2-14, that puts the Lions at number two on this list. Rarely would a 2-14 season be considered a cause for hope, but in the case of the Lions, fresh off of a winless season in 2008, I believe that this year is the exception. While still a tough year, Detroit fans got a glimpse of the future, and for a rookie on a team that still needs a lot of help on talent, Matthew Stafford wasn’t bad. He struggled at times, but he did show signs of the talent and leadership that made him the number 1 overall pick last year. His highlight came in a 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns where Stafford threw for over 400 yards and 5 TD passes. With that, let’s get into the review.