Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A boring post on football

My reflections on Superbowl Sunday were well summed up by, oddly enough, this article from Baseball Prospectus, which I will quote without further comment:

The interesting question is to what degree a championship validates a team’s greatness. In other words, would the 1927 Yankees still be considered one of the greatest teams of all time had they somehow lost to the Pirates in the World Series? Given the marathon length of the baseball season and its many concomitant tests, the answer has to be yes. We judge a team by its record and by the strength of its components, and while the championship always makes a nice cherry on top of the season sundae, its presence or absence doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t know before—simply that sometimes a great team can lose a short series against a good one.

...

Football teams face a higher test. Though the Patriots were an indisputably great football team, given the brevity of the football season and the variation in team schedules, luck has an outsize role to play in forming even an undefeated season, and it is not automatic that they were one of, say, the top five single-season teams in history just because they didn’t lose. We’ve seen enough football teams take perfect records deep into the season in recent years to know that the difference between the Patriots’ 16-0 of 2007 and, say, the Chargers’ 14-2 of 2006 is a couple of lucky bounces. Indeed, the Chargers lost both of their games by a single field goal, also the margin of loss in their divisional playoff against the Pats.

Given that there have been only two undefeated seasons in the modern history of the NFL, and recognizing that of the 1972 Dolphins came in a shorter season, it is certain that such good luck is hard to come by, but it is equally certain the Patriots needed it. Many of their games were blowouts, but they also beat the Eagles by three points in Week 12, the Ravens by three in Week 13, and the Giants by three in Week 17. The Patriots could easily have gone 13-3 or 14-2, still would have been historically great (and a dynasty), but the Super Bowl upset by the Giants wouldn’t have had quite the same resonance.

Because of the influence of luck, winning the championship in football carries more weight than does taking a Game Seven in baseball. ... The celestial football fan would take them in any derby of great teams, but while the 1906 Cubs, 1931 A’s, 1954 Indians, and 2001 Mariners carry little stigma from losing a game that was somewhere between their 161st and 170th of the season, the same can’t be said of the Patriots. They showed real vulnerabilities in the championship game, vulnerabilities that throw the conventional evaluation of the rest of their season into doubt.

5 comments:

Mike LeGower said...

Can we get a link to the original post? I don't want to incur the wrath of Baseball Prospectus.

Wilson said...

We would not incur wrath. I am not legally obligated to link back as long as I don't try to pass off their work as my own.

Nonetheless, I have added the link for the non-reading pleasure of you all, as no one but me is a subscriber.

Mike LeGower said...

Well... At least we get a snippet of it...

Jeff Rudnicki said...

Wilson, I agree with you generally. But there's also the adage that the cream rises to the top during the playoffs. For instance that 2001 Mariners team was a very solid team, but EVERYONE knew their staff and pen weren't built for the post-season, and New York steamrolled them. There's something to be said about guys coming up clutch and finishing the job in the post-season. The Superbowl being only "the cherry on top" diminishes it's importance in my opinion. By your logic does that mean Chargers are a dynasty? Roughly what percentage of your posts are the result of the Bills skeletons in your closet???

Jay Z said...

2001 MARINERS!!!!!