Did Chad Henne have a better 2010 season than the Dolphins pass defense? Almost all of you would say no. And understandably. Henne struggled at times and as all quarterbacks do, got the brunt of the fans’ frustrations thrown upon him. The defense, meanwhile, had a resurgent year under new coordinator Mike Nolan and we continued to see guys like Vontae Davis and Sean Smith mature in the secondary. All of that said, I read an interesting SI.com article by Kerry J. Byrne last week that really got me thinking.
The article basically says that Passer Rating Differential (the difference between your QB’s passer rating and your defense’s) is the most important stat in football and that if you have a good one, you’re going to be good, and if not, you’re not. While I tend to look at the argument through the other side of the mirror (“if you are a good team, you’ll have a good PRD, and if you’re not, you won’t), I was still able to take some interesting things out of the story.
Byrne tells us that 40 of the past 71 NFL champions (56%) finished either first or second in PRD, which makes sense. In addition, the team with the best PRD in 2010 was the Packers (who won the Super Bowl) and the team with the worst, Carolina, finished 2-14 and had the #1 pick in the draft.
I decided I was interested in applying the stat to the Dolphins’ 2010 season and so I looked at Chad Henne’s passer rating (75.4) and the defense’s (85.0). The -9.6 PRD was pretty much middle-of-the-pack in the league, as the Dolphins 7-9 record would indicate.
I then went back and looked at the average offensive and defensive passer ratings for the last decade’s Super Bowl winners (2000 Ravens-2011 Packers) and something immediately stood out to me: Chad Henne was closer to the average passer rating of the last 11 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks than the Dolphins pass defense was to the last 11 Super Bowl winning pass defenses.
It’s true. Over the last decade, the average Super Bowl winning QB had a passer rating of 88.3 (12.9 points better than Henne) and those teams’ defenses had an average of 67.8 (17.2 better than the Dolphins’ defense last year).
So basically, Henne was closer to the “magic number” than the Dolphins’ pass “D” was and in fact, in the last decade, there were two times when the SB winning QB had a lower passer rating than Henne did in 2010 (’07 Giants & ’00 Ravens), but zero examples of a Super Bowl winning defense with a number as high as last season’s defensive passer rating.
I don’t think passer rating is the end-all, be-all stat, but this was definitely an interesting study. When I asked former Dolphins CB Sam Madison what he thought about all this, he brought up something many fans are fully aware of: missed opportunities by the defense in 2010. The Dolphins were tied for 28th in the NFL with just 11 interceptions last year and their leading interceptor, Jason Allen, was on the roster for only half the season.
The bottom line is this: Chad Henne has work to do, but the Dolphins’ “D” must take advantage of their opportunities in 2011 if they want to be considered an elite unit. I’m sure Tony Sparano, Davis, Smith, Henne, and everyone else would tell you that improvement is needed across the board. And that, more than anything, is the goal for this coming season.
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