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Football Outsiders Ranks 1991 Redskins As The Best Team Of Last 30 Years

Posted Jun 22, 2017

Using statistical analysis from Football Outsiders, ESPN published a ranking of the best teams of the last 30 years and the 1991 Redskins blew away the competition.

For the last few years, the 1991 Redskins, the team that went 14-2 and claimed the franchise’s third Super Bowl trophy, has been ranked the best team to ever win a Super Bowl. Now, with more statistical analysis available, Football Outsiders has crowned that same Redskins team with an even greater distinction.

Using a measurement called DVOA, which stands for defense-adjusted value over average, Football Outsiders called the 1991 Redskins the best team in the NFL of the past 30 years, and it’s not even close.

Using the same metrics to determine rankings, only this Redskins team produced an offense, defense and special teams that were ranked in the top-30 over the past three decades.

We know the regular statistics help explain the incredible success of this team. The Redskins played one of the toughest schedules of some of the best Super Bowl teams in history, and outscored opponents in the NFC playoffs 65-17. In the championship game itself, they went ahead of the Bills 37-10 before easing up on Buffalo to kill the clock.

The Redskins led the NFL in scoring with 485 points and quarterback Mark Rypien's 8.5 yards per pass attempt was second in the league, while his 3,564 passing yards were the best in the NFC and fourth in the league.

Their defense was just as nasty, only allowing 224 points – the second-fewest points in the league in 1991. Their 18 turnover ratio was also tops in the league.

But Football Outsiders offers even more analysis to explain why the gap between this Redskins team and the No. 2 team -- the 2007 New England Patriots -- was greater than the Patriots and the 11th-ranked team.

Their calculations “measure success on each play based on down and distance, then comparing it to an NFL average baseline adjusted for situation and opponent. It's built to balance a measurement of how well a team has played in the past with a forecast of how well a team will play in the future.” 

Here’s what they have to say about the team itself.

“At plus-56.9 percent, the 1991 Redskins have the best regular-season DVOA of the past 30 years, and their lead as the greatest team in DVOA history only gets larger when we add the postseason,” they write. “Washington's two losses came by a combined five points, and one of those losses came when the Redskins sat their starters at halftime of a meaningless final-week game. It's astonishing in retrospect that only two Redskins were selected as first-team All-Pros that season: left tackle Jim Lachey and cornerback Darrell Green. In fairness, six others did make the Pro Bowl.”

Rypien would agree, but the lack of attention to this team, the nonchalant dominance they conducted, likely attirubted to the team-above-individual dynamic.

“We weren’t into exploiting ourselves above the team. We were more into figuring out what we had to do and finding the best scenario to make us the best team possible,” Rypien said.

“We just kind of went under the radar, pretty much did what we were asked to do and played that way. I think that probably motivated us, it helped us. ‘Hey, everyone else is always talking about everyone else’s superstars.’ I think internally, we felt we had as many good players, but we weren’t out there promoting our players as much as other teams were…We just had a combination that was pretty deadly. And it all came together in one special year.”

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