Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Ness » Sat Jul 02, 2022 12:04 am

This is as far back as I personally wanted FO to be able to go with their journey in turning back the clock, and looking at the seasons of yesteryear through their metric lens. 1981-2005 in my personal NFL sandbox for a few reasons, one of them of course being the initial year the 49ers dynasty really got off the ground. The 1981 playoffs was one of the NFL's best, and there is a lot of commentary about what happened that season in the write-up, and if certain narratives that have been established hold up or trend more towards romanticization. For instance the first 49ers championship squad ranks quite low in terms of SB champs that FO has profiled. That was something I had suspected for a while, but I was surprised at just how non-dominant the team was despite their 13-3 record, and beating the AFC champ Bengals twice that year (once in Cincinnati, and in the SB). Their special teams output really nuked their ranking, and I didn't even know they tried nine different kick returners that year. Also didn't think the Eagles were that highly rated, especially after the whipping they received at home against the Giants in the wild card.

Anyway, enjoy the read. Try not to get too triggered by the nerds. :lol:

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/dvoa-analysis/2022/1981-dvoa-49ers-finally-win-it-all-eagles-rule-dvoa
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby 7DnBrnc53 » Sat Jul 02, 2022 11:54 am

I noticed that they had the 10-6 Broncos rated ninth (16th in offense and second in defense, which isn't surprising). They also had them rated 22nd in special teams. They are probably brought down by K Fred Steinfort, who struggled mightily all year.
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Teo » Sat Jul 02, 2022 5:55 pm

i remember that the Eagles were the last undefeated team that year and the 49ers started 1-2 and didn’t look like a playoff team until they brought Fred Dean and their thrashing to the Cowboys 45-14.

Ness wrote:This is as far back as I personally wanted FO to be able to go with their journey in turning back the clock, and looking at the seasons of yesteryear through their metric lens. 1981-2005 in my personal NFL sandbox for a few reasons, one of them of course being the initial year the 49ers dynasty really got off the ground. The 1981 playoffs was one of the NFL's best, and there is a lot of commentary about what happened that season in the write-up, and if certain narratives that have been established hold up or trend more towards romanticization. For instance the first 49ers championship squad ranks quite low in terms of SB champs that FO has profiled. That was something I had suspected for a while, but I was surprised at just how non-dominant the team was despite their 13-3 record, and beating the AFC champ Bengals twice that year (once in Cincinnati, and in the SB). Their special teams output really nuked their ranking, and I didn't even know they tried nine different kick returners that year. Also didn't think the Eagles were that highly rated, especially after the whipping they received at home against the Giants in the wild card.

Anyway, enjoy the read. Try not to get too triggered by the nerds. :lol:

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/dvoa-analysis/2022/1981-dvoa-49ers-finally-win-it-all-eagles-rule-dvoa
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Ness » Sun Jul 03, 2022 1:56 am

Teo wrote:i remember that the Eagles were the last undefeated team that year and the 49ers started 1-2 and didn’t look like a playoff team until they brought Fred Dean and their thrashing to the Cowboys 45-14.


Yes, that's true. Even at 3-2 before that game, the wins over the Redskins and Saints probably didn't dispel many notions about the 49ers not being a playoff squad. One day soon I'm planning to go back and watch that entire 1981 season from start to finish to get a vibe of the time from week to week as the wins mounted up. I'm only missing the Redskins game from that year, but I might as well go ahead and pull the trigger. Something I've looked forward to for a while.
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Brian wolf » Sun Jul 03, 2022 3:34 pm

I have all of the Niners games from 1981 as well except the Redskin game. After beating Dallas--my team -- the Niner fans started coming out in droves and got more vocal each game. I still hate the Oiler game however ... Walsh putting in Hofer on a slick, wet field was idiotic ...

With all due respect to the "Genius"
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Brian wolf » Sun Jul 03, 2022 4:37 pm

Not to spoil your rewatching of the games Ness ...

The Niners going into Pittsburgh and Cincinatti and the defense hammering their teams, shocked those home fans, who had to have been impressed. Lott and Williamson were delivering the wood as underrated color broadcaster, George Allen liked to say ...
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby 74_75_78_79_ » Sun Jul 03, 2022 5:34 pm

Well here we are...another bad take on those '81 Forty Niners! And the 28th-ranked Y/A run-game wasn't even critiqued by those Outsiders!

Here's a thread I created almost 6 years ago...

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3826&p=16181&hilit=lemaster&sid=95b1c22ba4e7a0e9c8f2eff8ac2b60b0#p16181

Pretty much when was it, the general 'consensus' in '81, that the out-of-nowhere Forty Niners were now considered to be "better" than the defending-NFC-champ, Eagles? Upon closer inspection, contrary to what I may have initially opined, maybe it was actually 6-2 Dallas (who almost lost to Miami last week thus being 5-3) beating the 7-1 Eagles at the Vet that may have placed San Fran above Philly; and because the Forty Niners bombed Big D in Week #6 (and, of course, kept winning), they were at #1 as Cowboys were now #2 and Vermeil's bunch at #3 just like that! And San Fran beat the Steelers at Three Rivers that very week! The 'Burgh were no longer mistaken for a Super Bowl team at that point, but the Dynasty was still fresh and they came into the game winning 5 of their last 6, so it was still enough of a "statement" just the same.

Some cocky Dallas-fan from the neighborhood called me right after that Week #9 Dal/Phi game bragging. I said to him, "Eagles will win next time", and he said, "No they won't"! And though I didn't want to satisfy him with agreement, I actually (correctly) believed him deep down inside. It seemed like the Vermeil Era in Philly surpassed its peak right there and then, unfortunately! And I wouldn't let those following two weeks fool me. Yes, even after the Eagles crushed the Cards at StL and then doing the same to the horrific Colts at home to regain their place all alone atop the league at 9-2 (as both SF and Dallas each respectively lost to the Browns and at Detroit in Week #11 to lower both to 8-3), 5th-grade me just simply didn't see the Eagles as the "best" team in the league again! And then, of course, came that four-game-skid albeit each of those defeats could have easily gone the other way!

No, those '81 Forty Niners are not 'All-Time'-great material. But - DAMN - they are NOT the other way around either! They are noticeably closer to the former than to the latter, plain and simple! And that, my friends, is the ultimate example of Bill Walsh's 'Genius'! A statistically bad run-game among other subpar stats, yet they still finish alone at the regular season 13-3 summit and sweep both Cowboys & Bengals! That's Walsh for you!

'95 Cowboys? '99 Rams? '00 Ravens? '01 Pats? '02 Bucs, etc? The ’81 Forty Niners beat each of them IMHO! A weird team, I guess, but still great despite the subpar statistical idiosyncrasies! Clearly the BEST in '81! And nowhere NEAR the "worst" SB-winner ever.


PS - and the Jets@Bills opener from '81 "missing" that 4th quarter?? No gamebooks? No (YouTube, perhaps) footage? Pretty surprising! Said it before and’ll say it again - LOVE those '81 Jets! The TEAM! The UNIS!

PPS - Vermeil and Walsh not ever meeting in a showdown quite a shame! And I'd like to see that Oilers/Forty Niners match from '81! Maybe see some Earl Campbell/Ronnie Lott action, if any!
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Bryan » Tue Jul 05, 2022 3:30 pm

So, the 1981 Niners special teams dragged them down? Let’s see here…Wersching was one of the best Ks in the NFL, the Niners gave up 1 return TD, had a TD return of their own, and never had a punt blocked. The punt coverage (11.6) wasn’t very good. The Niners allowed only 20.7 yards per kick return, which was slightly above the league average of 20.3, yet DVOA claims “Only the Rams and Browns allowed more value on kick returns”…yeah, the Rams allowed over 24 yards per return and the Browns allowed over 25 yards per return…but the Niners are nowhere near those numbers. If DVOA is penalizing the Niners for having so many kickoff returns allowed, then that rating system is even more messed up than I thought.

The article also bashes the Niners offense and defense. The offense wasn’t great statistically, but turnovers obviously are underrated in DVOA. Both the Niners and Bengals ran a lot of plays, threw the ball often, yet both ranked at the bottom of “turnovers allowed” in 1981. Not only did both teams play in the Super Bowl, but both teams were the best teams in their conference over the course of the regular season. The Niners’ defensive DVOA ranking of 8th behind teams like Tampa, Denver, Detroit, Dallas is completely baffling. The Niners ranked 2nd in yards allowed, 3rd in yards per play, 2nd in points allowed and 3rd in turnovers. And DVOA says that is only 8th best in the NFL? The aggregate for those 4 major categories is 10th. SF finished better in every one of those categories compared to Detroit, Tampa, NYJ, Denver. Not really seeing why SF’s defense would be so low.

Looking at the prediction quality of DVOA…1981 Super Bowl of Philly over SD. Not entirely far-fetched, but neither team made the Super Bowl. If you just look at record, you’d have Niners v. Bengals. Hmm. 4 teams ranked above SF didn’t make the postseason, and a 5th team didn’t score in the postseason (TB). One interesting thing to note is that Tampa’s ST DVOA is even worse than SF’s, yet Tampa apparently wasn’t ‘dragged down’ like the Niners were as Tampa ranks as the 6th best team (despite a 9-7 record).

Looking to see who would be the teams to watch in 1982 based on 1981 DVOA surprises...the top team would once again finish last in their division (Eagles). Buffalo & Denver would miss the expanded playoffs. Tampa and Detroit would be average and lose in the 1st round. Washington ranked very high in 1981 DVOA, so that is a win for FO. Miami ranked incredibly low (13th) in 1981 DVOA despite an 11-4-1 record…9 teams above them had worse records. Yet Miami would go 7-2 and be in the Super Bowl in 1982. The Raiders were 3 spots below the 2-14 Patriots in 1981 DVOA at 23rd, and would go on to be 8-1 in 1982.

In sum, kudos on the Redskins, SMH at pretty much everything else. Especially the comment from Mike Tanier that the 1981 Eagles collapse and subsequent loss to the Scott Brunner-led Giants in the wild card round deserves a 'cocaine asterisk'...you just got beat by Lawrence Taylor, bro.
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Ness » Tue Jul 05, 2022 8:22 pm

Brian wolf wrote:Not to spoil your rewatching of the games Ness ...

The Niners going into Pittsburgh and Cincinatti and the defense hammering their teams, shocked those home fans, who had to have been impressed. Lott and Williamson were delivering the wood as underrated color broadcaster, George Allen liked to say ...

I've seen the 49ers/Steelers game before at least once. From what I remember both offenses struggled, and it was the 49ers defense that really helped get the win. I vaguely remember Montana throwing a pick six to Mel Blount maybe. I'd have to go back and watch. The 49ers game in Cincinnati I haven't watched from start to finish, so I'm anxious to see that since it was a beatdown on the road with the Bengals favored by 7. Remarkable that both the Bengals and 49ers a year earlier were the perennial doormats of the league, and ascended to the cream of the crop in just three months.
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Re: Pro Football Outsiders completes 1981 DVOA spotlight.

Postby Ness » Tue Jul 05, 2022 8:27 pm

74_75_78_79_ wrote:Well here we are...another bad take on those '81 Forty Niners! And the 28th-ranked Y/A run-game wasn't even critiqued by those Outsiders!

Here's a thread I created almost 6 years ago...

viewtopic.php?f=5&t=3826&p=16181&hilit=lemaster&sid=95b1c22ba4e7a0e9c8f2eff8ac2b60b0#p16181

Pretty much when was it, the general 'consensus' in '81, that the out-of-nowhere Forty Niners were now considered to be "better" than the defending-NFC-champ, Eagles? Upon closer inspection, contrary to what I may have initially opined, maybe it was actually 6-2 Dallas (who almost lost to Miami last week thus being 5-3) beating the 7-1 Eagles at the Vet that may have placed San Fran above Philly; and because the Forty Niners bombed Big D in Week #6 (and, of course, kept winning), they were at #1 as Cowboys were now #2 and Vermeil's bunch at #3 just like that! And San Fran beat the Steelers at Three Rivers that very week! The 'Burgh were no longer mistaken for a Super Bowl team at that point, but the Dynasty was still fresh and they came into the game winning 5 of their last 6, so it was still enough of a "statement" just the same.

Some cocky Dallas-fan from the neighborhood called me right after that Week #9 Dal/Phi game bragging. I said to him, "Eagles will win next time", and he said, "No they won't"! And though I didn't want to satisfy him with agreement, I actually (correctly) believed him deep down inside. It seemed like the Vermeil Era in Philly surpassed its peak right there and then, unfortunately! And I wouldn't let those following two weeks fool me. Yes, even after the Eagles crushed the Cards at StL and then doing the same to the horrific Colts at home to regain their place all alone atop the league at 9-2 (as both SF and Dallas each respectively lost to the Browns and at Detroit in Week #11 to lower both to 8-3), 5th-grade me just simply didn't see the Eagles as the "best" team in the league again! And then, of course, came that four-game-skid albeit each of those defeats could have easily gone the other way!

No, those '81 Forty Niners are not 'All-Time'-great material. But - DAMN - they are NOT the other way around either! They are noticeably closer to the former than to the latter, plain and simple! And that, my friends, is the ultimate example of Bill Walsh's 'Genius'! A statistically bad run-game among other subpar stats, yet they still finish alone at the regular season 13-3 summit and sweep both Cowboys & Bengals! That's Walsh for you!

'95 Cowboys? '99 Rams? '00 Ravens? '01 Pats? '02 Bucs, etc? The ’81 Forty Niners beat each of them IMHO! A weird team, I guess, but still great despite the subpar statistical idiosyncrasies! Clearly the BEST in '81! And nowhere NEAR the "worst" SB-winner ever.


PS - and the Jets@Bills opener from '81 "missing" that 4th quarter?? No gamebooks? No (YouTube, perhaps) footage? Pretty surprising! Said it before and’ll say it again - LOVE those '81 Jets! The TEAM! The UNIS!

PPS - Vermeil and Walsh not ever meeting in a showdown quite a shame! And I'd like to see that Oilers/Forty Niners match from '81! Maybe see some Earl Campbell/Ronnie Lott action, if any!

I'm not sure if it was in the comments on the 1981 or 1982 spotlight page, but a good point is made about Walsh's lack of a run game, and how in 1982 it was one of the reasons why the 49ers stumbled to a lackluster season. Obviously the strike may have effected things in addition to a defense that really got hit hard with injuries. However, that 1982 49ers run game was so terrible that Walsh clearly had enough, and went out and made the trade for Wendell Tyler in addition to drafting Roger Craig.

Ultimately in 1981, the 49ers won the games they had to play easy schedule or not, close games or not. They certainly weren't blowing teams out of the water I guess is what the article is trying to convey, which I think is fair. They didn't really waltz throughout the playoffs, and their biggest victory was probably over Dallas in the regular season that year. Personally, I don't think they were the worst champs ever, and the article doesn't say that either. Trending towards the bottom third, maybe.
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