Dominant Units and Winning in Football – A response

May 4, 2009, 10:12 AM | Updated: Apr 4, 2011, 7:51 pm

by Brock Huard

We got an interesting email into our Comcast Inbox that I though was worth responding to not only on air, but here as well.

Ryan in Seattle wrote:

“It seems that ever since Tim Ruskell came on board our focus has been balance, balance,balance , he doesn’t seem to see the value of having any dominating unit. I think though that when you look at powerhouse teams they have an elite unit, or at least some tangible strength that defines a team. Football is a game of offense and defense, and if you have a balanced team you’ll struggle against both elite offenses, and defenses. Because your B graded defense will encounter 5 A graded offenses, and vise versa. That means at least one of your “balanced” units is significantly outmatched 10 games a year.

Wondering what you think.”

Thanks Ryan! Very good question, and I spent some time digging into the matter statistically. My gut reaction is in the NFL defense wins championships, and the balance aspect to your point really needs to be found on the offensive side of the football. A team’s ability to offensively mix the run and pass on any down and keep a defense off balance is critical to success. Case in point: the 2005 Seahawks. They were 2nd in total offense, 13th in passing and 3rd in rushing while also being the 5th best rush defense in the NFL. Take a look at the excel spreadsheet below, I know it is limited in sample size (just looking at the winning Super Bowl Champions), but there are some trends to merit both your point on a dominant aspect of your team as well as my gut reaction.


The trend most obvious to me is rush defense. In fact, Indy was 32nd in that category during the regular season, but second in the postseason when they gave up just 82 yds/game. Likewise, NE, when ranked 19th during their first regular season Super Bowl run, were also 2nd in those playoffs yielding just 75/game on the ground.

Finally, the team that would most favor your argument Ryan as far as having one side of the ball most dominant would be the TB Super Bowl Champions. 1st in total defense, 24th in total offense, and remember who was in charge of that scouting department….Tim Ruskell.

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