There is no more important place on the football field in terms of winning games than in the trenches. Full backs, Tight Ends, Tackles, Guards, Centers, Ends, Nose Tackles, Linebackers - this is where games are won and lost and, indeed, Championships are won and lost.
The massive knee-jerk reaction by a vast majority of Broncos fans - outside of MHR - believe that the Broncos absolutely must draft a wide receiver in the first round. The single biggest need on the football team is for a player that will touch the ball 5-8 times a game.
Never mind the fact that the Broncos lost the battle in the trenches week in and week out in the final ten games last season. The interior of the offensive line was blown up by opposing defenses, while the interior part of the teams defense was constantly shredded for big gains in the running game.
Weaknesses that not even the all-powerful Brandon Marshall and his record setting 21 catch game could overcome, nor Kyle Orton's 400+ yard day against the Chiefs in the season finale. Skill players can run amok all day long, but its the team that wins and loses in this league.
For my purposes today, I will be listing the trench rankings for every single participant in the Super Bowl since 1983. I am sure we can all agree that prior to that great year the game was different than it is today. For obvious reasons, I chose 1983 - it's a very important year in Broncos mythology.
On to the chart!
First let me explain how I ranked the trenches of each team and why. For both offense and defense there are just two stats that really show how well the lines performed in both the passing game and running game. For offense, I took the ranking for sacks allowed and average gain per rushing attempt. For defense, I took the ranking for sacks made and average gain per rushing against. Pretty simple. I wish I could have found stats for "pressures", which would be a better indicator than pure sacks, but I was unsuccessful.
|Team Trench Rankings in the Super Bowl|
Here are the averages for the Super Bowl winners:
|Averages by Winner|
|Offensive Sacks||Offensive AVG/Rush||Defensive Sacks||Defensive AVG/Rush|
That really is a mixed bag of results, but by and large the Super Bowl winning team is Top 5 in something. I can also see where the term, "Defense wins Championships" comes from. With a few exceptions, the best trench defense wins the Super Bowl.
Since we are Broncos-centric here at Mile High Report, I'd like to point out how absurd it was that the Broncos ever made it to the Super Bowl in the 80's. It truly was a testament to John Elway's greatness. I don't know how the Broncos were ever favored against the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII. Also interesting is how overrated the 1989 San Francisco 49ers were.
I must admit, I expected a much higher correlation than I got. There were several teams with bad trenches, but excellent skill positions. The 49ers in the 80's and the Cowboys of the 90's fit that bill, however, most of the Super Bowl winners attained their success through winning the battle in the trenches all season long.
According to my research, the two best teams of the last 27 years were the 1998 Denver Broncos and the 1999 St. Louis Rams. They were the only two teams to have ranked in the Top 8 in every single category I studied. The best team to have lost the Super Bowl is easily the Seattle Seahawks of 2006. They actually ranked in the Top 5 in every category.
So what does this all mean? It means it takes a special player or offense to overcome a horrible trenches defense, and vice verse. However, the great all around teams have a great chance of bringing home the Lombardi Trophy than a lopsided team.
So before you lament the Broncos needs at a "skill" position. Look at their rankings in the trenches for the past four season.
|Broncos Trench Stats 2006-2009|
|Year||Offensive Sacks||Offensive AVG/Rush||Defensive Sacks||Defensive AVG/Rush|
Last year we saw the interior line suffer due to a switch from the Zone Blocking scheme to Power Blocking. The transition should be fairly complete by September, so hopefully these rankings will return to 2008 levels. The Broncos also so a marked improvement in their pass rush over what we have seen the previous three seasons. The poor run defense is unacceptable. These rankings must improve if the Broncos are every going to challenge for a Title again.
Which is why I don't understand the knee-jerk reactions about trading Brandon Marshall. We have bigger problems to worry about than some disgruntled, albeit talented, player who touches the ball an average of seven times a game.