Relatively Speaking About the Denver Broncos (Part Two)

     In 1997, the Denver Broncos finally broke through and won their first Super Bowl.  They won it for a second time the following year. It was a good time to be a Denver fan. It was widely believed that the Broncos had come of age and would be a permanent fixture in the post season for years to come.

     Alas, this was not to be. An unexpected decision by then coach Mike Shanahan to go with second year player Brian Griese over Elway's heir apparent, thirteen year veteran Bubby Brister contributed to a year of disarray in which the Broncos went 6-10. The Broncos would only go to the playoffs once in Griese's four years at the helm. The arrival of Jake Plummer as Denver's starter ushered in three straight years of post season appearances, including an appearance in the AFC Championship game in 2005. Once again, it was thought that the Broncos had broken through and were on their way back to the Super Bowl.

     Then the wheels came off for a second time, and Broncos fans had to endure five years with nary a post season game. After the jump, we'll take a look at the starting rosters of the 2005-2010 Broncos through the eyes of pro-football-reference.com's Approximate Value ratings.

The Approximate Value Method -- Digging a Little Deeper


     In the first part of this series, we looked at the Approximate Value of the starters on the six Super Bowl teams. I asked Neil Paine at PFR how the "starters" were determined, he responded with this:


"It is determined by who had the most starts during the season. That data is complete since 1980, but for earlier seasons it had to be estimated from media guides, scoresheets, newspaper accounts, and sometimes educated guessing. The data we have is the same that's found in the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia. In the event of a tie in starts, we give starter credit to both players."

     The calculation of AV for a player uses a fairly complex formula that is based on the premise that every drive in a football game ends in one of the following: a rushing touchdown, a passing touchdown, a field goal, a field goal attempt, a punt, a turnover, or the end of the half/game. Using the information from those categories for each offensive drive, PFR generates a set of points which are then divided among the offensive players on the team. The same information from the opponents' drives are used to generate the points shared by the defensive players. The points each position receives are weighted by a formula that is loosely correlated to the historical percentage of the draft value chart points spent by the NFL teams on each position.

     Offensive players then get a percentage of the offensive points based upon position. Offensive linemen receive points for games played, games started and bonuses for being named All Pro or to the Pro Bowl in a given season. Running backs add credit for rushing yards plus a bonus if their rushing yards were above the league average and a penalty if they were below the league average. Receivers receive similar bonus/penalties based on receiving yards. Quarterbacks, of course, have their value based on passing yards, plus the bonuses mentioned above. It should be noted that any offensive player who runs the ball, catches or throws a pass will receive credit for those actions.

     Defensive players also receive a percentage of the team's defensive points based upon position. The defensve players receive credit for games played, games started, sacks, fumble recoveries, interceptions, defensive touchdowns, and tackles. They receive bonuses for being selected to the All Pro and/or Pro Bowl teams.

An in-depth explanation of the method can be found here.

     One final note on the AV method: Tunesmith in his post on the AV ratings of the 2010 roster noticed that Zane Beadles had been given an AV of zero. He contacted PFR to ask about this and was informed that they were aware of the issue and that it was the result of a bug in the system which incorrectly gave zero value to a number of 2010 rookies. He was told that the problem would be corrected. As of the writing of this article, Beadles was still showing a zero for his AV.

Now, on to the AV ratings for the starters from 2005 to 2010:

2005: 13-3 1st Place AFC West
Defeated New England 27-13 in Divisional Round
Lost AFC Championship game to Pittsburgh 34-17

 

Pos Name AV
Pos Name AV
QB Jake Plummer 15 LDE Courtney Brown 7
RB Mike Anderson 11 LDT Michael Myers 8
FB Kevin Johnson 2 RDT Gerard Warren 7
WR Ashley Lelie 10 RDE Trevor Pryce 8
WR Rod Smith 13 LLB D. J. Williams 7
TE Stephen Alexander 5 MLB Al Wilson 15
LT Matt Lepsis 10 RLB Ian Gold 9
LG Ben Hamilton 8 LCB Champ Bailey 15
C Tom Nalen 8 RCB Darrent Williams 4
RG Cooper Carlisle 8 SS Nick Ferguson 6
RT George Foster 10 FS John Lynch 9

 

2006: 9-7 2nd Place AFC West

Pos Name AV
Pos Name AV
QB Jake Plummer 6 LDE Kenard Lang 8
RB Tatum Bell 8 LDT Michael Myers 8
FB Kevin Johnson 1 RDT Gerard Warren 7
WR Javon Walker 12 RDE Ebenezer Ekuban 8
WR Rod Smith 5 LLB D. J. Williams 7
TE Stephen Alexander 4 MLB Al Wilson 12
LT Eric Pears 5 RLB Ian Gold 7
LG Ben Hamilton 7 LCB Champ Bailey 16
C Tom Nalen 7 RCB Darrent Williams 6
RG Cooper Carlisle 7 SS Nick Ferguson 4
RT George Foster 7 FS John Lynch 9



2007: 7-9 2nd Place AFC West

Pos Name AV Pos Name AV
QB Jay Cutler 12 LDE John Engleberger 6
RB Selvin Young 7 LDT Sam Adams 4
FB Cecil Sapp 1 RDT Alvin McKinley 4
WR Brandon Marshall 12 RDE Elvis Dumervil 7
WR Brandon Stokley 6 LLB Nate Webster 6
TE Daniel Graham 4 MLB D. J. Williams 7
LT Matt Lepsis 8 RLB Ian Gold 6
LG Chris Kuper 5 LCB Champ Bailey 11
C Chris Myers 7 RCB Dre Bly 5
RG Montrae Holland 7 SS Hamza Abdullah 3
RT Eric Pears 8 FS John Lynch 9

 

2008: 8-8 Tied for 1st Place in AFC West
Lost tiebreaker to San Diego

Pos Name AV Pos Name AV
QB Jay Cutler 15 LDE Ebenezer Ekuban 4
RB Peyton Hillis 4 LDT Dewayne Robertson 4
WR Brandon Marshall 11 RDT Marcus Thomas 4
WR Eddie Royal 9 RDE Elvis Dumervil 4
TE Daniel Graham 6 LLB Jamie Winborn 4
TE Tony Scheffler 7 MLB Nate Webster 4
LT Ryan Clady 13 RLB D. J. Williams 4
LG Ben Hamilton 7 LCB Champ Bailey 3
C Casey Wiegmann 9 RCB Dre Bly 5
RG Chris Kuper 7 SS Marquand Manuel 4
RT Ryan Harris 8 FS Marion McCree 2

 

2009: 8-8 2nd Place AFC West

Pos Name AV Pos Name AV
QB Kyle Orton 11 LDE Ryan McBean 6
RB Knowshon Moreno 6 NT Ronald Fields 7
WR Brandon Marshall 9 LOLB Mario Haggan 7
WR Eddie Royal 5 LOLB Kenny Peterson 6
WR Jabar Gaffney 6 LILB Andra Davis 6
TE Daniel Graham 4 RILB D. J. Williams 8
LT Ryan Clady 13 ROLB Elvis Dumervil 15
LG Ben Hamilton 3 LCB Champ Bailey 9
C Casey Wiegmann 6 RCB Andre Goodman 7
RG Chris Kuper 5 SS Renaldo Hill 6
RT Ryan Harris 3 FS Brian Dawkins 11

 

2010: 4-12 4th Place AFC West

Pos Name AV Pos Name AV
QB Kyle Orton 11 LDE Kevin Vickerson 4
RB Knowshon Moreno 8 NT Jamal Williams 5
WR Jabar Gaffney 7 RDE Justin Bannan 5
WR Brandon Lloyd 12 LOLB Mario Haggan 6
WR Eddie Royal 5 LILB D. J. Williams 6
TE Daniel Graham 4 RILB Wesley Woodyard 1
LT Ryan Clady 9 ROLB Robert Ayers 4
LG Zane Beadles 0 LCB Champ Bailey 9
C J. D. Walton 8 RCB Andre Goodman 3
RG Chris Kuper 7 SS Renaldo Hill 5
RT Ryan Harris 6 FS Brian Dawkins 4

 

Pulling It All Together

Team 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Record 13-3 9-7 7-9 8-8 8-8 4-12
Ave Win Margin +12.6 +8.4 +10.6 +8.1 +14.8 +11.0
Ave Loss Margin -9.7 -8.9 -18.1 -17.9 -14.5 -14.2
MVP (20-25) 0 0 0 0 0 0
All Pro/Pro Bowl (14-19) 3 1 2 2 1 0
Starter (14-19) 12 7 4 4 6 5
Backup (3-7) 6 13 15 15 15 15
Scrub (0-2) 1 1 1 1 0 2
Team Average 8.9 7.3 6.9 6.3 7.1 5.9

 

     The first thing that is noticed here is that the average team rating declined from 2005 to 2008 -- falling from the starter range in 2005 to the backup range in the other years -- before experiencing a slight upturn in 2009, followed by an extreme drop in 2010. We can see a parallel decline, upturn and decline in the average margin of victory during that span. I was surprised to see that the greatest margin of victory came not in the 2005 season where we made it to the AFC Championship, but in 2009 -- the first year of the McDaniels experiment. It is also interesting to note that the greatest margin of defeat did not come in the year when the team average was at the lowest (2010).

Offense 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Record 13-3 9-7 7-9 8-8 8-8 4-12
Ave Win Margin +12.6 +8.4 +10.6 +8.1 +14.8 +11.0
Ave Loss Margin -9.7 -8.9 -18.1 -17.9 -14.5 -14.2
MVP (20-25) 0 0 0 0 0 0
All Pro/Pro Bowl (14-19) 1 0 0 1 0 0
Starter (8-13) 8 2 4 5 3 5
Backup (3-7) 1 8 6 5 8 5
Scrub (0-2) 1 1 1 0 0 1
Offensive Average 9.1 6.3 7.0 8.7 6.3 7.0



     The offensive ratings do not parallel the team ratings. The offensive average was highest in 2005, dropped sharply in 2006, rose back up through 2007 and 2008, then fell off in 2009 before rising again in 2010. It is odd that the greatest margin of victory came in the year when the offensive AV average was at its lowest.

Defense 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Record 13-3 9-7 7-9 8-8 8-8 4-12
Ave Win Margin +12.6 +8.4 +10.6 +8.1 +14.8 +11.0
Ave Loss Margin -9.7 -8.9 -18.1 -17.9 -14.5 -14.2
MVP (20-25) 0 0 0 0 0 0
All Pro/Pro Bowl (14-19) 2 1 2 0 0 0
Starter (8-13) 4 5 0 0 3 0
Backup (3-7) 5 5 9 10 8 10
Scrub (0-2) 0 0 0 1 0 1
Defensive Average 8.6 8.4 6.8 3.8 8.0 4.7



     The defensive averages help understand how the team and offensive averages fluctuated. What we can see here is that the smallest margin of defeat came when the defensive average was the highest. Strangely enough, however, the largest margin of defeat did not come when the defensive average was at its lowest. We do see a decline in the averages from 2005 to 2008, with an upturn in 2009 followed by a sharp drop in 2010.

     So, what does this all mean? I suppose ultimately, it doesn't mean a whole lot. We can see how while in given years (2005-10) we have come close to the averages of some of the Super Bowl years, overall, we have lagged well behind in most years. On the other hand, it is one more way of looking at the last several seasons, in comparison to the years that Denver made it to the Super Bowl and seeing just how far we need to climb to return to what is ultimately the goal of our franchise.

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