The Best NFL Offense In The Last 30 Years

In this post I will be walking you through how I determined which offense I believe was the best offense in the last thirty years. First I will address, why I’m going back only thirty years, for those of you who haven’t already guessed it. Exactly thirty years have passed since the league switched the number of games played per team in each season from 14 games to 16 games in 1978. You may be asking yourself why I chose not to include teams before that point just because they played two less games, because you could still look at their success in terms of averages per games rather than total numbers for the end of the season. Well, while this is true, I figured I would stick with these last thirty years for a number of reasons. One of these reasons is simply that it’s a nice round number of seasons to reflect upon, but also because if you go back too much further than that, you get to the point where the game was played in a much different fashion. Another factor was that teams may have had better averages because adding those two extra games throw in variables like durability, and stamina, though I doubt that one had too much effect on things.

Okay, so let’s get down to it. After about an hour or so of research I quickly narrowed down my list of candidates to eleven teams. I did this by looking at four main statistical categories when trying to determine my best offense from the past thirty years. These stats were total yards, points scored, yards per play and points per play. Points per game and yards per game were quickly ruled out simply by the fact that all the teams played the same number of games in a season. I put in points per play and yards per play because some teams on my list of eleven had as many offensive plays in a season as 1,129 while others had as few as 968, and because I am looking strictly at offenses I don’t think a team should be punished because their defense couldn’t stop the other team from staying on the field longer or punished for scoring faster and with fewer plays thus, not getting as many plays in over the course of the season. I would also like to point out that I ruled out the 1982 season because of a strike that cut the games played by each team from sixteen down to nine.

Shown below are the top 5 teams of the past thirty years in each of the statistical categories that I mentioned above.

Total Points Scored
Points Per Play
Year Team Points Pts/Game Plays Pts/Play
Year Team Points Pts/Game Plays Pts/Play
2007 *patriots 589 36.81 1058 0.56
2007 *patriots 589 36.81 1058 0.56
1998 Vikings 556 34.75 1008 0.55
1998 Vikings 556 34.75 1008 0.55
1983 Redskins 541 33.81 1127 0.48
2004 Colts 522 32.63 968 0.54
2000 Rams 540 33.75 1014 0.53
2000 Rams 540 33.75 1014 0.53
1999 Rams 526 32.88 994 0.53
1999 Rams 526 32.88 994 0.53

Total Yards Gained
Yards Per Play
Year Team Yards Yds/Game Plays Yds/Play
Year Team Yards Yds/Game Plays Yds/Play
2000 Rams 7075 442.19 1014 6.98
2000 Rams 7075 442.19 1014 6.98
1984 Dolphins 6936 433.50 1070 6.48
2004 Colts 6475 404.69 968 6.69
1998 49ers 6800 425.00 1100 6.18
2001 Rams 6690 418.13 1007 6.64
1981 Chargers 6744 421.50 1129 5.97
1984 Dolphins 6936 433.50 1070 6.48
2004 Chiefs 6695 418.44 1089 6.15
1999 Rams 6412 400.75 994 6.45

I would also point out that if the 1982 Chargers had played a full 16 game season and played the other seven games as well as they played the first nine then they would have made it onto the ‘Total Yards’ list as well as the ‘Yards Per Play’ list. The ’82 Chargers averaged 6.56 yards per play and 449.44 yards per game, which would have given them about 7,191 yards in a full 16 game season, but that doesn’t take into account injuries and fatigue, but I thought they at the very least had an offense worth noting.

So the eleven teams that compile those four lists are the same eleven teams I mentioned above. From those eleven teams it was hard to narrow it down. I analyzed the lists and stats and came up with some interesting things to look at. Five teams only made one list, four made two lists and only one team made it on to all four lists. Also only one frachise had more than one team make it on to the lists, which was the Rams, who actually had three teams, and not so coincidentally the three came from successive years, being 1999, 2000, and 2001.

For those of you who know me and/or how I analyze statistics you know that I’m all about averages and percentages, so I deemed the points per play and yards per play more important than total yards and total points, because as I mentioned above, these offenses shouldn’t be punished for a defense that can’t get them back on the field. With that said, only three teams made both the yards per play and points per play list. These three teams are the 1999 Rams, 2000 Rams, and 2004 Colts. The 2000 Rams and 2004 Colts get an edge over the 1999 Rams with this because they are both ranked higher on both lists.

Also, while in the end what’s most important is to put points on the board, I think those numbers are slightly deceiving because they also include defensive and special teams touchdowns. If you’re wondering why I didn’t take out the defensive and special team scores, it’s because a defense can benefit from a good offense just like and offense can benefit from a good defense. What I mean by this is that if the offense puts points up fast and early then that puts the other team in a situation where they’re trying to play catch up the entire game, which often forces them to have to throw more, and can make the opposing quarterback try to force throws he normally wouldn’t, which gives the defense more and better chances to score.

To make a long story short, it was difficult to pick which team I wanted to deem the best as having the best offense in the past thirty years. However, when it really came down to it the decision was pretty straight forward. It’s the 2004 Colts.

I’m kidding!

Calm down, I know you just freaked out, and probably started yelling at your computer screen because I clearly made this pick with blinding bias and all sorts of other stuff. But don’t worry, I’m not actually picking the 2004 Colts to be who I believe had the best offense from the last 30 years. Who I really think had the best offense is the 2000 Rams, which a pretty clear decision in my opinion. They’re the only team to ever have over 7,000 yards of total offense in a season, they’re the only team to make all four of my top 5’s, they basically averaged 7 yards per play that season, and clearly produced with consistency seeing how the year before and the year after they also had stellar offenses. The 2000 Rams had the best offense of the last 30 years in the NFL.

My next post will be about the worst offense in the last thirty years of the NFL. I know you’re excited.

4 Responses

  1. Weller, you always amaze me with your statistics. Sometimes they overwhelm. Good post.

  2. […] In The Last 30 Years Posted on July 19, 2008 by colts18 Following up my last post about the best offense from the last 30 years, I bring to you the worst offense from the last 30 years. This is very similar to that post in […]

  3. […] Myself and some others were going back and forth on the thread, when someone passed on a link to The Best NFL Offense of the last 30 years. Perfect! The blogger is pretty clear with both his intent and method, and it obviously matched up […]

  4. […] and sometimes on Thursday. I love football so much that I do stuff like this and this… and this and this… and this and this… you get the idea. Football is the ultimate team sport. […]

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