Who would you rather be?

In light of the latest rant by Big Blue Shoe, and an utterly asinine question posed to Bill Polian, from a fan who forgot the Colts won the Super Bowl two seasons ago, I thought I would take a look at how the Colts stack up against other elite franchises over the past 10 years. We all know that the Patriots are far and away the best team of the decade, and will be remembered with the best teams of all time.  But outside of New England, what has been the best franchise this decade, and have the Colts performed as miserably in the playoffs as some have implied?

To make the list, a team has to have won a Super Bowl in the last 10 years.  The last column is labeled ‘Disappointing seasons’.  This means that the team in question either didn’t make the playoffs or lost their first game.  Personally, I don’t think that’s a great definition, as losing in the first round shouldn’t be counted the same as not even qualifying for the playoffs, but to satisfy the crazies, I’ll pretend it’s just as bad.  Note that depending on the results of this weekend’s games, both Pittsburgh and New York can qualify for a ‘disappointing’ season.

Wins Losses Playoff seasons Playoff Record Conference Title games Super Bowls Wins One and Done Losing seasons Total ‘Disappointing seasons’
Indianapolis  114 46 9 7-8 2 1 1 6 1 7
New England 110 50 6 14-3 5 4 3 0 1 4
Pittsburgh 100 60 6 8-4* 4 1 1 1 2 6
Baltimore 91 69 5 7-3* 2 1 1 2 3 7
Tampa 89 71 6 4-5 2 1 1 4 3 8
New York Giants 87 73 6 6-5 2 2 1 4 4 8
St Louis 83 77 5 6-4 2 2 1 2 4 7

So what to make of this list?  Again, New England is off the board.  They have three rings and have been amazing (and seriously, no cheating comments.  It’s boring).  We see that the Colts have the most wins over the last 10 years.  We see they are tied with Pittsburgh for the second most postseason wins (although Pitt plays tonight, and New York and Baltimore can pass the Colts if they make the Super Bowl).  We see the Colts have had the fewest losing seasons, and made the playoffs the most times.

People can talk about ‘big games’ and choke jobs all they want.  The Colts have played their way into the playoffs almost every year. Pittsburgh has only gone out in the first game once this decade.  That’s great, but four other times, they didn’t even get the chance.  The Giants played in two Super Bowls, but still have as many ‘disappointing seasons’ seasons as Indianapolis does (and could add one more if they lose tonight).

Some of this criticism is aimed specifically at Tony Dungy.  So let’s look at the same chart, and only consider the NFL since Dungy arrived in Indy in 2002:

Wins Losses Playoff seasons Playoff Record Conference Title games Super Bowls Wins One and Done Losing season Total ‘Disappointing seasons’
New England 86 26 5 11-3 4 3 2 0 0 2
Indianapolis  85 27 7 7-6 2 1 1 4 0 4
Pittsburgh 72 40 5 7-3* 3 1 1 1 1 3
New York Giants 67 45 5 4-4 1 1 1 4 2 6
Baltimore 61 51 3 2-2* 1 0 0 2 4 6
Tampa 57 55 3 3-2 1 1 1 2 3 6
St Louis 46 66 2 1-2 0 0 0 1 4 6

So, in the Dungy era, only Pittsburgh and New England have posted fewer “Disappointing Seasons” than the Colts (and Pittsburgh would tie Indy with a loss this weekend). To post more playoff wins than Indianapolis in the last 7 seasons, Pittsburgh would have make the Super Bowl.

While it may be fashionable to point out that the Colts have tons of “regular season” wins and ‘few postseason wins’, it’s actually not true.  In fact, if the Colts had LOST more regular season games, like the Steelers, would we even be having this conversation?  Look when it comes to the postseason, there’s New England, and there is every one else.  No one is arguing that.  There is plenty of evidence that Indianapolis has been the second best team in the NFL for the last decade.  Perhaps if Pittsburgh or New York go on big runs in this playoffs, they’ll take that title.  Even so, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and New England have been the three best teams in the NFL for a decade.  They naturally suppress one another’s accomplishments.  If not for New England, the Colts could have 2 more titles or Pittsburgh could have 2 more as well.  If not for the Colts, New England surely has one more.  The Steelers stopped the Colts in 2005.  The Colts have done a better job taking care of business in the regular season, but become just your average “elite” team at playoff time.  This is because they don’t ever have trap games or let downs during the season. Disparaging a team for excellence simply doesn’t make sense.

In the playoffs, they run into the Steelers and Pats and Chargers.  In the Dungy era, they are 3-3 in the regular season versus New England.  They are 1-2 in the playoffs.  They are 1-1 and 0-1 versus Pittsburgh.  They are 2-2 verses San Diego and 0-2 in the playoffs.  In other words, against those teams, they have been just average in the regular season (as one would expect against tough competition), and have gone 1-5 in the post season, losing three heartbreakers.  This isn’t a case of a team “choking” but rather a team losing a couple of tough games against clubs they are matched up dead even against.

If we consider the playoff record of teams (since 2002) outside this list that might vie for elite status, we find the Chargers are 3-3, the Eagles are 6-4, and the Panthers have just a stunning 5-2 mark in three appearances, but no titles to show for it.  All three teams could improve or worsen those marks this year, and with a Super Bowl win would merit inclusion in this list.  The point is that 7-6 and title in 7 years is pretty good.  It’s actually an elite performance.  UPDATE:  The Eagles now move to 7-4.  The Panthers are 5-3.
So, if you are a Colts fan upset by how ‘awful’ the Colts are in the playoffs, just remember, it could be worse.  You could be a fan of 30 other franchises in the NFL.

UPDATE:  I’ve updated the tables to reflect the weekend games.  They’ve decidedly strengthened Indy’s position.  The Ravens and Steelers now have the chance to be the second best team of the decade, but their numbers during the Dungy Era are comparable.  The Giants are now off the board as well.

UPDATE 2:  Here are the Philly totals.  If they win a Super Bowl, they’ll be the #2 team in my opinion.  Basically, the Ravens, Eagles, and Steelers are all vying for that spot.

Eagles  97-62-1  7playoffs,  10-6,  5 NFC champ games, 1 SB, 1 SB loss, 0 one and done, 2 losing records, 3 disappointing seasons.

Those are great numbers.  They have no Super Bowls.  Note how much easier it is to win in the playoffs when you play in the inferior conference.   It’s been easy for the Eagles to be one of the two best teams in the NFC.  In the AFC, there have been 3-4 elite teams (NE, Pitt, Ind, SD).  Note that the Colts have lost to one of those teams in each of their past five playoff losses.