GM Boot camp lesson 4

Defense doesn’t win championships. 

Wait for it…wait…

There it is! I knew you’d say, “What about the ’86 Bears?” or “The ’00 Ravens won with Trent Dilfer–gotta be defense.”

Take a deep breath, swallow and read a few articles that clearly demonstrate that defense does not win championships. It certainly is part of the equation but hardly a measuring stick by which we should build our team. A much better predictor of a team’s ability to bring home the Lombardi is passer rating differential (PDR). I will not argue this point. Read the articles.

Let’s move on to the lesson part. Since we know that defense doesn’t win championships we should rethink the ol’ ground-n-pound approach to football. Instead we should focus on passing and to a lesser degree stopping the pass–that’s it in a nutshell. PDR is as close as we get to baseball’s on-base-percentage in terms of quality predictors yet it still isn’t perfect. It’s good enough to know that we shouldn’t waste our time on run-stopping monsters if we’re giving up yards in the air. Since we know this fact teams should plan accordingly and build their rosters for today’s NFL.

For the Colts there is a clear message: you may wish to spend lots of picks building your defensive behemoth but it will be a foolish investment. Using high draft picks for defensive linemen will most certainly be money spent poorly unless they knock down quarterbacks frequently. You may wish to find the next Ray Lewis but you really should be looking for is the next Marvin Harrison, Tony Gonzalez or Anthony Munoz. If you insist on spending picks on defense they need to be guys that defend the pass. Ideally we’re seeking the next Ed Reed, Champ Bailey or Clay Matthews rather than that run-stopping nose tackle. 

If you’d like a good example of this in action consider the 2011 Giants and Patriots. They were ranked 27th and 31st overall in regular season total defense. They were 29th and 31st against the pass! Neither team was particulary good against the run (and it really doesn’t matter anyway). What both teams did however was finish in the top 12 in terms of PDR. New England finished #2 while NY finished #12. Both teams have spent wisely on receivers, offensive linemen and tight ends recently.

One last thing: they’ve both got excellent quarterbacks. That may have something to do with all of this…

Todd Smith

About Todd Smith

Todd Smith is a part-time sportswriter who spends too much time arguing on Twitter. What he really loves is eating poorly and watching football. He got his first Colts t-shirt in 1984 shortly after the Mayflower trucks arrived and has never given up on his hometown team. He also still holds to the belief that Kordell Stewart stepped out of the end zone and thus cheated the Colts.