There’s an age-old football adage that everyone knows well, and has heard over and over again – a saying that The Walrus should have tattooed to his forehead… Defense Wins Championships.
Is it a cliché? Maybe. But man, does it certainly hold true.
In less than two weeks, either the Steelers or the Packers will be crowned Super Bowl Champion. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise – no, not because we all follow football and haven’t been living under a snow mound for the last week – but, because both teams rely on the tenacity and strength of their Defenses. Sure, both teams needed big plays from their All-Pro Quarterbacks in big moments in order to advance this far – and got them – but the reason these two teams have gotten to the pinnacle of the sport is their stout defensive play.
Pittsburgh and Green Bay – as I mentioned earlier today – had the 2nd overall and 5th overall defenses, respectively, during the 2010 Regular Season. Both teams suffered (what should have been) devastating season-ending injuries to key offensive players – Tight End Jermichael Finley and Running Back Ryan Grant in Green Bay, and Offensive Linemen Max Starks and Willie Colon in Pittsburgh – and took a dip during the middle part of the year. But they both stayed buoyant thanks to guys like James Harrison and Clay Matthews, Jr., Ike Taylor and Charles Woodson, Brett Keisel and B.J. Raji… I didn’t even mention Troy Polamalu or Cullen Jenkins, who were both injured for good chunks of the season.
The point is this: a great offense can carry you through a 16-game Regular Season, but when the Postseason rolls around and every single possession matters, its Defenses that truly shine. Let’s examine the past ten Super Bowls, going back to the 2000 season, when the Baltimore Ravens brought Defense back in vogue.
Super Bowls since 2000:
- 2000 – Super Bowl 35
Baltimore Ravens – 2nd Defense; 16th Offense
New York Giants – 5th Defense; 13th Offense
- 2001 – Super Bowl 36
New England Patriots – 24th Defense; 19th Offense
St. Louis Rams – 3rd Defense; 1st Offense
- 2002 – Super Bowl 37
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 1st Defense; 24th Offense
Oakland Raiders – 11th Defense; 1st Offense
- 2003 – Super Bowl 38
New England Patriots– 7th Defense; 17th Offense
Carolina Panthers – 8th Defense; 16th Offense
- 2004 – Super Bowl 39
New England Patriots – 9th Defense; 7th Offense
Philadelphia Eagles – 10th Defense; 9th Offense
- 2005 – Super Bowl 40
Pittsburgh Steelers – 4th Defense; 15th Offense
Seattle Seahawks – 16th Defense; 2nd Offense
- 2006 – Super Bowl 41
Indianapolis Colts – 21st Defense; 3rd Offense
Chicago Bears – 5th Defense; 15th Offense
- 2007 – Super Bowl 42
New York Giants – 7th Defense; 16th Offense
New England Patriots – 4th Defense; 1st Offense
- 2008 – Super Bowl 43
Pittsburgh Steelers – 1st Defense; 22nd Offense
Arizona Cardinals – 19th Defense; 4th Offense
- 2009 – Super Bowl 44
New Orleans Saints – 25th Defense; 1st Offense
Indianapolis Colts – 18th Defense; 9th Offense
Over the past decade, the Super Bowl winner has averaged the 9th ranked Defense and the 14th ranked Offense during the Regular Season, while the loser has averaged the 10th ranked Defense and the 7th ranked Offense. In seven of those ten Super Bowls, the team with the higher-ranked Offense lost.
To further that point, teams entering the Super Bowl with the number one-ranked Offense have won just one-out-of-four championships. St. Louis (2001), Oakland (2002) and New England (2007) each lost the Super Bowl with the league’s top offense. New Orleans is the only team to win a championship with the 1st overall Offense – and they beat the Colts, the only other team over that timeframe to win a Super Bowl with a top-three Offense and a Defense that ranked outside of the top-ten. Conversely, the top-ranked Defense has not lost a Super Bowl (Pittsburgh in 2006, Tampa Bay in 2002 and Baltimore in 2000).
Long-story short… no matter how beat-up a team is, or how poor their Offense may be (see: Dilfer, Trent), if they have a top-five defense, they can beat any Offense. Yes, I realize there are exceptions – the 2001 Patriots and the 2006 Colts – but the rule holds pretty true (besides, that Patriots team is one of the all-time flukiest Super Bowl Champions, and the Colts won because Rex Grossman killed the Bears – polar opposite of how the Ravens didn’t allow Dilfer to shoot them in the foot).
So what does this have to do with the Eagles? Well for one thing, The Walrus’ entire football philosophy centers around the idea of Offense: getting the most snaps possible, gaining the most yards, scoring the most points. It does not take into account the fact that the best offense is a good defense. Coincidentally, the strongest Eagles’ teams under Reid (2002, 2004 and 2008) all had Defenses ranked in the top-ten and reached (at least) the NFC Championship Game. Reid’s two best offenses (ranked 2nd overall in 2006 and 2010) couldn’t even make it past the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Andy Reid strives to have the number one Offense every year. The team has broken franchise records for points scored six times during Reid’s tenure and re-written the franchise’s history books in terms of Offensive production over and over again. But there is still no championship trophy in the Lincoln Financial Field Headhouse. No Super Bowl win to be proud of. No comeback for when the Steelers and Cowgirls fans rub their rings in our collective face.
The number one ranked Offense gets you points, highlights, accolades and possibly a bye in the playoffs. But the number one ranked Defense gets you a Lombardi Trophy.
It’s time to change the organization’s philosophy. It’s time to Fire The Walrus.