All week long, Football Outsiders has been releasing “Top 30” lists on ESPN Insider, ranking the top offenses, defenses, special teams, and now teams, all using the Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) metric, which now spans exactly 30 seasons. They’ll have individual player seasons published on Friday.
You’ll be delighted to know that four Seahawks squads have made the list of best teams, and no, they’re not all from the Pete Carroll era. First up are the 2005 Seahawks (+33.8% DVOA), who otherwise wouldn’t have made it into the top-30 had they not counted the postseason, but the shellacking of the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Championship Game propelled them to 23rd. Seattle boasted the best offense, but a dead-average defense and below-average special teams. We know what happened in Super Bowl XL, but if there’s any comfort, that Steelers team is ranked 29th.
Coming in at 14th is the 2012 side, with a total DVOA of +36.9%. This began Seattle’s four-season dynasty atop the DVOA charts. Seattle didn’t finish first in offense (4th), defense (2nd), or special teams (3rd), but collectively they were by far the most balanced team in the league. (Fun Fact: If the Rams had not tied the 49ers 24-24 in their first matchup, the Seahawks would’ve won the NFC West and taken the #2 seed. Oh how different that postseason could’ve been.)
The 2015 Seahawks (+37.8% DVOA) are just two spots ahead of the 2012 team, and of course you may recall that the team was 4-5 and in legitimate danger of missing the playoffs. Fear not, for the offense went on an incredible tear and skyrocketed to #1 in DVOA by the end of the season. Defensively they were 4th, while special teams was 3rd, with many thanks to rookie Tyler Lockett’s great contributions in the return game. Much like the 2012 Seahawks, losing too many close games and blowing too many late leads meant no division title, and an exit in the divisional round.
Of course, the greatest Seahawks team of all-time is the Super Bowl-winning 2013 squad, and Football Outsiders has them at 6th, with a DVOA of +43.2%. The defense was obviously the best of that year and is actually 8th in the top-30 defensive DVOA rankings, while the offense was 7th and special teams 5th. We really cannot leave out the fact that the Seahawks punting game was so strong that they only allowed 82 return yards all season, with the bulk of them coming in week 17 against the Rams. The article notes that Seattle’s “43-8 Super Bowl blowout of Denver ranks as one of the 20 best single-game performances in DVOA history.”
For the record, the 2014 Seahawks are the odd team out from Seattle’s DVOA dynasty. They rank 38th, with a massive special teams regression to 19th playing a major role. That’s still pretty damn impressive, and it speaks to a much bigger picture concerning the success this franchise has had since divisional realignment. Only the 2002, 2008, 2009, and 2011 Seahawks have failed to qualify for the postseason, which means Seattle has had nearly as many Super Bowl appearances as they’ve had non-playoff teams over a fifteen-year period. Take all of that into consideration and you’ve got yourself a level of sustained success that fans of almost every other team in the NFL would take in a heartbeat.
Just to wrap this all up, the #1 team by DVOA in the last 30 years, totaling a staggering +61.7%, is the 1991 Washington Redskins. Their two losses were by a combined five points (with the week 17 defeat to Philadelphia being a meaningless contest), and three of their first five wins were shutouts. Washington sported the league’s #1 offense (led by QB Mark Rypien) and the best special teams. Their “weak” spot was their defense, which was “only” 3rd. They rampaged through the playoffs, first dispatching the Atlanta Falcons, then crushing Barry Sanders and the Detroit Lions in the NFC Championship Game, and winning Super Bowl XXVI 37-24 over the poor poor Buffalo Bills. The ‘91 Skins are over 11 percentage points ahead of the runner-up, the 2007 New England Patriots.
With this being ESPN Insider, the complete article is behind a paywall, but if you are a subscriber, here’s the link.