Big sack numbers a thing of the past
Posted Jun. 08 at 05:13 AM
I’m doing a little maintenance on our stat database – changing the way some of the numbers are organized. It’s standard procedure for this time of year.
As I’m working with some sack numbers, I’m struck by how many more sacks there were in the mid-‘80s.
Look, for example, at 1984; there were six teams that allowed 60-plus sacks. Compare that to last year, when the Packers allowed a league-high 51 sacks (back in 1984), they would barely have been below-average. In none of the last three years, in fact, has any team allowed more than 55 sacks.
Since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, the five worst seasons in terms of allowing sacks all occurred between 1982 and 1987. Those are the five years that teams gave up an average of over 42 sacks per season (with two of those years requiring adjustments to account for labor stoppages).
Only five times, meanwhile, has the league average closed at below 35 sacks per season, and three of those five years have occurred in the last three years.
What’s happening here?
I think it’s a combination of things. The NFL has made a number of rules changes that benefit quarterbacks – most notably, allowing them to more easily throw away the ball, and limiting how they can be hit by defenders. I think offensive coaches are probably also doing a better job of accounting for the pass rush. Back in the ‘80s, recall, defenses were realizing the effectiveness of using linebackers more often as pass rushers – the guys like Lawrence Taylor. In the ‘70s, I think teams more often would simply use their four defensive linemen to generate their pass rush.
Now, quarterbacks (and other offensive players) are probably better at recognizing defensive formations and making the proper adjustments. Blitzers are more likely to be picked up, and quarterbacks do a better job of getting the ball out of their hands.
YEARS WITH THE MOST SACKS, 1978-2009
* -- numbers adjusted to account for strike-shortened season.
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