By Ken Crippen
Pro Football Researchers Association


A little history, before the history.

During last year's run-up to the Super Bowl, we looked at the Passer Rating Differential for all NFL champions since 1940.

After a season of analyzing Rusher Rating and Rusher Rating Differential, it seemed like a good time to look at the Rusher Rating Differential for all NFL champions. (Rusher Rating is a formula similar to the NFL's Passer Rating, the details of which are found below.)

Neither New England (+13.13, seventh) nor New York (+4.63, 13th) were great this year, although a look at the recent champions shows just how marginalized the stat has become in today's pass-happy NFL:
 
Rusher Rating Differential for all NFL Champions (Since 1940):
 
Team Rushing Attempts Offensive Rusher Rating Defensive Rushing Attempts Defensive Rusher Rating Rusher Rating Differential
1940 Bears 494 101.40 372 69.96 +31.44
1941 Bears 489 111.47 373 49.42 +62.05
1942 Redskins 413 77.07 367 56.59 +20.48
1943 Bears 424 78.70 332 76.68 +2.03
1944 Packers 395 100.94 357 76.21 +24.73
1945 Rams 372 99.77 349 72.16 +27.61
1946 Bears 496 90.01 334 70.00 +20.01
1947 Cardinals 468 94.30 400 77.35 +16.95
1948 Eagles 528 96.11 376 61.76 +34.35
1949 Eagles 632 101.06 353 65.18 +35.88
1950 Browns 457 103.73 451 65.95 +37.78
1951 Rams 426 109.75 478 99.32 +10.43
1952 Lions 442 91.87 353 56.63 +35.24
1953 Lions 427 83.95 404 78.22 +5.73
1954 Browns 476 98.80 372 53.30 +45.50
1955 Browns 536 90.16 351 78.46 +11.70
1956 Giants 499 95.40 415 74.59 +20.81
1957 Lions 409 87.64 406 80.26 +7.38
1958 Colts 456 113.05 331 84.11 +28.94
1959 Colts 435 90.63 325 109.05 -18.42
1960 Eagles 351 79.40 449 91.07 -11.67
1961 Packers 474 119.90 412 81.19 +38.71
1962 Packers 518 117.78 404 59.79 +57.99
1963 Bears 487 87.94 412 66.02 +21.92
1964 Browns 435 100.62 465 88.92 +11.70
1965 Packers 432 86.85 480 70.90 +15.95
1966 Packers 475 86.26 446 75.72 +10.54
1967 Packers 474 98.20 443 75.37 +22.83
1968 Jets 467 103.81 368 72.59 +31.22
1969 Chiefs 522 90.67 314 65.79 +24.88
1970 Colts 411 73.56 390 75.50 -1.94
1971 Cowboys 512 100.14 353 56.62 +43.52
1972 Dolphins 613 104.03 389 68.10 +35.93
1973 Dolphins 507 92.68 511 83.85 +8.83
1974 Steelers 546 90.99 472 62.22 +28.77
1975 Steelers 581 94.43 431 81.22 +13.21
1976 Raiders 557 87.91 478 96.84 -8.93
1977 Cowboys 564 96.65 457 79.43 +17.22
1978 Steelers 641 81.68 513 71.02 +10.66
1979 Steelers 561 95.21 506 72.76 +22.45
1980 Raiders 541 79.60 501 88.76 -9.16
1981 49ers 560 88.20 464 72.75 +15.45
1982 Redskins 315 75.95 247 77.08 -1.13
1983 Raiders 542 82.57 436 81.38 +1.19
1984 49ers 534 101.89 432 81.52 +20.37
1985 Bears 610 104.72 359 60.99 +43.73
1986 Giants 558 94.61 350 72.05 +22.56
1987 Redskins 500 89.29 441 81.65 +7.64
1988 49ers 527 98.15 441 71.12 +27.03
1989 49ers 493 86.02 372 73.86 +12.16
1990 Giants 541 93.19 388 80.23 +12.96
1991 Redskins 540 97.12 348 82.53 +14.59
1992 Cowboys 500 102.56 345 81.16 +21.40
1993 Cowboys 490 97.20 423 72.91 +24.29
1994 49ers 491 102.44 375 95.25 +7.20
1995 Cowboys 495 116.05 442 94.11 +21.94
1996 Packers 465 80.15 400 72.03 +8.12
1997 Broncos 520 99.07 381 85.48 +13.59
1998 Broncos 525 116.58 356 77.58 +39.00
1999 Rams 431 87.73 338 72.57 +15.16
2000 Ravens 511 85.30 361 45.27 +40.03
2001 Patriots 473 88.28 429 76.35 +11.93
2002 Buccaneers 414 73.44 410 82.54 -9.10
2003 Patriots 473 77.01 401 79.99 -2.98
2004 Patriots 524 88.40 405 74.71 +13.69
2005 Steelers 549 100.74 402 75.57 +25.17
2006 Colts 439 97.91 519 105.74 -7.83
2007 Giants 469 91.72 408 87.90 +3.82
2008 Steelers 460 93.08 390 75.57 +17.51
2009 Saints 468 100.52 435 101.50 -0.98
2010 Packers 421 86.43 395 81.97 +4.46
 
Since 1940, championship teams posted an average Offensive Rusher Rating of 94.09, a Defensive Rusher Rating of 76.23 and an average Rusher Rating Differential of +17.86. That is compared to an average Offensive Passer Rating of 82.3, a Defensive Passer Rating of 54.9 and an average Passer Rating Differential of +27.4.
 
Top 10 Rusher Rating Differential (Since 1940):
 
Team Rushing Attempts Offensive Rusher Rating Defensive Rushing Attempts Defensive Rusher Rating Rusher Rating Differential
1941 Bears 489 111.47 373 49.42 +62.05
1962 Packers 518 117.78 404 59.79 +57.99
1954 Browns 476 98.80 372 53.30 +45.50
1985 Bears 610 104.72 359 60.99 +43.73
1971 Cowboys 512 100.14 353 56.62 +43.52
2000 Ravens 511 85.30 361 45.27 +40.03
1998 Broncos 525 116.58 356 77.58 +39.00
1961 Packers 474 119.90 412 81.19 +38.71
1950 Browns 457 103.73 451 65.95 +37.78
1972 Dolphins 613 104.03 389 68.10 +35.93
 
The 1941 Chicago Bears had the best Rusher Rating Differential of all NFL Champions. Even with the advent of the T-Formation and the increased reliance on the passing game, they still had an impressive 111.47 Rusher Rating for the season. Combine that with a stiff defense, and they edged out the 1962 Green Bay Packers for the Rusher Rating Differential title.
 
The 1941 Bears had started their championship campaign in impressive fashion, winning five straight games and 10 of the 11 games that season. This was after beating the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game, a blowout unmatched to this day. Their 10-1-0 record equaled that of the Green Bay Packers that year, which forced a playoff game for the right to represent the Western Division in the 1941 NFL Championship Game. On 48 carries for 277 yards and three touchdowns, the Bears easily won 33-14.
 
That put the Bears in position to face the New York Giants for the 1941 title. In an even more impressive fashion, the Bears beat the Giants 37-9 on a mere 56 carries for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
 
The Bears won four championships in the 1940s and it was easy to see why. Six of the Bears from that era are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Sid Luckman, Dan Fortmann, George McAfee, George Musso, Joe Stydahar, and ‘Bulldog’ Turner. Ken Kavanaugh’s name also pops up occasionally for induction. 
 

Putting it all together

With both the Rusher Rating and Passer Rating numbers, we can combine that into a Total Offensive Team Rating, Total Defensive Team Rating, as well as a Team Rating Differential. Weighing rushing attempts and passing attempts into the equation, you can get an accurate statistical look at the performance of each team. The results are impressive as a whopping 98.59% (70 out of 71) of NFL Champions had a positive Total Team Rating. The only team with a negative Total Team Rating to win an NFL Championship (since 1940) was the 2007 New York Giants, who defeated the New England Patriots and ruined their perfect season.
 
The best Team Offensive Rating went to the 1994 San Francisco 49ers (107.01), followed by the 1941 Chicago Bears (106.81) and the 1962 Green Bay Packers (105.45), with the 1998 Denver Broncos only 0.02 behind the Packers.
 
On the defensive side of the ball, the 1941 Chicago Bears had the best Total Defensive Rating with a 41.44. The 1942 Washington Redskins were second with 45.07, and the 1949 Philadelphia Eagles were third with a 48.93 Total Defensive Rating. They were the only three teams with a Total Defensive Rating below 50.
 
Here are the Total Team Ratings for all NFL Champions (since 1940):
 
Team Team Offensive Rating Team Defensive Rating Total Team Differential
1940 Bears 88.77 60.79 +27.98
1941 Bears 106.81 41.44 +65.37
1942 Redskins 72.67 45.07 +27.60
1943 Bears 84.56 55.93 +28.63
1944 Packers 77.58 59.18 +18.40
1945 Rams 88.63 54.90 +33.73
1946 Bears 82.51 57.74 +24.77
1947 Cardinals 79.82 67.04 +12.78
1948 Eagles 92.04 54.25 +37.79
1949 Eagles 94.39 48.93 +45.46
1950 Browns 89.32 51.31 +38.01
1951 Rams 95.77 79.99 +15.78
1952 Lions 77.52 51.31 +26.21
1953 Lions 71.17 59.25 +11.92
1954 Browns 88.58 50.31 +38.27
1955 Browns 92.63 60.36 +32.27
1956 Giants 84.95 68.50 +16.45
1957 Lions 72.76 71.99 +0.77
1958 Colts 100.97 58.48 +42.49
1959 Colts 91.31 75.85 +15.46
1960 Eagles 85.53 74.84 +8.69
1961 Packers 105.11 67.41 +37.70
1962 Packers 105.45 52.12 +53.33
1963 Bears 82.34 51.61 +30.73
1964 Browns 91.87 82.75 +9.12
1965 Packers 85.30 60.83 +24.47
1966 Packers 92.61 61.90 +30.71
1967 Packers 84.01 60.74 +23.27
1968 Jets 89.80 62.04 +27.76
1969 Chiefs 82.92 52.15 +30.77
1970 Colts 73.43 67.34 +6.09
1971 Cowboys 95.45 56.23 +39.22
1972 Dolphins 98.94 58.33 +40.61
1973 Dolphins 86.82 66.86 +19.96
1974 Steelers 73.56 54.73 +18.83
1975 Steelers 91.59 62.82 +28.77
1976 Raiders 93.53 84.26 +9.27
1977 Cowboys 92.14 65.46 +26.68
1978 Steelers 81.61 62.12 +19.49
1979 Steelers 86.51 64.80 +21.71
1980 Raiders 75.21 74.98 +0.23
1981 49ers 87.96 66.15 +21.81
1982 Redskins 83.01 72.14 +10.87
1983 Raiders 83.64 76.12 +7.52
1984 49ers 101.89 72.63 +29.26
1985 Bears 93.35 55.19 +38.16
1986 Giants 85.62 69.89 +15.73
1987 Redskins 85.09 74.93 +10.16
1988 49ers 91.00 71.71 +19.29
1989 49ers 100.26 70.63 +29.63
1990 Giants 92.09 70.11 +21.98
1991 Redskins 97.52 68.02 +29.50
1992 Cowboys 95.74 74.59 +21.15
1993 Cowboys 97.00 74.27 +22.73
1994 49ers 107.01 78.73 +28.28
1995 Cowboys 103.89 82.29 +21.60
1996 Packers 88.56 62.45 +26.11
1997 Broncos 93.27 77.37 +15.90
1998 Broncos 105.43 79.41 +26.02
1999 Rams 98.14 67.17 +30.97
2000 Ravens 79.04 55.50 +23.54
2001 Patriots 85.87 72.01 +13.86
2002 Buccaneers 80.87 63.61 +17.26
2003 Patriots 80.89 65.56 +15.33
2004 Patriots 90.37 73.91 +16.46
2005 Steelers 96.11 74.66 +21.45
2006 Colts 99.64 94.48 +5.16
2007 Giants 81.67 85.37 -3.70
2008 Steelers 87.22 68.54 +18.68
2009 Saints 103.47 82.78 +20.69
2010 Packers 93.44 73.53 +19.91
 
The average Total Team Rating was +23.57, with the average Team Offensive Rating of 88.86 and a Team Defensive Rating of 65.29.
 
If you are of the opinion that the highest Total Team Differential is the best NFL Champion of all time, then the 1941 Chicago Bears are the winners. Here are the top ten teams, based on Total Team Rating:
 
Team Team Offensive Rating Team Defensive Rating Total Team Differential
1941 Bears 106.81 41.44 +65.37
1962 Packers 105.45 52.12 +53.33
1949 Eagles 94.39 48.93 +45.46
1958 Colts 100.97 58.48 +42.49
1972 Dolphins 98.94 58.33 +40.61
1971 Cowboys 95.45 56.23 +39.22
1954 Browns 88.58 50.31 +38.27
1985 Bears 93.35 55.19 +38.16
1950 Browns 89.32 51.31 +38.01
1948 Eagles 92.04 54.25 +37.79
 
After looking at the Passer Rating Numbers, as well as the Rusher Rating numbers, it was no surprise that the 1941 Chicago Bears had the best Total Team Differential of all NFL Champions. Their offensive output (best in Rusher Rating Differential and second best in Team Offensive Rating), combined with the best Team Defensive Rating of all Championship teams, the 1941 Bears can easily make the argument that they are the best NFL Champion of all-time.
 
The 1962 Packers also were not a surprise, as they were probably one of the best, if not the best, of the Lombardi-era teams. They are considered by some to be one of the best NFL Champions of all-time, and statistically, they rank number two. I think that is the proper place for them, with the 1941 Bears as number one all-time.
 
In this pass-happy NFL, you will notice that only one team from the Live Ball era (1978 and beyond) is in the top 10 list: the 1985 Chicago Bears.
 
 

Total Team Ratings: New England Patriots vs. New York Giants

 
So, how do these teams stack up in Total Team Ratings? We have already discussed Rusher Rating numbers in a previous article. However, we will gloss over them again.
 
The Patriots had the better Rusher Rating Differential during the regular season…
 
Regular Season Rushing Attempts Offensive Rusher Rating Defensive Rushing Attempts Defensive Rusher Rating Rusher Rating Differential
New England Patriots 438 107.68 405 94.55 +13.13
New York Giants 411 101.16 435 96.53 +4.63
 
…but, the Giants have a decided edge during the playoffs…
 
Playoffs Rushing Attempts Offensive Rusher Rating Defensive Rushing Attempts Defensive Rusher Rating Rusher Rating Differential
New York Giants 84 86.22 72 60.38 +25.42
New England Patriots 61 87.66 71 78.50 +9.16
 
Now, we can look at Team Rating numbers for both franchises. Here are the numbers for the regular season:
 
Team Team Offensive Rating Team Defensive Rating Total Team Differential
New England Patriots 106.53 89.44 +17.08
New York Giants 96.29 90.53 +5.76
 
The playoffs:
 
Team Team Offensive Rating Team Defensive Rating Total Team Differential
New England Patriots 97.34 78.03 +19.31
New York Giants 96.27 71.15 +25.12
 
Combined:
 
Team Team Offensive Rating Team Defensive Rating Total Team Differential
New England Patriots 100.59 88.11 +12.48
New York Giants 96.12 87.57 +8.56
 
Both teams would rank in the bottom quarter of all-time NFL Champions with these numbers.

More history

Best of Offensive Rusher Rating
 
The Lombardi Packers were a true dynasty. In the 1960s, the Packers won five NFL Championships, as well as the first two Super Bowls. With both the 1961 and 1962 teams having the best Rusher Rating of all time, it proves that it was not a fluke. They consistently were able to run the ball effectively and efficiently.
 
The 1998 Broncos, with the historic 2,008-yard performance of Terrell Davis, captured the number three spot in Offensive Rusher Rating, and Emmitt Smith’s 1995 Dallas Cowboys took the number four spot.
 
Top 10 Offensive Rusher Rating (Since 1940):
 
Team Attempts Yards Yards per Attempt TD Fumbles Rusher Rating
1961 Packers 474 2,350 4.96 27 10 119.90
1962 Packers 518 2,460 4.75 36 15 117.78
1998 Broncos 525 2,468 4.70 26 6 116.58
1995 Cowboys 495 2,201 4.45 29 13 116.05
1958 Colts 456 2,127 4.66 24 11 113.05
1941 Bears 489 2,246 4.59 29 19 111.47
1951 Rams 426 2,210 5.19 22 15 109.75
1985 Bears 610 2,761 4.53 27 15 104.72
1972 Dolphins 613 2,960 4.83 26 16 104.03
1968 Jets 467 1,608 3.44 22 9 103.81


Where do the Giants and Patriots stack up? Surprisingly well. Because neither team fumbles much, they would both rank somewhere in the top 15 -- New England was at 107.7 and the Giants at 101.1.
 
 
Best of Defensive Rusher Rating
 
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens had the best Defensive Rusher Rating of all NFL Champions. That was no surprise. What did raise an eyebrow was the 1985 Chicago Bears falling to the number eight spot in the defensive rankings. Discussions abound among historians as to who had the best defense of all time: 2000 Ravens vs. 1985 Bears. Well, from a rushing perspective, the 2000 Ravens easily take the title. Later, we will see how both teams stand from a Total Team Rating perspective.
 
Top 10 Defensive Rusher Rating (Since 1940):
 
Team Attempts Yards Yards per Attempt TD Fumbles Rusher Rating
2000 Ravens 361 970 2.69 5 26 45.27
1941 Bears 373 1,076 2.88 6 26 49.42
1954 Browns 372 1,050 2.82 4 19 53.30
1942 Redskins 367 848 2.31 5 16 56.59
1971 Cowboys 353 1,144 3.24 8 25 56.62
1952 Lions 353 1,145 3.24 8 25 56.63
1962 Packers 404 1,531 3.79 4 19 59.79
1985 Bears 359 1,319 3.67 6 20 60.99
1948 Eagles 376 1,209 3.22 5 16 61.76
1974 Steelers 472 1,608 3.41 7 22 62.22
 
 
 
How the Rusher Rating is Calculated
 
Here is how each component is calculated:
 
Average Yards Gained per Attempt (YD) = [Total Yards/(4.05 * Rushing Attempts)]
 
Percentage of TDs per Carry (TD) = [(39.5*Touchdowns)/Rushing Attempts]
 
Percentage of Fumbles per Carry (F) = [2.375-((21.5*Fumbles)/Rushing Attempts)]
 
Adding these components together and adjusting to a scale of 158.3 (the same as the NFL Passer Rating System) yields:
 
Rusher Rating = [(YD) + (TD) + (F)] * (100/4.5)
 
 
 
Ken Crippen is the executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association, a non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving football history. You can follow him on Twitter: @KenCrippen.