When I was initially asked to identify underperforming units a couple of years ago, I started by creating a new model to measure performance that was more subjective than my normal models based specifically on game output. I used clues about offseason free-agent signings, salaries, preseason projections and when players were drafted — and then adjusted for major injuries over the course of the season in order to calibrate expectations.
In last year’s file, driven by the desire to incorporate as many “outsider” data points as possible, I also factored in my win-share model. (Reminder: My win-share figure is defined as the measurement of how each player, position group and side of the ball impacts a team’s ability to earn first downs and touchdowns, as related to wins. And yes, these can be negative.)
The whole point is to apply structure in an unbiased way in order to contextualize football and take into account the situations that lead to specific outcomes — and then, in this case, to relate them back to expectations. (I rank each team’s position groups ahead of the season using projected win share.) That last part really matters, because this analysis is intended to talk about underperformance in context. For example, Seattle acquiring a big-ticket trade piece like Carlos Dunlap at midseason invalidates the Seahawks’ preseason ranking. It’s all about using a strategic lens.
This season, I’ve shifted from looking at 10 underperforming units to five that underperformed and five that overperformed, because we all need a little more positivity in our lives at this juncture. The areas my model flagged for negative impact were compared to areas of high preseason expectations and/or disproportionate negative win share. The areas my model flagged for positive impact exceeded their preseason expectations and/or disproportionate positive win share.
So, without further ado, let’s get to the meat of this file: The five most overperforming and underperforming units of 2020. Obviously, these all could be big factors in 2021 offseason approaches, decisions and strategies.