Offense Vs. Defense: Super Bowl Study


"Offense is fun to watch. To win, defense carries the day. We can all place our bets wherever we want. I am going to place mine on the side that shows consistent winning, the defense. – Merlin, aka Daddy Defense."

That quote provoked me to do some extensive research of my own over at Pro Football Reference. I looked up both the defensive and offensive scoring rankings of every single Super Bowl team since 1970, since that is when the Chiefs’ Super Bowl drought began. Why did I look up both the Super Bowl winners and losers? Because, let’s face it, with all the hype, hoopla, injuries, luck and pressure, the Super Bowl is pretty much a coin flip. If you get there, you’ve achieved greatness as a team and have a fantastic shot of adding a Lombardi to the trophy case.

In study No. 1, I recorded only No. 1 defenses and offenses. In study No. 2, I recorded all top-five defenses and offenses. After I completed my research and reviewed the results, I called up or e-mailed a bunch of folks who know their football. I told them about my study, then asked them to guess which side of the ball finished with more top rankings. Every single one of them said defense. “Defense wins championships!” What’s your guess?

Since 1970, 15 No. 1 defenses have played in the Super Bowl:

  • 1972 Dolphins
  • 1973 Dolphins
  • 1978 Steelers
  • 1980 Eagles
  • 1981 Niners
  • 1982 Redskins
  • 1984 Niners
  • 1985 Bears
  • 1989 Niners
  • 1990 Giants
  • 1996 Packers
  • 2000 Ravens
  • 2002 Bucs
  • 2003 Patriots
  • 2008 Steelers

Pretty damn impressive, right? Looks like those smart folks I contacted knew their stuff. Since I did the research, we might as well take a look at the offenses, too. Check it out after the jump…

Since 1970, 17 No. 1 offenses have played in the Super Bowl:

  • 1971 Cowboys
  • 1972 Dolphins
  • 1978 Cowboys
  • 1979 Steelers
  • 1983 Cowboys
  • 1984 Dolphins
  • 1988 Bengals
  • 1989 Niners
  • 1990 Bills
  • 1991 Redskins
  • 1994 Niners
  • 1996 Packers
  • 1997 Broncos
  • 1999 Rams
  • 2001 Rams
  • 2005 Seahawks
  • 2007 Patriots

Suckers! Most of you really thought defense was going  to have more No. 1 rankings  in a landslide. Not me. I knew the evidence would back up my claim that offense is every bit as important, if not more important, than defense. Some people acted like I was nuts, but I knew the numbers were on my side. But before I get too far into my endzone celebration dance, let’s make sure the offensive side of the ball does as well in study No. 2.

Since 1970, 42 top-five defenses have played in the Super Bowl.

Since 1970, 45 top-five offenses have played in the Super Bowl.

The bottom line is that you have to be very good on one side of the ball, and at the very least average, preferably above average, on the other. You have very few one-sided teams, like the 2002 Bucs or 2006 Colts. I’ve said over and over that you must forge an identity on one side of the ball or the other, and this proves that. Only three Super Bowl teams since 1970 — the 1972 Dolphins, 1989 Niners and 1996 Packers — came into the postseason ranked first on both sides of the ball. It’s almost impossible to be dominant on both side of the ball.

38 Super Bowls and 32 Super Bowl appearances by No. 1 ranked defenses or offenses. That’s almost one per every Super Bowl, so it’s much easier to be great on one side of the ball and have that carry you to the Big Game (32-3, by the numbers). For us, it’s gotta be offense. Our offense has a lot of weapons and the start of what could become a fantastic line overnight with the right offseason acquisitions. It’s not that far away. Our defense? If it wasn’t for the cowardly Lions last season, our defense would have been the worst in  the league.

People mistake what I’m saying. Am I saying for us just to address our offense this offseason? Hell no. What I’m saying is work on both sides of the ball about equally. Make the moves that allow our offense to become great and our defensive to become average or even above average if we are lucky. We can do that in a couple of years. What we can’t do is make our defense great in a couple of years. If we work only on our defense this offseason, we will end up being merely average on both sides of the ball. Our offense would sputter and put even more pressure on a defense trying to make itself respectable. That’s not going to get our Chiefs into the playoffs, or very far at least.

Look, I’m not some kind of Mike Martz Jr. who just loves all things offense and only things offense. I played safety in college. I went to Emporia State and ignored better offers because they were the only school that recruited me to play defense. I love defense! Safety is my favorite position hands down. Doesn’t matter — our defense sucks. It’s three or four years away with considerable luck from being a top-five unit. Personally, I don’t want to wait five years to be great.

In the post-Vermeil era, I think we’ve been brainwashed into thinking “defense wins championships” and that great offenses are a helluva good time…before January. But Dick Vermeil’s “key” defensive acquisitions were among the worst I have ever seen. He couldn’t even make the defense respectable. All they had to do was hold opponents at four touchdowns or less. In the end, they couldn’t. If they had of managed that, we might have won it all. I know Pioli can make the defense respectable while building a juggernaut offense. I’ve seen him do it, and vice-versa.

There you have it, Daddy Defense and the D-Up Crew. Defense doesn’t win championships. Great defenses or offenses win championships.