Go back to the year 2014 with me. Disney's Frozen opens the year as the number-one film in the United States (Thank God we let that go, just kidding the soundtrack is amazing), “Happy” by Pharrell is the number one song of the year (you can clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do), and DeMarco Murray is a good football player.
The Dallas Cowboys had one of the most dominant running games across the NFL in 2014, but that performance transcended far more than that specific season. It was one of the greatest team rushing performance of all time.
Last week I debuted my Price Per Yard methodology and applied it to the 2013 season. You can wet your palate with that appetizer, because today is the main course – 2014's Price Per Yard. Bon appetit.
Price Per Yard: The 2014 Season
I want to reiterate that when it comes to Price Per Yard there is no indisputable winner. This is all data. Numbers. Math. Excel! What it is not is an inconclusive answer. It is up to you, the well-educated and great-taste-having reader, to discern what you will. We're drawing conclusions based on 100% facts. Vamonos.
2014 NFC Price Per Yard
** Click the image to zoom in.
I know, St. Louis and Green Bay are absent. I had a difficult time gathering data for any year regarding the Rams (data was sourced from Spotrac.com), I'm assuming that it has to do with the move to Los Angeles. Similarly I failed to gather the 2014 Packers data, probably because they were scared of the Cowboys.
If you look at Price Per Yard simply as a number, even though you're not supposed to, it would appear that the Dallas Cowboys were kings of 2014 (real kings, not the ever-passing throne HBO shows us on Sundays in the spring); however, in this specific instance, you would be right!
Dallas paid by far the least per yard in the NFC in 2014 and gained the most yards by a significant margin. This means that they're flat out robbing the NFL when it comes to yards on the ground!
We'll circle back to the Cowboys in a bit, let's first look at the rest of the conference. Everyone here… is terrible.
It's fair to remember that the Vikings technically had Adrian Peterson on the books for 2014 and had his situation arise, but there's no excuse for teams like Chicago, Carolina, Tampa Bay, or San Francisco to be devoting so much to the “run game” when they're yielding such poor returns.
The Eagles look like they're really bad at this, but in reality they just have fine taste when it comes to the running game and are willing to pay for it. If you look at it closely while, yes, the Eagles are paying a premium they're also getting one back. Their return is typically matching their investment, at least compared to the rest of the conference, which ultimately is the primary point of Price Per Yard.
2014 AFC Price Per Yard
Shout out to the 2014 American Football Conference for having all of its data available to collect! Huzzah!
A big-time shout out needs to be sent from Baltimore Ravens fans to Justin Forsett, because he allowed them to flourish on the ground in 2014 and have the lowest numerical Price Per Yard in the NFL this season.
The Ravens were the Cowboys of the AFC in that they paid the least AND gained the most. This is, shocker I know, the most exceptional performance that can be achieved.
So much has been made about Joe Flacco's contract and how it's handicapped the Ravens' ability to do a lot financially. When teams are in situations like that it's critical to get insane production for a low-dollar elsewhere, like the Ravens are doing here. If you're Baltimore then you're investing where it matters (Flacco) and where you're investing minimally you're seeing the greatest return in the NFL. That's incredible.
The 2014 Tennessee Titans are among the worst teams that I've seen while gathering Price Per Yard data (I charted 2013-2015). They paid a significantly larger amount per yard and gained significantly less on the ground. So where the Titans think they're strong (at least that's what their money says) they're actually among the weakest in the field. Ouchie.
The Bengals are showing us here what success (from a PPY perspective) can be had with rookie running backs. Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill comprised a majority of their yards (which were a ton) and were both on rookie deals. This point circles back to last week's post in that if you hit on your rookie talent, you're going to get an insane bang for your buck.
The last point that I want to make in the AFC is that the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't as great as we necessarily think that they are. While Le'Veon Bell is still on his own rookie deal and is performing at a high rate, it's not high enough comparable to the NFL. The Steelers aren't investing a whole lot, but they're also not yielding an elite product. You get what you pay for, and the Steelers are paying for someone who is just good enough.
Price Per Yard: Applying The Base Value
Hey-o! We've got percentages now! We're really cooking!
I'll save you some time and give you the sparknotes version of where these come from. Obviously you know what each team's rushing total is, how much they spent on it, and their corresponding Price Per Yard. What you need to know is how good that is relative to something good – The Base Value.
I generated a base value based on the notion that being in the Top 10 is a good thing. Right? Right! I averaged the Top 10 rushing yardage totals and their corresponding Price Per Yards to determine a BV that we could compare everyone to.
Using this BV it's even more apparent that the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens were among the best teams at Price Per Yard that I've ever seen over my three seasons of study. They paid the lowest value PPY and gained the most yards on the ground. It's absurd when you really think about it.
Let's look at the 2014 Giants for example. They paid 48.55% more per yard and gained 43.50% less yards! That's horrible! The Giants literally paid more than twice per yard than the Cowboys and achieved less than half the rushing yards in return!
The Texans are almost the poster boys for average Price Per Yard in this season. They paid 5.42% more per yard, but they gained 6.23% more yards. In theory if you pay X more per yard you should have a return equal to X when it comes to yards. The 2014 Houston squad did just that.
Price Per Yard: The 2014 Dallas Cowboys
I'm going to be honest with you here. This is the greatest team that I have ever seen at Price Per Yard in my study.
Did the Dallas Cowboys have the lowest numerical Price Per Yard in 2014 ($10,542.90)? No.
Remember that the BV is an averaging of the Top 10 teams. Remember that the Cowboys are number one on that list. Remember that these Cowboys were the only team to crack 2,000 yards on the ground.
REMEMBER THAT THE DALLAS COWBOYS PAID THE SECOND LOWEST AMOUNT OF DOLLARS PER YARD AND GAINED THE MOST IN THE ENTIRE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE!
That. Is. Incredible.
This Cowboys unit paid 33.72% percent less per yard than the BV (again, these are the Top 10 teams not just some chumps). They also out-gained the yardage BV by 26.07%! What in the world!
The Ravens, who are admittedly very good at this, did pay 36.31% percent less per yard. They also out-gained the yardage BV by a measly 6.73%.
The second highest margin that a team out-gained the yardage BV by is in fact those Ravens. The Dallas Cowboys added 20% to that! That is unprecedented!
What the 2014 Dallas Cowboys accomplished when it comes to Price Per Yard is among the greatest financial return on investments that we have ever seen in NFL History.
The impetus for Price Per Yard was actually the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. It fascinated me to consider that in a year with such high production gained, so little was invested to achieve that result. Price Per Yard proves that through 100% irrefutable evidence.
The 2014 season is the second installment in my Price Per Yard series. You can see the first one from last week here, and look forward to my analysis of the 2015 season next Monday (July 18th). July 25th will be an analysis of all three seasons, and August 1st will be a projection into 2016.
If you have any comments or questions about Price Per Yard, the philosophy behind it, the formula that went into it, or just simply want to talk and/or debate it… you can comment below, email me at RJ@RJOchoaShow.com, or Tweet to me at @rjochoa.