INDIANAPOLIS — The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines "NFL offense" as: Peyton Manning changing the play pre-snap in the no-huddle, with Marvin Harrison to his right, Reggie Wayne to his left and Edgerrin James lined up behind him.
OK, not really, but we all know just how good these guys were at racking up the yards and putting points on the scoreboard.
And, thanks to Football Outsiders, we can now quantify exactly how good these Colts offenses were, compared to other great units in the past quarter-century or so.
That's because Football Outsiders, in conjunction with ESPN, recently released its list of its "30 best NFL offenses of the past 30 years," in which the organization utilized its advanced metrics to measure success on each play based on down and distance and "then comparing it with an NFL average baseline adjusted for situation and opponent."
You can see the entire list by clicking here, but ESPN Insider access is required.
When thinking of the past three decades of NFL action, it's impossible not to conjure up images of Manning, Harrison, Wayne, James and the many, many others who contributed to the potent — and record-setting — Colts offenses since the late-1990s.
So, with Football Outsiders' DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) as the determining factor, let's see just how many of these Indianapolis offenses made this list, and where they ranked:
8. 2004 Indianapolis Colts
* 33.4 percent*
This was arguably Peyton Manning's greatest season, and the Colts dominated offensively in every way you might imagine. As noted earlier, the 2004 Colts are tied with the 2011 Green Bay Packers as the second-best pass offense in DVOA history. Reggie Wayne led all wide receivers in DYAR, with Brandon Stokley finishing fourth and Marvin Harrison 15th. Edgerrin James ranked third among running backs in rushing DYAR and second in receiving DYAR. The Colts' 49-24 wild-card victory over Denver (No. 5 in defensive DVOA) was so commanding that their offensive DVOA actually went up in the playoffs despite a 20-3 loss to New England in the AFC Championship Game.
21. 2000 Indianapolis Colts
* 27.0 percent*
The first of six seasons in which Peyton Manning led NFL quarterbacks in passing DVOA. Tom Brady has done it three times, and no other quarterback has done it more than twice. The Colts' rating actually goes up when we add in their 23-17 playoff loss to Miami; the Colts won the turnover battle 3-0, and it's hard to blame Manning and the offense for giving up 258 rushing yards.
25. 2006 Indianapolis Colts
* 25.8 percent*
In the regular season, this was one of the most unbalanced teams of the past 30 years: No. 1 on offense but No. 25 on both defense and special teams. The postseason, of course, was a different story, as the defense stiffened and helped Peyton Manning win his first title.
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