What is more valuable, a top offense or a top defense? Which is the better way to build a team?
With the Bills in the process of looking for a new coach, this is an important discussion to have. Should they focus their search on a coach who can continue to mold our top-10 scoring offense, or one who can restore our once-vaunted defense to a top-5 unit?
To help decide this, I used True Turnovers as the metric of efficiency. I found the average of True Turnover Giveaways, and then the average of True Turnovers Forced. I wanted to see the difference in the best and worst offense from the average, and the best and worst defense from the average. If the best offense from the average is a bigger difference than the best defense from the average, then it is a bigger advantage to have an elite offense than an elite defense.
After poring through the numbers, I found that the averages were about the same. The average TTO Giveaways: 5.89. Average TTO Forced: 5.86.
Then I took the 5 best offenses and averaged them (4.22), then found the difference from the average (1.67 True Turnovers above average).
I did the same with defense, the top 5 defenses (6.97), and the difference from the average (1.11 True Turnovers above average).
So, statistically, having a Top 5 offense in the NFL is worth .56 True Turnovers more per game than having a top 5 defense. Based on efficiency, having a top offense is much more valuable than a top defense.
I did the same with the bottom of the league. Bottom 5 offense from the average (1.56), and bottom 5 defense (1.02). So even at the bottom, the spread from the average on offense is larger.
What this means is with a bad defense (or a great defense), you are still much closer to the average True Turnovers than you would be with a deviant offense. As a result, an elite offense paired with a bad defense will be better than a bad offense and an elite defense, as determined by True Turnovers. According to these statistics, at least, having a great offense may be more valuable than having a great defense.
So how did these numbers correlate with wins and losses this season? I once again took the top 5 offenses in the TTO Giveaways and averaged their win percentage. I then compared that average to the top 5 defenses and their averaged win percentage. The results were pretty staggering. The top 5 TTO offenses averaged a 63.4 win percentage, which is more than 10 wins in a full season, while the Top 5 TTO Defenses averaged a 48.7 win percentage (just under 8 wins).
I also compared the average win rate of bottom 5 offenses to bottom 5 defenses. Again, bottom 5 TTO defense win percent was 47.4. By comparison, bottom 5 offense win percent was 45.3. What this means is that not only are elite offenses more likely to win games than elite defenses, but bad offenses are also more likely to lose games than bad defenses.
So, according to these statistics, the answer to our initial question is clear. Having a top offense in today’s NFL is more valuable than having a top defense. This is extremely important when you consider that the Bills are at a proverbial fork in the road. Our direction should be this: find an offensive coach and focus the majority of our resources on building a top offense (AKA, finding or grooming a franchise QB). Want to end the drought? Building an elite offense is the way to do it.