History lesson: Losing Strahan going to hurt Giants
History shows that losing a great pass-rusher like Michael Strahan could be a huge hit to a team. Should the Giants be worried?
In honor of Jonathan Ogden's retirement, I recently took a look at what happens to teams that lose a top offensive lineman. Of course, Ogden is not the only sure Hall of Famer who announced his retirement this month. Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, fifth all-time with 141.5 sacks, is also walking off into the sunset, after finally getting a championship ring from New York's Super Bowl XLII upset of the Patriots.It's rare for an offensive lineman of Ogden's caliber to retire while he's still making Pro Bowls, but it is rarer still for a pass-rusher of Strahan's quality to retire in similar fashion. Strahan had nine sacks last year at the age of 36, making him only the second player since 2000 to ring up eight or more sacks after age 35. (Bruce Smith was the other.) Strahan is also the first player in this century to retire after a season with seven or more sacks. Nobody had done that since Kevin Greene and Chris Doleman retired after the 1999 season. While there aren't a lot of star pass-rushers who have retired in their prime, there are plenty who have changed teams, and those players can give us a good idea of what to expect from the post-Strahan Giants. From 1998 to 2007, 46 different players did not return to their teams after a season with at least seven sacks. Forty-two of those players switched teams via trade, free agency or expansion. Greene and Doleman retired, as noted above. So did Reggie White (for one year, at least) after 1998. The final player is Kansas City linebacker Derrick Thomas, who died in a tragic car accident in early 2000. A couple of teams actually lost two of these players -- leaving a total of 43 teams that lost at least one star pass-rusher who recorded at least seven sacks the season before. Here's how those teams fared the next season, according to both conventional statistics and the Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings (explained here) for both total defense and pass defense.
|How the 43 teams that lost a star pass-rusher fared next season|
|Stat||with 7+ Sack Pass-Rusher||w/o 7+ Sack Pass-Rusher||Change|
|How the teams that lost a pass-rusher with 9+ sacks fared the next season|
|Stat||with 9+ Sack Pass-Rusher||w/o 9+ Sack Pass-Rusher||Change|
|Comparison of top pass-rush defenses that lost 7+ sack pass-rusher to those that didn't|
|Lose 7+ Sack Pass-Rusher||Don't Lose Top Pass-Rusher|
|Stat||Year w/ 48+ Sacks||Next Year||Change||Year w/ 48+ Sacks||Next Year||Change|
|39 teams that added a star pass-rusher|
|Stat||w/o Star Pass-Rusher||with Star Pass-Rusher||Change|
Aaron Schatz is president of Football Outsiders Inc. and the lead author of Pro Football Prospectus 2008.
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