Kirwan: What does finishing strong really mean?

Discussion in 'NFL Zone' started by WoodysGirl, Jun 2, 2007.

  1. WoodysGirl

    WoodysGirl U.N.I.T.Y Staff Member

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    By Pat Kirwan Senior Analyst

    (May 29, 2007) -- Just because a team finished up strong, it doesn't always mean that team can carry that momentum into the next season. I talked with a head coach this week who said his 4-0 finish last year should go a long way to getting this season rolling. I hate to rain on the parade, but here's a look at the 2005 and 2004 teams that finished up their regular season 4-0 in the last month and what their records looked like the following year. It isn't very encouraging.

    Team '05 Record Final four games '06 Record
    Denver 13-3 4-0 9-7
    Miami 9-7 4-0 6-10
    Pittsburgh 11-5 4-0 8-8
    Washington 10-6 4-0 5-11

    Team '04 Record Final four games '05 Record
    New Orleans 8-8 4-0 3-13
    Pittsburgh 15-1 4-0 11-5

    As you can see, these six teams who finished their final months undefeated looked like they were all headed for a fine season the next year, but the results were not what the coaches, fans or players expected. The six teams who swept the final four games of the 2004 or 2005 seasons never created momentum for the upcoming year. In fact, not one team had a better record after finishing up strong. Never assume that one season is connected to the next season in the volatile world of the NFL. Each and every year is a brand-new start for all 32 teams.

    This year, there are three teams who are trying to build some momentum off their 4-0 finishes in 2006. San Diego, Philadelphia and Green Bay all swept their final four opponents and would like to believe it will carry over to 2007. Should they be shocked if the season doesn't work out as they planned?

    Here's an even more fascinating phenomenon about the NFL when looking at closing records as an indicator of what the next season might hold in store for a team. In 2004 and 2005, four teams finished up their seasons with 0-4 records and appeared to carry absolutely no momentum into the next season. Well, professional football players have pride, and it turns out going 0-4 might better indicate success the following year than going 4-0.

    In 2004, Chicago and Tampa Bay finished up 5-11 seasons by dropping their last four games each. The next season, both teams flipped their records and went 11-5. In 2005, the Raiders finished 0-4 and didn't turn their fortunes around ... but the Saints sure did. New Orleans had both scenarios happen to it in a two-year span.

    As shown above, the Saints went 4-0 to wrap up 2004 and came back with a 3-13 record in 2005. To wrap up that awful 2005 season, they were on the losing end in their last four games but stormed back in 2006 with a 10-6 record.

    Every coach likes to say they build on one season to the next, but the numbers say teams usually respond better to the insult of losing rather than carrying late success into the next season. Roster changes and a resolve to fix a problem may be better motivators than to think finishing strong is helpful. A Green Bay Packers player told me his team's 4-0 finish was really going to help for the 2007 season. I told him to be really careful with that kind of thinking.

  2. Angus

    Angus Active Member

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    Thanks for the encouraging post, WG.


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