Hey we all know the feeling. At important times in the game with your team backed against the wall you start saying "What we really need is a turnover here!" - Jet fans have felt it this year to be sure. But what they did not likely realize was just how historically unlikely that hope was, at least so far.
There are still a few game left, but something I ran into in my research on Rex Ryan pass Defense on the Problem of INTs is that the Jets have been pretty terrible at generating turnovers this year. How terrible though was the question. Preliminarily I checked back 5 years and was surprised to see that it has been worse than any NFL team in that span. So I kept checking. My basic formula was simple. I took the total number of plays a defense faced and divided that by total turnovers produced. It let's us know on any given play, on average, what is the likelihood of a turnover being forced.
So how rare has it been? The Jets have forced a turnover only once in every 86 plays. An NFL Defense hasn't been that unproductive of turnovers since 1996 when the Cincinnati Bengals produced one once every 87.25 plays. That represents a performance worse than 543 team seasons. Here's a glance at the history.
A few things worth noting. A great number of these years were not even close. Many of them had "worse" numbers in the 50s, and while I was going back, year by year, I thought the Jets may be on the verge of setting an all-time record, the NFL seemed to be trending that way. The photo of this article is of Dan Wilkinson the number 1 draft pick bust of 1994, a hoped for star of the 1996 Bengals D. Not sure if it had a bearing, but 1996 was the year that the NFL made a significant change to pass defense, turning illegal contact into an emphasized call. The Giants in that year also had trouble producing turnovers measuring a 1:80.76 mark for 2nd place, a number that would not be equaled again until Washington in 2006.
As a Jet fan this also puts more emphasis on the turnovers we have had. The Allen pick of Brady, the Cromartie popup, the Reed INT have to some degree been under valued. These have been big plays of significance in the sense that without them the Jets truly would be on pace for an All Time NFL worst. They have been among the rare.
Interesting to see the 12-4 Steelers on there in 2011. Their poor turnover differential did not sink them, but it did prelude, perhaps coincidentally, the downfall to 8-8 and then 5-8 this year. Would love to hear from others who have a perspective on some of the teams on this historic list.
Also of note is that the Houston Defense this year is hot on the tail of the Jets with a nearly equally futile mark of 1:85.5 - 3rd place this year are the Falcons at 1:68.5. The whole list:
As usual, these are hand collected stats there may be errors.