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Are the 1991 Washington Redskins the Best NFL Team Ever?

By Elad De Piccioto
 Getty / George Rose / Stringer
ESPN`s Football Outsiders went on an ambitious project, choosing the best NFL teams of the past 30 years. ESPN`s experts chose the 1991 Washington Redskins, a choice that has sparked a fierce debate. Are the 1991 Redskins really the best football team ever? Here are three arguments in support of the decision and three against it:

 

The 1991 Washington Redskins are the best team ever:

 

They were the strongest team as a whole

The 1991 Redskins are the best team the game has ever seen mostly because they were one of the most balanced and varied Super Bowl winners. They were not about stars who shine and carry the team to glory; they were about hard-working, modest team players, who all played for one cause: winning. Together, they formed a whole that was bigger than the sum of its part. It is their team spirit that allowed them to dominate an NFL.

 

The Redskins had the toughest competition

The 1991 Redskins finished their regular season in a fantastic 14-2 record. That record, together with their three wins in the NFL playoffs was made against the league’s toughest competition at that time.

The Redskins’ opponents during the 1991 season had a collective record of .500 or better. There have been very few teams throughout NFL history that have played such a difficult schedule  and played so remarkably despite of it. They won their first 11 games, and lost only two games by a combined five points!

 

Stats prove 1991 Redskins were the best

The 1991 Redskins hold some of the most impressive stats in NFL history, proving just how incredible their team was. First, they led the league in points (485 points scored) while their defense allowed only 224 points (the second fewest in the league). Second, as previously stated, they lost only two games (one of them after assuring first place) during the regular season by only a combined five points. Third, they held a 75-point playoff margin (102-27), one of the best in football history (a margin that wasn’t achieved when their win was in their hands).

Above all stands one fact that highlights just how good this team was: Both offensively and defensively, the Redskins had +43 sack ratio, while their QB was sacked only seven times throughout the entire season!

 

Three reasons why the 1991 Washington Redskins are not the best team ever:

 

The 1985 Chicago Bears were the best ever

An old cliché says that defense wins championships in football, mostly because a first-class defense is almost impossible to beat during playoffs. If so, and if the strongest football team ever should be determined by the quality of defense, it has to be the 1985 Chicago Bears.

The 1985 Chicago Bears were notorious for their impenetrable revolutionary defense, which played together from 1984 to 1986. They went 15-1 that season, and won the Super Bowl while setting an NFL record for 72 sacks, allowing only 10 points during the playoffs. The next year, they set a then-NFL record (for a 16-game season), allowing only 186 points and losing in the playoffs only to the upcoming champions, the Washington Redskins.

 

The 2007 New England Patriots hold the best ELO rating

The ELO rating system is a method that evaluates players’ skills level in competitor-versus-competitor games. It can be used to compare teams during current and different years. According to the ELO rating, the 2007 New England Patriots are the best team in NFL history. It`s really rare and unpopular to state that on a team that didn’t win the Super Bowl that year, but the ELO rating puts them much higher than any other team.

The 2007 Patriots finished their season with a whopping 16-0 record, and held an 1824 ELO rating, with a peak of 1849. The following highest ELO rating is 1792, by the 2004 Patriots, who won the Super Bowl that year. Had the 2007 Patriots won the Super Bowl (and they would if it wasn’t for the helmet catch), their rating would be even higher.
Joe Montana`s 1989 San Francisco 49ers are the best team

Football is a quarterback’s game, and the 1989 San Francisco 49ers had Joe Montana, probably the game`s most legendary quarterback. The 1991 Redskins had Mark Rypien who, with all due respect, was not on the same level as Montana. Additionally, the 1989 49ers were one of the few teams to win two consecutive championships, with an impressive 55-10 win against a Denver Broncos (which was quarterbacked by a future Hall-of-Famer) in Super Bowl 1989.

And there is more: Much like the 1991 Redskins, the 1989 49ers lost only two games by a total of five points. Their offense, led by Montana and the legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice, was exhilarating, finishing first in the NFL in scoring (27.6 points per game).

 

Bottom lines: 1991 Washington Redskins were legendary but when you are after “the best” there are few other strong contenders. Do you agree that the 1991 Redskins are the best ever? Is it even possible to determine the best team ever?

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