The injury woes of the Green Bay Packers over the past few seasons have been well-documented here at Acme Packing Company and around the internet as a whole. Packers fans have bemoaned the frequency of injuries to key players while hoping for better luck for the upcoming 2014 season.
It's time to put some numbers to those complaints to illustrate why they are well-founded.
To do so, we looked at the Adjusted Games Lost value from Football Outsiders as a way to measure the impact of the injuries the team has suffered over the past several years. Head over to their website for a little bit more explanation on how the AGL number is derived, but know that it weights injuries to starters and injury replacements higher than reserve players and also takes into account players who are playing while hurt.
(Note that for these rankings, a "worse" or higher-numbered ranking corresponds to a greater number of games lost.)
In looking back at the past four years of AGL data from Football Outsiders' articles, I found that the Packers have the third-highest AGL value of any team from 2010 through 2013. Furthermore, they finished in the bottom 3 of the league three out of these four years and are one of only five teams to finish 16th or worse in each of the past four seasons.
Overall NFL Injury Rate
Here is a look at the Packers' AGL numbers compared to other teams which have consistently struggled with injuries recently.
|Team||2013 AGL||2013 Rank||2012 AGL||2012 Rank||2011 AGL||2011 Rank||2010 AGL||2010 Rank||Total AGL||Combined Record|
Yikes. That's a lot of hurt people. As you can see, only the Colts and Giants have had worse luck overall in the past few years than the Packers, and the Giants' bad luck was especially bad in 2013, with the worst number ever recorded since Football Outsiders started tracking data in 2008.
Putting it another way, only two teams can claim that they have had worse injury luck than the Packers over the past four years while being able to back up that claim with these numbers.
Of course, this is not a sign that the Packers' injury luck will rebound in 2014, as that would just be the gambler's fallacy (and also would ignore any possible effect that a training staff might have on a team's propensity for injury). However, the trends generally show that teams rarely suffer huge quantities of injuries in each and every season over a long span of time. Eventually with a large enough sample size, the trend tends to even itself out.
Note that only two of these teams made the playoffs all four years: the Patriots and the Packers.
Now let's look at how the Packers' results compared to their NFC North Division rivals.
|Team||2013 AGL||2013 Rank||2012 AGL||2012 Rank||2011 AGL||2011 Rank||2010 AGL||2010 Rank||Total AGL|
This is where it gets really interesting, from a divisional perspective. Think back to the 2012 season, in which the Packers and Vikings both made the playoffs with the Bears narrowly missing out. It took an impressively lucky season with injuries for both of those teams to go 10-6, while the Packers went 11-5 despite having the worst injury luck in the league. When Minnesota's and Chicago's injury luck balanced out slightly in 2013, they suddenly became teams that could not exceed a .500 record and lost the division crown to a once-again battered Packers team that even lost Aaron Rodgers for seven games.
What about the one season in this span in which the Packers did not win the NFC North? That was in 2010, when the crown went to the Bears. And look at that AGL number for them that season - 12.3. That is an incredibly small number in the modern NFL - that's in essence the equivalent of losing only a single starting player for 3/4 of the season and nothing else. The Packers, on the other hand, scraped into the playoffs with another roster riddled by injury, but defeated the Bears in the playoffs and eventually won Super Bowl XLV.
Illustrating just how badly the Packers were hurt by injuries to certain units in the past few years, take a look at these notable items.
- The 2013 Packers' quarterbacks had an AGL of 14, which includes games lost by both Rodgers and Seneca Wallace.
- Last year, Green Bay also had the seventh-most AGL on the offensive line, mostly due to Bryan Bulaga's torn ACL.
- The 2012 Packers' linebackers had the worst AGL value for a linebacker unit ever, at 40.1. Nick Perry missed 10 games, Clay Matthews missed four, and the inside linebacker unit was ravaged due to Desmond Bishop and D.J. Smith's injuries.
- That helped the 2012 Packers achieve the second-worst AGL for a full defense for a single season (62.8, behind only the 2013 Saints).
Ultimately, Ted Thompson and the Packers should be commended for winning three division titles and a Super Bowl over the past four years while dealing with an impressively bad streak of injuries. The fact that the team has stayed a playoff team while losing critical contributors on a consistent basis speaks to the depth that the team has developed and the players' ability to step up in place of their injured comrades.