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Analyzing Florida State’s Success as a Program Part 3: Lost Decade Era

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We’d say close your eyes, but that would make it pretty hard to read.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons v Florida State Seminole Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

Let’s continue with our look at how Florida State football teams have done since 1987.

We’ve looked at how both the offense and defense have done in terms of Yards/Play for the dynasty era. Those articles are in part 1 and part 2 of this series.

We are going to turn the clock forward now to the years between 2001 and 2009, otherwise known as “The Lost Decade.” So what do we see?

Offensive Yards per Play: 2001-2009
Data Source:
  1. The 2001-2003 offenses compare favorable favorably to the dynasty era offenses. The seasonal average YPP for each of them was 6.16, 5.72, and 5.87 yards/play per game, respectively. You can also see that the 2002 offensive performance deteriorates as the season progresses. Even so, they are fairly consistent.
  2. The wheels drop off of the offense during the middle of the decade. The 2004 offense averaged 5.12 Yards/Play per game for the season. They were also inconsistent as seen by the width of the red control limit lines. The 2005 and 2006 seasons were not much better, averaging 5.47 and 5.32 Yards/Play. The key number to keep in mind here is 5.5 Yards/Play. None of the dynasty era teams averaged below 5.5 Yards/Play per game over a season. The 1991 team at 5.72 Yards/Play had the lowest average of the dynasty teams.
  3. Hiring Jimbo Fisher in 2007 stabilizes and improves the offense. Jimbo’s first year as OC in 2007 is almost as bad as 2004 in terms of production (5.15 Yards/Play); however, the offense is much more consistent game to game. In 2008, the offense averaged 5.6 Yards/Play and the 2009 offense averaged 6.43 Yards/Play. The 2009 offense would actually be in the upper half of the dynasty teams in terms of performance.

Offensive Performance Using a Sharpe Chart

Looking at the lost decade teams using a Sharpe Chart, you can see the following:

Figure 2: Sharpe Plot of Offensive Performance during the Lost Decade.
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Figure 3: Sharpe Plot of Offensive Performance During the Dynasty Era.
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Again, an offense wants to be in the upper left hand corner in terms of productivity and consistency. Where you don’t want to be is in the lower right corner. Looking at the charts from both the lost decade and dynasty era, you can see that 2004-2006 teams are all in that lower right hand corner. Notice that 5 of the 14 dynasty era teams are below the 33 year average, but 7 of the 9 lost decade teams are below average.

Defensive Performance During the Lost Decade

Let us turn our attention to the defense.

Figure 4. Defensive Yards perPlay per Game from 2001-2009
Data Source:
  1. The defenses overall were not as good as the dynasty era squads. None of the dynasty teams gave up more than 4.65 Yards/Play. Six of the nine lost decade teams did. As bad as the 2004-2006 offenses were, the defenses in those three seasons performed as well (4.04, 4.45, and 4.41 Yards/Play, respectively) as some of the dynasty era teams. They would be at the bottom of the dynasty era range (The 1989 team averaged 4.64 Yards/Play, and the 1999 team averaged 4.47 Yards/Play), but still of that quality. Given the offensive futility, they probably are what saved those teams.
  2. The 2009 defense was an absolute disaster. This squad gave up 6.88 Yards/Play per game over the entire season and was wildly inconsistent game-to-game. The 2008 defense gave up 4.79 Yards/Play which made the contrast seem stark and the next worst defense was in 2002 giving up 5.36 Yards/Play per game. It is a shame that this defense was so bad given that the offensive was finally back to dynasty era standards. This time, the offense saved the season.

Defensive Performance Using a Sharpe Chart

Here’s what we see using a Sharpe Chart:

Figure 5: Sharpe Plot of Defensive Performance During the Lost Decade.
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Figure 6: Sharpe Plot of Defensive Performance During the Dynasty Era.
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Two big things stand out here. The first is the absolute anomaly that the 2009 defense was. It is way up in the upper right hand corner of the chart where you don’t want to be as a defense. This defense was inconsistent and unproductive. The second is the Yards/Play ranges for the dynasty and lost decade teams. The dynasty teams range between 3.2-4.6 or so Yards/Play. The lost decade teams ranged between 4.2-6.8 Yards/Play given up. You can really see the deterioration in quality of the defense here.

We all know the main reasons for the decline of the team during the lost decade. Hubris, the inability to adapt to schematic changes, coaching changes, and the lack of quality recruits especially during the last years of Coach Bowden’s tenure at FSU. What the charts do is bring this out in stark fashion.