Every year, Football Outsiders calculates the metric adjusted games lost to quantify how much each team was wrecked by injuries in a given season. Every year, the New York Giants lead the league in AGL. That is, until 2016. As F.O. put it, “the AGL dynasty is over. New York finally had a healthy year.”
For three years running, the Giants led the league in this category, which means, for three straight years, they lost the most games to injury. As F.O. describes, AGL isn’t strictly when a specific player sits out. It also calculates injury reports to include banged-up players who still suit up but at less than 100 percent. Because of the NFL’s change in the injury report this year, removing the “probable” tag, the AGL formula required tweaking. Nevertheless, it was impossible to avoid the improvement from NY.
After finishing 32nd year after year, the Giants ranked seventh in the NFL in fewest games lost in ’16. What an improvement! It doesn’t take much sleuthing to deduce that a healthier club is going to perform better than that same roster marred by injury. Case in point, the Giants made it back to the postseason for the first time in five years.
There is no evidence that this end of the AGL dynasty was thanks to anything beyond blind luck. Maybe coach Ben McAdoo and the staff really did improve injury avoidance and recovery through strength and conditioning. Or maybe this was just regression to the mean. We won’t really know until after the next few seasons how this iteration of the Giants deal with injuries on a grand basis.
Interestingly, the relationship between injury and success didn’t translate last season, at least at the extremes. As one would expect, the most injured clubs had their struggles. But so too did the healthiest clubs. It was just a fluke of the statistics. Normally, healthy teams are better off than the alternative. Last year, the four healthiest teams were the Rams, Titans, Bengals, and Eagles. None of the four made the postseason. Zoom out just a bit farther, though, and we see health paying off. The next batch of healthiest clubs includes Seattle, Atlanta, the Giants, and New England.
AGL in general is not consistent year to year, outside of what NY somehow managed during its dynastic run to injury incompetence. Healthy teams aren’t necessarily “good” at being healthy season to season, or vice versa. The Rams were the healthiest club in ’16 after finishing 24th the year prior. Kansas City, one of the few successful-yet-injured clubs from last year, ranked 27th one season after ranking seventh. It will be fascinating to see where the Giants rank in 2017. After erasing their curse, anything is on the table.