Revisiting Fan Confidence Polls

On 17 July, 2010, I wrote a piece on Mile High Report titled Fan Confidence Polls: A Comparison... and a Poll in which I compared the confidence polls on SB Nation's Football network.  Of 32 blogs, only 21 were polled.

Teams polled: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Jersey Giants, New Jersey Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Washington Redskins.

Teams not polled: Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, and Tennessee Titans.

With the season over and draft underway, we can now look at how close fans' perceptions were to teams' performances.

Team OCR CCR 09 Record 10 Record CR Dif Record Dif %
Arizona845510-6 LDP5-11-29-31.25
Atlanta82869-713-3 LDP+4+25
Chicago77757-911-5 LCC-2+25
Dallas827411-5 LDP6-10-8-31.25
Kansas City84874-1210-6 LWC+3+37.5
Minnesota846012-4 LCC6-10-24-37.5
New England798510-6 LWC14-2 LDP+6+25
NY Giants76558-810-6-21+12.5
NY Jets80789-7 LCC11-5 LCC-2+12.5
Philadelphia766711-5 LWC10-6 LWC-9-6.25
Pittsburgh74819-712-4 LSB+7+18.75
San Francisco80688-86-10-12-12.5
Seattle63695-117-9 LDP+6+12.5
St. Louis78841-157-9+6+37.5
Tampa Bay65NA3-1310-6NA+43.75
Washington D.C.75694-126-10-6-12.5

(Ratings accurate from week after Super Bowl.)


OCR: Original Confidence Rating
CCR: Current Confidence Rating
Dif: Difference
NA: Not Available.  The current rating for Tampa Bay is presently unavailable, due to site maintenance.  However, while I won't be including the team in any CR data, for interest's sake, we can see that they have a fairly high rating.
LWC: Lost Wild Card
LDP: Lost Divisional Playoff
LCC: Lost Conference Championship
LSB: Lost Super Bowl

LWC, LDP, LCC, and LSB have no bearing on the win percentages, and are only included as a reference for how far teams went (as the Saints aren't included, there's no WSB, so each team has to contend with a L).  This means the graph isn't 100% accurate, but we can't be that accurate here, anyway.

In terms of highest and lowest, Kansas City is again at the top of the list, followed by Atlanta and New England.  Houston has the bottom spot by far (although in the week after compiling these ratings, it went up to 51, but that's irrelevant in this context), followed by Arizona, the Giants, and Cleveland.

A look at the full list, highest improvement to lowest, with the corresponding CR:

Team CR Dif Record Dif %
Tampa BayNA+43.75
Kansas City+3+37.5
St. Louis+6+37.5
New England+6+25
NY Giants-21+12.5
NY Jets-2+12.5
San Francisco-12-12.5
Washington D.C.-6-12.5

Interestingly (or not), there isn't a matching slide in confidence as the improvement decreases, although every team that didn't improve has a negative CR (as one would expect). Of the teams that improved, the biggest surprise is the NY Giants, who, despite improving from 8-8 to 10-6, has the 3rd least confident fan base and 4th largest slide. Although the cliché that NY fans are relentless has some truth to it, there are factors external to the record that affect a fan's perception of the team; for example, the firing of a popular coach (See: Oakland Raiders). Whether some external factor is affecting Giants fans' confidence in the team isn't for me to say because I don't follow the team very closely, but it's possible. Of course, it may simply be that fans are that annoyed with missing the playoffs, regardless of the improvement in record.

An intriguing note I'd like to add is that, assuming there will be a season this year, there is evidence that suggests that, for the teams that improved by 37.5% (6 wins) or more, further improvement will be difficult, and regression even likely.

According to Luis DeLoureiro, of the 30 teams that improved by 5 wins or more between 2002 and 2009, an average of 3 games were lost in the following year.  Specifically, 24 teams won fewer games in the season after, with 13 of those losing at least 4 games. 4 teams reached the same win total, and only 2 managed to win more games the next year.

Scary numbers.  What DeLoureiro didn't look at, however, was the opposite of that: teams that lost by 5 games or more.

(Click to enlarge.)
As you can see in this Excel image, 21 teams experienced a massive declination at some point between 2002 and 2009.  I've added 2010 for future reference, so 25 if you include last year.  There are 30 (34 including 2010) total instances - the same number as those that improved by the same amount.  Of these, only 6 failed to reach the previous year's win total; 24 improved the next year.

So, while the teams that won an extra 5 or more shouldn't be so quick to start having visions of the Super Bowl, there is hope for those that lost 5 or more.

And now, a pretty but completely useless graphic of the above data:

(Click to enlarge.)
We can also see that, although you do see a corresponding trend downwards, the dive in confidence is far steeper than the record itself:

(Click to enlarge.)
It's proof that fans' perceptions of their teams, as previously stated, don't always match the team's performance.  (Thus logic is a low priority in fandom.)

And, finally, a comparison between the overall original rating, and overall current rating:

OCR AverageCCR AverageCCR Difference

The lesson here?  Every pre-season, fans are talking-up their team, certain they're destined for greatness, spreading positive vibes everywhere they go.  When the season ends, they're frustrated, disappointed, and certain the end is nigh.  With the buzz of free agency and optimism created by the draft, by the time the season has rolled around, all those ill feelings have disappeared, and then, as they say, everybody's a playoff team.

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