The Redskins’ rise from worst in the NFC East to first is remarkable as they were coming off of what were arguably the worst back-to-back seasons in their history. The won three games in 2013 and four in 2014. The total of seven wins over two seasons was the fewest the team had in consecutive seasons since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978.
Looking beyond the wins and losses, one of the best simple metrics to use to gauge the quality of a team’s season is by looking at its point differential, the difference between how many points the team scored and how many it gave up. They were outscored by 144 points in 2014, their worst point differential since the 1970 merger. They were only a touchdown better in 2014, with a point differential of minus-137. That was the second-worst since the merger.
The 2015 Redskins outscored the opposition 388 points to 379. The net differential of plus-9 points isn’t anything to write home about. But the year-to-year improvement of 146 points is one of the best in team history.
The biggest improvement in point differential since 1978 came from 1990-1991. That was a case of a team going from good to historically great. In 1990 the Redskins went 10-6 and outscored the opposition by 80 points. They put it all together in 1991 and posted a point differential of plus-261 (an improvement of 181 points) while in the process of going 14-2 in the regular season. That team rolled through the playoffs and won Super Bowl XXVI.
The only team with a better point differential since the merger was the plus-315 posted by the 2007 Patriots, who went 16-0. You may recall that they did not win the Super Bowl.
The Redskins were bad in 1998, getting outscored by 102 points while going 6-10. The next season they won the NFC East with a plus-66 differential, an improvement of 168 points.
Those are the only two other times since the advent of the 16-game schedule that schedule that the Redskins have improved more from one season to the next than they did from 2014-2015.
Anyone who has been following the team for any length of time, however, knows that they will demonstrate improvement when they can do well for more than just a season. The Redskins have not had back-to-back seasons with a positive point differential since 1999-2000 and they haven’t done it three times in a row since Joe Gibbs’ first stint as head coach, from 1989-1991.