2015 SaberCats the real #GOAT
STOCKTON - Twenty wins. No team in professional football history has ever won that many games. And after a 20-1 season only marred by a loss to a previously winless team as a 32-point underdog, the book on the 2015 San Jose SaberCats would be closed with perfection. As it is, as the only 20-1 team in Arena Football League history, the 28th James F. Foster Trophy holders are definitively, without dispute, the greatest team this league has ever seen.
Just based on pure wins and losses, San Jose's .952 winning percentage including the postseason was the best in league history, besting the .941 winning percentage by the 2002 SaberCats. These 'Cats also became just the third team in AFL history to finish a season with just one blemish. Of course, there should be asterisk next to 1989 Detroit Drive, who played just four games in the regular season before winning two games in the playoffs.
However, unlike last season's Cleveland Gladiators, who also had a chance to finish out the year at 19-1, there was no debating just how good these SaberCats were. They won nine straight games to end the season, seven of which, including two playoff games, were decided by at least 21 points. A total of 15 of the SaberCats' 21 games finished with wins of at least 18 points. An average margin of victory of 21.4 points per game including the playoffs was the best ever as well.
Two teams scored 50 or more points against this defense. The offense scored at least 54 in 19 out of 21 games.
"Not only did they break the league record with 20 wins, but the way they did it," said Darren Arbet, who became the second coach in league history to win four ArenaBowls. "The margin of victory, 22 points per game. It was amazing. That's stuff you don't think about as a coach, and they made it happen week in and week out."
Erik Meyer is going to go down as the general of this team in spite of the fact that statistically, he wasn't nearly as good as the best quarterback this franchise has ever seen, Mark Grieb. However, he showed the grit and tenacity required of a champion, demonstrated most by a 17-yard touchdown run in the third quarter in which he was smacked by two different Sharks defenders on a headfirst dive into the end zone.
Reggie Gray, the wide receiver of the year, set all sorts of SaberCats records which probably won't be broken any time in the near future. He was the Wide Receiver of the Year, and he had what might have been the best sentimental moment on this night. Following San Jose's last touchdown in the fourth quarter, Gray sprinted to the other end of the field and touched the pictures of all of the SaberCats players of yesteryear who helped make this one of the best franchises in the history of the AFL in tribute.
The defense was arguably the best in relation to its time in AFL history. There's no doubt that this unit, which averaged allowing 38.3 points per game including the playoffs, was the best since the league abolished Ironman football, and it wasn't even close. These SaberCats allowed fewer points in the regular season in 18 games than any team ever did in 16. Heck, they allowed fewer total points in 21 games (804) than the last six ArenaBowl champions did in the regular season alone (and remember that two of those played 16 games instead of 18).
The composite margin of victory for the SaberCats this year was +450 points. Think about that for a minute. +450 points. There were championship teams back in the 1990s who didn't SCORE 450 points, let alone beat their foes by 450.
There are at least 11 SaberCats, if not more, who will be headed to the Hall of Fame one day from this team.
And now, the book has its appropriate finish. Meyer took his helmet and slammed it off to the Stockton Arena turf and threw his hands in the air in triumph. Arbet shared an embrace with his coaches, his quarterback, and eventually all of his players. The confetti fell from the rafters. The Foster Trophy was hoisted. And the celebration was on.
The Detroit Drive were maybe the best dynasty in AFL history. The Tampa Bay Storm won championship after championship. The Arizona Rattlers looked unbeatable for years. But none of those teams were able to have anywhere near the individual season which the SaberCats just completed.
The 2015 San Jose SaberCats are officially in the record books as the torchbearers of the Arena Football League. They are the standard by which all teams will base themselves in the future, and there might not be another team we ever see with such a degree of dominance.