I have previously mused that Washington football fans who have stuck it out through the Snyder era tend to develop a certain hopefulness. Despite everything that went wrong last season, and maybe the season before that, and perhaps even seven of the last ten seasons, we convince ourselves that this season is going to be different.
In my previous article, I commented that this tendency to always look on the bright side manifests itself in a curious annual ritual. Every offseason, starting with the draft, certain writers and commenters on Hogs Haven talk up the new roster additions and convince everyone that this is finally going to be the year that we break out of the Snyder-era rut.
That might mean that the team will win more than 10 games, go on a playoff run, or just that our head coach will post his first winning season since 2017. Whatever the expectation that we take into the season on opening day, more often than not, reality sets in by about October, if not sooner. Around then we start to have realizations like, “Maybe going into the season with one proven starting linebacker wasn’t the best plan, after all.”
Not being content with just raining opinion on the annual hype festival, I decided it was time to put some numbers behind these observations. How, I asked myself, does one quantify the hopefulness of a fanbase? As I was pondering that question, the annual Hogs Haven writer’s season predictions survey arrived in my in-box. “Aha!” I said to myself, “That’s it.”
One of the things that sets Hogs Haven apart from more boring and less informed sports media sites is that all of the writers are fans of the team. The site has been running an annual writers’ season predictions series since 2013 (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021). The predictions documented in this series provide a historical record of the expectations of what might be described as the thought leaders of fanbase. Just what I was looking for.
In order to test my hypothesis that Washington fans are delusional, I did a simple analysis of the differences between the team’s actual record and the Hogs Haven writers’ season predictions from 2013 to 2021. Reviewing the past predictions, I realized that there is a fair bit of turnover of writers on the site. As a result, quite a few authors only contributed predictions in one or two years. To keep this manageable and somewhat meaningful, I limited the analysis to writers who have contributed at least three season predictions.
There was one exception. I didn’t want to miss out on the fun, so I included my own predictions, even though I’ve only been at this for two years.
To quantify each writer’s tendency to overestimate or underestimate the team’s fortunes in each upcoming season, I calculated a Bias Score (a.k.a. the Homer Coefficient). This is simply the average number of wins by which the writer has overestimated or underestimated the team’s win record across all the seasons in which they made a prediction. For example, a Bias Score of 2.00 indicates that a writer’s predicted wins are, on average, two wins higher than the team’s actual record.
Methodological Detail: For anyone who actually wants to know how I calculated the Bias Score, the method is as follows: 1. In each season when the writer made a prediction, calculate the difference between the writer’s predicted wins and the team’s actual wins; 2. Sum the differences; 3. Divide by the number of season predictions by that writer.
Hogs Haven Writers Are a Hopeful Bunch
The record predictions made by myself and the 16 qualifying writers are shown below, along with each writer’s Bias Score.
Before I get into the nitty gritty, I have to point out one correction I had to make. The year of RG-Knee, 2013 proved to be impossible to predict by any of the Hogs Haven writers. The closest any of the 10 writers making predictions that year came to the Redskins’ actual 3-13 record was 10-6. Because the differences between writers’ predictions and the actual record were much larger in 2013 than any other year, including it in the analysis would unfairly inflate the Bias Scores of the five qualifying writers who made predictions that year, relative to those that didn’t. Therefore, I excluded 2013 from the analysis.
Now, on to the writers’ predictions. The first thing that stands out is that 13 of the 17 writers, myself (MIBV) included, have a positive Bias Score greater than 0.5, indicating a tendency to overestimate the team’s record by one win or more, after rounding. Only four of the 17 writers made neutral predictions: Scott Jennings, Bryan Stabbe, Gabe Ward, Jennifer Filsinger. One of those, Gabe Ward (a.k.a Cadillactica), achieved a perfect record in his three predictions, which is pretty remarkable.
None of the writers displayed a negative bias, indicating a tendency to underestimate the team’s record by one or more wins. I suppose, if they did, they’d be writing for a different site.
On average, the Hogs Haven writers have tended to overestimate the team’s record by 1.55 wins per season, with a high of 3.67 (Chris Hess, a.k.a IH8 Dallas) and a low of -0.14 (Scott Jennings, a.k.a. Hog Hunter). Other than Mr. Perfect, Gabe Ward, the most consistent writer was Jamual Forrest, whose three predictions were all two wins above the actual record.
The rank order of writers’ Bias Scores is shown in the next figure:
Long term readers who remember IH8 Dallas’ unabashed homerism will not be surprised by who tops the rankings. Nor will it come as a surprise to regular readers that Ken Meringolo is next ranked at being consistently optimistic about the team’s chances. As the usual temperer of expectations, I have to confess to being a little embarrassed by my 1.00 average overestimation, but it’s only a two prediction sample, and I regretted my 2021 prediction the minute I made it.
Bryan Stabbe, Gabe Ward, Jennifer Filsinger and Scott Jennings can take a lap for being the only Hogs Haven writers who are immune to the hype.
Everyone else is living in hope.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Scott Jennings for supplying links to all the writers’ predictions articles, James Dorsett and KyleSmithforGM for compiling them, and James again for editing.
How many games will the Commanders win this season?
This poll is closed
More than 10
Fewer than 7
By how much will the Hogs Haven writers’ average predicted win total exceed the Commanders’ actual win total this season?
This poll is closed
It won’t. The Commanders will win more than 11 regular season games. Few, if any, will predict that.
0. The writers will nail it.
3 to 5 wins
More than 5 wins. It will be 2013 all over again.