“You are what your record says you are…”
…Bill Parcells said back in 1994 during his four-year tenure at the helm of the New England Patriots. The two-time Super Bowl champion coach may have been responding candidly with a simple knee-jerk reaction to deflect a difficult question posed by the media, but his eight-word phrase has since been immortalized, as it is still commonly said today by players, coaches and front-office personnel from each level of every sport.
In fact, Buffalo Bills general manager — or so he is titled — Doug Whaley recently verbalized his best Parcells impression on multiple occasions during a rather peculiar season-ending press conference:
Simply put, this quote, “You are what your record says you are,” which has since been attributed to Parcells despite reportedly first appearing in an issue of the San Diego Union back in 1978, has not only become a popular response to media questions revolving around team performance, the statement’s premise also lends credibility to the simple evaluative method of utilizing win-loss record to make a final determination on the quality of a given team.
Mike Zimmer, who has noted his close relationship with Parcells on several occasions throughout his tenure with the Minnesota Vikings, has never invoked the one-liner coined by his mentor on the record, but it’s hard to imagine he doesn’t, at some level, believe in its mystique.
His team finished 8-8 in 2016, which, as Parcells’ quote would argue, reflects an “average” football team. As a result, the 2016 Vikings represent the perfect example of why record merely reflects wins and losses, not the overall quality of a team. If the four previous rankings lists have failed to sell this point — potentially because they are a reflection of moments or games as opposed to 2016 in its entirety — the following “Top-5 Individual Seasons in 2016” rankings should fulfill the role of “closing argument” well enough.