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Formula For Success, Part II

March 30, 2010

As promised, below is the second part of our “Formula for Success” series. We will be adding a new part every Tuesday, so stay tuned.

The Super Bowl Formula:

The current regular season and playoff system of the National Football League is structured to determine the best football team of that season. Thus, the team that hoists the Lombardi Trophy at season’s end is acknowledged as the NFL’s elite franchise. Accordingly, we have selected the Super Bowl winners within this decade and compiled their relevant data in an attempt to uncover correlations between the performance of The Big Three and team success. Through this analysis, we hope to discover whether or not there is an applicable “formula” in order to produce a championship-winning club.

As we have alluded to previously, a team’s quarterback is the most important player on the football field. Every aspect of the team’s offense runs directly through this player and if a franchise’s quarterback is not performing at a high level, it will be very tough for that team to find consistent success. In this decade, Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have led their respective teams to an average of 12 regular-season victories per season. Historically, the best determinant of overall quarterback play has been the quarterback rating, where Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have averaged a rating of 87.6 throughout the regular season. Additionally, four out of the nine Super Bowl winning quarterbacks made the Pro Bowl during that season. On average, these Super Bowl winning teams allocated $5,479,954 to these players – the highest of The Big Three.

The left tackle’s primary responsibility is to protect the team’s quarterback, a task that serves as a focal determinant for offensive success. For the years 2000 – 2009, Super Bowl winning teams have held an average offensive rank (in terms of points scored) of 11th in the league. Only two starting left tackles made the Pro Bowl, however, and Jonathan Ogden of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens was the only All-Pro selection. On average, these Super Bowl winning teams allocated $2,839,455 to these offensive linemen.

Furthermore, an elite pass-rushing defensive end can disrupt an entire opposing offense on any given play. In this light, they serve as the leaders of their respective defenses. The past nine Super Bowl winners have had an average defensive rank (in terms of points against) of 6th overall due in large part to their formidable defensive ends. Four of these players (Simeon Rice -2002; Richard Seymour -2003, 2004; Joey Porter – 2005; James Harrison – 2008) made the Pro bowl during that season and three were also All-Pro selections (Rice, Seymour, Harrison). Super Bowl teams have rewarded this position with an average salary of $3,795,850 – equivalent to 4% of total team salary.

On average, the nine Super Bowl winning teams of this decade allocated 14% of their total cap to The Big Three. The 2006 Indianapolis Colts allotted the largest percentage of their salary cap to The Big Three, with 23% of their total cap going to Peyton Manning, Tarik Glenn, and Dwight Freeney. The 2001 New England Patriots, on the other hand, paid just 4% of their total salary cap (approximately the same amount some of the Super Bowl teams allocated solely to their defensive ends) to Tom Brady, Matt Light, and Richard Seymour. This stark disparity is primarily due to the fact that Tom Brady at the time was an unknown late-round draft pick who was supposed to backup the incumbent franchise QB, Drew Bledsoe. As the result of a Bledsoe injury, however, Brady was forced into the starting role. The rest, as we all know, is history. Brady went on to lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl title that year over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams, and was also voted to the Pro Bowl – all while costing the Patriots a mere $314,993 in cap value. Matt Light and Richard Seymour also received comparatively low salaries with 0.87% and 2.97%, respectively, of the team’s total salary cap.

As the 2001 Patriots demonstrated, anomalies do exist in our theory. One aspect of team success that cannot be quantified, obviously, is luck. While since 2001 Tom Brady has emerged as a surefire Hall of Fame quarterback, his initial fame came about as a result of injury. As such, Brady had not yet been compensated according to his true worth. Thus, while the 2001 Patriots have proven that it is not always necessary to allocate ~14% of a team’s salary cap to The Big Three, the graph shows us that a figure close to this number has without fail translated into at least a 10 win regular season for these nine Super Bowl champions.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the first post of the series, The Chief insinuated that this series would be appearing on Thursdays.  Well, they’re actually going to appear on Tuesdays, so you can just eat it, Chief.  Seriously, though, I do apologize for any confusion.  And, as always, if you don’t like it, sue me.

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