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View Full Version : Football The NFL, the Talent Pool, and Long-Term Expansion: A Short Essay


Rain Man
12-12-2012, 10:56 PM
In professional sports, one of the issues that we hear a lot regarding expansion is that "it dilutes the talent pool". We hear that Babe Ruth had to face the top pitchers every day, and that in the 1950s NFL, the 32nd best quarterback never made a team, much less started.

I've always thought this too, but tonight I started thinking about it, and I think that whole premise is wrong.

People always think about the number of teams and players when this discussion arises, but that's only half the equation. The other half of the equation is the talent pool from which the team draws. If we have 32 football teams being created from a population of 1 million people, those teams won't be as strong as if we have 32 team being created from a population of 100 million people.

So let's look at the number of teams that we've had over time, and the population from which they drew their rosters. Let's start on the two ends of the spectrum.

In the 1920 season, the league that became the NFL fielded 13 teams. (Actually, 14 teams are in the records, but one team only played one game so I'm excluding them.) The population of the United States at that time was about 106 million, so each team drew from a population of about 8.2 million people.

Now look at the year 2010. We had 32 teams, and they were drawn from a population of about 309 million. Therefore, each team drew from a population of about 9.6 million people. (Ignore the fact that this includes men and women and old people and stuff, just to keep it simple. Let's also ignore roster sizes, since we're really only talking about starters.)

This means that modern teams are pulling from a larger talent pool than their 1920 predecessors. In other words, it's harder to make an NFL roster as a starter now than it was in 1920 when we had only 13 teams. Ostensibly, this means that the talent level is a bit higher.

Let's look at these ratios by decade.


Year Population Teams Population Per Team
1920 106,021,537 13 8,155,503
1930 123,202,624 11 11,200,239
1940 132,164,569 10 13,216,457
1950 151,325,798 13 11,640,446
1960 179,323,175 21 8,539,199
1970 203,302,031 26 7,819,309
1980 226,542,199 28 8,090,793
1990 248,709,873 28 8,882,495
2000 281,421,906 31 9,078,126
2010 308,745,538 32 9,648,298


What we see is that the most competitive time to become an NFL starter was in 1940, when each team drew from a talent pool of 13.2 million. The easiest time to become an NFL starter was in 1970, when each team drew from a talent pool of 7.8 million.

If we average the ratios over each decade, we end up with an average talent pool of 9.62 million people per team, which is almost exactly the current ratio. Therefore, the fact that we have 32 teams right now means that the league's expansion has merely kept pace with long-term growth. They aren't overexpanding and they aren't underexpanding.

So Conclusion #1 is: having 32 teams does not mean that we see watered-down talent compared to past decades. We're seeing exactly the same talent level that we've averaged over the past century.


But what does this mean for the future?

Well, let's look at population projections and see if the NFL should add new teams as the population grows.

Using an average talent pool of 9.627 million people per team to keep our on-field talent consistent, we see that new teams should be added each decade as the American population grows, as shown below.


Year Population Teams Population Per Team
1920 106,021,537 13 8,155,503
1930 123,202,624 11 11,200,239
1940 132,164,569 10 13,216,457
1950 151,325,798 13 11,640,446
1960 179,323,175 21 8,539,199
1970 203,302,031 26 7,819,309
1980 226,542,199 28 8,090,793
1990 248,709,873 28 8,882,495
2000 281,421,906 31 9,078,126
2010 308,745,538 32 9,648,298

2020 341,387,000 35 9,627,086
2030 373,504,000 39 9,627,086
2040 405,655,000 42 9,627,086
2050 439,010,000 46 9,627,086

Conclusion #2: To keep the talent level consistent, we should add 3 teams by 2020, 7 teams by 2030, 10 teams by 2040, and 14 teams by 2050.


Now, where should those teams go?

No authoritative body develops state-level population projections for every state, so I cheated a little bit. I took the state populations in 2000 and 2010, and applied that growth rate to each subsequent decade. This allowed me to develop projections of the population of each state for the years 2020, 2030, 2040, and 2050.

I then lumped the states (and Puerto Rico) into 16 regions to better account for regional fan bases. This was kind of arbitrary, but I don't think I'd get much argument. For each of the sixteen regions, I then calculated the number of current teams and the number of teams that the region should have based on population, and added teams to the areas that were most underrepresented. This model therefore takes into account the number of teams already present, the current population, and population growth trends.

Conclusion #3. A proper expansion of the NFL should be as follows:

2020 - Add three teams, one each in:

California - Los Angeles (duh)

The Great Plains (OK, KS, NE, SD, ND) - Oklahoma City is the largest metro area in the region

Texas - San Antonio is up.


2030 - Add four teams, one each in:

Texas - It should be Fort Worth, but given their proximity to Dallas, I think Austin would be the next city in line.

The desert SW (NV, UT, AZ, NM) - Las Vegas is the largest city without a team

The Atlantic South (NC, SC, GA) - Raleigh is the largest city without a team.

The deep South (AR, AL, MS, LA) - Birmingham is the largest city with a team


2040 - Add three teams, one each in:

The Coastal Pacific (AK, HI, WA, OR) - Portland is an obvious one based on size.

California - Riverside is the largest metro area without a team.

The Atlantic South (NC, SC, GA) - Yep, another one. Columbia, SC, barely beats out Greensboro, NC for this coveted spot.


2050 - Add four more teams, one each in:

Texas - Yes, another one. Texas will have five teams, with the newest one in Fort Worth. If that's too close to Dallas, next up would be El Paso. However, I think Fort Worth gets it at this point.

The desert SW (NV, UT, AZ, NM) - It's time for the mighty Mormons of Salt Lake to get a team.

The Atlantic South (NC, SC, GA) - Believe it or not. This area is growing. Greensboro gets this team.

The Tropical South (FL, Puerto Rico) - San Juan, Puerto Rico, would be first in line. If you think the team must be in a state and not a territory, then it would go to Orlando, but I think San Juan gets it.

If you don't think that Puerto Rico's population should be included since it's not a state, the last team would go NOT to the Tropical South, but up north in New England, where it would likely be awarded to Providence, Rhode Island. But I think San Juan gets it.

So over the next 40 years, we would add 14 new teams in:

Los Angeles
Oklahoma City
San Antonio
Austin
Las Vegas
Raleigh
Birmingham
Portland
Riverside
Columbia, SC
Fort Worth
Salt Lake City
Greensboro
San Juan, PR


What do you think about this future?

something cooler
12-12-2012, 11:01 PM
No shot at a team in Omaha?

something cooler
12-12-2012, 11:01 PM
No shot at a team in Omaha Omaha?

Fixed my post

Bump
12-12-2012, 11:02 PM
we dun gunna run outta resources before the world populates another 3 fold.

Rain Man
12-12-2012, 11:04 PM
No shot at a team in Omaha?

In their region, they'd be in line behind both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, so their odds would be low on a pure demographic basis. Perhaps the p.r. value of having their city yelled 100 times per week would help their cause, though.

Discuss Thrower
12-12-2012, 11:05 PM
No shot at a team in Omaha?

Too fat.

Bugeater
12-12-2012, 11:05 PM
In their region, they'd be in line behind both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, so their odds would be low on a pure demographic basis. Perhaps the p.r. value of having their city yelled 100 times per week would help their cause, though.
Thanks for ruining my Christmas.

DeezNutz
12-12-2012, 11:09 PM
Long way of saying that KC still won't draft a QB.

Buehler445
12-12-2012, 11:09 PM
does that mean more boobs?

http://cdn.motinetwork.net/demotivationalposters.org/image/demotivational-poster/1204/tits-tits-boobs-contain-women-demotivational-posters-1334889040.jpg

Rain Man
12-12-2012, 11:12 PM
does that mean more boobs?


I would hazard a guess that the San Juan cheerleader squad would be worth checking out. Probably Las Vegas, too.

Douche Baggins
12-12-2012, 11:29 PM
Forth Worth can't support an NFL team. No one will go to the games. They're all Cowboys fans.

Your best bet is definitely El Paso.

I'm also curious to see the number of college football players divided by the number of NFL teams. This would give us a far better indicator of the talent pool. IMO.

Has that grown at the same rate as the general population? If not, isn't there a hole in your theory? The NFL isn't drawing players from the general population. It's drawing from the college players for the most part. DI and DII mostly if I'm not mistaken.

Douche Baggins
12-12-2012, 11:32 PM
You are going to draw fans from Mexico, New Mexico and West Texas with a team in El Paso.

But is there a reason you haven't considered Albuquerque? Just population size?

AussieChiefsFan
12-12-2012, 11:34 PM
Team from vegas/nevada would be interesting.

Rain Man
12-12-2012, 11:36 PM
Forth Worth can't support an NFL team. No one will go to the games. They're all Cowboys fans.

Your best bet is definitely El Paso.

I'm also curious to see the number of college football players divided by the number of NFL teams. This would give us a far better indicator of the talent pool. IMO.

Has that grown at the same rate as the general population? If not, isn't there a hole in your theory? The NFL isn't drawing players from the general population. It's drawing from the college players for the most part. DI and DII mostly if I'm not mistaken.

Interesting point.

The college players are drawn from the high school ranks, and I suspect that those expand with populations. New high schools are built all the time.

With colleges, you may be right in that the number of colleges doesn't expand as fast as the population. I'm not sure. But at the same time there are a lot of colleges out there, so it seems like there's capacity to increase the talent pool that's pretty thin at the DII and DIII levels, which would effectively proxy an increase in the number of college teams.

So yeah, it's a bottleneck, but I'm not sure that it's enough of one to materially affect the analysis. Feel free to refute, though.

Rain Man
12-12-2012, 11:38 PM
You are going to draw fans from Mexico, New Mexico and West Texas with a team in El Paso.

But is there a reason you haven't considered Albuquerque? Just population size?

Yeah, Albuquerque couldn't compete with Vegas or Salt Lake City or even Tucson. It's smaller than all of those.

I could defer on Fort Worth and go with El Paso. I wasn't sure if they would embrace their own team or just all stay Cowboys fans. I guess the stadium is between the two cities, isn't it?

tmw4h5
12-12-2012, 11:39 PM
Very interesting short essay. The idea that we are diluting the talent pool by allowing expansion is insane.
Besides the population numbers that you pointed out, people seem to forget that, unlike 1940, kids today are spending far more time perfecting the craft of sports. The average professional athlete today is infinitely better than the average athlete of the 40s and 50s in regards to the major sports (MLB, NFL, NBA). The time spent in preparation, training, and perfecting the craft is insane. Couple that with the evergrowing popularity of the sports and what you have, I believe, is a talent pool that is essentially bottomless.

mikey23545
12-13-2012, 12:11 AM
Besides the population numbers that you pointed out, people seem to forget that, unlike 1940, kids today are spending far more time perfecting the craft of sports. The average professional athlete today is infinitely better than the average athlete of the 40s and 50s in regards to the major sports (MLB, NFL, NBA). The time spent in preparation, training, and perfecting the craft is insane. Couple that with the evergrowing popularity of the sports and what you have, I believe, is a talent pool that is essentially bottomless.


And you have forgotten that today, 80% of kids spend their lives open-mouthed in front of a television or computer playing video games until their dilated eyes roll back in their heads, and never see a baseball diamond or football field.

Pure population numbers mean nothing.

ChiefsNow
12-13-2012, 12:22 AM
It's going global. London will probably be next. Canada is in. Germany has fans. Russia will feel the heat. Almost forgot Austrailia.

AussieChiefsFan
12-13-2012, 12:28 AM
Almost forgot Austrailia.

Don't be doing that now :D

ChiefsNow
12-13-2012, 12:34 AM
Don't be doing that now :D

Sorry bout that, I was thinking of you when I made the edit. o:-)

tmw4h5
12-13-2012, 12:42 AM
And you have forgotten that today, 80% of kids spend their lives open-mouthed in front of a television or computer playing video games until their dilated eyes roll back in their heads, and never see a baseball diamond or football field.

Pure population numbers mean nothing.

Granted, there are a lot of children who spend their lives playing video games or mastering technology is some fashion, but the number of kids playing football, basketball, and baseball is constantly, and most importantly, consistently growing.


The athletes being produced today are far superior to those produced in the 40s and 50s. Athletes today are bigger, stronger, and faster. The majority of professional athletes have spent their entire lives developing their skills and honing their talent(s).

DaneMcCloud
12-13-2012, 12:43 AM
Rainman, I'm on my iPad, so will address in detail tomorrow. But population aside, you're missing the "Divine Spark" and "unique" aspect.

In musical terms, there's been only one Elvis. One Johnny Cash. One Jimi Hendrix. One Brian Wilson. One Eric Clapton. One Chuck Berry. One Mick Jagger. So on and so forth.

There are more kids playing football today than in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's combined.

Yet, where are the multiple Johnny Unitias clones, Joe Namath, Steve Young, John Elway, etc.?

You can add cities and players. But that doesn't mean that the talent level will remain consistent. Given the facts above, it'll be further watered down.

tmw4h5
12-13-2012, 12:51 AM
Rainman, I'm on my iPad, so will address in detail tomorrow. But population aside, you're missing the "Divine Spark" and "unique" aspect.

In musical terms, there's been only one Elvis. One Johnny Cash. One Jimi Hendrix. One Brian Wilson. One Eric Clapton. One Chuck Berry. One Mick Jagger. So on and so forth.

There are more kids playing football today than in the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's combined.

Yet, where are the multiple Johnny Unitias clones, Joe Namath, Steve Young, John Elway, etc.?

You can add cities and players. But that doesn't mean that the talent level will remain consistent. Given the facts above, it'll be further watered down.

There are more kids playing today than ever before. Johnny U. looked remarkable because you have to compare what his talent level was in comparison to those he played against. It's the same as looking at college football. You have some guys who are absolutely dominant in college, but they might be simply mediocre in the NFL. The reason is that the talent level is so much better that the playing field is more equal. Johnny U. looked great because he was playing against lesser talents. Namath was actually just a mediocre QB.
There are, and have been, QBs every bit as good as Steve Young since Steve Young retired. The best QBs in the history of the game (arguably, of course) are currently in the league (Brady, Manning).
With a growing population and professional athletes being trained from the time that they can walk, the talent level has risen greatly, which will absolutely make it harder for individual athletes to be greatly ahead of others in the same game.

listopencil
12-13-2012, 12:53 AM
I'd rather the NFL add a minor league football farm system than expand.

DaneMcCloud
12-13-2012, 12:55 AM
There are more kids playing today than ever before. Johnny U. looked remarkable because you have to compare what his talent level was in comparison to those he played against. It's the same as looking at college football. You have some guys who are absolutely dominant in college, but they might be simply mediocre in the NFL. The reason is that the talent level is so much better that the playing field is more equal. Johnny U. looked great because he was playing against lesser talents. Namath was actually just a mediocre QB.
There are, and have been, QBs every bit as good as Steve Young since Steve Young retired. The best QBs in the history of the game (arguably, of course) are currently in the league (Brady, Manning).
With a growing population and professional athletes being trained from the time that they can walk, the talent level has risen greatly, which will absolutely make it harder for individual athletes to be greatly ahead of others in the same game.

You're smoking crack

KC Tattoo
12-13-2012, 01:05 AM
There are more kids playing today than ever before. Johnny U. looked remarkable because you have to compare what his talent level was in comparison to those he played against. It's the same as looking at college football. You have some guys who are absolutely dominant in college, but they might be simply mediocre in the NFL. The reason is that the talent level is so much better that the playing field is more equal. Johnny U. looked great because he was playing against lesser talents. Namath was actually just a mediocre QB.
There are, and have been, QBs every bit as good as Steve Young since Steve Young retired. The best QBs in the history of the game (arguably, of course) are currently in the league (Brady, Manning).
With a growing population and professional athletes being trained from the time that they can walk, the talent level has risen greatly, which will absolutely make it harder for individual athletes to be greatly ahead of others in the same game.

Yes and they do a hell of a lot more film study as it is more available & technology to help them out.

tmw4h5
12-13-2012, 01:05 AM
You're smoking crack

How so? It makes perfect sense.

Think about MLB for example. Do you honestly think that Babe Ruth would have been half of the hitter he was if he spent his career facing pitchers like Cici Sabathia, Randy Johnson, Clemens, or Maddux?

With growing popularity, the sport has seen a larger talent pool develop, with the talent getting better on both the high end and low end.

The players today are facing much stiffer competition than those in the past. It's pretty simple to me.

AussieChiefsFan
12-13-2012, 01:06 AM
Sorry bout that, I was thinking of you when I made the edit. o:-):thumb:

mdchiefsfan
12-13-2012, 04:46 AM
It's going global. London will probably be next. Canada is in. Germany has fans. Russia will feel the heat. Almost forgot Austrailia.

This is what I was thinking. We will probably see an international broadening due to the fact that everyone in the US has set teams.

I am just curious how they are going to work out the schedule so that the 'London Hooligans' aren't a perpetual 8-8 team with their awesome home record and terrible road record. Not trying to hijack the thread, but you have me thinking NFL expansions and how they would work.

mdchiefsfan
12-13-2012, 04:51 AM
I'd rather the NFL add a minor league football farm system than expand.

This would be cool. It could very well increase the competition in the NFL as well. Much like baseball, having that farm system ensures that the people at the top are legitimately the best at their position, meanwhile some one like Kurt Warner wouldn't be as few and far between (maybe it would be rare, but the shelf life in today's NFL is so short that if there are any late bloomers; they are ousted out before they are given ample time to find out).

AussieChiefsFan
12-13-2012, 04:54 AM
What Id love is better funding for football teams in australia. There already is a league but it'd be nice if they had better facilities etc. Some games players are falling on a hockey field (hard as rock) and injury frequency is dramatically increased.

NJChiefsFan
12-13-2012, 05:02 AM
What Id love is better funding for football teams in australia. There already is a league but it'd be nice if they had better facilities etc. Some games players are falling on a hockey field (hard as rock) and injury frequency is dramatically increased.

You guys don't fuck around when it comes to field hockey. Not from what it looked like in the olympics. It's actually one of the few events I couldn't watch but when I checked the score the U.S. was not winning.

AussieChiefsFan
12-13-2012, 05:05 AM
You guys don't fuck around when it comes to field hockey. Not from what it looked like in the olympics. It's actually one of the few events I couldn't watch but when I checked the score the U.S. was not winning.Yea hockey is a good sport, never played it competitively though. Ive played slider hockey, which is a cross between ice and field hockey. The sticks have longer bottoms and a puck is used, but its not on ice, usually on a gym type surface.

But yea, a hockey field surface is horrible for players to land on. Bruises, scrapes, the works.

NJChiefsFan
12-13-2012, 05:08 AM
Yea hockey is a good sport, never played it competitively though. Ive played slider hockey, which is a cross between ice and field hockey. The sticks have longer bottoms and a puck is used, but its not on ice, usually on a gym type surface.

But yea, a hockey field surface is horrible for players to land on. Bruises, scrapes, the works.

Looks almost like a hard court tennis surface. I know around here the girls use other sports fields, for example the varsity baseball fields outfield when I was there. Nice way to destroy an outfield if you ever need one.

AussieChiefsFan
12-13-2012, 05:10 AM
Looks almost like a hard court tennis surface. I know around here the girls use other sports fields, for example the varsity baseball fields outfield when I was there. Nice way to destroy an outfield if you ever need one.Yea basically like a hard tennis court with a very thin layer (few mm) of astro turf type material.

bevischief
12-13-2012, 07:13 AM
The Great Plains (OK, KS, NE, SD, ND) - Oklahoma City is the largest metro area in the region but ND has more money than all of them.

DTLB58
12-13-2012, 08:15 AM
I don't necessarily believe Just because the population grows or stays the same that doesn't automatically mean the talent pool for professional football players is going to be there. Especially the QUALITY!
Especially with the recent trends of concussions. (And the other acts of violence we have seen that come from it). Parents are going to start pushing their kids away from just not football, but all contact sports.

Baseball and Basketball are going to become more popular.

It's still a long shot IF a team ever gets back in LA! How long has it been that an NFL team hasn't been in this country's second largest advertising market? Crazy.

I think all the work you did here is for not and any talk about expansion or more playoff spots (From the league office) is to take talk away from bounty gate.

Discuss Thrower
12-13-2012, 08:45 AM
If the NFL wants a presence in Europe, then they should start funding good youth football teams and training those across the pond to play at a similar level to D2/NAIA players here. Eventually they can restart NFLE and if the talent pool is large enough can let a team or two into the NFL.

ChiefsNow
12-13-2012, 09:24 PM
If the NFL wants a presence in Europe, then they should start funding good youth football teams and training those across the pond to play at a similar level to D2/NAIA players here. Eventually they can restart NFLE and if the talent pool is large enough can let a team or two into the NFL.

The thing is, the talent wouldn't only come from there. It would just be another expansion team and they would draft from the same pool of players.

SNR
12-13-2012, 10:33 PM
I'd rather the NFL add a minor league football farm system than expand.

Absolutely this. If the NFL wanted to follow Rain Man's model, I'd love to see it play out that way.

You think fans currently don't give a shit about the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jacksonville Jaguars? Wait until they come across the El Paso Desperados and the Riverside Douchebag Hipsters.

Take those new garbage teams that nobody wants and make them feeder teams. Fans in those cities will have an incentive to care about the players on those teams because a bunch of them will turn into stars at the pro level, which is why it won't falter like the XFL or UFL. Also, since the NFL is the money giant it is, that organization won't go broke either or run out of money.

DaneMcCloud
12-13-2012, 10:37 PM
The players today are facing much stiffer competition than those in the past. It's pretty simple to me.

Well, you're fucking stupid.

There are seven BILLION people on this planet, yet MLB struggles to find talent to compete each and every year.

The NFL struggles to find to legitimate QB's CB's, lineman, etc.

The NBA is having a real issue with finding talent. The last few drafts have offered little in the way of All-Star, let alone, HOF talent.

Quantity does not equal quality. Never has, never will.

Phobia
12-13-2012, 10:42 PM
I'm hiding this post immediately and selling this analysis to the NFL for $4,000,000.