|12-12-2012, 10:56 PM||Topic Starter|
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The NFL, the Talent Pool, and Long-Term Expansion: A Short Essay
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
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:
Salt Lake City
San Juan, PR
What do you think about this future?
Last edited by Rain Man; 12-12-2012 at 11:32 PM..