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Old 12-12-2012, 10:56 PM  
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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.

Code:
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.

Code:
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?

Last edited by Rain Man; 12-12-2012 at 11:32 PM..
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:54 AM   #31
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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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:02 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by AussieChiefsFan View Post
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 **** 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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:05 AM   #33
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You guys don't **** 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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:08 AM   #34
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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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:10 AM   #35
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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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:13 AM   #36
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:15 AM   #37
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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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:45 AM   #38
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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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 09:24 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by Discuss Thrower View Post
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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:33 PM   #40
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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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:37 PM   #41
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The players today are facing much stiffer competition than those in the past. It's pretty simple to me.
Well, you're ****ing 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.
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Old 12-13-2012, 10:42 PM   #42
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I'm hiding this post immediately and selling this analysis to the NFL for $4,000,000.
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