Is the NFL an Old Man’s Game?


The New York Times NFL Blog, The Fifth Down, has an interesting look at the average ages of NFL teams. They don’t use the simplistic “add up their ages” approach either. From the article:

"The best way to calculate a team’s functional average age is to place greater weight on the age of a team’s most relevant players. I used Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value system to find the true age of the roster of every team in the league. I calculated team age by weighing each player’s age proportionately to his percentage of contribution (as measured by the Approximate Value system) to his team for each player and team in the 2009 season."

Hit the jump to see where the Falcons rank and how it affects a team’s win total.

According to the results, the Falcons were in the bottom half of the league, meaning older half, in 2009 with an average age of 27.3 (14th oldest).

Their offense had an average age of 27.9 which was the 7th oldest in the league last year. The overall number is younger thanks to the Falcons’ defense which was the 6th youngest in the NFL in 2009 with an average age of 26.6.

What does all this mean?

The article doesn’t draw any conclusions, but I will. Using the list the article provided, I divided it up into four sections. The youngest group, the 2nd youngest group, the 2nd oldest group and the oldest group.

I then looked at how many wins each group had in 2009 to determine if age plays a role in how many games a team wins.

The results were surprising. Or not. It depends on if you believe youth wins or if championships are won through experience.

"The Youngest GroupTeams: Texans, Jaguars, Buccaneers, Rams, Giants, Eagles, Dolphins, Chiefs2009 Combined Wins: 50The 2nd Youngest GroupTeams: Bears, 49ers, Panthers, Lions, Bengals, Chargers, Titans, Raiders2009 Combined Wins: 61The 2nd Oldest GroupTeams: Browns, Packers, Falcons, Saints, Seahawks, Colts, Ravens, Bills2009 Combined Wins: 78The Oldest GroupTeams: Jets, Cowboys, Steelers, Cardinals, Redskins, Broncos, Vikings, Patriots2009 Combined Wins: 78"


The data broke out perfectly, which never happens, so it’s safe to draw a conclusion that experience is more valuable than youth in the NFL. Or at least it was last year.

The Falcons fall into the 2nd Oldest category which averaged just under 10 wins as a group in 2009. Both the Super Bowl teams (Saints & Colts) came from this group as well.

The conference championship game losers (Vikings and Jets) were in the Oldest category, so I guess there is a fine line between experienced and old.

I’m all for the Falcons getting younger, but after looking at this data, they should be careful not to get too young.

Does it mean anything?

Let me know in the comments or start the conversation on Twitter.