I’ve not followed the draft closely over the last several years – it was only after finding MHR that I became interested in watching it closely. One thing that startled me during that weekend was the amount of comments on MSM, other fan sites and MHR wonder if this team or that team would trade down from one of the top 4 or 5 picks.
I found myself wondering about that, since the draft was structured as a critical part of Pete Rozelle’s vision of parity.
Parity, as I understand it is the concept of creating an NFL in which on any given Sunday any given team can win, and which in any given season, any given team can make it to the super bowl and win it.
I had understood parity to have 3 main components:
(1)Salary cap/revenue sharing – to enable small market teams, such as Buffalo to compete with large market teams like the New York Giants.
(2)Balanced scheduling to even out the competitive levels.
(3)A draft where the worse teams got first pick of the upcoming college talent.
The idea that teams that needed talent would trade away those highest picks seemed puzzling, and led me to the larger question of what has happened to parity. And the curiosity bug bit me.
While skimming various MSM and fan sites, including MHR, I discovered that there are those who see parity as alive (and that it’s a good thing), alive (and that’s a bad thing), dead (and that’s a good thing) and dead (which is a bad thing).
Advocates of parity cite such ideas as the on any given Sunday/in any given season argument and facts like: only 7 out of 256 regular season games failed to sell out in time to lift the television black out, 27 teams have made the playoffs in the last 5 years and for 11 straight seasons 5 of the 12 playoff teams were not in the playoffs the previous season, as reasons to support parity.
Detractors argue that the on any given Sunday argument has not panned out. That the increase in viewership can be explained by improved marketing strategies, and the statistics cited by the advocates are misleading. They also argue that parity has "watered down" the competitiveness of the teams rather than enhancing it.
I decided to do a little research to see if Rozelle’s vision has come to pass, has died, or falls somewhere in between those two extremes. I decided to survey four basic topics: (1)Playoff Appearances, (2)Conference Championship Appearances, (3)Super Bowl Appearances, and (4)Super Bowl Championships. I decided to limit the survey to the years since 1994 – the date which saw the enactment of a hard salary cap.
I realize that this is an arbitrary date, and has an inherent issue: Jacksonville and Carolina did not enter the league until 1995, Baltimore in 1999, and Houston in 2002. But given that 3 of the 4 have made playoff appearances and 1 has won the Super Bowl, I’m hoping that slight issue may be forgiven.
Playoff Appearances since 1994 (180 total)
11 – Indianapolis
10 – New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay
9 – Philadelphia
8 – Miami, Dallas, Minnesota
7 – Denver, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, San Francisco
6 – Tennessee, Jacksonville, San Diego, Seattle
5 – New York Jets, Baltimore, Kansas City, Atlanta, St. Louis
4 – Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Carolina
3 – Oakland, Washington
2 – Cleveland, New Orleans, Arizona
1 – Cincinnati
0 – Houston
31 of the 32 teams have made playoff appearances, this seems like a good thing.
102 (56.6%) of the appearances were made by 12 teams (37.5%)
126 (70%) of the appearances were made by 16 teams (50%)
1 team has no appearances
7 (21.8%) of the teams have made 13 appearances (7.2%)
So, 25% of the league has only 7.2% of the playoff appearances while 70% of the appearances were made by only 50% of the teams.
Conference Championship Appearances since 1994 (60 total)
7 – Pittsburgh
6 – New England
5 – Philadelphia
4 – Green Bay
3 – Indianapolis, Denver, Carolina
2 – Baltimore, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, San Diego, Dallas, New York Giants, Minnesota, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, San Francisco
1 – New York Jets, Chicago, New Orleans, Arizona, Seattle
0 – Buffalo, Miami, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Kansas City, Washington, Detroit
25% of the league has not made it to the conference championship
51.6% of the appearances have been made by 7 teams
30% of appearances have been made by 3 teams
Super Bowl Appearances since 1994 (30)
5 – New England
3 – Pittsburgh
2 – Denver, Green Bay, St. Louis, New York Giants
1 – San Diego, Tennessee, Baltimore, Oakland, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Arizona
0 – Buffalo, Miami, New York Jets, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Washington, Detroit, Minnesota, New Orleans
12 (37.5%) teams did not make it to the Super Bowl during this time.
26.6% of the appearances were made by 2 teams.
53.3% of the appearances made by only 6 teams.
Super Bowl Champions since 1994 (15)
3 – New England
2 – Pittsburgh, Denver
1 – Baltimore, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Dallas, Green Bay, St. Louis, New York Giants, Tampa Bay
46.6% of the Super Bowls between 1994 and 2008 were won by just 3 teams.
21 teams did not win Super Bowl.
When looked at from this perspective, it appears to me that parity has a long way go before Rozelle’s vision will come to fruition.
I'd be very interested in hearing other people's takes on this.