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Stability and success in the NFL go hand in hand

A look at the strong correlation between stability at head coach, starting QB and winning in the regular season in the NFL

Syndication: PackersNews Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK

With two primary starting quarterbacks and only three head coaches this century, the Green Bay Packers are the most stable NFL franchise. Remember that this century actually began with the 2001 season (2000 was so last century). Brett Farve and Aaron Rodgers are the only two primary starting QBs for the team this century (as shown on the PFR franchise encyclopedia page). The Packers have also had only three head coaches this century (Mike Sherman, Mike McCarthy and Matt LaFleur). That is tied for the third fewest head coaches this century (with SEA, NOR and CIN).

Only the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens (2) and New England Patriots (1) have had more stability at head coach. The Las Vegas Raiders have had the least stable head coaching spot with eleven changes, even though they have only had ten head coaches (Jon Gruden had two stints leading the Raiders this century).

Rank Team WIN% this century Primary Starting QBs this century Head Coaches this century
1 New England Patriots 73.9% 4 1
2 Pittsburgh Steelers 64.4% 6 2
3 Green Bay Packers 63.5% 2 3
4 Indianapolis Colts 61.4% 9 5
5 Baltimore Ravens 58.5% 7 2
6 Seattle Seahawks 57.9% 6 3
7 New Orleans Saints 57.6% 3 3
8 Philadelphia Eagles 57.0% 7 4
9 Kansas City Chiefs 54.9% 6 5
10 Denver Broncos 54.3% 12 7
11 Dallas Cowboys 53.7% 10 4
12 Los Angeles Chargers 52.5% 4 6
13 Atlanta Falcons 50.7% 6 7
14 Tennessee Titans 50.4% 13 5
15 Minnesota Vikings 50.1% 11 6
16 Chicago Bears 49.3% 11 5
17 Carolina Panthers 47.5% 11 4
18 San Francisco 49ers 46.9% 15 8
19 Miami Dolphins 46.6% 13 8
20 Los Angeles Rams 46.3% 8 5
21 New York Giants 46.3% 4 6
22 Cincinnati Bengals 46.0% 6 3
23 Arizona Cardinals 45.4% 13 6
24 Buffalo Bills 45.4% 10 7
25 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 45.1% 10 7
26 New York Jets 43.0% 11 6
27 Houston Texans 43.3% 8 5
28 Washington Football Team 40.9% 13 7
29 Las Vegas Raiders 38.9% 9 11
30 Jacksonville Jaguars 36.8% 8 7
31 Cleveland Browns 34.1% 16 9
32 Detroit Lions 33.5% 6 7

If you look at the top 10 in the table above, you find that Denver Broncos are the one outlier. They have not had stability at starting QB or head coach this century, yet they still have been in the top 10 in regular season winning percentage. The Broncos have had seven head coaches this century; of the teams over 0.500 this century in the regular season, only the Atlanta Falcons also had seven (the rest all have six or fewer).

The bigger dots are the Broncos

If found it interesting that if you focus on the top five winning percentage teams this century, only the Indianapolis Colts have had more than three head coaches. The teams with three of fewer head coaches this century have a 602 winning percentage (1421 W and 928 L). Since this is league wide, that means that teams with four or more head coaches have only won 39.8 percent of their regular season games this century. The only team with a stable head coaching position (3 or fewer HC’s) that has a losing record this century is the Cincinnati Bengals (but what else would you expect from the Bungals).

The Broncs have had twelve primary starting quarterbacks this century. In terms of primary starting quarterbacks among winning teams, only the Tennessee Titans have had more primary starting QBs with thirteen. The litany is below:

  1. Brian Griese
  2. Jake Plummer
  3. Jay Cutler
  4. Kyle Orton
  5. Tim Tebow
  6. Peyton Manning
  7. Trevor Siemian
  8. Case Keenum
  9. Joe Flacco
  10. Drew Lock
  11. Teddy Bridgewater
  12. Russell Wilson

Below is that same primary starting QB progression for the entire league (you will need a magnifying glass to see detail).

Every primary starting QB for every NFL team this century
Joseph Mahoney

It may be a little easier to see in my tweet since you can zoom in on it.

Cells highlighted in pink are guys who only got only one year (at least so far) as a team’s primary starting QB. At this point Drew Lock and Tim Tebow are the two pink boxes for the Broncos. As you can see, many teams have no pink boxes up there.

If you want to look at the actual correlations, we can, but remember that correlation is not causation. The correlation between winning percentage and starting QB stability is 0.47. This is decently strong from a statistics standpoint. This century having a fewer starting quarterbacks (less turnover in starting QB) is decently strongly correlated to winning. The correlation with head coaching is much stronger - 0.76. Teams with fewer head coaches win more often than teams with many head coaches.

Both of these correlations stand to reason. Winning teams have little reason to change starting quarterback or head coach. Additionally, teams that have been losing but start winning because of either the head coach or the starting quarterback generally stick with that coach, quarterback or both unless they have to change due to retirement or free agency.

The takeaway is that while the Broncos have had a fair amount of regular season success this century (10th in win%), they have done this with a fair amount of instability at both head coach and starting quarterback. I would like to hope that with Russell Wilson at QB and Nathaniel Hackett at head coach that Broncos are in for a four plus year block of stability at both positions. One can always hope.


How long do you expect the combination of Russell Wilson at QB and Nathan Hackett at HC to last in Denver?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    three years
    (29 votes)
  • 16%
    four years
    (34 votes)
  • 33%
    five years
    (69 votes)
  • 20%
    six years
    (41 votes)
  • 5%
    seven years
    (11 votes)
  • 10%
    eight or more years
    (21 votes)
205 votes total Vote Now