December 14, 2017

Only NFL Team to Achieve What?

The National Football League’s 2014 regular season is over. Just for fun, let’s look at some oddities in NFL history for each current franchise.

 

Arizona Cardinals

Win a football game 40-11 (11/24/13 vs. Indianapolis Colts)

 

Atlanta Falcons

QB/RB duo each rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (2006)

 

Baltimore Ravens

Win a football game 39-27 (12/2/2001 vs. Indianapolis Colts)

 

Buffalo Bills

Achieved the greatest playoff comeback ever in NFL History (1/3/93 vs. Houston Oilers)

Comeback from 25 or more points during a regular season and playoff game

 

Carolina Panthers

Two players rush for over 1,100 yards in a season (2009)

 

Chicago Bears

Win 16 Consecutive Games by 7+ Points (1941-1942)

Win a game trailing by 20+ Points by scoring three touchdowns on Returns (10/16/06 vs. Arizona Cardinals)

 

Cincinnati Bengals

First team to lead by 14+ points, then trail by 16 points, and rally to win (9/22/2013)

 

Cleveland Browns

Comeback from 25 points and win on the road (10/5/2014)

 

Dallas Cowboys

20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985)

 

Denver Broncos

18 Consecutive Games scoring 25+ Points (12/2/2012-12/8/2013)

30 Consecutive Games scoring 20+ Points (2012-2014)

Three Teammates with 2+ Touchdown Receptions, Same Game (9/5/2013 vs. Baltimore Ravens)

Score over 600 points during a season (2013)

5 Players with 10+ Touchdowns during a season (2013)

Only team to comeback from 24 points three times

 

Detroit Lions

Win consecutive games while trailing by at least 20+ Points (Sept. 25 & Oct. 2, 2011)

 

Green Bay Packers

Throw 5+ touchdown passes in consecutive games with two different quarterbacks (12/25/11-Aaron Rodgers and 1/1/12-Matt Flynn)

Score 23+ in six consecutive home games during the first half of a game (2014)

 

Houston Texans

Two Overtime Wins in a Five-Day Span (11/18/2012 &11/23/2012)

 

Indianapolis Colts

Win a game after trailing by 21 Points with less than five minutes left (10/6/2003 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Win a football game 24-11 (11/8/1998 vs. Cincinnati Bengals)

 

Kansas City Chiefs

Win a football game 28-2 (9/8/2013 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)

 

Miami Dolphins

Achieve a perfect season (17-0) in 1972

Win Three Consecutive Games while trailing by 14+ Points in the 2nd Half (1980)

 

Minnesota Vikings

Win a game after trailing by 23 Points with less than nine minutes left (12/1/1985 at Philadelphia)

 

New England Patriots

Win By 20+ Points after Trailing 20+ Points (1/1/12 vs. Buffalo Bills)

 

New Orleans Saints

40 first downs in a game (NFL RECORD-11/10/13 vs. Dallas Cowboys)

Four players with at least 70 receptions in a season (2013)

 

New York Giants

3 quarterbacks throw for over 500 yards in a game (Eli Manning, Phil Simms and Y.A. Tittle)

 

New York Jets

Win a football game 56-35 (9/28/08 vs. Arizona Cardinals)

 

Oakland Raiders

Win a football game 40-35 (12/19/2004 vs. Tennessee Titans)

 

Philadelphia Eagles

Most points scored without Field Goal or Extra Point, Game (12/8/13)

Opened the season with consecutive one-point wins (2012)

Win a game by 14+ points after trailing by 14+ points in their season opener (9/7/14)

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Over 450 yards passing and over 200 yards rushing in a game (12/13/1958 vs. Chicago Cardinals)

Win a football game 11-10 (November 16, 2008 vs. San Diego Chargers)

Have a quarterback throw six touchdowns in consecutive games (2014)

 

St. Louis Rams

Score 30+ Points in 14 Consecutive Games (November 28, 1999-October 29, 2000)

Score 4 points in the 3rd quarter on two safeties (11/6/11 vs. Arizona Cardinals)

 

San Diego Chargers

Only team to start 0-4 and make the playoffs (1992)

 

San Francisco 49ers

300+ Yards Rushing and Passing, Same Game vs. Buffalo Bills (10/7/12)

 

Seattle Seahawks

Return 4 interceptions for touchdowns (11/4/84- vs. Kansas City Chiefs)

Score safety, return interception for touchdown, return kickoff for a touchdown during a Super Bowl game (SB XLVIII)

Running back with over 100 yards rushing with 4 touchdowns and quarterback rushing for over 100 yards (11/9/14)

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Returned 3 interceptions for touchdowns in a Super Bowl game (SB XXXVII)

 

Tennessee Titans

5 Touchdowns of 60+ Yards, Game (NFL RECORD-9/23/2012 vs. Detroit Lions)

 

Washington Redskins

Score exactly 10 points in each quarter of a game (9/9/12 vs. New Orleans Saints)

 

Sources:
www.nfl.com

www.espn.com

http://www.pro-football-reference.com

5 Touchdowns 60+ Yards, Game (9/23/2012)
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/elias?date=20120924

15+ Consecutive Wins by 7+ Points
http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000253528/printable/breaking-down-denver-broncos-month-of-dominance
http://espn.go.com/blog/statsinfo/tag/_/name/denver-broncos

400-Yard Passers
http://espn.go.com/blog/dallas/cowboys/post/_/id/4716589/cowboys-pathetic-pass-d-cracks-nfl-record-book

Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos (9/5/2013)
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/elias?date=20130906

Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots (1/1/2012)
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/elias?date=20120102

Chicago Bears vs. Arizona Cardinals (10/16/2006)
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/news/story?id=2628917

Cincinnati Bengals (9/22/2013)
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/nfl/gameflash/2013/09/22/5439/

Houston Texas Consecutive Overtime Wins
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/elias?date=20121123

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans (11/18/2012)
http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=321118034

Lose Three Consecutive Games while leading by 10+ Points
http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/sports&id=8915970

New England Patriots 350 Yards Offensively
http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=321028014

Opposing Players with 200+ Yards Rushing and Receiving, Game
http://www.gazettenet.com/home/9610663-95/nfl-week-13-highlights

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots (11/3/13)
http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=331103017

Score exactly 10 points in all 4 quarters of a game
http://www.footballgeography.com/the-nfls-first-team-to-ever-score-exactly-10-points-in-each-quarter/

Scoring 40+ Points in 4 Consecutive Games
http://m.spokesman.com/stories/2004/dec/17/manning-protected-by-vandals/
http://espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=241205011

Scoring 50+ Points in Consecutive Games
http://espn.go.com/nfl/recap?gameId=321122020
http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/den/2013.htm

Tennessee Titans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (12/30/12)
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/elias

 

Leatherheads Midseason Awards

We are halfway through the 2014 NFL season and there have been surprises, disappointments, slumps, sacks, breakaways and meltdowns.

And so far we’re only talking about Jon Gruden.

We kid because we care. According to the Bible of Gruden every player in the NFL is the greatest player/person/life form ever, at least at some particular moment and we applaud such positivity because if football is about nothing else shouldn’t it be about love, appreciation and the Raiderettes?

Mr. Gruden was unable to join us for our midseason awards banquet but we Leatherheads still managed.

Midseason MVP: Peyton Manning

Manning is the runaway unanimous choice among all Leatherheads who took part in this report card. Joe Williams issues apologies to Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck noting that Manning is still the best player in the game and that’s difficult to protest. Manning is tied for first with Luck with an NFL-best 22 touchdown passes but has been intercepted just three times, whereas Luck has gotten picked nine times. Peyton’s QB rating of 119.0 leaves Luck, Rodgers, Philip Rivers and everyone else in the dust.

Manning is also leading what is probably the best team in the NFL. The Denver Broncos are 6-1 with their lone defeat coming in overtime to the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. If Peyton Manning stays healthy he seems likely to win his (gulp) sixth NFL MVP. No one else has ever won more than three.

We have to take a brief timeout here, however, to point out that Manning is now playing in an era when quarterbacks are like pinball players. They are allowed to just sit there and bang those flippers, racking up the stats and the points. Yes, #18 still does it as well if not better than anyone but we can only wonder what great QBs of yesteryear would have accomplished in today’s increasingly hands-off-the-star NFL.

And another thing, Peyton will not be considered the greatest quarterback ever until he wins another Super Bowl. That’s not fair, maybe. But it’s true. But for now, he must be satisfied with the official Mike Lynch Statue for winning the Leatherheads half-season MVP. I hope someone ordered that statue.

Midseason Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray

Some Leatherheads chose Manning for this and that’s perfectly logical. If a guy plays offense and is the league MVP then shouldn’t he automatically be the Offensive Player of the Year as well? After some discussion and a few cocktails our official answer is “no.” Manning is the most valuable because he’s awesome and has the unfair advantage over Murray of playing the most important position. But DeMarco Murray deserves the Offensive accolade for several reasons.

Murray, the fourth year Dallas Cowboys running back, leads the NFL in carries with 206. That’s 60 more than his next closest competitor, Arian Foster. Murray also tops the NFL in rushing yards with 1,054, easily outdistancing Foster by nearly 300 yards.   And Murray is not just a bull who bashes his way to real estate. He’s averaging 5.1 yards a carry. That’s fantastic.

Murray is also tied with Foster for the NFL lead with seven rushing scores and has caught 26 passes for a nearly nine-yard average. All this and his Cowboys are making Jerry Jones look young again without surgical help as Dallas is 6-2 and in great position to make its first playoff appearance since 2009.

Our concern is that DeMarco may not be alive and well come playoff time. He’s on pace to carry the ball more than 400 times and, come January, could be moving slower than lava but with implications just as critical.

Midseason Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt

Another unanimous choice. Mr. Watt, the Houston Texans defensive end, is so good some might say he deserves consideration for league MVP. Perhaps. Just as with DeMarco Murray, Watt pays the price for not being a quarterback which is a shame (whoops! We almost wrote “sham”) because he’s probably the best overall player in the league.

Watt has seven sacks which puts him significantly behind league-leader Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs who has ten. But sacks are like Mariah Carey songs. They’re fun and make the person who sings them a lot of money but they’re not really music, and not really the best barometer of a great defensive player. If a guy gets one sack a game he’s anointed a star. But what does he do the rest of the game? Watt does a lot.

J.J. has eight pass deflections, tied with Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata for most among defensive lineman.  Every other guy in the top ten is a defensive back.

Watt has 22 solo tackles, tied for fourth among NFL defensive linemen. He has one forced fumble and one interception; which he returned 80 yards for a touchdown against Buffalo. Watt also recovered a fumble and rambled 45 yards for a score against the Colts. Justin James Watt has also caught one pass this year, yes on offense, for a TD. This dude has three touchdowns. And he plays defense. And he does all this on a team that’s 4-4 and alive and ponderous in the playoff race. (And, as Joe Williams observes, J.J. is also a “decent dancer.”)

Midseason Rookie of the Year: Sammy Watkins

We’re impressed with several first years including Chicago Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller, Arizona Cardinals receiver John Brown and Oakland Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack. But in the end, it’s Sammy.

Watkins, the first year wideout for the Buffalos Bills, is described by our Joe Williams as “pure talent” and the numbers back that up. Watkins has 590 yards receiving, which is tops among rookies, and he is also tied for the lead in the NFL’s freshman class with five TD catches including a last-second game winner against the Vikings on October 19.

Watkins is electric and should be a stud for years to come. The problem is he plays in Buffalo and the Bills are so awful and so off the radar that no matter how good Watkins is he’ll never…oh dear. Wait a second. The Bills are 5-3, aren’t they? If Watkins and QB Kyle Orton (He’s alive! He’s good!) lead the Bills to their first playoff appearance since 1999 (who do they think they are, the Kansas City Royals?) then Sammy won’t just be Rookie of the Year, he’ll also never have to shovel his driveway again.

Biggest Midseason Surprise: Dallas Cowboys

It would have been a smooth and cool transition to go from raving about Sammy Watkins to christening his Bills as the league’s biggest surprise so far and that’s the vote from Leatherhead Joe Williams. But Leatherhead David Boyce says that honor is actually an ignominious one that belongs to the 4-3 Super Bowl champion Seahawks who are good but not looking at all like the juggernaut many thought they’d be.

Then there’s the offering of Leatherhead Daniel Durany who votes for the Cowboys and that selection is our winner. The Bills are a great story, so are the Cardinals but, as Joe Williams points, not really a surprising one as they were great in the second half of last year. We choose Dallas because the Cowboys are not only unexpectedly winning games but playing really well, if that makes sense. All the drama in Dallas is finally taking a backseat to really good, sound, fundamental football and the ‘Boys are playing it despite some big injuries.

Will Dallas continue to surprise in the second half? We have already voiced our concerns about DeMarco Murray’s durability and that drama that we don’t miss did return a bit in Monday’s loss to the Washington Redskins with questions about quarterback Tony Romo’s health both short and long term. And as long as Jerry Jones is there will Jason Garrett, or any coach, really get to do their own thing?

We knoweth not. But for the first eight games the 6-2 Dallas Cowboys are not just a pleasant surprise but the league’s biggest one.

Biggest Midseason Disappointment: Chicago Bears

This category is another contentious one. Joe Williams chooses the Seahawks. David Boyce votes for his beloved but 0-7 Oakland Raiders (will Jim Harbaugh cross the Bay and coach the Silver and Black next year? Or maybe travel with them to L.A.?) But Daniel Durany and the rest of us vote for, sigh, cigarette puff, sigh, head scratch, sigh, the Chicago Bears.

Oh it hurts. Maybe the Bears shouldn’t be considered a disappointment when remembering they were 8-8 last year. But most preseason prognosticators chose the Monsters of the Maddening to be a playoff team and some felt they could even have dreams of football in February. Instead, the Bears’ vaunted offense has been stuck in neutral, injuries are mounting for an already aged and bedraggled defense and the Bears are a very murky 3-5 with zero wins at home.

What in the Ditka has gone wrong in Chicago? Too much. The second half could see a turnaround but it’s going to be tougher than the Soldier Field turf to do so.

So, what are you thoughts about our midseason honors? Will they hold up? And what of the prediction of a certain Leatherhead back in August that we’d see a Cardinals-Chargers Super Bowl? It’s still crazy but maybe not as crazy as it sounded back then.

We’ll stand by that pick for now but won’t cry if we’re proven wrong. We hope the second half continues to see excellent football on the field and fewer distracting stories off the field. This has been a very challenging season for the league to put it mildly. Hopefully the NFL will continue pushing to make its service to the community as impactful as its product on Sundays.

In Praise of the Preseason

When does a 6-yard catch late in the fourth quarter of a 41-7 game by an undrafted receiver out of Huey Gablooey State College make a difference?

When it’s August.

The NFL preseason, often called the exhibition season, or “fake football,” and sometimes even “Roger Goodell’s foot bath,” is a period that many sad, grumpy Americans believe is just a waste, a pigskin folly that does nothing but eat up two game’s worth of season ticket holders’ dollars and gets Chad Greenway hurt.

But the more enlightened among us see the NFL’s four-game August lineup for what it really is: something pure, sanguine and happy because it gives hundreds of men a brief opportunity to put on an NFL uniform, soak up the lights and get their photo taken with Ed Hochuli.

And preseason honestly is quite dramatic.  In the regular season a touchdown goes toward determining the outcome of a game.  In the preseason every touchdown, every tackle, every missed tackle, goes on the coach’s report card and could mean that a kid spends one year with an NFL team, pocketing $420,000 and being able to forever say he was a bona fide NFL player, even if it was just for one year.  Even if it was in Jacksonville.

Or, it could mean that he goes back to Huey Gablooey State College and collects cans.

Sure, as the years go by he’ll say he lasted more than just a few exhibition games and if you don’t believe him look at this photo he just happens to have on his phone of him getting kicked by Ndamukong Suh. But then you’ll check Pro Football Reference and see that, no, September began without him.

And you’ll buy him another Fresca then sneak away when he’s crying in the bathroom.

Like a short story as compared to a novel, the preseason has the wit and flair of brevity that the 16-game slog of the regular season does not. Four August nights have the charm of the ephemeral, like a firefly that glides by proudly before drowning in your cousin’s Leinenkugel.

When the exhibition lights go bright we know summer is coming to an end and for many guys who have played football their whole life, the dream is reaching the end of the tunnel as well.

Training camps end and dorms will give way to college students. Instead of football four or five nights a week, in September it will only be on three or four.

Embrace the preseason.  Enjoy the moments when NFL sidelines have more men in uniform than the Swiss Army.  Relish seeing linebackers with jersey numbers in the 60s and running backs from BYU.

They say there is no trophy for the preseason, that the only winners are those who emerge healthy. They say a lot of things.  Maybe they should just shut up for a while.

 

Super Bowl Week Experience: The Real Game Before The Game

The National Football League, the greatest marketing machine in the Western Hemisphere, held it’s biggest event of the year a few Sundays ago in Indianapolis. The Super Bowl has become known not just for the game, but for its ability to become the epicenter of North America, for one week every year wherever it is held. This year the New York Giants and New England Patriots faced off on February 5, 2012 for the NFL title, but the real game came well before those two teams faced off to see who would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

The NFL schedules the Super Bowl two weeks after the NFC and AFC champions are crowned for several reasons. The first, being for the scheduling of travel arrangements for the teams participating in the game and their respective families. The second, being to drive up the hype for the game by using the media to keep the NFL in the spotlight and in the hearts of its fans.

This year Indianapolis became one of the few cold weather cities ever to host a Super Bowl. Lucas Oil Stadium, the home field of the Indianapolis Colts for those that have never been there, is one of the most beautiful stadiums you will ever see. The sight lines from every seat in the stadium are breathtaking, making every fan feel as if they have the best seat in the house regardless of where they are sitting. The stadium is decorated with murals and photographs of Peyton Manning everywhere you look making it clear that this is the house that Peyton built. Unfortunately, the way it looks now Peyton may have played his last game as a Colt, but that is a story for a different day.

The NFL adopted new policies during several of the pre-game events. The first being the selling of tickets to the media day event. This event is set to give the media covering the event access to the players for a specified amount of time, helping to fill notebooks and tape recorders for that week’s news stories. The bigger the star the bigger their presence at media day. Eli Manning and Tom Brady are supplied with a podium, microphone, and signage to identify them. The unknown offensive lineman is left wandering and hoping someone notices them and wants to hear what they have to say. Now that it is open to the public, for a fee, the event has more professional autograph seekers present than media.

The other event that the NFL opened to the public was radio row in the media center. Every year the NFL designates a hotel or convention center for the media to use as a base of operations. The Super Bowl media center is where every public relations guru wants to be, pushing their movie, book, or whatever project they may be involved in. Where else can you see Tim Tebow, swimsuit model Kate Upton, and comedian Adam Sandler standing within a few feet of each other. This year the general public was allowed into the center of the radio area and were now able to watch the who’s who of entertainment and sports making the rounds at all of the different broadcast tables. While I am sure that the fans were glad to have this look behind the curtain, it just made an already chaotic event that much more difficult for both the broadcasters and their guests. While most fans in attendance were respectful, there were professional autograph seekers with duffel bags full of items, looking for autographs to sell on eBay. After seeing these professional stalkers in action, I can see why some celebrities now refuse to sign autographs for fans. It appeared that the bigger the broadcaster, the larger the space they were allotted in the center. The Jim Rome Show, Sirius NFL Radio, and ESPN had the largest areas on radio row, while some of the smaller 1000 watt AM radio stations were left with a five-foot table and just happy to be in the room. The biggest thrill was not meeting Curt Shilling, Adam Sandler or any of the other celebrities in attendance, but instead the realization that if you had a media credential you could take all of the bottled water, coffee or ice cream sandwiches you could consume. Now I know how the other half lives.

The Super Bowl’s biggest fan event that week was the NFL Experience at the Indiana Convention Center. The NFL set up several events in the convention center, including events where you could test your throwing and kicking ability — all for a twenty-five dollar daily entrance fee and the signing of a liability waiver. The event was a football fan’s dream with appearances by the biggest stars in the game, including Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Tony Gonzalez and many others. They signed autographs and took pictures with fans, for get this, no additional fee. The only drawback was that the average line to wait for one of these free autographs was over an hour and for the bigger stars, such as Drew Brees, well over two. It was at this event that I realized that I, like many more of the fans inside, had become hypnotized by the machine known as the NFL. Throughout the convention center there were refreshment stands set up because you were not allowed to bring any type of food or drink inside, which was enforced by event security through intense bag checks. When I felt parched, I approached a refreshment stand and asked for a Pepsi, which was in a twenty-ounce bottle. The worker at the kiosk said that the Pepsi cost four dollars. With a smile on my face, I handed over a five-dollar bill without a complaint. As I turned away from the refreshment stand it crossed my mind, if I had been anywhere else and they told me a Pepsi cost four dollars, I would have complained and walked out just on principle. However, the NFL had all in attendance somehow hypnotized into thinking this drink deal was a bargain. I did draw the line at the twenty-dollar popcorn bucket that was smaller than medium size movie popcorn. The best way to describe the NFL Experience would be Disneyland for football fans. You will have a great time, be exhausted when it’s over, and horrified when you later realize how much you spent.

Super Bowl week is also known for its collection of celebrity parties. Several organizations hold events for charity and deliver as promised, such as Ron Jaworski’s Jaws Youth Playbook foundation and the Gridiron Greats. Events like those bring fans together with celebrities for a good cause. These organizations leave the fans in attendance fulfilled with the experience of meeting their childhood heroes, while raising money for a good cause.

On the other hand, for every great organization looking to raise money for charity, there is a party promoter trying to pull a fast one. All through the city you will hear of events where the top celebrities will be partying and you too can attend these exclusive events if you are willing to fork over $500 to $1500. Many of these parties have fine print on the admission ticket saying that the celebrities listed on the ticket were only invited and that there was no guarantee they would actually attend. Most pre-Super Bowl parties are bait and switch events where you have horrible bar food, bottom shelf liquor and a wave from a B-list celebrity, who leaves as quickly as they entered, often collecting a cash envelope for that brief appearance. I would recommend that if you have any intention of attending the Super Bowl that you thoroughly research events and look for feedback from others that have attended the parties thrown by these organizations/promoters in the past.

Now to the big game, which after all of the hoopla and exhausting events on the days leading up to the main event, now almost seemed secondary. The price gouging in Indianapolis on game day was incredible with parking garages around the stadium charging $200 to park. To avoid the obscene parking prices, many fans took taxis to the stadium. A quarter-mile ride was twenty dollars, but seemed a bargain to the parking cost. The security to enter a Super Bowl stadium took hours to navigate and is just as strict as what the TSA employs at major airports. Many fans enter the stadium up to four hours early just to make sure they are inside for kickoff. Just imagine if you had to get 70,000 people through a TSA checkpoint at the airport in time for a flight. If you try to get in less than an hour before kickoff, odds are you will miss most of the first quarter.  Despite all of the difficulty getting in, the game did not disappoint with the Giants hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. As soon as the confetti fell, the battle to get home began. The taxis lined up outside Lucas Oil were trying to charge fifty dollars for the same ride I paid twenty dollars for just hours earlier. After haggling and the threat of calling a state trooper, who was working the security detail, over to the taxi the price dropped considerably. As fast as the city of Indianapolis became the center of the world, it just as quickly emptied and within a day was back to business as usual.

The events before the Super Bowl are each an event unto themselves. If you have the opportunity to ever attend “The Big Game”, be prepared, be rested and have a wallet full of cash and an available credit line. While I am still a huge fan of the game of football, the look behind the curtain has opened my eyes to the fact that it is really only a business. While you can love the NFL with all of your heart, it will only really love you back if you have enough money. Knowing that, I still plan on watching football every Sunday next season, but now with my eyes wide open and one hand firmly on my wallet.

 

NFL Fan Cost Index

In two tables within Chapter 3 of my book Football Fortunes, there is some financial information about American sports leagues and their teams. One table contains these leagues’ Fan Cost Index (FCI) and Average Ticket Price (ATP) for 10 years (or seasons) beginning in 1991, while the other table denotes the FCIs of all NFL teams during this period.

A sports marketing publishing company named Team Marketing Report (TMR) prepared and listed this data, which I read online and then copied from the company’s website. To my knowledge, TMR is the only business organization in the world that publishes this type of information each year from surveys of sports leagues and teams, and statistics from media reports.

As developed by TMR, a FCI consists of four average ticket prices, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking fee for one car, two game programs, and two least expensive, adult-size adjustable caps. As such, it measures what a family of four sports fans spent for tickets and other items to attend a regular-season game played by professional baseball, basketball, football, and hockey teams of specific leagues.

In the following tables, I list two different types of data: Table 1 provides the FCIs, when calculated and available, of four leagues for alternate sports seasons and these seasons’ averages during the 1990s and early 2000s, and Table 2 indicates costs of seven items in the NFL’s FCIs and their season totals. To be consistent across sports leagues and seasons, amounts in tables appear in rounded even or odd dollars and not fractions of dollars. For example, the NFL’s FCI was $151 per game in 1991 while the costs of two programs for a family of four were equal to $6 or $3 per program.  Based on this information, what do these tables reveal about trends and the expenditures of fans at games?

 

Table 1

Fan Cost Indexes, by Sports League, Selected Seasons

 

Seasons

League  1991  1993  1995  1997  1999  2001  2003  2005  2007  2009  2011
MLB       76    90    97   105   121   145   148   164   176   196   197
NBA      141   168   192   214   266   277   261   267   281   289    NA
NFL      151   173   206   221   258   303   301   329   367   412   427
NHL       NA    NA   203   228   267   274   256   249   282   300   326
Avg       NA    NA   174   192   228   249   241   251   276   299    NA

 

Note: The leagues are Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL). Amounts are in nominal (unadjusted for inflation) United States dollars. Avg is the average FCI each season except in 1991, 1993, and 2011. NA means FCIs were not available from TMR for these leagues. 

Source: Team Marketing Report, a company based in Wilmette, Illinois, that organizes and reports the FCIs of these sports leagues and their teams.

 

According to Table 1, the percentage growth in FCIs ranged from a high of 183 percent for the NFL (1991–2011) to a low of 60 percent for the NHL (1995–2011). This large difference in percentages between the leagues indicates, in part, that NFL teams and vendors of beer and other items sold at games had relatively more pricing power and demand for their products from fans than their counterparts did in the other leagues.

Second, MLB’s FCIs increased throughout seasons while the other three leagues had their FCIs decline in 2003 relative to 2001, and the NHL in 2005 relative to 2003. Simply put, these changes occurred primarily during the early 2000s because of an economic recession in America, decreases in consumer confidence and thus spending due to higher unemployment and underemployment in the labor force, and declining prices in stock markets.

Third, differences in their FCIs significantly increased after 1999 between the NFL and other leagues. Indeed, NFL teams in regular-season games and playoffs became increasingly competitive within divisions of conferences, and therefore they were very popular among sports fans and the broadcast and print media. In addition, there were various scandals associated with athletes and other problems in MLB and the NBA, while a player’s strike and owner’s lockout cancelled a season in the NHL. In short, these reasons reveal why FCIs increased in dollars in the NFL more than in other leagues during the 2000s and likely in sports seasons of the 2010s and 2020s.

 

Table 2

Total Cost of Items in FCIs, NFL Games, Selected Seasons

 

Seasons

Item         1991  1993  1995  1997  1999  2001  2003  2005  2007  2009  2011
Tickets (4)   101   114   136   150   182   215   211   234   268   300   309
Beers (2)       6     7     8     8     9    10    11    12    12    13    14
Drinks (4)      6     7     9     9     9    11    12    13    14    16    17
Hot Dogs (4)    7     8     9    10    11    12    13    14    15    17    19
Parking (1)     6     6     7    10    11    14    14    15    17    24    26
Programs (2)    6     7     9     9    10    11    10    10    10    10     9
Caps (2)       19    24    28    25    26    30    30    31    31    32    33
Total         151   173   206   221   258   303   301   329   367   412   427

 

Note: Like FCIs, prices of items are in nominal (unadjusted for inflation) United States dollars. According to TMR, the average number of items a family of four fans purchased at an NFL regular-season game appears in parentheses.   

Source: Team Marketing Report, a company based in Wilmette, Illinois, measures the costs of these items each season for sports leagues and their teams.

 

Regarding the data listed in Table 2, there were interesting changes among specific items in the NFL’s FCIs. One, football teams’ ATP rose by $208 or more than 200 percent from the 1991 to 2011 season, and as a proportion of their total FCIs, they increased from 66 percent in 1991 to 72 percent in 2011. For sure, NFL franchises charged fans higher ticket prices for general admission to home games but also for premium and club seats, and any seats in skyboxes and suites in their stadium.

Two, there were major changes besides ticket prices in the costs of other items for fans who attended NFL games. From the most to least amounts in 1991 to 2011, they were $20 or 333 percent for parking, $14 or 74 percent for caps, $12 or 171 percent for hot dogs, $11 or 183 percent for drinks, $8 or 133 percent for beers, and $3 or 50 percent for programs. Interestingly, these six items were $50 or 34 percent of the NFL’s FCI in 1991 and $118 or 28 percent in 2011.

If trends in costs continue as they did in the 1990s and early 2000s, a family of four will pay approximately $800 to attend an NFL game in 2031. Of that amount, four tickets to one regular-season game will average $636. In response to these prices, a number of football fans living in such metropolitan areas as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. may decide to buy fewer beers and other items when they attend home games while other fans will simply subscribe to the NFL Network and see their teams perform on television or the Internet.              

 

NFL Business Overview

In a study of the NFL that Jake Fisher completed while enrolled in an economics class at Harvard University, the author provides a business model of this popular and prosperous American football organization, and therewith discusses its marketing strategies, team (franchise) values and such financial data as revenues, operating expenses, and profits. Based on variables contained in the model, this professional league’s economic success occurs primarily because it centrally generates and equally shares national revenue streams from the media and merchandising, controls the distribution and quality of its product and thus stabilizes consumer demand for football, allocates risk proportionately among 32 franchises, restricts the long-term growth in players’ compensation, and maintains competitive parity.[1]

To denote some real-world consequences of the model, since 1998 Forbes magazine reports information about the business of the NFL and financial facts of its various franchises. For example, staff writer Kurt Badenhausen researched the economics and operations of the league and its teams during early-to-mid-2011 and then reported his results in September of that year in an article titled “The NFL’s Most Valuable Teams.” The following are important highlights of Badenhausen’s research.

First, the average NFL team was worth approximately $1.04 billion. In fact, teams’ estimated market values ranged from $1.85 billion for the Dallas Cowboys to $725 million for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Furthermore, 15 (or 46.8 percent) of the 32 football clubs had values greater than $1 billion.

Second, from 2010 to 2011, the values of 19 (or 59.4 percent) NFL teams increased while 8 (or 25 percent) decreased and 5 (or 15.6 percent) remained the same. More specifically, the greatest increase in value was 10 percent for the New York Giants with the steepest decline in value equaling 5 percent for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Third, relative to their debt/value ratios, the largest ratio was 61 percent for the New York Jets with the smallest being 2 percent for the Green Bay Packers.

Fourth, franchises averaged $261 million in revenue for the league’s 2010 season with the Cowboys ranked first at $406 million and the Oakland Raiders ranked 32nd at $217 million.

Fifth, NFL clubs averaged $30.6 million in operating income that season. These amounts varied from $119 million for the Cowboys to a $7.7 million operating loss for the Detroit Lions. In short, the differences in dollars across the league reflect how the league’s teams performed financially both as a group and individually during the period.

As sports enterprises, what are the reasons that caused NFL franchises to realize different amounts with respect to their estimated market values and annual changes in values, debt ratios, revenues, and operating incomes? Besides their performances in regular season games and perhaps later in the playoffs and Super Bowl, and expansion in the size and purchasing power of their fan base, these reasons included such factors as capacities of their stadiums and prices of club seats, personal seat licenses, suites, and general admission at home games.

Meanwhile, other factors were monies teams received from advertising, merchandise deals, naming rights, partnerships and sponsorships, and any payments from revenue sharing. Undoubtedly, these factors and amenities from playing home games in relatively new or renovated stadiums contributed to improvements in the earnings of the New York Jets, New England Patriots, and Indianapolis Colts in the American Football Conference, and to the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and New York Giants in the National Football Conference.

During the next decade, the NFL is likely to become more powerful and wealthier from a business perspective and therefore continue to dominant professional sports in America. Indeed, the league signed a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association that, in part, increases franchise owners’ share of revenue from 49 to 53 percent. Moreover, between 2014 and 2022 the league will receive approximately $28 billion from television contracts with the FOX, CBS, and NBC networks and additional billions in broadcast revenue from DirectTV, ESPN, and Westwood One Radio. Consequently, NFL teams must share about $6 billion each season in media fees beginning in 2014.

Despite the league’s current popularity and lucrative business prospects, Green Bay Packers Chief Executive Officer and President Mark Murphy identified some potential problems in an August 2011 interview with Matthew Kaminski, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. According to Murphy, there are five major problems. One,  concerns about the safety of the game and long-term effects of concussions and other serious injuries to teams’ players; two, concerns that bad or negative publicity in the media about safety and injuries may scare parents and thus cause their children and teenagers to ignore the game and not play football; three, an increase in ethical problems like recruiting scandals and cheating by coaches and other officials in college football programs; four, almost zero growth of participation in the sport among the Hispanic population living in America; and five, the league’s limited success to expand the game abroad especially in Asian and European countries.

In future essays, I plan to analyze a number of specific topics about the business, economics, and history of the NFL and/or the operations of college football. For more details of franchises as business organizations and competitors in the league, see Chapter 3 in Football Fortunes: The Business, Organization and Strategy of the NFL published by McFarland & Company, Inc. in 2010.                    


[1] Fisher, Jake I. “The NFL’s Current Business Model and the Potential 2011 Lockout.” Student requirement for Economics 1630: The Economics of Sports and Entertainment, Harvard University, May 2010.