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Correlation Study: Conclusions And Seeking Suggestions

Before we wrap up this study, which draws connections between Super Bowl successes and first-team All-Pro performances, I wanted to more clearly lay out what the purpose of this project is in the first place.

It should be transparent that the germ of the idea stems from the Pittsburgh Steelers and their running back, Le’Veon Bell, who are locked into negotiations that don’t appear to be getting close enough to reach an agreement, even while there are still months available for them to do so.

Many have presented the counterargument that you do not have to have a featured, franchise running back to win a Super Bowl. After all, you can just look to the two teams that competed in the Super Bowl this past year, right? There has not been a Super Bowl champion since 1999 that featured a running back who was a first-team All-Pro in the year that they won, which means that there is not a significant correlation between having the best running back of the season and winning the Super Bowl in that season.

But what if I told you that there is not a significant correlation between first-team All-Pro wide receivers, or even first-team All-Pro quarterbacks, and Super Bowl victories? What if I presented you data that indicates only a marginal correlation between having the best players at the most important offensive positions in a given year and actually winning the game that everybody is trying to win?

If this is the case, then the argument that a team should not commit such a huge amount of resources to a running back because there is not a strong correlation between such performances and Super Bowl victories—a frequent argument against the Steelers signing Bell—also applies to wide receivers, and even quarterbacks.

Year Super Bowl Champions 1st-Team All-Pro RB 1st-Team All-Pro WR 1st-Team All-Pro QB
2017 Eagles
2016 Patriots Tom Brady
2015 Broncos
2014 Patriots
2013 Seahawks
2012 Ravens
2011 Giants
2010 Packers
2009 Saints Drew Brees
2008 Steelers
2007 Giants
2006 Colts Marvin Harrison
2005 Steelers
2004 Patriots
2003 Patriots
2002 Buccaneers
2001 Patriots
2000 Ravens
1999 Rams Marshall Faulk Isaac Bruce Kurt Warner
1998 Broncos Terrell Davis
1997 Broncos Terrell Davis
1996 Packers Brett Favre
1995 Cowboys Emmitt Smith
1994 49ers Jerry Rice Steve Young
1993 Cowboys Emmitt Smith Troy Aikman
1992 Cowboys Emmitt Smith
1991 Redskins Gary Clark
1990 Giants
1989 49ers Jerry Rice Joe Montana
1988 49ers Roger Craig Jerry Rice
1987 Redskins Gary Clark
1986 Giants Joe Morris Phil Simms
1985 Bears Walter Payton
1984 49ers
1983 Raiders
1982 Redskins
1981 49ers
1980 Raiders
1979 Steelers John Stallworth
1978 Steelers Lynn Swann Terry Bradshaw
1977 Cowboys Drew Pearson
1976 Raiders Cliff Branch Ken Stabler
1975 Steelers Lynn Swann
1974 Steelers
1973 Dolphins Larry Csonka Paul Warfield
1972 Dolphins Larry Csonka Paul Warfield Earl Morrall
1971 Cowboys
1970 Colts
1969 Chiefs
1968 Jets Don Maynard Joe Namath
1967 Packers
1966 Packers Bart Starr

The peculiar fact of the matter is that the correlation between first-team All-Pro performances at wide receivers, running backs, and quarterbacks has all but dried up in recent years. Of the past 18 Super Bowl winners, a whopping three teams have featured a first-team All-Pro year from any of those positions. That’s just 16.7 percent of the 18 most recent championship teams.

The correlation was far stronger prior to the past two decades. From the first Super Bowl through the 1990s, 23 of the 34 Super Bowl champions had at least one first-team All-Pro that those positions in the year that they won. That’s a whopping 67.6 percent.

Is it just a statistical anomaly that roughly the first two thirds of the history of the Super Bowl prominently featured champions with first-team All-Pro offensive performances, with the most recent third of that history seeing that almost dry up? In all, only half of all Super Bowl winners have had even a single first-team All-Pro at any of those three positions in the year that they won.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that there has not for some time now been a strong correlation between first-team All-Pro-level performances at the key offensive positions and Super Bowl success. With that in mind, the argument that this should be used against the running back position in the open market holds no water unless it is also applied to wide receivers and quarterbacks.

With that in mind, I would like to solicit feedback on this study and on further ideas for research, as well as to gain interest in such research. The scope of this study is fairly limited. If you would like to see an expanded study, either with a wider net for these positions or with other positions included now is the time to provide feedback, as what I do next, if I do anything at all, will potentially be built around your suggestions.

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