One of the most compelling pieces of NFL data isn’t immediately apparent from the box score or a cursory look at a team’s vitals. That’s the average age of the squad, which may be able to tell us more about the likelihood of future success than most people would expect, especially in regards to the ‘dynasty’ word that sports fans of every stripe love to throw out whenever the confetti is falling. The difference is put into stark, visual contrast in this image, a graph from FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine, showing how likely a team that has already won a Super Bowl is to win another one, with the odds on the Y-axis and their average age at the time of the win on the X.
The results are the kind that seem obvious in retrospect, but this hindsight bias is exactly that, which is to say, just because anyone can see that graph and say “of course a younger team has better odds to be a repeat Super Bowl winner than an older team,” it does not mean that the point is so apparent that it is never discussed. Which is why we’re discussing it. Q.E.D.
The folks over at Football Perspective, or more specifically, Andrew Healy over at Football Perspective, decided to do some data mining of their own around age and the best NFL teams. To narrow his research enough that it would mean something, Healy took the five youngest teams (sorted by AV-adjusted age, which is basically the average age of the guys on the team that contribute the most to any given play, but you can read the in depth analysis here) from 1966 until last season, and then filtered that through a Pythagorean score which had to be greater than 12. Which means that these teams weren’t bad and could’ve feasibly been Super Bowl Contenders, even if they didn’t win.