Correlation between player payroll and NFL success is flimsy at best
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No NFL team spent more money on players the past seven seasons than the Minnesota Vikings. But how closely does spending correlate to success?
In short, there is no correlation -- if the money isn't spent wisely and/or if a team lacks an answer at the most important position.
According to salary data obtained by 1500ESPN.com, the Vikings led all teams in cumulative player payroll from 2005, when Zygi Wilf at his partners bought the team, through 2011 at about $808.4 million.
Other teams in the top five included the Oakland Raiders ($797 million), Indianapolis Colts ($786.7 million), New Orleans Saints ($786.7 million) and San Diego Chargers ($771.7 million).
The Colts and Saints each won a Super Bowl in that span. So did the Green Bay Packers, who ranked sixth in cumulative player spending at $768.6 million.
However, the New York Giants won two of the past five Super Bowls and rank 30th on the list at $695.9 million. And at the bottom of the list are the Pittsburgh Steelers ($621.3 million), who have won a pair of Super Bowls as well.
The common thread through that list of champions isn't money. It's quarterbacks -- Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.
Having adequate resources is always a plus. Without the right quarterback, though, winning big in the NFL is awfully tough, no matter how much money a well-meaning owner is willing to put into his roster.
The following is a team-by-team list of cumulative player payroll from 2005 through '11, based on the data obtained by 1500ESPN.com. The league average for that span was about $737.3 million. Teams in bold appeared in at least one Super Bowl in that span.
1. Minnesota Vikings $808.4 million
2. Oakland Raiders $797 million
3. Indianapolis Colts $786.7 million
4. New Orleans Saints $782.2 million
5. San Diego Chargers $771.7 million
6. Green Bay Packers $768.6 million
7. Dallas Cowboys $760.7 million
8. Houston Texans $760.4 million
9. Miami Dolphins $760.3 million
10. Baltimore Ravens $750.2 million
11. Cleveland Browns $748.6 million
12. Arizona Cardinals $747.4 million
13. Atlanta Falcons $746.5 million
14. Buffalo Bills $744.4 million
15. Jacksonville Jaguars $746.2 million
16. New England Patriots $742.4 million
17. Philadelphia Eagles $741.2 million
18. Carolina Panthers $737.8 million
19. St. Louis Rams $737.5 million
20. Washington Redskins $736.8 million
21. Chicago Bears $733.5 million
22. Cincinnati Bengals $732.2 million
23. Seattle Seahawks $731.1 million
24. Tennessee Titans $718.6 million
25. San Francisco 49ers $718.3 million
26. Kansas City Chiefs $716.7 million
27. New York Jets $702.9 million
28. Denver Broncos $701.5 million
29. Detroit Lions $697.2 million
30. New York Giants $695.9 million
31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers $682.4 million
32. Pittsburgh Steelers $621.3 million