Analyzing the Relationship Between Quarterback Salary Allocation and Team Performance in the NFL

By Peter Leese

Faculty Mentor: Dave Henderson


At the beginning of each football season in the National Football League (“NFL”), the ultimate goal of each NFL team is to win the Super Bowl. While players’ on-field success is undoubtedly necessary for teams to succeed and win the Super Bowl, each teams’ off-season performance is just as crucial. This is the time that general managers, also known as GMs, are responsible for building the team, signing/re-signing players, and drafting collegiate players for their respective teams. From an outsider looking in, it appears only possible to succeed on the football field when GMs do an effective job at building teams that maximize their teams’ chances to win. Generally, it is the quarterbacks, who are the focal point of most NFL teams, who undoubtedly use up the majority of the salary cap, as described below, on teams in the NFL. Given how crucial the quarterback is, a team’s potential for success is significantly impacted by the selection of the quarterback in any given year. It is well-known that GMs, head coaches, and team owners put great effort in securing their franchise quarterback because that position is arguably the most challenging position to play in sports.
With 74.5% of Americans watching football, it is the most popular sport in the United States (“Most popular sports in the United States”). For this reason, NFL team owners place a high value on paying the quarterback, the most popular position in the sport. Because of the attention the quarterback position gets from the media, it drives NFL franchises to pay the quarterback a large portion of their salary cap, reaching as high as $55 million per year, which is about 17% of the total salary cap. Nevertheless, do teams investing more money into their quarterbacks have a greater chance of winning than those using rookie or low-salary quarterbacks? While having a star quarterback like Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady is beneficial for the team, the quarterback is just one position. Football is a team game where all players must contribute. This study investigates the correlation between NFL quarterback salaries, team success, and the ability to succeed at the Super Bowl.




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