NEWSFLASH: Robert Griffin- CUT
No, not Robert Griffin the third, Robert T. Griffin the offensive tackle (who just so happened to block for RGIII last year at Baylor).
With everyone focusing on the turnover at the bottom of the league’s rosters for the past 24 hours many fans are missing out on the story that is turnover at the top of the league. While it looks like many star players’ whose rise to the top can be fast and furious — the ride after that is distinctly directional — down.
Staying power in the NFL? It doesn’t really exist — not when it comes to being one of the best at your position… and then continuing to be the best. You see — turnover at the top of the NFL — is an unwritten rule, that is rarely broken.
If you’ve seen the classic football movie, “Remember the Titans” it was filled with a rich collection of music standards like, “Act Naturally” recorded by Buck Owens. It begins:
They’re gonna put me in the movies
They’re gonna make a big star out of me
We’ll make a film about a man that’s sad and lonely
And all I have to do is act naturally
It doesn’t matter how most players “act” or perform, because top dog status is fleeting — especially in the National Football League. If you look at which players were the top five statistical leaders in 2006 in every major category (passing yards, rushing yards, receiving, tackles, sacks and interceptions) – how many leaders do you think would finish in the top five — five short years later in 2011?
The ride to the top can be meteoric, while the number of times a player remains there, is minuscule.
Reaching the top five at a single position in the league is a lofty goal. You’ll hear many players touting, “I want to be the “best” — running back, sack master, or whatever. However — how many players who finished in the top five in 2011, were also in the top five in 2006?
What if you looked back 10, 15, 20 or 25 years, would you expect to find some of the best players’ names appearing there again and again? A high volume of repeat performers? The results may be startling.
In the past 10 seasons only two players have remained in the top five in the NFL for the total amount of tackles.
When you consider all of the great linebackers the league has seen in the past ten years it’s a bit shocking to think that only two could stay in the top five in overall tackles.
The figures for interceptions is even more remarkable.
Among sack masters only three have landed in the top five in 25 years but, only one in the past ten seasons.
On offense, running backs do even worse.
Receivers and quarterbacks do much better — of all major position groups. Even so, receivers only have 4 players out of 30 who could repeat in the top five.
Five Quarterbacks — rose to the top five in the 5 year cycle.
Plus, only one player out of all the position groups has repeated as the number one player in their position group after five years and that’s Drew Brees. That’s one reason I found it hard to believe he didn’t win the league MVP in 2011.
Drew Brees not only had the most passing yards of any player last season but, he had the most passing yards of any player in any season ever — and on top of that — he’s stayed at the top of his position group long enough to be the top performer again after five years later. The only top repeat performer in this five year cycle in the past 25 years.
When compiling the data for this post I was continually struck by the lack of some of the leagues best players not making it to the top of their position group after a five year span. Out of 165 possible chances, during the past quarter century — only 16 players, less than 10%, have managed to sustain a top-five level of performance.
Does it mean fame is fleeting? Does it mean that it’s hard to to get there but, harder to stay on top? The statistics say the odds are long.
It appears that turnover at the top of the NFL is here to stay — just not any — or many — of it’s stars.