Parity Dead: Manning, Brady, Great QBs Still Rule NFL
Wormer? He’s a dead man.
The lack of so-called “parity” in the NFL has been an ongoing theme here at the mighty Cold, Hard Football Facts for the better part of our history.
The 2012 season provides further evidence that "parity" is nothing more than a topic to fill space and time in sports chatter circles and not a real phenomenon. Three teams wrapped up division crowns this weekend, with a full one-quarter of the season still to be play.
No surprise that two of those teams, the Patriots and Broncos, are led by the two most dominant quarterbacks of our generation: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
The Patriots have now won the AFC East for the 10th time in 12 years, losing out twice on tie-breakers. In other words, they’ve posted the best record in the division 12 straight years. No team in history has matched that feat.
Brady is the first quarterback to win 10 division championships, including nine straight (he was injured for the entirety of the 2008 season).
Manning has now won nine division titles with two different teams, including eight of the last nine in seasons in which he played (he was injured for the entirety of the 2011 season).
It’s hard to claim the NFL is defined by “parity” when we’re witnessing periods of historic dominance by individual franchises and players.
The NFL has attempted to legislate equality on the playing field, through methods such as draft order and salary caps. But that effort has failed miserably. In fact, it may have even backfired.
The salary cap has concentrated power in the hands of well-managed teams. It’s no mystery that the same organizations seem to win year after year, including the Colts (back in the playoff hunt after a one-year self-induced coma), Giants, Patriots, Packers and Steelers.
More importantly, the NFL’s effort to neuter defenses has emphasized the importance of a single player: the quarterback.
Teams with great quarterbacks have always dominated. They dominate more than ever now with the table slanted in their favor.
Rest assured, the AFC title game will likely feature one or more of the following quarterbacks just as it has for more than a decade: Brady, Manning and/or Ben Roethlisberger, who will return soon to a Pittsburgh team that just beat arch-rival Baltimore behind third-string QB Charlie Batch.
The NFC has not been so top-heavy. But don’t be shocked if Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, or Eli Manning and the Giants, are there once again in the NFC title game and perhaps the Super Bowl.
Here’s a look at the number of division titles won by each franchise since the AFL-NFL merger (since 1970). Plus, below, a table listing every division champion year by year.
TOTAL DIVISION TITLES for EACH TEAM (SINCE 1970)
Arizona/StL Cardinals – 4 (2 NFCE; 2 NFCW)
Atlanta – 5 (2 NFCW; 3 NFCS)*
Baltimore Ravens – 3
Buffalo – 7
Carolina – 3 (1 NFCW; 2 NFCS)
Chicago – 10
Cincinnati – 7
Cleveland – 6
Dallas – 17
Denver – 12*
Detroit – 3
Green Bay – 9
Houston Texans – 1
Indianapolis/Baltimore Colts – 13 (6 AFCE; 7 AFCS)
Jacksonville – 2
Kansas City – 6
Miami – 13
Minnesota – 16
New England – 14*
New York Giants – 8
New York Jets – 2
New Orleans – 5 (2 NFCW; 3 NFCS)
Oakland/L.A Raiders – 12
Philadelphia – 8
Pittsburgh – 20
San Diego – 10
San Francisco - 18
Seattle – 7 (2 AFCW; 5 NFCW)
StL/LA Rams – 11
Tampa Bay – 6 (3 NFCC; 3 NFCS)
Tennessee Titans/Oilers – 5 (3 AFCN; 2 AFCS)
Washington – 6
* includes 2012 division crown
DIVISION WINNERS YEAR BY YEAR SINCE 1970
|1972||Miami||Pittsburgh||Oakland||Wash||Green Bay||San Fran|
|1974||Miami||Pittsburgh||Oakland||STL Card||Minn||LA Rams|
|1975||Colts||Pittsburgh||Oakland||STL Card||Minn||LA Rams|
|1979||Miami||Pittsburgh||San Diego||Dallas||Tampa||LA Rams|
|1981||Miami||Cincy||San Diego||Dallas||Tampa||San Fran|
|1992||Miami||Pittsburgh||San Diego||Dallas||Minn||San Fran|
|1994||Miami||Pittsburgh||San Diego||Dallas||Minn||San Fran|
|1995||Buffalo||Pittsburgh||KC||Dallas||Green Bay||San Fran|
|1997||NE||Pittsburgh||KC||NYG||Green Bay||San Fran|
|2002||NYJ||Pittsburgh||Tenn||Oakland||Philly||Green Bay||Tampa||San Fran|
|2003||NE||Balt||Indy||KC||Philly||Green Bay||Carolina||StL Rams|
|2004||NE||Pittsburgh||Indy||San Diego||Philly||Green Bay||Atlanta||Seattle|
|2007||NE||Pittsburgh||Indy||San Diego||Dallas||Green Bay||Tampa||Seattle|
|2011||NE||Balt||Houston||Denver||NYG||Green Bay||NO||San Fran|
Note: the NFL did not use a divisional format during the strike-shortened season of 1982
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