Given that they’re playing football for a living, it might be hard to see many NFL players being unhappy tossing the pigskin around and collecting a paycheck for it. However, among those who are happy to put on the pads, some teams and individual positions are happier than others.
Are these the teams that win more than the rest of the league? Are these the players that play in prestigious positions like quarterback or wide receiver? To get to the bottom of this, we took photos from ESPN, ran them through Microsoft’s Cognitive Emotion Services API, and ranked the happiest teams and positions in the NFL based on their appearance.
The most shocking thing about three of the five happiest teams based on our analysis? How poorly they performed last season. In second and with a 7-9 record, the Philadelphia Eagles ranked high for happiness. In third place and tied with the Cleveland Browns for the worst record in the league last season (3-13): the Tennessee Titans.
And stuck in at fourth with a 6-10 record was the Chicago Bears; they let the Windy City down with their subpar performances. With a combined record of 16-32 for these three teams, maybe winning isn’t the only thing that defines happiness.
Surrounding these plucky and oddly happy teams were two 2015 AFC starlets, the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals. They found regular season success, ending the year with 12-4 records, but the Broncos continued their run all the way to a Super Bowl victory.
In Their Happy Place
Is it any surprise that quarterbacks lead the list of happiest positions in the NFL? Quarterbacks, who are viewed by many players and officials as the most protected class, command the biggest contracts for their on-the-field actions.
Fourteen of the top 15 largest salaries in 2016 are going to quarterbacks (Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens, and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers are the top three). Their partners in crime – tight ends, running backs, and wide receivers – are all on the higher end of the happiness spectrum.
Landing at the bottom of our analysis were those playing at fullback. Referred to by ESPN as an “endangered species,” the fullback position has fallen victim to the league’s change to pass-heavy offenses, employing multiple tight-end sets. It might be hard to place a massive smile on your face if job security were a concern. In fact, last year 10 of the 32 NFL teams didn’t even place a fullback on their roster. Chin up, boys, that’s still 22 teams that are looking for a fullback to help pound the rock!
Happy (Touchdown) Dance
Winning should lead to happiness, and it did for the Denver Broncos and the Cincinnati Bengals. But some down-on-their-luck teams seemingly didn’t allow it to define their state of mind. It also would be more common for a quarterback to be happy than a fullback (two words: job security), and really any other offensive player.
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