Can Youthfulness Serve as a Predictor of Success? Place Your Bets, Sports Fans
You know how it is with young employees. They're hungry. They're energetic. They usually have more time to devote to their jobs, because they don't yet have families to go home to.
That's the upside. The downside is they screw up. Some of the mistakes are born of hubris. Others of inexperience. The point is, they have a learning curve. Ideally, today's youthful lessons become tomorrow's wisdom. And in that way, young stars learn to lead. They become pillars of winning cultures.
The history of the Super Bowl reveals that, in football too, young stars endure learning curves. The good news is, their teams reap the benefits in the long term.
Young Teams Lose Now, Win Later
Of the 96 teams in Super Bowl history (this is the 48th Super Bowl), this year's Seattle Seahawks squad is the second-youngest team to ever participate. Their average age is 26.4.
In fact, the Seahawks are the first team with an average age of 27.5 or younger since 1999.
Will this youth be an advantage for Seattle on Sunday? Not necessarily. In the last 20 years, the younger team is 7-12 in the big game. (That's 19 results, as opposed to 20, because in one season, both teams had the same average age.)
The Seahawks Could Become a Dynasty
But in the long term, the younger Super Bowl team has a big advantage. In several cases, according to Football Perspective, teams of extreme youth have gone on to become the most legendary teams in football history.
1. The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70s. The year of their first Super Bowl appearance in the 1974-75 season, the Steelers' average age was 26.6. That's the fourth-youngest average age in Super Bowl history. This Steelers squad went on to win four titles in six seasons.
2. The San Francisco 49ers of the 80s. The year of their first Super Bowl appearance in the 1981-82 season, the 49ers' average age was 26.5. That's the third-youngest average age in Super Bowl history. This 49ers team went on to win four titles in nine seasons.
3. The Dallas Cowboys of the 90s. The year of their first Super Bowl appearance in the 1992-93 season, the Cowboys' average age was 27.0. That's the seventh-youngest average age in Super Bowl history. This Cowboys team went on win three titles in four seasons.
A Forecast and a Disclaimer
Without taking the sports-to-business metaphors too literally, this data certainly provides a provocative illustration of how putting young employees in high-pressure moments (stretch assignments, etc.) can equip an organization for long-term success.
You just might take a few lumps the first time they're on the big stage.
As for Sunday's other participant, the Denver Broncos, their average age is middle of the pack: 27.9, which ranks them in a tie between 38th and 44th in Super Bowl history.