While watching games over the weekend I noticed that no one ever really explains what having “a winning season” actually means, even though it’s a term that is thrown around fairly regularly at this time of year. Does having a winning season mean winning the Super Bowl? Or is it merely winning your division? Do moral victories count?
What exactly do you have to win to have a winning season?
As it turns out, it’s not a question of what but of how many.
To have a season count as a winning season a team needs to win more games than they lose. Had a 12-4 regular season record? Winning season. Had a 9-7 regular season record and missed the playoffs on account of divisional losses? Still a winning season. Anytime a team wins more games than they lose – no matter which games they win or which stage of the post-season they make it to, if any – it’s a winning season.
This is also called being “above .500,” which probably sounds completely unrelated when taken out of context. But really, it makes sense! A team’s winning percentage is calculated by dividing the number of wins by the total number of games. Having an equal number of wins and losses would result in an 8-8 season, and 8 (number of wins) divided by 16 (total number of games) = .500 (winning percentage). Any more wins than that would result in a winning percentage above .500. For example, our 9-7 team from the paragraph above would have a winning percentage of .563. The 12-4 team has a winning percentage of .750. Both of those teams calculate out to “above .500” because they had more wins than losses and, thus, had winning seasons.
The opposite of a winning season is, of course, a losing season, which means that a team fell “below .500” and therefore lost more games than they won.
Here’s your interesting piece of NFL trivia for the day: a team can have a losing season and still make the playoffs. True story. In fact, it happened not too long ago to the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks, who won the NFC West to make it into the playoffs in the 2010 season back when the NFC West looked something like this season’s NFC East.
Which hammers home the point all the more that losing seasons and winning seasons have nothing to do with titles and everything to do with number of wins. Just another that-kind-of-makes-sense-but-wait-does-it? aspect of football.