130+ NFL career statistics 2021 [Research Review]

Posted on 10 November, 2021 by Nicholas Rizzo

The National Football League is one of the most dangerous sports as it involves players tackling one another to prevent the other team from scoring. Because of its high-injury rate, it’s hard not to wonder how long do football players' careers last?

We have gathered information from 80+ sources to highlight the average NFL career length based on positions, age, as well as other factors.

Average NFL career

  • According to data collected in 2019, the average NFL career is 3.3 years
  • Kickers have the longest average at 4.4 years
  • Running backs have the shortest average career at 2.57 years

NFL retirement age (vs. other athletes)

  • According to RBC Wealth Management, professional athletes retire before they hit the age of 30
  • NFL players have the shortest average compared to other team sports at 27.6 years because of the physically demanding nature of the game
  • MLB players retire 6.9% older than NFL players

Oldest players in NFL history

  • George Blanda is the oldest NFL player at the age of retirement at age 48
  • Morten Anderson is the second oldest at age 47
  • Tom Brady, aged 44, has the potential to beat other records as he is still actively playing in the NFL

5 youngest players drafted in NFL history

  • Amobi Okoye has been touted as the youngest draft pick in the NFL history, 2 months after turning 19
  • Danielle Hunter was also drafted at age 19 but 5 months away from turning 20

*Still active in the NFL

NFL players with the longest career (per position)

  • George Blanda, who played 26 seasons with the multiple NFL team, is also the player with the longest career as a quarterback
  • The longest playing linebacker is Jeff Van Note who played for 18 seasons
  • The longest playing receiver is Larry Fitzgerald who played for 17 seasons
Player Position Seasons
George Blanda
Quarterback
26
Morten Andersen
Placekicker
25
Jeff Feagles
Punter
21
Jackie Slater
Offensive tackle
20
Darrell Green
Defensive back
20
Jeff Van Note
Linebacker
18
Larry Fitzgerald
Receiver
17
Jim Bakken
Kicker
17
Mick Tingelhoff
Center
17
Julius Adams
Defensive lineman
17
Ronde Barber
Cornerback
16
Elvin Bethea
Defensive end
16
Antonio Gates
Tight end
16
Patrick Mannelly
Long snapper
16
Gene Hickerson
Offensive guard
16
Bill Bates
Football safety
15
Troy Brown
Wide receiver
15
Charlie Krueger
Defensive tackle
15
Randy Rasmussen
Offensive lineman
15
Guard/Joe Scibelli
Guard
15
Art Shell
Offensive left tackle
15
Wayne Walker
Forward
15

NFL career length based on parameters

  • There are different parameters that can affect how long an NFL player’s career lasts. Not accounting for injuries, players that have played at least once for Pro Bowl have the longest career average at 11.7 years.
  • The next players with longe career trajectories are first-round draft picks at 9.3 years
  • Players who are in 3 games for at least 3 seasons last about 7.1 years

NFL coach tenure (vs. other coaches)

  • Compared to other coaches of major sports like basketball and baseball, NFL coaches have the highest average tenure, being with their current team for 4.3 seasons.
  • Coaches from the English Premier League serve their team the shortest at an average of 3 seasons
  • NFL coaches stay with the same team 26.5% longer than NBA coaches

NFL players with the longest careers

The NFL player with the longest playing career is George Blanda. He played for 26 seasons, from 1949 to 1975. He played for the Chicago Bears, Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers, and Oakland Raiders and held positions as kicker or quarterback. Other players with long careers are:

  • Morten Anderson - 25 seasons
  • Adam Vinatieri - 24 seasons
  • Gary Anderson - 22 seasons

NFL players who played the most games

  • Morten Anderson played the most games at 382. He played as a kicker for various teams such as the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, and Minnesota Vikings. Other players include:
    • Adam Vinatieri - 365 games
    • Gary Anderson - 353 games
    • Jeff Feagles - 352 games

Players who played with the most NFL teams

  • Josh Johnson has played for 19 NFL teams so far. In sports, a player that transfers from team to team is referred to as a journeyman. The following journeymen have played the most teams throughout their careers:
    • Shayne Graham - 16 teams
    • John McCown - 13 teams
    • J. T. O'Sullivan - 11 teams

NFL players who spent the longest time in one team

  • If some NFL players are journeymen, others spend their whole careers in just one team. Lou Groza played for the Cleveland Browns for 21 seasons, making him the longest NFL player who played for a single team. Other players include:
    • Jason Hanson - 21 seasons with the Detroit Lions
    • Darrell Green - 20 seasons with the Washington Redskins
    • Jackie Slater - 20 seasons with the St.Louis Rams, now known as the Los Angeles Rams
Player Years in a single team
Lou Groza 21
Jason Hanson 21
Darrell Green 20
Jackie Slater 20
Jeff Van Note 18
Larry Fitzgerald 17
Ben Roethlisberger
17
Jim Bakken 17
John Brodie 17
Mike Kenn 17
Ray Lewis 17
Dan Marino 17
Mick Tingelhoff 17
Julius Adams 17
Aaron Rodgers 16
Ronde Barber 16
Sammy Baugh 16
Elvin Bethea 16
John Elway 16
Antonio Gates 16
Steve Grogan 16
Jimmy Johnson 16
Patrick Mannelly 16
Bart Starr 16
Gene Hickerson 16
Ed "Too Tall" Jones
16
Eli Manning 16
Bill Bates 15
Troy Brown 15
Charlie Cowan 15
Fred Cox 15
Dan Fouts 15
Mel Hein 15
Sam Koch 15
Charlie Krueger 15
Joe Nash 15
Ray Nitschke 15
Merlin Olsen 15
Jim Otto 15
Randy Rasmussen
15
Ken Riley 15
Len Rohde 15
Joe Scibelli 15
Art Shell 15
Michael Strahan 15
Mark Tuinei 15
Gene Upshaw 15
Wayne Walker 15
Russ Washington
15
Roy Winston 15

 

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Use of content

  • If you want to know more about the NFL career statistics, you can reach out to Nick Rizzo at nick@runrepeat.com. He’s also available to do interviews.
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References

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/876512-ranking-sports-from-least-to-most-dangerous-including-nfl-nba-nhl-and-soccer 

https://www.statista.com/statistics/240102/average-player-career-length-in-the-national-football-league/

https://www.rbcwealthmanagement.com/us/en/research-insights/professional-athletes-need-a-retirement-game-plan/detail/

https://en.as.com/en/2021/10/14/nfl/1634188028_247758.html

https://edge.twinspires.com/nfl/the-oldest-players-in-nfl-history/

https://www.oldest.org/sports/active-nfl-players/

https://turnonthejets.com/2021/09/the-3-youngest-players-to-be-drafted-in-nfl/

https://www.thesportster.com/football/nfl-history-youngest-oldest-players/ 

https://edge.twinspires.com/nfl/the-youngest-players-in-nfl-history/

https://edge.twinspires.com/nfl/10-nfl-players-with-the-longest-careers/

https://www.sportscasting.com/how-long-is-the-average-nfl-career/

https://work.chron.com/long-average-career-nfl-player-12643.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/coaches-managers-tenure-nfl-mlb-nba-nhl-premier-league-2016-12

https://edge.twinspires.com/nfl/10-nfl-players-with-the-longest-careers/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NFL_players_by_games_played

​​https://www.portablepress.com/blog/2019/06/players-who-played-for-the-most-teams/

https://americanfootballdatabase.fandom.com/wiki/Journeyman_quarterback

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_Johnson_(quarterback)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Chandler

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_Fitzpatrick

https://www.thescore.com/nfl/news/1556264 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josh_McCown#Professional_career

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_Keenum 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Watson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Wallace_(American_football)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dion_Lewis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LeGarrette_Blount 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandon_Marshall

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aqib_Talib

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Football_League_players_who_spent_their_entire_career_with_one_franchise 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Groza

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Hanson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darrell_Green

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Slater

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Van_Note

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Fitzgerald

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Roethlisberger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Bakken#NFL_career

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brodie

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Kenn 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Lewis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Marino

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mick_Tingelhoff

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julius_Adams

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Rodgers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronde_Barber

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sammy_Baugh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elvin_Bethea

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Elway

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gates

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Grogan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Johnson_(cornerback)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Mannelly

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bart_Starr

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Hickerson

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ed_%22Too_Tall%22_Jones

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eli_Manning

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Bates

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy_Brown

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charley_Cowan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Cox

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Fouts

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mel_Hein

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Koch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Krueger

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Nash

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Nitschke

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin_Olsen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Otto

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Rasmussen_(American_football,_born_1945)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Riley

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Len_Rohde

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Scibelli

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Shell

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Strahan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Tuinei

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Upshaw

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_Walker_(linebacker)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russ_Washington

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roy_Winston

Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.