The science of football numerology

Colt McCoy. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Colt McCoy. (Will Gallagher/IT)

I’d like to discuss this crucial topic. Specifically, which numbers properly define position, the ones players should wear if you hope to win any games and what a number choice says about that player’s character.

Some of you may argue with me, but you will be arguing with science. The kind of science that I draw upon when making a calculator spell out BOOBS.

Many of the respected coaches on this board will snicker at my assertions, but let me set a little scene for you…

It’s the season opener and you’re giving out new jerseys as a special pregame motivator. The kids are whooping and going crazy. But your best interior DL scoffs at your proffered #95. He refuses #98. Says no to #75. He even scoffs at your flashy compromise of #44.

He demands to wear a single digit number.

That’s right. You’re not laughing now, are you? Sonofagun just told you he has no interest in playing the run. Oh, he’ll get 1.5 sacks tonight, but they’re rushing for 325.

Oh, did your RB just request #49? I’d be alarmed. He just lost 2/10th off of his 40. Probably a fumbler.

And did your QB just ask to wear #6? You’re going 1-9 this year.

Does my science have your attention now?


QB 1-19

It’s important to understand that the numbers that are bad for quarterbacks often make for good DB or WR numbers. Do not fall for the rookie mistake of believing that number exists in a vacuum, irrespective of position.

My comments are solely for the QB position here, though obviously these coveted low numbers can be worn by any non-OL.

#7, #12 and #16 are the pedigree signal calling numbers. This requires no explanation for reason of simple aesthetics and lineage.

Shane Buechele. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Shane Buechele. (Will Gallagher/IT)

#1 is too reckless. Count on a key late game interception from this athlete. Hi Oiler fans!

#2 is toddler code for doo-doo.

#3 is just an 8 that hasn’t fully formed.

#4 is OK.

#5 see #4. Same guy.

#6 is the worst. A QB who willingly selects 6 aspires to be Bubby Brister or Marc Wilson. Cut him.

#8 is an oddball number, best worn by enigmatic types. He’ll take time to hit his stride, but when he does…

I only tolerate #9 because Drew Brees.

#10 is solid, but only if you’re tall, athletic and lean. Otherwise, you look like the Pillsbury Throw Boy.

#11, nah. And that’s not just my childhood Danny White PTSD talking. He’s saying he’s #1 twice! Un-coachable.

#13 taunts superstition. Sends a message to the team that they hold their fates in their hands, not black cats and ladders. I dig it.

#14. Requires non-ironic facial hair, two blown out knees, a beergut and moxie. Won’t always find that on the JV squad, but some kids live hard.

#15 is underrated.

#17. Oh God no.

#18 is a bull**** QB number. Save your Peyton Manning nonsense.

#19. Careful. He’d better have a clutch Johnny U vibe. This kid was probably home schooled.

RB 1-49

Running backs have the unique ability to make ho-hum or boring numbers work for them and imbue them with juice. But let’s be realistic – no one is putting lipstick on #48.

#32 and #34 are the ultimate pedigree numbers. Not debatable. #32 means general excellence while a #34 must have a certain level of toughness. If a #34 steps out of bounds before contact, their jersey should burst into flames.

Only grab #20-22 if you can fly. You must have good hands out of the backfield. Before you go citing Earl Campbell, he was a NFL #34. Obviously.

#26, #28 & #29 were once RB scrub numbers, but Le’Veon Bell, Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson flipped the script.

The great Jerome Bettis tried it with #36, but didn’t take. Same with Stephen Jackson and #39. Still a scrub number.

30, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 43, 46, 47, 48, 49 at RB? God help you.

#44 can only be worn by a power runner who puts his eye black on Wednesdays. Similarly, #40 and #42 can’t run faster than a 4.7 40, cannot evade a tackler even when possible, must have snot stalagmites on their face mask and can only leave the field if dying. Obviously, good strong safety numbers for those reasons.

Assume that all single digit runners are fast, but they are moody fumblers who won’t pick up linebackers in pass protection until proven otherwise.

The Big Boys

The 50’s

Should only be worn by OL or LBs. An exception can be made for #55 or #56 on the defensive line. Before a player is allowed to grab the coveted #55 or #56, a coach must ask: “Would this player assault the opposing team’s mascot?” If yes, they may wear it.

The others 50’s are simple, workmanlike numbers.

The 60’s

The 60’s communicate solidity and reliability. They’re interior OL numbers, though #60 clearly has a special place in Texas Longhorn lore.

#60 and #66 are the best. #62 and #63, #64 are fine numbers, but only for guards.

#69 can only be worn by someone who is willing to embrace the persona. Wildcard! Sometimes it’s funny if you make a Mormon kid wear it. Like calling a fat ass Tiny.

60’s wearers should all sport the old school neck roll when possible.

At least one of your 60’s wearers should be a white guy who sports a flat top and wears Toby Kieth concert t-shirts. Another should be a black guy who sings in a Gospel choir, was 1st chair tuba in high school band and quotes Scripture when he’s angry. Obviously, any Samoan is desirable here.

The 70’s.

Best worn by athletic offensive tackles or old school defensive linemen.

Patrick Vahe. (Will Gallagher/IT)

Patrick Vahe. (Will Gallagher/IT)

#70, #72, #75, #77 are the top dogs. There’s no really terrible 70’s number, but I think we all agree that #71 and #73 can be a bit suspect. What were your motivations for grabbing #71, weird guy? Can you not see that #77 and #75 are available? We’re watching you.

The 80’s

Only for wide receivers and TEs. Occasionally a DE can pull off a 80s number (preferably 81 or 88), but I just can’t recommend playing this dangerous game unless you’re a Nigerian.

Most will argue that #80 is the marquee 80’s number, but they’re all very solid. #87 and #88 are particularly snazzy for tall guys.

The 90’s

Any self-respecting DL demands a 90’s number. THERE IS NO BAD 90’s NUMBER. They’re all at least solid. I hear you – #92 is no great shakes, but it’s not bad. Unless you’re a blocking TE, then it’s just a little embarrassing.


Double zero is a loser move from any player not named Jim Otto. If you let this guy return punts, he will screw you.


  • Any DL who demands a single digit number won’t play the run.
  • Any number is OK if it’s worn in honor of your father or a friend who died from a peanut allergy.
  • A DL who accepts #61 when #95, #55, #98 are available lacks confidence. Cut him.
  • A QB who requests #6 should be cut immediately.
  • Only Nigerian DL can wear numbers in the 80s.
  • Pacific Islanders should wear numbers that slim their calves.
  • A bad QB number can be a very cool DB or WR number (see #2, #11, #17).
  • Be worried when your starting DL goes: #52, #61, #71, #68. You guys are going to suck.
  • Repetitive double numbers become increasingly cool as the numbers increase: 11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99. See how it goes from not cool, to cool, to extremely cool in perfect mathematic symmetry? This is an example of science.
  • Optimal numbering is worth +2.5 wins per season and approximately 90 yards in field position per game