It's the end of the NFL regular season, and that means it's time to find out who is among the most popular players this season. In a year where the National Football League was embroiled in its longest labor dispute ever, the popularity of this multibillion-dollar sports juggernaut has still managed to grow.
An important component of football merchandising is jersey sales — which can be seen as a proxy for the most popular players in the sport. It's better than a poll because people have voted with their wallets. Each year, NFLShop.com releases the best-selling jerseys in the NFL and its list is presented here. This following represents jersey sales from April 1 to Dec. 31. The 2011 list published first on CNBC.com.
So, which NFL jerseys are this year’s best sellers? Click ahead to find out!
By Darren Rovell
Posted 4 Jan 2012
One of two Dallas Cowboys in the top 10, even though Austin had an injury-plagued season in which he played in only 10 games. Austin beat out teammates Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, who finished 12 & 13 on the jersey list, respectively.
Austin is known for his life on and off the field: His two Pro Bowl selections and 1,000-plus-yard seasons in 2009 and 2010 were nearly overshadowed by his relationship with socialite and TV personality Kim Kardashian.
Another disappointing season for Romo means he almost falls out of the top 10, which is not likely for the signal caller for the Cowboys. The team, according to the latest Harris Poll, has been the most popular NFL team in America since 2006.
The first New York player is Manning, which just goes to show you, market size gives players a marketing advantage, but it isn't everything. The only other New York player in the top 20 is Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who comes in at No. 16.
The Eagles QB impressively finishes the 2011 regular season at No. 7, which is a good run considering he's the top seller among players that didn't make the playoffs. That said, with the Eagles’ disappointing season, he's sure to slip down the list come Super Bowl time.
Defensive players rarely make the top 10. Besides Troy Polamalu, Brian Urlacher comes to mind as a popular jersey in year's past. And although Packers fans love their high-octane offense, Green Bay has always respected their defensive stars. A.J. Hawk was a fast-selling jersey, but Matthews quickly emerged as the jersey to buy if they wanted a defensive player.
Some might be surprised that the New England Patriots QB is even in the top 5 again. After all, don't all his fans have a #12 jersey by now? Don't discount fans outside the Northeast that love Brady as well as those women football fans who can't get enough of the UGG endorser.
The Saints have been hard to beat this year, thanks to Brees. If you are a rabid Saints fan, and there are plenty of them, you almost have to have a Brees jersey in your game-day attire rotation by now.
Popular for both his on-the-field play and his characteristic hairstyle, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is another perennial fan favorite. Last year's jersey sales leader continued his momentum this year, and it's easy to see why. Pittsburgh is a blue collar town, and Polamalu is a blue collar player. With Ben Roethlisberger's troubles, most new jersey sales in Pittsburgh are Polamalu's number 43.
The former Florida quarterback emerged as a starter later in the season and developed a cult following for his untraditional style that led to victories. Tebow has fizzled into the playoffs, but the fact that there is so much buzz (both love and hate) around him got him to the number 2 spot. In the beginning of the season, Tebow was completely outside the top 10.
A Super Bowl title gave the Green Bay Packers QB a big boost in an off-season that had a work stoppage. And Rodgers’ incredible play in 2011, which should result in an MVP award, truly made him a national name. Rodgers jerseys were sold to people in all 50 states.