Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Jul 2005

MMQB: Still Picking the Patriots

Peter King is back. I know I've missed him. He says he's still going with the Patriots to win the Super Bowl even though they've lost Tedy Bruschi, who he describes as the second-most important player on the team. Peter also informs us that he'll be blogging from training camps this year. Why do I have a funny feeling that the honchos at SI.com just think "blogging" is a cooler way to describe King's stuff than "postcards from training camp," but the substance will be the same?

Peter also tells us he has a bad back from lifting a 250-pound TV. I assume he's greatly exaggerating the weight, unless they're designing televisions in a format I'm not aware of.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 25 Jul 2005

116 comments, Last at 30 Jul 2005, 1:19am by Jim A

Comments

1
by geoff (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:50pm

He also continues his crazy defense of Travis Henry, first by wondering why no one gave up a #2, then by this:

I think if I were a fantasy-footballer this year with the first pick in a 10-team draft, I'd take LaDainian Tomlinson in the first round (first overall), Kerry Collins in the second (20th overall), and Travis Henry in the third (21st overall), That's a winning team right there, folks.

I mean, huh?

(btw my copy of the prospectus just arrived...)

2
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 1:54pm

Why does he have a separate heading for "Non-football thoughts" and then put a thought about Lance Armstrong (clear non-football) in the "Football thoughts" section?

3
by Lance Armstrong (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 2:12pm

@2: Because I would win the Super Bowl if I would be in it...

4
by CoreyG (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 2:21pm

My 34" widescreen tube tv weighs in at 209 pounds, so 250 is definitely possible.

5
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 2:40pm

Does King know it's only a blog if he posts in his underwear? Hah, try and get that image out of your mind.

6
by Israel (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 2:41pm

At least he acknowledges that his blog-and-photo show may be "tremendously boring."

7
by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 2:50pm

I'm glad Peter King is back. I couldn't remember if he was starting up again this week or next. I was pleasantly surprised to see a new article today.

8
by Ray (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:01pm

#5: B, you utter, utter bastard.

#1: I got my copy on Saturday. Great stuff so far. Hey Aaron, when can we get a discussion thread for the book? I'm not sure if you're deliberately avoiding it but it would be nice to have an official place to discuss stuff in it.

9
by Johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:03pm

Oh how a wish for Peter King to be in my fantasy league...

10
by Bad Doctor (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:52pm

If you're like me, you're sick of ... caring that Brett Favre has an opinion on Javon Walker's holdout ...

OK ... who are you, and what have you done with Peter King?

11
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 3:52pm

I'm interested to hear some opinions on how much the Pats will miss Bruschi. They've had to replace players before, but in their great four-year run they seem to have never been without Bruschi and McGinest, who both seemed to have the uncanny knack of making big plays at convenient times (well, guess there's never a bad time to make a big play, but you know what I mean)

12
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:02pm

I'd only take Kerry Collins if Danny Weurfell and Jake Plummer aren't available.

Re: Travis Henry, I don't understand how King can write that sentence without pointing out that Henry's in the last year of his contract. So the question isn't is TH worth a 3rd Rd. pick. The question is whether one year of TH is worth a 3rd rounder (or, if they sign him to a multi-year deal, is he worth a 3rd rd. pick once you account for the additional cap space he will take up in relation to the potential 3rd rd. rookie)? Much different question.

13
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:09pm

I'm amazed that Peter King thinks people will take calorie cutting tips from him.

Mariano Rivera, best relief pitcher of all time...he should stick to football commentary.

I second a thread on the book.

14
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:10pm

Re 11:

I'm a Pats fan and I will miss Bruschi, as I'm sure the team will. I think he's one of the better LB's in the league. The thing about Bruschi that was somewhat rare is that he was BOTH an excellent rusher and and excellent cover guy, so on any given play where he saw Bruschi in the game, he didn't know if he would be rushing or dropping. That's why he was always positioned to make the big play, in my opinion, because the big play often occurred when the opposing QB guessed wrong about what Bruschi would be doing. That being said, I don't think losing him alone will be crippling to the Pats, provided they don't suffer too many injuries on defense. Their strength over the past few years has been being able to come up with game plans and use personnell to cover any holes that appear due to injury or play ability at any given position. They only start to come apart when they get a LOT of injuries that impairs that ability (e.g. the Pittsburgh game last year occurred when they had the most players out, and it finally showed). If the LB corps gets hit with a few more key injuries (e.g. if Johnson, Colvin, and McGinest all go down), then missing Bruschi could be a real problem.

Wow, I just noticed that almost everything I said was blatantly obvious. Well, this IS a disscussion about Peter King, so I guess it's appropriate...

15
by Rufus J. McGillicuddy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:21pm

" I was shaken by linebacker Tedy Bruschi's decision not to play this year."

Yeah. That was the most earth-shattering, unexpected announcement of the summer. A guy has a stroke and he's now likely to miss the season. Talk about expert beat writers!

"Gets to the hole quickly better than any linebacker playing today, and that includes Ray Lewis."

Anyone who watched the Steelers All-Pro LILB play last year might disagree.

Off the top of my head, and with the aid of actually watching these people play, live and in person, I might suggest the following as a tad faster than Bruschi, who is still one of my all-time favorite guys:

Dan Morgan and Jeremiah Trotter. Just saying.

Come to think of it, I've always thought La'Roi Glover was faster at getting in that first lick, and he's a lineman (granted, a tweaner OL, but still).

The difference, of course, is that these fellows play for Teams That Aren't in Foxboro (TTAF), so MMQB likely won't give them the cred they deserve.

"They've signed inside linebacker Monty Beisel (Chiefs) and the versatile Chad Brown (Seahawks) in free agency."

Too bad these guys aren't very good (suck).

"If you're like me, you're sick of hanging on the ridiculous words of Terrell Owens..."

If by "ridiculous" he means "position supported by the vast majority of players in NFLPA, including Troy Vincent," then he's onto something.

I get the feeling, however, this toadie to management, especially sources within managment, is "sick" of the "ridiculous words" of a player who is here today, gone tomorrow because he dares to fight back and makes oftentimes articulate arguments about the unfairness of NFL contracts.

"Who cares? Play the game. Practice the game. And let's worry about actual football, not silly fighting words."

Easy to say when you don't depend on a franchise for your paycheck and don't risk grievous injury by playing or practicing the game. If you had to do that, then these might not be "silly fighting words" but something important to the union and its players.

"In no other sport does hope spring quite so eternal when teams report to camp as in the NFL."

Last five winners of MLB's World Series -- Boston, Florida, Anaheim, Arizona, N.Y. Yankees.

Last five winners of NFL's Super Bowl -- Baltimore, New England, Tampa Bay, New England, New England.

Hmmmmm...

"We don't need those kind of distractions on our club. And I don't know of any club that really wants to deal with them." (Arthur Blank)

Wait! Isn't that the same Art Blank who settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit for sexual harrassment in the Falcons front office? Who gave in within hours of his court-ordered deposition and after his women workers directly accused him of treating them like kewpie dolls?

What about the "distractions" those women had to deal with, at the hands of none other than Art Blank?

I get the feeling that was likely more of a distraction to the Falcons' front office than a disgruntled wide receiver venting during the offseason. Just saying.

"on a healthy 26-year-old back"

Oh, he means Travis Henry. Someone please tell MMQB that over the last three years, Henry has missed games due to a bum knee, broken leg, chest and rib fractures, sprained ankles and a severely injured foot.

If by "healthy" he means "oft injured at a position that attracts a great many injuries" then MMQB has la mot juste.

"I'm amazed, and I do not use that word lightly, that someone with a running back need didn't gladly pay a second-rounder for the guy."

Come to think of it, MMQB, wasn't Tennessee the ONLY TEAM offering more than a fourth round pick for the guy?

It seems the consensus of the GMs in the league didn't quite square with MMQB's brilliant assessment.

Just saying.

"Why subject myself to the taunts and the booing of the Phillly leatherlungs?"

Because he's paid a lot more than they are, is surrounded by beautiful women, has the complete support of his fellow players and the NFLPA and is still the best WR ever to play for the Eagles?

Just saying.

"I think, still, that the Dolphins brought Ricky Williams back to try to trade him --- either in October or next offseason."

MMQB doesn't realize that you not only trade the player, but his contract. Quick, anyone who needs a battered RB who sat out for the year and carries a history of drug issues and comes with one of the highest paychecks in the league?

Now, the question for MMQB should be -- who is better? Travis "Healthy" Henry? Or Ricky Williams?

"Only when a team is forced to spend money will Law get close to his value."

Uhhh, wasn't that the issue with TO?

"I'd take LaDainian Tomlinson in the first round (first overall), Kerry Collins in the second (20th overall), and Travis Henry in the third (21st overall)..."

Please, please, please join my public league.

"I think the Cowboys are getting ready to run Julius Jones 335 times."

No #$%&*#*$. Which is why he'll resemble the "healthy" Henry by the time he's 26.

"Ricky's going to be on his best behavior. I think there will be no incidents and Williams will work hard to be a good player again."

Uhhh, didn't you say a couple of grafs up that Miami was going to trade Williams? It's easy to be chums when you're playing for someone else?

"I love the Curt Schilling experiment."

Unfortunately, Curt Schilling, the Boston front office and the fans of the Red Sox would prefer to have CS pitching earlier in the game, with a decent RP at the end to close.

The only one who really likes this arrangement is ARod.

"I'm amazed you still like football after editing my stuff..."

This goes through an editor???????????????????????? The great scandal of the post-season.

16
by Bad Leroy Brown (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:30pm

Man who calls himself "Tedy" no longer in the NFL,
and the football gods are smiling . . .

You can call me Tedy... or sweety, whatever you prefer.

Jeez- couldnt he just use Frank or Steve, or maybe - "Ted"?

"Tedy"... how lame.

17
by karl (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:31pm

I don't know, but I think that pretty much ends it.

18
by B (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:35pm

I'm a Pats fan, and Bruschi is one of my favorite players, but how does a guy go from pro-bowl alternate to irreplaceable cog in a superbowl team? Lately I've heard from a lot of pundits that the Patriots are doomed, doomed! because they lost Bruschi for a year. Where were those same pundits 6 months ago when he got snubbed from the pro-bowl and wasn't even considered defensive player of the year. Shouldn't the second-best player on a superbowl team have gotten more consideration before he was sidelined?

19
by VarlosZ (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:36pm

I will never understand the purpose of posts like the one above this one (#15). It's just bitching for the sake of bitching.

20
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 4:39pm

"I will never understand the purpose of posts like the one above this one (#15). It’s just bitching for the sake of bitching."

Isn't that bitching just for the sake of bitching? How post-modern.

21
by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:08pm

It's too bad that there isn't a way of ranking linebackers the way QB's, RB's, etc. are ranked using DVOA and DPAR. LB's don't quite fall under "defensive lines", and they don't quite fall under "pass defense"... They contribute one way on running plays, and in other different ways on passing plays. I'm sure you could create some silly composite statistic (like QB rating) that would be something like .4*tackles made for less than 4 yard gain + .25*hurries + .1*interceptions + .05*knockdowns + .2*passes successfully defensed, but it would be very empirical. It would be interesting to have some sort of quantitative measure of how important a particular linebacker is to a defense (and put the is Ray Lewis declining debate to rest once and for all). Any ideas, anyone? Could you just do it by looking at a defense's DVOA when the player in question is on the field, and the DVOA when he is not?

22
by Parker (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:44pm

RE: #20

Ron, shouldn't you be at practice? Or the clinic?

Isn't bitching by definition always just for the sake of bitching? If it had a purpose I am sure they wouldn't give it such a silly title.

For the record, I enjoyed #15.

23
by Stephen A$$clown Smith (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 5:45pm

Bruschi is just a linebacker. The last time I checked the Patriots still have Tom Brady....And Thats All You Need.

24
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:00pm

By the way, am I the only one who noticed this article (click on name).

Shimon Peres invites Tiki Barber to help broker peace in the Middle East and we missed it?

"You know, the guys on the other side I respect. If they play well then I tell them so. I think in a lot of ways, that's what goes on in this part of the world. These people have conflict, and sometimes they don't like to admit it, but they're on the same side. They all want the same thing, which is peace."

And he drops "malapropism!" And he visited with his agent!

Tiki, you're the best!

25
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:05pm

"Although you are not a big figure in Israel, nothing unites kids like successful, professional athletes."
-- Shimon Peres, in an earlier story

OK, Tiki. I have no idea who you are or what you do, but Labour could use you as a pitchman against Likud in the upcoming elections.

Smile and look pretty. Just don't say anything that's kind of creepy in a veiled, homoerotic sense.

"The Super Bowl [for me] is the climax," said Barber, whose New York Giants lost in the 2001 NFL championship game. "I'm 30 years old and still have never won a Super Bowl."

Doh!

By the way, Tiki seems somewhat diminished in metric: 1.78-meter, 91-kilogram

26
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:10pm

"Re: Travis Henry, I don’t understand how King can write that sentence without pointing out that Henry’s in the last year of his contract"

Henry signed a very favorable multiyear deal with Tennessee. Here's what profootballtalk.com said: "Although, on paper, the deal contains bigger numbers and more years, a league source tells us that the practical value of the contract is, in essence, three years and $7.2 million."

27
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:26pm

“You know, the guys on the other side I respect. If they play well then I tell them so. I think in a lot of ways, that’s what goes on in this part of the world. These people have conflict, and sometimes they don’t like to admit it, but they’re on the same side. They all want the same thing, which is peace.�

What's the over/under on the intifada? IDF?

But Tiki certainly got to the heart of the matter. The Al Aqsa Brigade, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, et al, "don't like to admit it, but they're on the same same." Really, all they want is peace.

28
by Glenn (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:35pm

C'mon now! Rufus is just giving a practical demonstration for Peter King of what a lot of internet blogs are like: angry diatribes for people with tons of time on their hands who like to see themselves loudly critiquing every topic imaginable, believing that readers hang on every word. Just saying.

29
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 6:54pm

And again a poster, Glenn, proves his own point. So post modern.

30
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 7:23pm

Okay, so MMQB can't get excited about Armstrong because he plays on a team sport. Now, I could be wrong here, but don't Favre and Brady also play on a team sport? Is it as difficult to get excited about them?

31
by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 7:55pm

What's so horrible about King's top-3 fantasy picks of Tomlinson, Collins and Henry?

Tomlinson will surely be the #1 pick in a large number of leagues.

As long as he's healthy, Collins is going to rack up the numbers. The question is if needs to be taken at 20th overall. Barring injury, Collins should be good for 4,200+ yards and 30+ TD's.

Henry is maybe a little sketchy, but how many better RB's will be there at 21 overall?

32
by malene, cph, dk (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 8:02pm

...and PK adds cycling to the evergrowing list of sports in which he has absolutely no friggin' idea what's going on.

Rant:
Even as an unapologetic Armstrong-hater and cycling-fanatic, let's just get this straight; yes, the Discovery-team was among the 3 strongest in the Tour, as always, but there is no rider in the pack who could have won by switching teams with Lance.
Seriously, for 7 years now people have lost the tour by thinking "isolating Lance" from his team was the solution, only to find that once you're racing him heads-up, it's pretty much over. At least when his team is there, you 'just' have to keep up with slightly inferior riders; and yes, Ulrich and Basso preserve exactly the same amount of energy by riding behind Savoldelli as do Lance. Ok rant over. He's been obnoxious, but nobody came close for 7 years. Could've gone it alone and still won. Salute the guy.

33
by Richie (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 8:53pm

I wish there was a Tour de France for dummies website. I've casually watched the tour for the first 6 Lance wins (never saw an episode this year), and I still don't really understand the strategy and teamwork aspect.

34
by peachy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/25/2005 - 11:58pm

Cycling is ultimately more like basketball or golf or even soccer than football or baseball in that a truly great talent can dominate so utterly during their peak years that they are essentially unbeatable. No single player in football or baseball, no matter how brilliant, can have that effect (consider the careers of Bonds and Manning.) This is a distinction which might elude a sports writer whose experience has chiefly been with a "large-team" sport like football. Jordan is the classic modern example of such "small-team" dominance - which makes the unfortunate Jan Ullrich Barkley-on-a-bicycle (no doubt a comparison that would thrill both of them.)

The Guardian (guardian.co.uk) has a nice little interactive guide to the basics of road racing.

35
by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 12:39am

Though it's obviously impressive that Armstrong has won it 7 times in a row, does anybody else find it a little less impressive considering that a few other people have won it four or five times in a row? As peachy suggests, since it's difficult to compare his achievement to more familiar sports, people may be overstating his dominance. Not that he hasn't dominated (obviously), but that doing so is kind of expected. It seems like almost all champions are repeat champions.
While, on the one hand, I think comparing athletes across sports is dumb, if I were to do so, Armstrong wouldn't top any list of mine.
Also, Jan Ullrich did win it in 97.

36
by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:30am

The use of Tiki Barber for propaganda in an area about which he probably knows less than nothing shows poor judgement on the part of Tiki, his agent and the Giants. Regarding the users, it shows nothing those who live here don't already know.

37
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 3:38am

Four other riders have won five times - Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain (only Indurain winning five in a row). All were dominant figures in their eras, Merckx being probably the best ever. But the sport has changed a lot since his time, especially with the increase in specialisation. You might think of Merckx's era as analagous to the time when quarterbacks played free safety too, and maybe kicked field goals on the side.

The shift helped Armstrong, allowing him to concentrate most of his energy on one event (not unlike, say, a clay court specialist in tennis), rather than having to compete over the full season. But that shift helped his rivals too - over the last decade, the Tour has been THE event for the very best riders. That's a concentration of talent and focus the old-time stars rarely had to face. Armstrong may not have been quite as good as Merckx overall, but I think he was as dominant as any athlete we're likely to see.

38
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 9:29am

Re: #15, and the common complaint by the NFLPA that NFL contracts are unfair.

I never understood this argument. The only thing that it seems to boil down to is the following:

1. NFL owners can fire people when they want, and stop paying them, if the player slacks off.
2. Players, however, are stuck with the amount they signed for.

Oh, and the thing that I really think this hovers around:

3. DAMN IT BASEBALL AND BASKETBALL (and formerly hockey) CONTRACTS WERE GUARANTEED AND DAMN IT I WANT MINE GUARANTEED TOO.

Regarding #1 and #2, all I can think of is, welcome to Real Life. If I, or any of us other normal people, decide to just stop producing a year after I'm hired, we get fired, and our employers stop paying us. In fact, they can choose to end our relationship for practically any reason they choose (as long as it doesn't break various laws with respect to, say, nondiscrimination or whatever).

That's the way the world works. And if we think we want more money, we can ask for it, but they're no more obligated to provide it than an NFL owner is. And when midrange players outperform their contracts, owners usually DO give them more money, much like an employer will often boost the pay of an employee that's performing in an exemplary manner (to keep from losing them). But when a player that just got a giant signing bonus and is already making multi-millions complains that he needs more guaranteed money? Bleh.

The only difference is that an NFL player can't just leave and go to another team, like I, or most other people, could, if I thought I could get more, or be happier, elsewhere. But the signing bonus and salary cap structure are a big part of that - if I gave someone a salary of $2 million a year for 4 years, but also bonus of $5 million when they started, you're damn right I'm going to put in that contract that if they choose to leave (not if I fire them, but if they leave), they have to pay that money back. And furthermore, that they can't go work somewhere else until they do so. That makes sense to me.

I see this as little different than the fact that my employer, which is currently paying thousands of dollars to relocate me cross-country, made me sign a document stating that if I leave of my own volition in the next 12 months, that I will have to pay them back the cost of the relocation (but, if they fire me, then it's their loss).

Whenever the subject of the "unfairness" of NFL contracts comes up, I think more that they're coming from #3, and I think "I can't believe how stupid MLB and NBA owners were to agree on multi-year 100% guaranteed contracts" and not "NFL contracts are not fair." Perhaps that's from the perspective of a working stiff, but it's what I think.

(And, in the case of Owens, I have little sympathy, because he signed it YEAR AGO - he says he signed it because he wanted out of San Fran so badly he'd have signed anything - well, that's what happens when you're desperate).

T.

39
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:14am

How cycling teams work:
http://www.slate.com/id/2122645/

40
by SteelerBill (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:46am

So glad that Peter King picked the Pats, I really hope everyone picks the Pats, Colts, Eagles, and insert team here.

Regarding Lance - his dominance in his sport is amazing, absolutely amazing - nice work Lance - LiveStrong!

41
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:40am

Tarrant,

The major difference, of course, is that if you can earn more money making widgets at WidgetCo, then you will leave to do so.

That can't happen in the NFL, so long as you are signed to a contract, not to mention the artificial brake on wages known as the salary cap.

Whereas the franchise can cut you because of injuries, rising wage costs or spite, a player can't void his contract and leave. Players see this as fundamentally unfair. Not to mention the draft, wherein they're forced to live and work some place they might not, normally, wish to exist.

These concerns are particularly problematic issues for very good athletes who play positions that have relatively fewer injuries, or who have remained fairly healthy. They feel that they should be treated like any other worker in America, allowed to toil where they want, with whom they want, for as much as they can get.

Owens is a perfect example of someone who believes is not only worth more, but likely has been told (not too loudly) that there are franchises willing to pay him what he thinks he's worth. How he got where he is today is complicated, involving paperwork delays, last second dealing between Philadelphia and Baltimore, and faux brinksmanship on the part of Owens and his latest agent.

That should be enough to put the aphorism "that's the way the world works" to bed. The NFL is not a capitalistic enterprise, unlike the rest of North America. It's a rigged monopolistic system designed to promote labor stability and guarantee large profit margins for owners.

Both owners and labor would define it exactly like that, and debate its merits and faults accordingly.

Football has a highly regulated wage structure, based on defined gross revenues (the players actually end up paying themselves), with artificial constraints placed on a man's ability to maximize his value.

The stars, particularly, would like to scrap the salary and benefits cap and the NFL's "contract" system and create a wider, unrestricted free agency.

Since they have friends in the NBA and MLB (not to mention nearly every other professional league in the world), they hear others make fun of them. And it bugs them.

42
by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:49am

"a player can’t void his contract and leave"

Isn't that what Barry Sanders did?

43
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 12:01pm

He retired. By the way, MDS, he's a really nice guy.

44
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 12:05pm

Carl --

However much the star players might want it, the NFL isn't going to adopt the NBA or MLB model. The owners have already proved that they would hire scabs first.

And if the stars don't like the millions they're getting, they can try their luck at another sport or take a regular job.

45
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 1:36pm

The salary cap is set as a percentage of certain revenues, right? So when the league does better, so do the players.

I truely believe that the salary cap system makes for a more competitive, more exciting league. This in turn does help the players by keeping league revenues increasing. I'll understand if that feels like pretty small beans to most players who'd like to get paid.

I personally wrestle with wanting my team to be competitive (lower player salaries) and wanting my favorite players to be well rewarded (higher player salaries). The fact is that while (some) players are making millions, the owners aren't pulling in mere pennies either.

All the cash that fans pour into that league has to go somewhere. Why shouldn't the players deserve a bigger slice of that pie? I think that they could reasonably be entitled to a larger percentage of the revenues, especially considering the ungodly amounts of cash that the NFL is making.

However, I think that a salary system which favors the owners makes for a better league overall in terms of competition and fan interest. I'm really not sure how to reconsile that with the players. But the fact is that everyone wants more control, and when one side gains the other loses. I just have to favor the system where the control lies in a place that makes the game more entertaining for me.

46
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 1:48pm

Perhaps, Carl.

However, those "stars" were already likely given a gigantic signing bonus. So the concept of "going somewhere else to be paid what they're worth" tends to ignore the fact that they were given an amount of money relative to what they're worth when they first signed. For a great number of the "stars" contracts, the signing bonus becomes the majority of the money. They sit here and say "I'm only paid $2 million this year, I wanna get paid!" after having signed for 4 years and $8 million, but with an $8 million bonus. They then see themselves as having been paid "$10 million" for year one, and having their salary cut to $2 million for year two, and it doesn't work that way.

Once they take that giant guaranteed bonus to start the contract, of course they void their ability to simply test the free market (at least without giving a huge chunk of that money back). *I* as a stiff can leave and test the free market, but I also wasn't given a giant multi-million dollar check before I walked in the door.

If they want to be able to toil where they want, when they want, for as much as they can get, then they can sign simple one-year deals every year - but the opportunity cost of that is that the giant signing bonus that comes with a multi-year contract is no longer available. Freedom, but no long-term deal and big bonus, or limited freedom, but big bonus? It's their choice to make.

The player is free to tell his agent "I want to be a free agent next year like I am right now, let's do a one-year deal." The player is also free to say "I want a big check up front, let's do a multi-year deal." But the player has to recognize that by doing that, he's limiting his ability to test the market freely unless he's going to be willing to pay that money back.

Now, if we want to talk about the franchise tag stifling a free-agent player's ability to test the market, well, that's another issue - one I might agree with.

Like I said, I see little difference between what happens when a player agrees to sign a multi-year deal, and a company that pays for an employee's relocation or perhaps a graduate degree and says "OK, but you have to work here for at least X years or you have to pay us back." The degree or relocation package is essentially a "signing bonus" and the company ("team owner") reasonably expects the employee to remain there for some time as their part of the deal (with the knowledge that if it is the COMPANY that chooses to end the relationship, by firing/laying off/what have you the employee, the employee doesn't have to pay it back - no different than in the NFL, players generally keep the signing bonus money if they are cut by the team 2 years into their 7-year deal).

T.

47
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 1:57pm

And if the stars don’t like the millions they’re getting, they can try their luck at another sport or take a regular job.

Dead right. Absolutely correct. I'm sorry, but I simply can't agree that the players are getting screwed in this deal. Not when the minimum player salaries are all above $100K.

I understand the arguments that Carl's giving, but he's treating the NFL as if it was a collection of 32 independent companies, from which you can choose to go where you want. If, instead, you view it as a company with 32 divisions, then it looks different. Is it a monopoly then? Yes, certainly, but I think it's been shown by the XFL debacle that the US public can't support 2 major professional football leagues.

If you view it like a company with 32 divisions, then the draft is fine. If I get a job with a company (and the job application *says* "employee will be placed at one of 32 divisions nationwide") I can't complain when I get shipped off to Seattle, or Green Bay. Can they void their contract? No, but they could retire, which is functionally the same. They can't go play for a different NFL team, but you couldn't expect that you could quit from a company and go work at a different division in that same company anyway.

Ditto with the salary cap, which is simply a way of giving an operating budget to each of your 32 divisions.

You can debate the relative merits of a salary cap and draft and contract structures all you want. Personally, I think that they help the growth of the league because it promotes small-market team growth, and a larger economic base always makes things more stable. But I don't understand treating them like a travesty of business. It's not that different than working for any other company.

48
by glr (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:18pm

re: 12 "I’d only take Kerry Collins if Danny Weurfell and Jake Plummer aren’t available."

I assume you were trying to be clever... you know, making a joke. You fail to realize, it seems, that Plummer (according to the scoring system in my league) was the fifth highest scoring QB last season, behind Culpepper, Manning, McNabb, and Green. In other scoring systems, he may have been as low as seventh, behind Favre and Delhomme as well. That's pretty good company. Don't expect to see too much drop off this season. He's hardly comparable to Danny Wuerfell.

49
by glr (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:28pm

double post, but forgot to say that Brees was also probalby ahead of him in some scoring systems.

50
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:34pm

Wow. Look at the Training Camp Diary entry for Tuesday. There is a picture of King coaching softball. Looks like he's lost a bunch of weight.

51
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:49pm

Great explanation in #47, Pat!

52
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 2:54pm

Holy crap, you're right Richie. I linked to the article on my name. He must have been working hard this offseason.

Pat, your argument does sound pretty good. But here's the thing I think about:

For the most part, these players have been training their whole lives to compete at this level. If they're lucky they get more than 5 years in the league, and then they're out without much in the way of career opportunities. They've got to be able to make enough money for their and their family's entire life in those short years in the league.

If that was me, I'd want every drop I could get, too.

53
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:04pm

For the most part, these players have been training their whole lives to compete at this level. If they’re lucky they get more than 5 years in the league, and then they’re out without much in the way of career opportunities. They’ve got to be able to make enough money for their and their family’s entire life in those short years in the league.

Which is why the NFL's Rookie Symposium (or whatever they call it) constantly tells them to prepare for the future, and also to spend wisely. Simple truth is that most of them get enough exposure in a few years in the league to easily ink plenty of deals in whatever they want to do, if they're intelligent about it.

I can certainly understand them wanting to make more money. That's perfectly fine. But suppose I walk up to my boss, and say I want a 50% raise. He says he likes me, he'd like to give me that, but they simply can't justify that raise in context of what I do, or how much money they have. Can I argue with him? If he gave me that raise, the company'd be in jeopardy. I might make more in the short term, but the company might go under, and I might lose out.

The point here is that it's not "players vs evil management." It's important to remember that it's good for a player to make sure that the NFL makes money, because then the player continues to make money. Does it really help a player to screw over a team in a contract? Chances are that a team that overspends too much is going to tank, and then that player will be cut, or something else drastic will happen.

The NHL is a good example, though plenty of people will argue with me on this. As of the signed agreement, all players took something like a 25% pay cut. Salaries bloated far beyond the abilities of management to pay them, and so in the end, those huge salaries were probably a bad idea - financially - for the players.

One note, though: I'm sure someone reading this will say "yah, but the problem is that NFL team's management offices and owners make gobs of money, they're in no danger of bankruptcy", and they're definitely right. But I think it's a bit hypocritical for an athlete to complain that the heads of the most successful sports league in the world are being overpaid. If he deserves the money for what he does, they probably deserve the money for what they do, too. Certainly it's not a cut and dry issue.

54
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:10pm

Does it really help a player to screw over a team in a contract? Chances are that a team that overspends too much is going to tank, and then that player will be cut, or something else drastic will happen.

Oh, and one more thing: this isn't just a theory. TMQ during the season loves to comment on this, but the NFL is littered with examples of veterans who disagreed with team management about how much they were worth as a player, went to another team, tanked, was cut, and then went back to the team for less money, which means in the long run they would've been better off just listening to the management. Jeremiah Trotter (and Hugh Douglas) are the two Eagles examples, but TMQ has loads of others as well.

And this is why I don't understand major contract disputes. I don't think there's a front office in the league which is completely insane in player evaluations, which means if you disagree that much with the front office about how much you're worth, chances are you're overvaluing yourself.

55
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:16pm

Pat has hit the nail on the head. If the players would like to be paid what they are worth every year, sign one year deals. The bonus money will come down, but you have the opportunity to make "what you're worth" every year. Obviously, most front offices are reluctant to do this, they would like to be able to plan, and maybe uncover a decent value once in a while. Most players would be against this as well, no one wants to sign for $7 million this year, run the risk of injury, decline in performance, etc. and get zippo next year, people aren't wired that way. They'd rather get $15mm this year and run the risk of getting max $3mm or $0 next year.

What may come as an unpleasant realization is that what you're worth next year could have less to do with what you did last year and more with what people feel you'll do during that actual year. For example, a 31 year old wide receiver who is recovering from a fairly horrible leg injury, may be worth less going forward than he was otherwise.

56
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:31pm

As for "setting them up for life".

Sorry, I disagree. When one career is over, barring injury that prevents moving to some other career, players should operate under the assumption that they will actually need to get another job after they finish their NFL careers.

There's an ESPN article today about how team owners should pay Terrell (simultaneously there's an SI article today congratulating owners for standing firm). One key argument in the ESPN article is that players only have a few years of NFL life, and during that those, say, 3 years, the players have to make enough to set themselves and their family up for the rest of their lives.

But why, really, is it the duty of the owners to pay outrageously so players need not work again? Players should be paid a fair amount (within the bounds of some of the things talked about in this thread), however, there's no mandate from heaven that says "Thou Shalt Not Work After an NFL Career". Maybe it's listed on that extra tablet that Mel Brooks dropped or something.

NFL rookie camps and seminars try to make it very clear to players that they shouldn't be taking their paychecks and going crazy, buying giant houses, cars, etc. because they don't know what's going to happen down the road, or how long their career will be. It also tells them that it's likely that they will have to find some post-NFL career. That's the way it works. If you're the 1st pick in the draft? OK, buy that fancy car now. If you're the 100th? Maybe see how things go first.

T.

57
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:42pm

players should operate under the assumption that they will actually need to get another job after they finish their NFL careers.

Funny point here. Best way to set yourself up for jobs after your NFL career? Don't piss off the owners/management. For one thing, they've got a ton of connections - they're successful businesspeople, after all! - and they also happen to employ a ton of people, too.

Somehow I doubt Rich Gannon would be retiring if he hadn't been on good terms with Al Davis so much.

58
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 4:45pm

Obviously players do have careers after football. But my point was that they are pushed so hard and focused so much on football even during college that they don't really have much other training when they come out. College degrees do go stale after a while.

On top of that if they managed to stay in the league long enough, they'll probably have some health problems to go along with everything else.

Yeah, the players have absurdly large salaries (especially compared to us normal folk). But so do the owners. The only reason the players seem so greedy is that they have to ask the owners for their share.

59
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 5:01pm

On top of that if they managed to stay in the league long enough, they’ll probably have some health problems to go along with everything else.

If they stay in the league long enough, they're eligible for the retirement plan, which includes disability benefits. If those benefits aren't good enough, that's a separate problem.

The only reason the players seem so greedy is that they have to ask the owners for their share.

Huh? I pay the owners when I watch the game on TV, and when I go to a football game. If I thought they were being greedy, I'd complain about the prices. I don't think they're making too much money. They created a terrific product. I'm perfectly willing to pay what they're asking.

The reason I think the players are selfish (not greedy - selfish) is because the owners aren't trying to massively screw the players. They're trying to pay them what they can afford. So by asking for more money, and holding out, they're putting the whole team in jeopardy, which is short-sighted, and selfish. As Carl has noted, injury concerns drive this mentality, so I can understand why they're worried, but it isn't really an NFL team's job to ensure that someone's financially OK if they get injured - that's the player's responsibility.

Owens is a bit of a special case (as he didn't have the standard free agency period), but he should've just shut up and quietly inquired during the season rather than making this giant public stance, because he's asking something from management that they can't publicly do.

60
by kris (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 5:19pm

I agree completely that the NFL system is fair, and the players should be happy with it.

The idea of guaranteeing contracts for NFL players is absurd, for this reason: it takes a lot of courage to play this game, significantly more than it takes to play baseball or basketball.

It's partly, not entirely, but partly because these guys know they have to continue being productive players to keep getting their money, that makes NFL games as competitive and hard-fought as they are.

And if the draft and salary cap go away, I think it would ruin the league completely, IMO.

61
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 5:48pm

"Owens is a bit of a special case (as he didn’t have the standard free agency period)"

I think this was of his own doing. If I recall correctly the players union warned him against taking the contract offered by the Eagles because it wasn't market. He said he trusted Andy Reid, I guess he and his agent at the time didn't realize that it's not Reid's signature at the bottom of his checks. TO was a steal for the Eagles, in terms of what they had to give up (non-monetarily) to get him. If he wanted more money, he could have gone to the Ravens, they arguably needed him more. He instead chose to step into "the perfect situation" because he wanted to win instead.

Football is the ultimate team game, and the number of players required to field a team are substantially more than any other major sport. The fact that the NFL is a merchandising and ratings machine is what allows these players to earn their higher salaries in the first place.

Owners in larger markets (excepting Snyder and Jerry Jones) realize this is made possible through the magic of sharing. People tune in to see the competition on the field, not to watch owners (or players for that matter) compare bank balances.

62
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 5:49pm

Huh? I pay the owners when I watch the game on TV, and when I go to a football game. If I thought they were being greedy, I’d complain about the prices. I don’t think they’re making too much money. They created a terrific product. I’m perfectly willing to pay what they’re asking.

I'm not sure if you misunderstood what I was saying, but I was referring to the fact that the players get paid BY the owners (duh), and so when they want a raise, they need to go to the owner and ask for it. A person making several hundread thousand dollars asking for more money will always sound greedy irregardless of the situation.

The owner already has the money. He doesn't need to ask anyone for a raise, he just needs to charge a nickel more for hot dogs or something. He doesn't seem greedy because he ordinarily doesn't have to ask someone else for more cash.

My overall point still is that there's this big NFL revenue pie that the owners and the players share. The owners actually control the pie, but I think the players deserve a signficant slice because they are an integral part of the NFL product.

Maybe this is part of the reason I'm sympathetic to the players. A team does well when it has more talent. Talent usually costs money. Teams can only spend a finite amount of money on talent (the cap). Therefore, in order to get an edge in talent, a team MUST underpay the players who have that talent. I just kinda think that sucks for the player who wants nothing more than fair money for his talent.

I mean, how would you feel if you knew that in order for your employer to succeed, he had to pay you less than you were worth? And your employer was still raking in tens of millions, so it's not that your employer would go broke and everyone would lose their job. I'd find it kind of hard to say "Okay, I'll take less than what I'm worth so my employer can still be filthy rich and we can reach his goal."

Really, the salary cap really just makes the situation complicated and murky. But it also seems to make for some good football. Like I said, I sympathize with the players, but I don't want it changed, either.

63
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 5:59pm

The owner already has the money. He doesn’t need to ask anyone for a raise, he just needs to charge a nickel more for hot dogs or something. He doesn’t seem greedy because he ordinarily doesn’t have to ask someone else for more cash.

My point was that I know how much the owners are making, and still, the prices that they're asking are reasonable. If they were charging like a thousand dollars a ticket for every game, I'd say they were greedy elitist bastards.

My overall point still is that there’s this big NFL revenue pie that the owners and the players share. The owners actually control the pie, but I think the players deserve a signficant slice because they are an integral part of the NFL product.

But that's not exactly the same question here. The slice of the pie that the players get - as a whole - is determined by the salary cap. That's determined by a union negotiation with the owners, which is probably the best way to figure out how much money you can give up and still stay profitable. But that's not part of this discussion, anyway. If you think the players deserve more, I probably agree with you, but I think you'd have to look much deeper into league financials to find out.

The question here is how much of the salary cap pie should each player get? And since that salary cap pie is going to players no matter what, it's kindof silly to frame it as "players vs management." It's more like players saying "I deserve more money than him" or "This team can afford to spend more money on me."

64
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:00pm

I mean, how would you feel if you knew that in order for your employer to succeed, he had to pay you less than you were worth? And your employer was still raking in tens of millions, so it’s not that your employer would go broke and everyone would lose their job. I’d find it kind of hard to say “Okay, I’ll take less than what I’m worth so my employer can still be filthy rich and we can reach his goal.�

But the problem here is that you're assuming you know more about your employer's finances than he does. You might be right. Who knows. But you're sure as hell going to screw yourself over if he's right, and you find a way to make him acquiesce to your demands.

See also the NHL.

65
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:30pm

The NHL players didn't get screwed because they were wrong about the NHL Owner's finances. They got screwed because the NHL Owners had enough money that they could hold out longer than the players. Which is pretty much what the players were saying, so the players got screwed because they were right, i.e. the owners had more money than they were letting on.

66
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:31pm

Damn you're good Pat. I need someone with new arguments to pick up the debate on my side. But as that seems unlikely to happen, I'll just have to keep defending my ever-weakening position. ;^)

But the problem here is that you’re assuming you know more about your employer’s finances than he does. You might be right. Who knows. But you’re sure as hell going to screw yourself over if he’s right, and you find a way to make him acquiesce to your demands.

In a salary cap system, you DO know about your employer's finances with regards to what he can pay you. It's pretty much public knowledge. My team has $8 mil left under the cap. Some of that could be mine. I'm under-paid, let's see if he'll give some of it to me.

Of course, from an owners standpoint, I know well the precident that accepting demands for raises sets. I'm personally very happy with the fact that the Eagles managment has stood firm against TOs demands.

But regardless it puts a player in a very difficult position. An employee should be paid what they are worth as a matter of fairness. A player has to make the choice of getting paid what he's worth, or helping his team. He could help his team by accepting less than he's worth. But that's a tough call to make when it's taking money directly out of his pocket.

Unless you have some other reason to be incredibly loyal to your employer, not a single one of us would be happy working for less than we should be just to help them out. I don't see why players should.

67
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:31pm

I would say, Pat, that it's the opposite.

It isn't that the slice of the pie that the players get is determined by the cap - it's actually that the cap is determined by the slice of the pie the players get.

Under the CBA, I believe players get X% of the total shared revenue. The cap (to first order) is determined by taking projected shared revenues, calculating that percentage, and dividing by 32.

As for paying for talent, I think, in a salary-cap world, we see far more teams that overpay for talent, or pay for talent they don't need, and end up hurt by it, than underpaying for talent. Few players are willing to be "underpaid" - what usually happens is a player is given what everyone agrees is fair value, but then plays at a level beyond that value. But that doesn't mean their contract was unfair, or that it underpaid them - it means that the player didn't deserve that prior to signing (in this, Owens is a special case, because he even said he was willing to take almost anything to get out of SF and to avoid Baltimore, who were offering more money - he in essence accepted less money in exchange for personal satisfaction, and he can't now go back and say "Oops!" - if he wanted the money, he should have done Baltimore).

T.

68
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:39pm

I agree to a point, Ray.

However, Owens' worth hasn't changed in the past year. He's worth now what he was worth a year ago, and he, in essence, agreed on what he was worth a year ago.

That said, if a player really wants to be paid what he is worth every year, then he should stick to one-year contracts. When you switch to multi-year deals, with their big signing bonuses, you are giving up some of your near-term ability to negotiate.

In addition, sometimes you made tradeoffs between job security, salary, personal happiness, etc. People will sometimes take a job that pays less because they like the location, or because the job is more interesting, etc. TO was offered closer to "what he was worth" by Baltimore. He refused, and said he wanted to be in the "perfect situation". The Eagles said "No, we can't pay you that much, we'll give you this." He chose to sacrifice "getting what he was worth" in exchange for being in the "perfect situation". That is his loss, and the fact that it's now a year later doesn't change history. If he wanted his due, he should be in a Ravens uniform.

T.

69
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:53pm

"My overall point still is that there’s this big NFL revenue pie that the owners and the players share. The owners actually control the pie, but I think the players deserve a signficant slice because they are an integral part of the NFL product."

Would you classify 58% at a minimum and 64.5% at a max of defined gross revenues (basically gates and TV) as a significant portion? Again, I think it's rich for anyone represented by a Union to demand fair market pricing of their labor.

A large problem for star players is not just the cap, but the league minimum salary. The requirement that a roster contain no fewer than X (I think 43) players and that at a minimum they all earn an amount based on years in the league can eat up a substantial chunk of available money, also these players don't get less expensive per year.

Pat frames the argument in the most reasonable terms I've heard. This is a debate of a player's value relative to other players on the same team (or available free agents) not a question of how much a particular player should get versus what an owner should get. To the extent the player's slice of the pie increases, owners may choose to invest their money elsewhere. I'm not sure that player's have the same alternatives.

70
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 6:55pm

Ray (#66 )--
Unless you have some other reason to be incredibly loyal to your employer, not a single one of us would be happy working for less than we should be just to help them out. I don’t see why players should.
But other such reasons abound. TO took less money to play for the Eagles, in part because he preferred having Donovan McNabb throwing to him over Kyle Boller. People in regular jobs take less money to work closer to home, or with people they like, or for employers they respect. Sometimes they even take pay cuts to help the company they work for.

In any case, the salary cap limits the ability of team to pay their big stars. The inability of the Colts' defense to stop Corey Dillon in the playoffs, can be directly attributed to the lack of cap-space left to hire linebackers, after they were done paying Manning, Harrison, and Edge. Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison both want (and arguably both deserve) more money from the Patriots, but they can't both get it.

71
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:07pm

I don't know what the fair percentage is. I think my initial goal (which I've lost track of along the way) was to point out that the system IS in general biased against the players, and that fact sucks for the players.

I understand that it works in favor of competitiveness, and that the players are still getting (in general) butt-loads of money. But when a player says, "This system sucks, it's biased against me" I have to think to myself, "Well yeah, he's got a point". And then I sort of feel crappy for that because I know that if I was in his position, I'd likely feel pretty similar to the way he does.

72
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:14pm

Starshatterer,

Yeah, I understand all that. But the choice between money and "other factors" is always a difficult one, isn't it? I really wish TO had been able to keep his mouth shut about it for at least one more year; maybe the injury scared him into feeling that if he didn't get paid now, he might get hurt and then not get paid at all.

I also understand that the system is set up in a way that not everyone can get paid. And that's why I say that the system sucks for the players. But it works for everyone else, including the fans. I'm not crying for the players over here, I'm just trying to point out that they have legitament gripes with the system that they're a part of.

73
by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:17pm

“This system sucks, it’s biased against me�

TO knew the system when he started, if he didn't like it, he should have become a professional baseball player.

I get bonused in February, my bonus is a larger part of compensation than base. I knew that when I signed up I'd pretty much be a hostage from September to February, because if I leave I don't get my accrued bonus and wherever I go to is unlikely to pay me a full year bonus for starting after September. It's just fortunate for me that the period I'm hostage, coincides with the football season, so I can keep myself entertained with real and fantasy football.

74
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:24pm

"TO knew the system when he started, if he didn’t like it, he should have become a professional baseball player."

Just because you knowingly join an unfair system doesn't change the fact that it is unfair, and doesn't make it suck any less for those it's unfair to. As far as I'm concerned, it's still legitament to complain about the system when it's the only one available to you in your profession.

75
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:24pm

I think that the system is not biased against the players, at least not the way Ray and Carl think. It's biased against superstar players (in that they get less than they would in a pure free-agent, no-cap market) but in favor of journeyman and marginal players (with mandatory minimums, veteran pay, league bonuses, and the like).

In the end, any increase T.O. gets, will be paid for by people like Roderick Hood and Ryan Moats, not Jeff Lurie or Joe Banner.

76
by Ray (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:31pm

"In the end, any increase T.O. gets, will be paid for by people like Roderick Hood and Ryan Moats, not Jeff Lurie or Joe Banner."

And that right there is a big part of why it's unfair to the players. The owners pockets aren't directly touched (usually) by an individual player's salary. The other players are. Taking money out of your teammates pocket to fill your own is not a position that I'd personally like to have to be in. Especially when, if it weren't for the system, we could both get paid what we deserve.

77
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 7:59pm

The CBA covers both end of the spectrum. The same agreement that limits what Payton Manning gets, ensures that Waine Bacon gets at least $175K (or whatever the rookie FA minimum is now).

Since there are a lot more players like the latter, than the former in the NFL, I'd say the current CBA is fairly player-friendly.

78
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 9:04pm

On ESPN radio today the guy named the list of #1 overall picks that have become true franchise-quality players over the past 25 years. Something like 25% of them have done it (Elway, Aikman, Manning, etc.).

With that low of a success rate, and those #1 overalls getting PAID like franchise players, and the ever-increasing gauranteed signing bonuses, I am wondering if the NFL draft system of giving the worst team the first pick may actually HURT parity, by handcuffing bad teams that pick players that turn out to be busts.

79
by Dan L (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 10:11pm

"With that low of a success rate, and those #1 overalls getting PAID like franchise players, and the ever-increasing gauranteed signing bonuses, I am wondering if the NFL draft system of giving the worst team the first pick may actually HURT parity, by handcuffing bad teams that pick players that turn out to be busts."

Absolutely, Richie. I've seen the discussion before, and I couldn't agree more. Last year's number one draft pick (Eli Manning, but it doesn't matter) signed a contract worth between 45 and 54 million dollars over six years. Unless he's a complete bust, he's getting most of that. New England took Ben Watson (not that it matters who) with the 32nd pick in the draft and his deal was worth between 7.5 and 11.5 million dollars over six years. It doesn't matter who was picked because at each spot they had the option of picking anyone left in the draft. The cap price over the length of the deal is about 5-7 times higher for the number one pick than for the number 32 pick.

Obviously the number one pick is more valuable per contract dollar than the thirty-second sometimes. Vick, Elway, Peyton...I wouldn't argue against it partly because I don't feel like doing the sort of in-depth analysis necessary to really make that argument (that's what FO is for.) But balanced against the Crouches and such, those high draft picks just don't justify the piece of the salary cap pie spent on signing them, compared to picks in the lower rounds.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:23pm

And that right there is a big part of why it’s unfair to the players. The owners pockets aren’t directly touched (usually) by an individual player’s salary. The other players are. Taking money out of your teammates pocket to fill your own is not a position that I’d personally like to have to be in. Especially when, if it weren’t for the system, we could both get paid what we deserve.

Wait, wait, this is exactly the way that all of the rest of business works. Divisions have personnel budgets. There's only so much they can spend on people. If one person wants a raise, they need to find some way to work it into the budget. In the salary cap system, you know how much the budget is going to increase each year. That's the only difference. This should make negotiations easier, because you know if you're being a dick or not.

Unfortunately, as I've said, a lot of players have inflated opinions about their own abilities. Which usually leads to them being overpaid by another team, and subsequently cut, and forced to sign at a much lower level. The people with the best knowledge of a player's abilities are the people sitting across the negotiating table from the player.

In a salary cap system, you DO know about your employer’s finances with regards to what he can pay you. It’s pretty much public knowledge. My team has $8 mil left under the cap. Some of that could be mine. I’m under-paid, let’s see if he’ll give some of it to me.

That argument is fine. I have no problem with that. But the holdouts are generally asking for long term contracts, which are just about the worst things you could ask for, because you're asking not just for a portion of this year's salary cap, but the next 5 or 6 years as well. If you attempted to renegotiate a portion of your future salary forward (in exchange for a lower overall contract) I doubt management would refuse to negotiate with them (these kind of renegotiations happen quite often, in fact). For those without a 1 year contract, that is.

Plus, it's important to realize that the franchised players are getting, at the very least, a 10% raise. So these people are complaining "I'm making money - and more money than last year, actually - but I still want more." That's a little insane.

81
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:30pm

With that low of a success rate, and those #1 overalls getting PAID like franchise players, and the ever-increasing gauranteed signing bonuses, I am wondering if the NFL draft system of giving the worst team the first pick may actually HURT parity, by handcuffing bad teams that pick players that turn out to be busts.

Didn't you see the article by MDS about this (regarding another article by a few scientists)?

Here.

The other problem is that the value of the first pick hinges on their ability to evaluate picks. Which is usually why they're a bad team to begin with.

That being said, though, there's nothing to stop a team from passing all the way down to the bottom of the first round. It's a waste, sure, but the 1st pick team has first picks in each round - and the 1st pick in the second round is quite valuable, in fact.

82
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/26/2005 - 11:36pm

The NHL players didn’t get screwed because they were wrong about the NHL Owner’s finances. They got screwed because the NHL Owners had enough money that they could hold out longer than the players. Which is pretty much what the players were saying, so the players got screwed because they were right, i.e. the owners had more money than they were letting on.

I don't agree. Just because the owners had money (from other financial sources, mind you! just because the owner of an NHL franchise has a salary of, say, $1M from OtherCo doesn't mean he needs to subsidize the NHL team he owns) doesn't mean that the NHL wasn't losing money, which it was. The owners can of course hold out - they have other jobs. But the players let the contracts bloat so much that teams were forced to shove their team so close to the red (and sometimes over) that the contracts had to be rescale.

83
by MDS (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 11:23am

Thanks for linking, Pat. I learned more reading that study than I'd learn in a year of reading most newspaper sports sections.

84
by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 3:14pm

That being said, though, there’s nothing to stop a team from passing all the way down to the bottom of the first round. It’s a waste, sure, but the 1st pick team has first picks in each round - and the 1st pick in the second round is quite valuable, in fact.

I have a feeling the NFL would put a stop to that. Soon, every team would drop and nothing would ever happen.

The fact that 3 months after the draft, no 1st round picks had signed this year is bad. (Was this the latest we've ever gone before the first domino fell?)

If they haven't done it already, the NFL really needs to come up with a rookie salary cap. Why did Alex Smith get 20% more than Eli Manning? That's nuts.

85
by Richie (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 3:23pm

In King's diary from Dolphin camp he made a comment about Jason Taylor doing some pass-coverage drills, and what a waste of talent that is.

Seems to me that is a great option, to have a defensive end as good as Taylor, who would also be available to drop back into coverage on occasion.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 3:41pm

If they haven’t done it already, the NFL really needs to come up with a rookie salary cap. Why did Alex Smith get 20% more than Eli Manning? That’s nuts.

Uh, they do have one. The NFL has a rookie pool. The 49ers had $6,168,320 to sign their draft picks. Note that this only counts for the first year, however, which is why
you get obscene contracts like Smith and Manning.

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by OMO (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 4:05pm

"The inability of the Colts’ defense to stop Corey Dillon in the playoffs, can be directly attributed to the lack of cap-space left to hire linebackers, after they were done paying Manning, Harrison, and Edge."

Jesus Christ Star...you can't be a bigger one-trick pony.

There is literally not one football topic that you can't turn into a slam on the Colts.

88
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 4:35pm

OMO--
There is literally not one football topic that you can’t turn into a slam on the Colts.
Not true. Look at this post (link on pseudonym) where I slam the Jets instead.

Sometime I even slam the Dolphins. I got lots of tricks, yes I do...

89
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 4:38pm

In all seriousness, OMO, is there any better example of a cap-starved position than the Colts' linebackers? What example would you use in its place? The Vikings' coaches?

90
by Jets Fan (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 4:44pm

The Colts have linebackers?

91
by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 5:28pm

I am wondering if the NFL draft system of giving the worst team the first pick may actually HURT parity

The loser's curse paper shows that surplus value only increases until early in the second round, where it then begins decreasing fairly steadily throughout each subsequent round. But more important, the authors of that paper make no attempt to address the effects of the draft on league parity or competitive balance. Other economists who have studied this issue have concluded that player drafts have little effect on competitive balance. Instead, they serve to reduce player salaries by reducing their bargaining power, compared to what they would earn in an open market. See link for an article discussing this further.

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by B (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 5:30pm

Starshatterer, What about KC's entire defense (recent changes excluded)?

93
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 5:49pm

B (#92 )--

Based on what I see here (USA Today cap analysis linked), the Chiefs dropped some serious coin on their defense in 2004. They managed to stink anyway, but they weren't exactly cap-starved.

Contrast: 4 of 10 top-paid players on the Chiefs (by cap) worth about $14.5 million in cap space, were defenders. 2 of 10 worth $2.6 million were defenders on the Colts.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 6:16pm

Odd article. Not entirely correct, either.

Anyway, that's not solely what it said. It said

(3) what player draft systems really do is redistribute wealth and probably help keep some otherwise financially strapped teams in business.

Which isn't the same as parity, or competitive balance, true. But it is a positive thing for a league, because it helps ensure that a league is constantly growing, rather than expanding and contracting to the whim of an economy.

The article glosses over that, saying "well, this is a bad thing. Non-financially viable teams are bad for a league." (c.f. "and, unfortunately, means that teams endure in certain cities where fans are not sufficiently interested to pay more than the value of the players' time devoted to some other endeavor including playing that sport in another city.")

This is wrong, for one simple reason. Teams don't play alone. They play other teams. More teams = more games for all teams. This isn't the 1960s, where ticket sales were everything. TV deals are something like 10 times the ticket income, and you're going to get a bigger TV deal with 16 games/week rather than 8 games/week. Even if only 8 of those teams draw a crowd, mainly because advertising revenue isn't linear - if you have two popular teams play each other, you won't make twice the money - you'll make a little less. So you're better off having the two popular teams play less popular teams, because then you'll make twice the money.

I can't figure out why the article discards the entire idea of marginally profitable franchises in a sports league so quickly. It's completely foolish. It's important to keep the Jacksonville Jaguars alive simply because they play other NFL teams.

Heck, it's important to realize that the salary cap is basically structured such that the shared revenue can almost entirely finance a team.

It's also better for consumers, though they disagree with me. It's better for consumers because we get more football games.

95
by Joe Pisarcik Magnet (not verified) :: Wed, 07/27/2005 - 7:20pm

"I got my copy on Saturday. Great stuff so far. Hey Aaron, when can we get a discussion thread for the book? I’m not sure if you’re deliberately avoiding it but it would be nice to have an official place to discuss stuff in it."

My FPro arrived today. I look forward to reading it.

96
by Otis J. Flufflepooter (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 10:57am

"Yes, certainly, but I think it’s been shown by the XFL debacle that the US public can’t support 2 major professional football leagues."

The NFL made the same argument when the AFL was created. There was something called a "merger" that transpired, and today we have a larger, better NFL.

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by Lionel (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 11:29am

"Ditto with the salary cap, which is simply a way of giving an operating budget to each of your 32 divisions."

Except that it's not! Does anyone in here understand even the rudiments of league economics? The NFL is a 501C6 corporation. It functions, by law, much like a trade organization or a chamber of commerce.

The franchises are NOT parts of the whole, but are separate corporations (one of which is owned by a governmental authority). Players are paid NOT by the NFL, but by the teams for which they contract services.

These teams also pay for their own workers' compensation claims and perform many other labor/management services without input from the 501C6 league.

"Don’t piss off the owners/management. For one thing, they’ve got a ton of connections - they’re successful businesspeople, after all! - and they also happen to employ a ton of people, too."

This statement is so devoid of reality as to be laughable. Yes, make buddy-buddy with your franchise owner (a multi-millionaire) so that someday, when you're injured or ineffective, he will gladly pick up the phone and get you a job either with a pal at the club or in one of his many subsidiaries.

Maybe Clinton Portis should start learning to write code in case he snaps a leg on a right sweep.

One of the problem with so many "outsiders" is that they have no clue how the "inside" works. Not even remotely.

"Obviously players do have careers after football."

NFLPA longitudinal studies continue to show, year after year, that the vast majority of players become owners of sole proprietorships, usually in the south, usually in southern towns, usually hiring employees that double as members of large, extended families, especially among African-American athletes.

To understand the motivations of why players make the decisions they make, one might need to consider the cultural context from which these players arrive, and their tacit obligations to support and sustain large, extended families.

Other NFLPA research shows the typical professional football player is far better educated than his peers.

The long-term problem, of course, is one of crippling ailments that restrict a great deal of work, most especially coaching, and the enormous future medical bills. Retirees often find their entire pension eaten up by out of pocket medical expenses. Few carriers will agree to fund prior conditions inherited from service in the NFL, and few sole proprietorships could afford that coverage anyway.

"Personally, I think that they help the growth of the league because it promotes small-market team growth, and a larger economic base always makes things more stable."

Oh, yeah. I remember the last small-market franchise given out by the owners committee. Are you crazy? This is a nonprofit corporation that affixes franchises regardless of economic impact to the overall league but solely on the fee (distributed among the other clubs) that is taped to the cost of entering the league.

The Carolina franchise was NOT an exercise in small market venture capitalism. Neither was Jacksonville. Neither will LA be one.

Talk about not grasping the underlying economics of the league.

"Salaries bloated far beyond the abilities of management to pay them, and so in the end, those huge salaries were probably a bad idea - financially - for the players."

It depended on the owner. Detroit, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago and LA opposed the lock out. Why? They could afford to pay the salaries and appreciated the ability to make decisions on the ultimate value of a player to their business enterprise based on perceived market value.

The problem in wage inflation for some teams began because some owners took risks on player compensation that didn't pan out with increased ticket or stadium revenue, or had other issues related more to debt structuring than the core business (Buffalo or Ottawa).

Comcast (Philadelphia) or MSM (Rangers) don't even see players are a labor expense, but instead as programming costs built in to shore up subscribers in competitive media markets. To see this model at work in other places, read a study of the Yes! Network.

What is most troubling about the comparison of hockey to football is the failure to realize that the business models are so completely different, involving very different revenue streams, media footprint or the long period of player indentured service to a particular franchise, a phenomenon that actually has retarded player salaries in the long run.

In all my years of work on these financial issues, no matter the league or business model involved, however, I have yet to see one fan attend a game because they appreciate the owner. They come to see the players compete, and it often doesn't even matter if those players are all that good.

That's why it's a little offensive to see a comment preaching the beatitude of overlooking owner compensation (again, completely missed in those comments because the real gain for an ownership group comes in rising franchise value, not direct cash payment). Why would it not be important to consider maximizing revenues for the one segment that brings in the fans, the workers, and not the capital groups that put them on the field?

"My point was that I know how much the owners are making, and still, the prices that they’re asking are reasonable."

You do? Fooled me. If you really knew, you would be tracking franchise value inflation instead of annual revenue streams. But what do I know?

But the holdouts are generally asking for long term contracts, which are just about the worst things you could ask for, because you’re asking not just for a portion of this year’s salary cap, but the next 5 or 6 years as well."

Actually, they're not. They're asking for more guaranteed money. Because contracts aren't guaranteed in the NFL, demanding a "long term contract" without the money upfront is counter-productive.

Currently, slightly more than half of a typical player's ultimate wages in the NFL derive from signing bonuses, a trend that's been rising faster than the inflation of DGR.

"Unfortunately, as I’ve said, a lot of players have inflated opinions about their own abilities. Which usually leads to them being overpaid by another team, and subsequently cut, and forced to sign at a much lower level. "

It doesn't MATTER WHAT A PLAYER THINKS. The ultimate price bid for a player becomes his optimal market value. Some teams overpay for that, some don't. In the vast majority of cases, players are NOT "salary cap cuts" but, instead, face reduced market value because of injuries.

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by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 11:51am

Lionel (#97 )--

Are all insiders this crabby over the CBA? Or just the ones that post here?

I don't know about the rest of us poor, ignorant outsiders, but I skimmed your post after the third flippant, gratuitous dig. Did you actually have a point, or were you just venting?

Wait, let me guess your points:

Players who want more money = right, if not to say righteous.
Owners who want more money = wrong, if not evil.
Fans who object to either of the first two propositions = ignorant. Possibly stupid.

Did I miss any?

99
by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 2:38pm

Except that it’s not! Does anyone in here understand even the rudiments of league economics? The NFL is a 501C6 corporation. It functions, by law, much like a trade organization or a chamber of commerce.

Do you?

Yes, each franchise is run as it's own entity. But it's not the same as any other "trade organization." How many trade organizations get in a line to pick their employees? How many trade organizations share revenues amongst all participants? How many trade organizations arbitrarily decide how many days of business their individuals members get to be open during the year? (I'm referring to the playoff system.)

So, yes, each franchise is it's own entity, but in real terms it's just different than the rest of corporate America.

100
by Richie (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 2:40pm

“My point was that I know how much the owners are making, and still, the prices that they’re asking are reasonable.�

You do? Fooled me. If you really knew, you would be tracking franchise value inflation instead of annual revenue streams. But what do I know?

Lionel - what do you know? What makes you such an expert?

I think the original poster was just recognizing that owners are making lots of money, he was not claiming to know the precise profitability of each owner, just that none are losing money to be sure.

101
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 2:44pm

The franchises are NOT parts of the whole, but are separate corporations (one of which is owned by a governmental authority). Players are paid NOT by the NFL, but by the teams for which they contract services.

What the NFL is and what it can be viewed as are two totally different things. Did you even read my post? I said "viewed as", not "is". An NFL franchise is useless by itself. "Here they are, your Philadelphia Eagles! Sure wish we had anyone else to play against..." Therefore it makes the most sense to view the league as a whole, even if it is separate corporations, when you're considering stuff like "economic viability" or "fairness".

he will gladly pick up the phone and get you a job either with a pal at the club or in one of his many subsidiaries.

Rich Gannon. I don't need to say anything more. There are other examples - several other examples. Next time maybe you'll actually read the post, as I was primarily talking about people getting jobs in the football organization. But it's not like NFL players haven't gotten contacts from management.

The Carolina franchise was NOT an exercise in small market venture capitalism. Neither was Jacksonville. Neither will LA be one.

Is there football in LA now? Was there in Jacksonville before? No. So there wasn't a market there originally. Huge potential for a market doesn't make it not a small market. The original market was zero.

They could afford to pay the salaries and appreciated the ability to make decisions on the ultimate value of a player to their business enterprise based on perceived market value.

Yes, but I don't think a 7-team NHL league would work very well, do you? I've got a feeling that those owners recognized that, too. Otherwise they would've withdrawn from the NHL.

You do? Fooled me. If you really knew, you would be tracking franchise value inflation instead of annual revenue streams. But what do I know?

I have to agree with SS. Are all "insiders" so crass and idiotic? Do I know how much Lurie is making with the Eagles? Yah, I've got a guess. A lot. The franchise is worth over a billion dollars. Do I think he's greedy for trying to control the costs of what the players get paid? No way. Player salaries right now are understandable. For Green Bay, which reports their finances, it's something like half of the total gross income of the franchise. For Jacksonville, for instance, it's noticeably less. That's a reasonable amount to me.

Equity cost of a franchise are pointless when talking about operating revenue. The teams have to make money. If they don't, it's foolish to expect an owner to subsidize them.

Actually, they’re not. They’re asking for more guaranteed money. Because contracts aren’t guaranteed in the NFL, demanding a “long term contract� without the money upfront is counter-productive.

Semantics. They're asking for a long term contract, which in the NFL always means more guaranteed money, which means it's the worst kind of contract you can have in a salary cap.

It doesn’t MATTER WHAT A PLAYER THINKS.

Strange me. I thought the players were signing contracts. Maybe I should've said 'player/player's agent'.

Let me be clearer. Say you've got Joe Smith playing for the Eagles. Free agency comes up. He goes to talk to the Eagles. They both have ideas on how much Smith should get. Obviously the figure that Smith's agent gets is a lowball on what the Eagles think Smith's market value is. But suppose the value that the Eagles give Smith is far, far below what Smith (and his agent) think he's worth. They go shopping, and find that the Giants and Cowboys are willing to offer Smith money that's much closer to what he thinks he's worth. They go back and tell the Eagles this, and the Eagles say "well, we can't match that."

Here's the problem. The Eagles know better than Smith does how good he is. They also know better than the Giants and Cowboys, as well, who've only seen him on tape, and on a few brief workouts. Chances are that the Eagles offer is closer to Smith's true value than the other offers. Which means that Smith will likely underperform in those team's opinions, and likely be cut.

Now, of course, the truth is that Smith might still make more money in the long term thanks to the guaranteed money early on, so it still would've been a better decision to go. But it is definitely a consideration that a lot of players don't have.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 07/28/2005 - 2:46pm

The NFL made the same argument when the AFL was created. There was something called a “merger� that transpired, and today we have a larger, better NFL.

I agree. At the time, the NFL's argument was a lie, because there was clearly a market for more football. I think that market's been filled.

Don't get me wrong. I want more football. I would've been happy to see the XFL succeed. I thought it was hilarious. But no league since the AFL has been stable. Had the XFL (or heck, even the USFL) been stable, I have no doubt that we'd have a 40-some team NFL in a decade or so.

103
by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 1:15am

it makes the most sense to view the league as a whole

The NFL has claimed the single-entity defense many times, but the courts have generally rejected it, for example in the Raiders to LA case, the NASL suit over NFL cross-ownership policy, and Billy Sullivan's lawsuit when the NFL blocked the sale of his Patriots.

I'm not a lawyer, but from what I've read the key is that the independently owned clubs also have distinct identities, as opposed to, say, a chain restaurant franchise.

104
by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 12:32pm

"Gannon. I don’t need to say anything more. There are other examples - several other examples. Next time maybe you’ll actually read the post, as I was primarily talking about people getting jobs in the football organization. But it’s not like NFL players haven’t gotten contacts from management."

I know I'm just joining in, Pat, but I would agree with the other guy that this is extremely rare, so rare as to be not even worth mentioning.

The other guy also makes correct observations about franchise values being the driving motivation among owners, as franchise fees are the most important barrier to ownership. A glance at the Vikings is a good anecdote to start the discussion.

My work on NHL finances also would show that the other guy is right about the dynamic of hockey, which is separate from the NFL "business model."

A great many owners actually disagreed with NHL's decision to increase their television shadow, a vain pursuit, across America by digging into areas not exactly receptive to professional hockey.

Atlanta, Carolina, Nashville -- these might be great, well-run clubs, but they will never have the financial strength of New York or Boston or Montreal.

Had the league not expanded to some of these smaller markets, thus giving the franchise owners more say in the event of a labor dispute, you probably would not have had a lockout last year. But we'll never know now. It was a disaster for both sides, although owners will, in time, recover franchise values.

I also should point out that NFL players don't really care about "long-term contracts" because that's not where they make their money. Long-term contracts are important to MLB or NBA players, who don't have large signing bonuses or the LTBE bonuses that are part of the NFL compensation package.

For players in a high-injury league like the NFL, it doesn't really make sense to demand long-term contracts because they, or at least their agents, realize they likely won't be around at the end of them, and that the front office holds the cards anyway because they can end a deal at any time, so long as they follow the compensation payout dictated under the CBA.

What the other guy failed to point out is that the big battle going on now within the NFL is not about the CBA negotiations, but rather a fight between certain owners over what will be included in the DGR. Basically you have revenue sharing in the NFL, and there is some talk that the new stadia developed by certain clubs, such as Dallas or the Patriots (with other teams money, part of a rotating stadium acquisition fund), brings in revenues that should be divided with the others.

JimA also is right that some court decisions have looked at the NFL as a whole, not a part, but those were torts that involved teams acting as a whole, not as parts, which is what you would expect in a strong cartel of companies in a trade organization.

Congress has not sought to really fight some of these tacit anti-trust exemptions, although they certainly have threatened to do so, from time to time, under the Commerce Clause.

It's important to remember that although the NFL is a 501( C)(6) corporation (he was right about that), the teams aren't. For many important functions, such as paying taxes, defending or settling workers' compensation claims, creating contracts or hiring and firing workers, they exist as separate entities.

This isn't unique in American sport. Maybe I'm alone in speculating that football would ultimately be a better game if there was less collusion and more independence across the league on many of these issues, including the right for certain teams to guarantee contracts as an incentive to elite players.

I realize that that would turn the Indianapolis Colts into the Minnesota Twins, but the Twins aren't so bad and, right now, are better than most big dollar MLB teams.

The franchise value, of course, is dramatically less. Which is ultimately why small market owners will always fight it. Not because it would make them "less competitive," but less rich!

105
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 1:21pm

Jim:

I agree wholeheartedly. 1000% - the NFL, legally, is a collection of 32 independent franchises. Absolutely. Legally, financially, and for tax purposes of course.

People aren't talking about legally, though. They're talking about it from an economic perspective. By "economic", I really mean "theoretical economic".

In that view, it's simply not correct to treat the NFL as 32 independent franchises in a simple analysis, because each team is dependent upon the others for stability, and yet is a direct competitor. In this type of system, a laissez-faire free market economy would never work, as it tends to reduce the number of competitors (survival of the fittest) which weakens the stability of the system.

To put it another way: people have said that the draft and the salary cap are bad things, because it artificially restricts the salary of the free market of players between 32 independent teams. This leads to certain players (though not all) being underpaid for their services.

This presumes that a free market of players is a good thing for the football market. Which, as I've stated above, is not a foregone conclusion. In fact, given that the profitability of the best teams is helped by the mere existence of barely-profitable teams, it makes much more sense to view the NFL as a single entity in a theoretical economic sense. Then the salary cap makes sense - it's the profitable divisions subsidizing the unprofitable (but still necessary) divisions. Or more correctly, it's the more profitable divisions agreeing to a personnel budget that the less profitable divisions can afford.

The draft is just equivalent to an HR division making sure that both the unprofitable and profitable divisions hire equivalent talent.

106
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:30pm

I know I’m just joining in, Pat, but I would agree with the other guy that this is extremely rare, so rare as to be not even worth mentioning.

How is it rare? The NFL (and college football, for that matter) is littered with former NFL players. You think that those players that get jobs without even getting recommendations from former coaches?

At the college football level, it's even more prevalent (former college football players going into football-related coaching or administrative jobs).

The other guy also makes correct observations about franchise values being the driving motivation among owners, as franchise fees are the most important barrier to ownership. A glance at the Vikings is a good anecdote to start the discussion.

The only reason that a team has high equity is because it has had positive operating revenue for many years. If the Jaguars were losing $100M a year, they wouldn't be worth very much. They'd still be worth a lot, but that's because there are so many other profitable NFL teams (so it's a 'perceived value' thing). So it's not like the owners don't care about operating revenue.

Had the league not expanded to some of these smaller markets, thus giving the franchise owners more say in the event of a labor dispute, you probably would not have had a lockout last year.

But the league would've been smaller - and a smaller league is less stable, and is able to garner less revenue from national TV deals. Even the large market teams made more money simply because the smaller market teams existed.

Plus, and here's the kicker: you wouldn't have players playing on those teams! Without those teams, several older players would be out of the league faster, because there's no one willing to pick them up.

Maybe I’m alone in speculating that football would ultimately be a better game if there was less collusion and more independence across the league on many of these issues, including the right for certain teams to guarantee contracts as an incentive to elite players.

I think it would be a less stable game. That's the thing.

Part of the reason why I'm so big on the "stability is important in a sports league" is that history is filled with defunct sports leagues, and I think that as a consumer, I'd much rather have a stable sports league than a bunch of unstable ones popping up from time to time.

JimA also is right that some court decisions have looked at the NFL as a whole

Mainly the USFL vs NFL decision. It's still incredible to think that the NFL as a whole might not even be around had a jury not completely misunderstood the legal process and fined the NFL only $1.

But as I said before, I'm only saying that you can look at the NFL as a single entity (and some courts have), not that it legally, financially, or taxwise is.

Anyway, I just realized that one of the reasons that this argument exists is because players aren't around long enough for the stability of the NFL to matter. Especially today. But in some sense, the only reason that player salaries are as high as they are is because the NFL has been stable for as long as it has.

So are the players getting screwed? Yah, a little. They're being asked to accept less than "true" market value to ensure that the league stays around at its current size. To me, this is fair - because the only reason "true" market value is as high as it is is because other people before made the same sacrifice.

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by Peter King (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:35pm

Hey, it's me, over here...it's me Peter!! This is my thread! Dont' forget about me. Read my training camp diary, please! C'mon...Starbucks for everyone, on me!

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by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 2:52pm

Then the salary cap makes sense - it’s the profitable divisions subsidizing the unprofitable (but still necessary) divisions. Or more correctly, it’s the more profitable divisions agreeing to a personnel budget that the less profitable divisions can afford.

It's like a company spending money on Administration or Marketing or R&D - divisions that don't create revenue. They just spend.

In a business, a Sales department is the only one that creates revenue. The rest are just leeches. But, without those leeches, the Sales department would be screwed.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 3:33pm

PK:

Let me see, which is more fun, talking about this, or reading about what you had for breakfast...

Richie:

Exactly. The problem is that the NFL certainly looks like 32 separate corporations, and it certainly acts like it a good fraction of the time too. But it's crazy to blindly apply economics and claim "restrictions to free market trade are bad!" like that article linked above did. The Eagles don't want to put the Packers out of business. In fact, the Eagles actually want the Packers to do better (i.e. draw more crowds) because then they make more money!

So we know why it's a good thing for the NFL as a whole to have a salary cap and a draft. They make more money, and are more stable.

The only issue is whether or not it's better for players, and whether or not it's good for fans. I think it's clear it's good for fans - more football is always better for addicts like us. I think it's clear it's better for players in the long run, too. It's just worse for individual players. So I guess I understand Carl's point. The salary cap (and the draft) both just serve to limit how much a player earns in the NFL. But the cap and the draft are better for players collectively, because collectively the players depend on the health of the NFL.

Gee, I wonder if that might be why individual players might complain, but collectively, the players agreed to it. :)

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by OMO (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 3:54pm

Star, I don't disagree with your comment...Polian's defensive spending is below welfare levels and in this league, you get what you pay for...e.g., Rob Morris vs. Gary Brackett Training Camp battles for the starting MLB job (seriously...I can't make this stuff up).

I was just poking fun that your post-to-bash-Colts ratio is higher than most Pats slappies.

;)

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by Carl (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 6:51pm

" But the cap and the draft are better for players collectively, because collectively the players depend on the health of the NFL."

I guess the men who play in MLB or Italien Serie A are barely making it. Lucky for them they don't have the stability of having an employer who has been around longer than General Motors.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 7:35pm

How did I know you were going to bring that up?

Yes, other sports are surviving. Whether or not their salaries (collectively) are improving as much as NFL players are, or will continue to improve as much as NFL salaries have, is another thing.

As for players in MLB: keep in mind that the only reason that a MLB club didn't fold two years ago was because of a last minute agreement with the player's union. I'd would be worried about playing in any league where teams come that close to folding.

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by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 7:37pm

Pat, the courts have considered possible economic justifications for the single-entity defense (because that's what the NFL argues so vociferously) and still rejected it. However, there are definitely some prominent legal scholars who disagree with such decisions, for example Paul Weiler of Harvard, author of Leveling the Playing Field.

I tend to agree with Carl in that a reduction in monopolistic behavior by the NFL would benefit both players and fans without sacrificing much in stability. The NFL advocates many of their practices or "League Think" as for the good of the game, but the underlying effect is that of putting more money in the pockets of the owners.

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by Jim A (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 7:45pm

It's really silly to suggest that MLB is somehow in dire financial straits when virtually every independent economic analysis has concluded just the opposite.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 07/29/2005 - 9:25pm

Now you're doing the reverse, Jim. While baseball as a whole is doing fine, many individual teams certainly were not. No one seems to be jumping to buy the former Expos (though, after this season, that will certainly change).

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by Jim A (not verified) :: Sat, 07/30/2005 - 1:19am

Pat, seven ownership groups have put in bids for the former Expos, now the Washington Nationals. Seven! This after six cities submitted relocation plans to MLB before they chose D.C. MLB seems to be dragging out the process as long as they can in order to maximize the sale price.