The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

It's Always Brains Over Bucks

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While I found the articles done by new NFL.com reporter and Washington Post alumnus Jason LaCanfora to be interesting and revealing, I think there's some information missing from the "committed cash" and "dollars per win" figures. In order to make this a truly definitive study, Jason should (and very well may) dig deeper. First of all, unlike in Major League Baseball, where the variance from team to team in overall spending is truly astonishing, the NFL has a salary cap, and it's gone up every year in the five years discussed in the second article. Thus, I think it would be important to split out the totals year-by-year, so that teams with a high success variance from year to year are seen as such. Perhaps removing the salary floor every year, and dealing with the remainder, and penalizing teams who go over the cap (Hell-O, Redskins!) ... well, that's how you get a little closer to the truth when it comes to actual dollars per win.

Still, the overriding principle as it applies to the Moneyball modus operandi couldn't be more correct: big money means nothing when it comes to team success. It's even more true in football, where the evils of poor draft histories can't be overcome with free agency. The Cowboys, Seahawks, and Redskins have all had questionable drafts and free agency moves in the last few seasons. Specifically, the temptation to overvalue fantasy football positions at the expense of foundation players is something the Seahawks and Cowboys have in common. In 2006, Seattle traded their 2007 first-round draft pick to the Patriots for receiver Deion Branch, a player who won a Super Bowl MVP award but never gained 1,000 yards receiving in a season. Branch proved to be an injury-prone bust. Dallas' insistence in trading half their 2009 draft for Lions receiver Roy Williams actually makes the Branch trade look like a steal. And if the Redskins had their way, Chad Ocho Cinco would be a Redskin, and the Dan and Vinny show would have traded several picks for the "pleasure" of that particular headache.

The teams on top of that second list have one thing in common - they have reduced the art of drafting successfully to a repeatable science. They get the best of their players in their first contracts, and are able to make wise decisions on those players as their games (and paychecks) mature. That's what counts, and that's why money will never rule the NFL from a personnel standpoint - as it is in just about every endeavor, brains are more important than bucks.

By Doug Farrar  |  July 3, 2009; 8:13 AM ET  | Category:  Doug Farrar , Seattle Seahawks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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