The League

Dave Halprin
Cowboys Blogger

Dave Halprin

The founder and editor of Blogging The Boys, a Dallas Cowboys blog on the SB Nation network.

Can't Buy a Championship


The question: Does spending really matter in the NFL? Do the amounts the owners spend on labor costs matter in the grand scheme of the NFL?

This whole debate was prompted by a recent article which listed the labor acquisition costs incurred by every NFL team from 2004 to 2008. Teams like the Cowboys, the team I blog about at Blogging The Boys, and the Redskins were leaders in labor spending but have shown little in results when it comes to playoff appearances/wins. In this very limited sample it would appear that the amount spent by owners in signing players does not have a direct correlation to success.

With the NFL's salary cap in place, teams aren't told how much they have to spend, but they are told how much they can spend. Contrast this to baseball, where franchises like New York and Boston continually spend whatever they need to acquire the best talent while teams in Pittsburgh and Kansas City have essentially become farm teams for the rest of the league. The gap between the Yankees payroll and the Pirates payroll makes all the difference in the world. In general, that situation does not exist in the NFL.

The other issue with the NFL is that it's such a team-oriented sport that buying a single player or even two usually is not enough to tip the competitive balance. In the NBA, one star brought to a team can instantly change the fortunes of that club. It's much harder for that to happen in football unless you get lucky in free agency and pick up a great QB in their prime. That rarely happens though, the NFL's franchise tags allow teams to keep their good players until they can get a contract worked out. The movement of superstars in free agency in the NFL is not as pronounced as it is in the other leagues. It's much harder to instantly change the fortunes of your team through free agency.

These factors lead to the maxim that you can't buy a championship. While I'm not sure I agree with that fully in some of the other leagues, it does seem to be true in the NFL. When teams rise to the top, nobody ever says it's because they out-spent the other teams to acquire the best talent. It's almost universally said the team made wise decisions based on the money available under the salary cap. There are cases when certain owners won't spend up to the cap to save money, but those margins are miniscule in comparison with the $100 million gaps you see in major league baseball every year. The difference between the top spending team, the Cowboys, and the lowest spending team, the Bucs, over that five-year period was roughly $120 million. That breaks down to about $24 million a year, which in NFL money isn't that significant.

In the NFL, it's not the size, but how you use it.

By Dave Halprin  |  July 3, 2009; 8:26 AM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: It's Always Brains Over Bucks | Next: Gotta Spend (Smart) to Win

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