The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Gotta Spend (Smart) to Win

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There are very few rules in the NFL for guaranteed success on the field. Some teams win by drafting well and re-signing their own players (Steelers), some teams win by over paying their core impact players (Colts) and some do it by a combination (Patriots). The one common denominator, though, is that teams that don't spend money on talent invariably will not win in the NFL.

The 1993 collective bargaining agreement instituted, for the first time, a salary cap and free agency in the NFL. This, combined with equitable revenues, as compared to the other leagues, leveled the playing field for all clubs. The NFL is not a league of haves and have-nots like Major League Baseball. For all intents and purposes, the 32 member teams compete on a level playing field when it comes to the formation of their 53-man rosters. The teams and management who are astute at talent gathering via the draft and free agency are the teams that consistently find success on the field.

The great, Hall of Fame New York Giants owner Wellington Mara set the precedent in the 60's when he mandated that national television revenue need to be split evenly amongst the member clubs. This was at a time when the Giants, in essence, were half (if not more) of the league in terms of revenue, fan support and value. Yet Mr. Mara unselfishly believed that the strength of the league lay in the sum of its parts rather than individual needs and value. This selfless decree set the standard for today's salary cap system and the current NFL.

But there remain two types of owners in the NFL; those that want to win and those who want to make money. The smart owners realize that these two concepts can go hand in hand. It is the responsibility of fans in cities where the owners refuse to spend, to vote with their wallets and demand that the front office take every possible measure to win. The fans of all professional sports teams want only one thing -- to see their teams succeed.

It's ironic to an extent that the Buccaneers dismissed Head Coach John Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen after back to back 9-7 seasons, even though the team spent roughly 66 percent of what the other teams did on players. In essence the Bucs were playing with two thirds of a team and still winning more games than they were losing. What would have happened to the Bucs had they spent closer to the Steelers, Colts and Cowboys? It is the fans of the Tampa area that should be upset and crying that they are "mad as heck and aren't going to take it anymore" and demand that the Glazer family spend closer to their competitors so that their beloved Bucs can have a fighting chance to succeed on the field.

Of course teams must not only spend but spend smart and follow a plan. The key too wining is not only drafting well but resigning the players you draft and develop. On top of this, teams must astutely navigate and win in free agency. The best way to win in free agency is to win the ties - and that's where it comes back to success on the field. Players will invariably go to the highest bidder but when all teams are roughly at the same dollar figure it is the best organizations with the greatest track record of winning that will nab the top players. The Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, and Broncos are classic examples of quality organizations that win ties because of their reputation for treating players fairly and for being successful on the field.

Yes, owners are entitled to make a fair return on their multi-million dollar investments, but they also have an obligation to their de-facto shareholders -- the fans -- to build the best possible teams on the field. In the long run that will lead to success and prosperity.

By Peter Schaffer  |  July 3, 2009; 10:15 AM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Denver Broncos , Indianapolis Colts , NFL , Peter Schaffer Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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