The League

Paul Tenorio
Redskins Beat Writer

Offseason Champions

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Anyone who has been in or around Washington for the past decade can easily answer the question of whether spending results in winning.

In my case, I've been in the metropolitan area for the better part of two-plus decades and thus have had a front-row seat to witness one of the prime examples in sports today of why money does not equal success.

The Washington Redskins, a franchise once recognized for its three Super Bowl teams led by Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs, is now best known as the "offseason champion," a fitting title bestowed upon an organization constantly lured by free agency's biggest names.

The Redskins have been the league's third highest spending team over the past five seasons, laying down a whopping $547.37 million. And yet the results of those investments have been shaky at best.

Since the start of the century, the millions spent have yet to lead to a title - Super Bowl or divisional. During the past five years, Washington finished with 10 wins just once during a regular season and has two playoff appearances.

While two playoff appearances in five years may not seem that poor, Washington's free-spending, free agency based building strategy leaves little room for long-term success.

Both playoff years came on the heels of late win streaks, and both were followed by poor seasons: a 5-11 finish in 2006 and an 8-8 record last season. The Redskins have not had back-to-back winning seasons since 1990-91.

Players the Redskins have scooped up via trade or free agency for the most part either have flopped or were aging - Adam Archuleta, Bruce Smith, Brandon Lloyd, Trung Canidate, Jason Taylor, Pete Kendall, to name a few. And though some signings have worked - Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, London Fletcher, Shawn Springs, for example - the Redskins' decision to focus solely on buying the stars and a bad habit of trading away draft picks has often left the team with little to no depth and very few role players, who often become the backbone of the league's most successful teams.

But while the Redskins have spent millions on free agents and largely ignored the value of the draft, only to average 7.6 wins per season, the New England Patriots - a franchise that has to be considered the most successful of this decade - has spent less, drafted more and averaged five wins more per season.

From 2004 to 2008, New England went to the playoffs four times and won the Super Bowl once, also appearing in one other championship. And while the Patriots are in the top 10 in the league in spending at $513.31 million, seven spots behind Washington, unlike the Redskins they have also relied heavily on the draft.

New England's ability to parlay trades into more picks instead of fewer - they averaged four more picks per year than Washington between 2003-07 - has benefited the franchise greatly. Of the Patriots' 22 starters going into this season, 14 are draft picks, compared to just nine for Washington. And many of the other picks on the roster have provided valuable depth.

Free spending can't be considered a strategy for winning; instead it must be looked at as a supplement in a larger plan.

The success of teams who value the draft, like New England, is evidence that while spending money is one aspect of running a successful franchise, it can't be considered the only one.

By Paul Tenorio  |  July 3, 2009; 7:57 AM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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