October 15, 2007

Why the Pats are so good, or why the NFL salary cap sucks

Personally I've never been a fan of the New England Patriots. Cheering for them is like cheering for Tiger Woods or Roger Federer -- but none can deny that this is a franchise that has figured it all out. They have figured out the intricacies of the NFL Salary Cap, and built a team that has stood the test of time. Few franchises in professional sports have enjoyed the success that the Pats have attained, and their appears to be no end in sight. Watching last night's game was a great indication to me why the NFL salary system is flawed. The Pats completely dominated the game, in every facet of the game.

In most cases in any sport, you will have a team that dominates offense or defense, but rarely both. Last year's NFL champions were the Colts, a team that dominated offensively. They beat the Chicago Bears, who had the NFL's best defense that year. Even if you look at years past, what helped the Pats win championships in previous years was their stout defense. But this year, the Pats are dominating on both sides of the ball. Their defense is excellent, but now their offense is also excellent.

The analysts talked about how Tom Brady is having such a huge year, now having been surrounded by a cast of very talented receivers. Starting with Randy Moss who is one of the top 2-3 receivers in the league, Donte Stallworth who was the Eagles' #1 WR over the past 2-3 years, and Wes Welker, the all purpose wonder-boy from Miami last season. Adding to that they also have Laurence Maroney, a budding young superstar who's only flaw is probably his injury woes, and a top tight-end in Benjamin Watson.

The scary thing about the success of the Patriots over the past 5-6 years, is like I mentioned, the fact that this team was already loaded with superstars on the other side of the ball -- on defense. Guys like Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Asante Samuel, Rosevelt Colvin, Ellis Hobbs, Mike Vrabel. Heck, they even have Junior Seau! It's a wonder how a team loaded with players like these could afford to load up on superstars on the offensive side too!

If there is one thing that the Pats' success over the years has shown, is the flaws in the NFL's salary cap and collective bargaining agreement. In no other league with a cap can you load up on the amount of talent that the Pats have on their roster.

The fact that you can go and front-load a players' salary with a gigantic signing bonus that can be pro-rated over the contract length so that it doesn't hurt the cap rating, and then structure the deal so that it is back-heavy. With non-guaranteed contracts teams can 'conveniently' say goodbye to awful contracts. This is something the New York Knicks (who are $75M over the NBA cap) can only dream of. The ability to restructure contracts, or the fact that contracts are not guaranteed would help Isiah Thomas not look like the buffoon that he is.

The NBA has minimum salary wages, based upon a players' experience in the league, his average pay and the league's average pay. You wouldn't be able to go out and get a Randy Moss and give him a substantial pay cut, because of the rules behind salaries in the NBA. And why wouldn't you take a cut if you could get yourself on a team full of all-stars and not worry about some kind of minimum salary sliding scale. If the NBA were built like the NFL, the Boston Celtics would have no problems adding a solid, if not very capable bench behind Garnett, Allen and Pierce. They'd even be able to restructure each of these superstar contracts and go pick up a Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash or Lebron James for added measure.

You also wouldn't be able to give up essentially nothing to trade in a guy like Moss, because there are trading limitations, based on percentages of salary cost on the players changing teams.

NFL teams also have the ability to create an entirely incentive-based contract, which allows the amount of money counted against the cap to be fairly minimal, depending of course on the types of incentives.

Simply put, there is no way that a team like the current 2007 New England Patriots -- a team that could likely represent the AFC in this years' Pro-Bowl -- could ever be assembled under the NBA Salary structure.

I used to think that the NFL was the great pro-sport league in the world. I still believe that. Yes, the cap system is seriously flawed, but if all teams could figure things out the way the Pats have, we wouldn't have to sit through these blowouts between teams that have the same record but are clearly in completely different leagues.

The NFL is a well-oiled machine that makes a ton of money. There is no league that has sustained its popularity the way the NFL has over the years. Everything about it, from the 16-week grind, to the 80,000+ seating domes, to the fact that at any given play you might break your neck. Football is just awesome, plain and simple.

Some might blame the system but I blame the GMs. Look at a team like the New York Jets. Why in the world do they even use Chad Pennington? After years of inconsistency. The Jets have stuck with Pennington for 5-6 years and he is hurt all the time and sucks. Why do you stick with a guy like that. Why did it take so many years until you drafted a new QB? What if Clemens sucks, will you wait another 5 years of mediocrity before drafting another? And there are teams like this all over the league, making horrible personnel decisions over and over again.

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