NFL Economic Bizarro World

Carl and I have pounded practically everyone we know with the total economic sense shown by Billy Beane, GM of the Oakland Athletics mapped out in the outstanding book Moneyball. If you haven’t read it, you should. The book is a very easy read and quite entertaining even if you are not into baseball. Perfect summer reading.

I don’t want to ruin any of the book for those planning on reading it, but past this point will reveal a few spoilers to help me make a larger point.

Beane typically never signs players who – call him crazy – have never proven themselves on a professional baseball field. On top of this, he is very particular about the type of player he signs, according to certain statistics.

What I want to concentrate on in this post is the fact that Beane would be very hard pressed to sign a kid right out of college who has never played an inning of professional baseball. Sure, players that do well in the minors for a period of time are brought up, but the fact remains that in Beane’s mind, if you have never played well in a professional setting he doesn’t really see the point in bringing you up to the very top level and take up a roster (and valuable salary) spot on the major league team.

Lets compare this to the National Football League. Jake Long, the massive offensive lineman from Michigan was the first pick in the last NFL draft, and he signed a contract for $57.75 million over five years. $30 million of this money is guaranteed. In other words, if Jake Long blows his knee up in training camp this summer and never even plays one down in the league, he will get $30 million. Incredible, no?

Even the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell has had enough of this insanity, and even came out and said so. I don’t know why these owners have taken the tack of rewarding players who have not proven themselves – it is totally upside down to the ways that Billy Beane preaches. I find it comical that the commissioner of the NFL had to come out and say it is insane that players who have played as much NFL football as myself are getting paid too much, when the owners of the teams have complete control over how much they offer these players.

Cross posted at LITGM and SFU.

3 thoughts on “NFL Economic Bizarro World”

  1. Another insane impact of the system is 1) not only do we pay way too much for unproven players 2) they often sit out training camp while they bicker over how much undeserved guaranteed pay to receive.

    As Bear fans we suffered through this with Benson since, however terrible his career was, it was even more likely to fail due to the lack of practice time and ill-will that he accumulated with the other players.

    Smarter teams like the Pats as you know are basically opting out of this by trading for mid-level draft picks. Since the NFL salary cap is pretty equal the teams cripple themselves by picking expensive unproven high draft picks. I think that this is helping to keep the “good teams good” and the crappy teams crappy – because the crappy teams are the guys paying the biggest bucks to the top 5 picks.

    Look at what Detroit got for their picks… bubkus. And the Dolphins.

  2. If your chief competitive advantage is that you can crunch the numbers better, then it makes perfect sense for you to pick up players who have plenty of data backing them up — and to ignore players without any data backing them up.

    Otherwise, it’s not so clear.

    It’s all about who is overvalued or undervalued by the rest of the market, and what you know that they don’t know.

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