Sunday, November 28, 2004

Money Isn't Everything

Money isn't everything, but the riches that money can bring are great when the money is properly spent. Nowhere are these statements more true than in the NFL, where teams are bound by player salary caps and floors, but where teams may spend freely on coaches and front office personnel.

It is thus dismaying that one of our very own, someone purportedly attuned to the Vikings, today writes of the Vikings' money matters in a dismissive manner. With reports swirling that Vikings' owner Red McCombs is cutting corners in hiring non-player personnel and scrutinizing every penny as if it were his last, one local writer has determined--through the most cursory of reviews--that money doesn't matter in the NFL.

Though the writer does not expressly contend that money does not matter in the NFL, he does conclude that there is no necessary correlation between revenue and winning on the field. To which those who understand the NFL's salary cap requirements respond--"No shit Sherlock."

I would be fine with the correlation argument if it just ended there, but the writer extrapolates his conclusion, implying that revenue is irrelevant to winning in the NFL. In support of this insinuation, the writer notes that while Dallas and Washington are among the top revenue-grossing teams in the NFL, they are also near the bottom of the NFL in victories. And while the Vikings and Jaguars are at the bottom of the NFL in gross revenue production, they are among the better teams in the NFL--even if that is a fairly watered-down distinction.

But what is the point of the writer's column? Is it to argue that teams that spend less are destined to be better than teams that spend more? It could not be, as there is even less correlative evidence to support such a proposition than the writer offers to support his supposition.

Is the point that the wealthy have an inate inablity to refrain from overspending? If so, who cares? If not, what then is the point?

It would appear that the point is to simply relate what the writer views to be Vikings' news. But here's a news flash for our writer--this is not news! Since Red struck out on his bid to move the Vikings, he has tightened the spending clamps. This can be traced to Tice's hiring and subsequent personnel decisions made on the cheap, in particular the failure to bring in available, proven players at key positions.

Our writer notes that the Vikings have made personnel decisions with cost-saving in mind, but that such moves have led to the hiring of young and bright minds. A case in point, the writer notes, is Red's hiring of the Vikings' capalogist, Rob Brzezinski.

But Brzezinski's hiring merely seals the suspicions, confirming that Red wants to hire someone young, to save salary, but someone talented to crunch numbers to tell him how to cut corners. In fact, it is Brzezinski who found ways for the Vikings to manipulate the salary cap so that the Vikings could actually spend below the cap this season and not get busted for it (see cf. the way other teams try to spend over the cap without getting busted).

The real question, however, is not whether the Vikings are spending as much as other teams. And it never has been. The real question is whether the Vikings are spending their money more wisely than are other teams. Answering this question requires a far more investigative piece than what our local writer has trodded out in the name of journalism. It requires, for example, consideration of whether the Vikings have filled the needs that they have identified as an organization.

Going into the off-season, the Vikings identified several needs, including acquiring a punter, a placekicker who could kickoff and attempt field goals, a middle linebacker with experience, an outside linebacker, a defensive end, a pass-catching tight end, and a cornerback. While the Vikings did obtain a cornerback in Antoine Winfield and a very good pass-catching tight end in Jermaine Wiggins, they failed to sign experienced linebackers and are relying on a rookie at right end. The three-for-one deal on placekickers was also not what the Vikings said they were looking for, and the punting has been sporadic, albeit cheap.

With only a bit more research into the issue than that provided by our local writer, it is evident that the Vikings are 7-4, not because of, but in spite of their penny pinching ways. And it is clear that the Vikings have not spent as they have because they thought that they were spending wisely, but because they thought they could keep the fans hopeful of a championship without adding any more salary.

But, of course, the ultimate question, the question that truly cannot be answered, is whether the Vikings would have been better off spending more of their cap allowance. But our fair writer ignores this question as if it did not exist.


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