NFL Smarts Goes Beyond The Playbook


The perception that football is created with just an active roster of 53 players and some playbooks in order is still largely seen by many that are not so involved with football. For some, football starts in September and ends in February. For others, football is just a one-time event – the Super Bowl.

The truth is, football becomes more spectacular and fascinating each day as the challenges evolve day-by-day; whether on the field or in the war room. The NFL’s fixed rules on spending, gives a blank canvas for each of the 32 teams to start with the same resources; thus, each team has the same opportunity to be a Super Bowl contender. However, it all depends on how those resources are allocated – and that’s when the competition really begins.

Jan 26, 2013, Honolulu, HI, USA; General view of the NFL logo at midfield of Aloha Stadium at Ohana Day for the 2013 Pro Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The point is – the NFL is nothing more than a big-super-huge business and economics involved. While money doesn’t necessarily buy a championship, if invested wisely, it will help bring the championship closer to the team – and perhaps a Super Bowl. Should a division title, divisional round, conference championship or a super bowl knock on the door; hope that injuries don’t become a factor and make sure the brains are working its full capacity in developing a playbook that will outsmart the opposing team.

The NFL industry generates $7 billion or more annually. This amount of money is well worth the attention of The Wall Street Journal writer Stu Woo as he puts economics, money and smarts in the realm of football in three distinctive conclusions.

  • Spending money on players who play for another team and still make the playoffs

Even under the NFL’s salary cap, which limits a team’s total spending, there is a way to maneuver around the NFL’s strange accounting system. Prorating a player’s salary or bonus over a number of years or guaranteeing a portion of a player’s salary over the length of the contract might be strategies that help teams stretch to sign star players when they need them. But it can go sour because when the player is released or traded, the remaining proration of the salary or signing bonuses money goes into the team’s current salary cap limiting the amount of money a team can allocate to its current player. If dead money is an issue, the main consolation a team has is to hope that their current active roster are playing well enough to compete in the playoffs.

  • Getting more for less

The concept to even hope in becoming a Super Bowl contender is – you got to have an excellent quarterback. Sure that is true, but the real emphasis is “at what cost” and can he handle the pressure?The dynamics in football and quarterback position are changing, and so is how much money is being invested in a quarterback that will give the team more for less. This past season, three of quarterbacks that played in the playoffs were rookies – Indianapolis’ Colts Andrew Luck, Seattle’s Seahawks Russell Wilson, and Washington’s Redskins Robert Griffin III. As a second-year quarterback, Cincinnati’s Bengal Andy Dalton, Minnesota’s Viking Christian Ponder, and San Francisco’s 49ers Colin Kaepernick, after starting quarterback Alex Smith was put to the side following a concussion. The interesting aspect of all these quarterbacks is the fact they were all drafted after the league’s Collective-bargaining Agreement took effect – meaning, a cut on how much teams can pay top draft picks.

Thanks to, we can illustrate a situation in which RGIII is making $3.8 million while St. Louis’ Rams 2010 round 1 draft pick, Sam Bradford, has compiled $15.5 million. Under the new CBA, later draft picks are even cheaper. Example of that is Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson – a third round pick, 75 overall of the 2012 NFL draft earning a league’s low $544,868.

  • Investing the money on three selective players

Article 13, Section 6(b)(v) of the CBA, as Mike Florio points out, the new rule allows teams to rollover unused salary cap space for the next season. If the set salary cap is $121 million and a team was $10 million under the cap in the previous year, then a team is allowed to spend $131 million which could counterbalance any dead money. That explains why the Denver Broncos were able to spend a big chunk of their payroll money on just three players: Peyton Manning ($18 million) and defenders Elvis Dumervil ($14 million) and Champ Bailey ($8 million) this past season. In 2011 the Denver Broncos had $25.6 million in cap space rollover to the 2012 season. Without the cap rollover, they just could not have Peyton Manning. If the Broncos had won the Super Bowl, some teams might have considered in applying his technique. The trick part is a team would have to know and believe they would have a poor season in order to manipulate the payroll to its lowest allowed under the CBA and rollover unused cap space to the next season. But then again, anything in the NFL can backfire.

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