Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tampa Media And The Must-Spend-To-Win Myth

Recently the Tampa Media has become self-convinced (which I'm sure they would call self-enlightened) that the amount of money an NFL team spends is directly proportional to the success of the team.

This is completely and totally F-A-L-S-E.

Unlike the Tampa Media, who believes whatever they think is true, I will actually prove it.

If spending a bunch of money does determine how successful a team will be, it would be expected that the teams that reach the SuperBowl each year would be among the highest spending teams for that year (because the SuperBowl is the Championship).  To test this hypothesis, I offer the following graph regarding team payrolls for the NFL seasons between 2002 and 2009:

NFL Team Payroll Range For 2002-2009
The Upper Black Line shows the Highest Payroll of the given year.
The Lower Black Line shows the Lowest Payroll of the given year.
The Dashed Black Line shows the NFL Salary Cap since 2005 (with amounts).
The Dark Blue Line shows the payroll of the SuperBowl Winner for the given year.
The Light Blue Line shows the payroll of the SuperBowl Loser for the given year.
The Red Line shows the payroll of the Buccaneers for the given year (with amounts).
(Data from USAToday.com)

To make clear the information in this graph, let me explain the 2002 data points at the far right of the graph.  In 2002, the Dark Blue line and the Red line start at the same place because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Red) won the SuperBowl (Dark Blue) for that season.  The highest payroll team that year (Upper Black Line) meets the Light Blue line because the SuperBowl losing team (Light Blue) was also the highest payroll team in the NFL that year (the Oakland Raiders).

The SuperBowl winner is the Dark Blue line -- only once in the past 8 years has it been the team with the highest payroll (2006 Indianapolis Colts).  Once (2007 New York Giants) in the past 8 years the SuperBowl winner was the team with the lowest payroll.  From that perspective, over the past 8 years the SuperBowl winner is just as likely to be the lowest payroll team as the highest payroll team, but is most likely to be neither.

The SuperBowl loser is the Light Blue line.  Twice this line touches the highest payroll line, and in four of the past eight seasons the SuperBowl winner spent less than the SuperBowl loser.

The Red line of the Tampa Bay payroll is above both of the teams which made it to the SuperBowl in 2003, yet the Buccaneers finished 7-9 that year.  The Buccaneers also outspent the SuperBowl winner in 2004, yet finished 5-11.  Notice that the payroll for 2009 was larger than the payroll of the 2002 Superbowl Champion team as well as three of the four following years.  Finally, the Red line shows the effects of the 2009 veteran purge with a substantial decrease from 2008 to 2009 (just like both black lines; both 2009 season SuperBowl participants spent less than the 2008 season SuperBowl participants as well). 

So, does this mean the Buccaneers must spend hand over foot to be competitive next year?  Is the Tampa Media correct in continuing to trumpet a low cap number as the reason for the team's 3-13 campaign in 2009?  Is some perceived lack-of-spending-conspiracy mean the Buccaneers won't be able to compete in 2010?  Absolutely not.  Just watch those blue lines bounce.  Payroll is obviously irrelevant.

What the Buccaneers should NOT do is bring in a bunch of free agents from the thinnest crop of free agents in years (while giving up 2010 draft picks for the best of a low value group) and put themselves in a bad salary cap position once the new CBA is established.  The reason for keeping a large amount of cap room now is because young players like Penn, Joseph, Ruud, Jackson, Williams, and others will demand larger contracts later should they continue to improve (if the Buccaneers have a bloated salary structure in 2011 they will lose young talent to teams who have been more frugal).  This, I believe, is one factor that led to the replacement of the Buccaneers front office last year (too much money tied up in veterans, no young player development).  Apparently that fact has been lost on the Tampa Bay Media.

So, as usual, it appears the Tampa Media can unfortunately only see things one way -- their way -- particularly when there is no credible evidence.  General Manager Mark Dominik has said repeatedly that he is not interested in throwing good money at bad value.  Perhaps one day the Tampa Bay Media will remember the 2002 season when the Buccaneers had half the payroll of the team they beat in the SuperBowl.  Until then we can look forward to this same old tired premise all summer (like their kicker-salary misconception).  Bummer.

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