Fans of every team are dreaming of high-profile free agents to add to their roster, without much regard for the real numbers.
Emotions drive the mind of the NFL fan; business drives the mind of the NFL executive.
The problem is that there is a clear disconnect between the two. In short, they don’t mix. Which is the reason why fans are fans and not general managers; though it is quite fun to pretend you are one (see our Citizen GM, for reference).
Allow me to explain …
In the olden days, teams didn’t have to worry about such things as the vaunted salary cap. They were free to pursue (and pay, if that luxury was afforded them) whomever they wanted without much regard for any real financial ceiling. If a team was able to put the dough on the table, they were able to build dynasties. Though powerhouses still exist in the NFL, they don’t live long enough to become dynasties anymore.
It’s all due in part to one concept that, while foreign before the salary cap, has become a word to live by in the National Football League today: parity.
Yes, parity is what brought us into the salary cap era and it is what sustains us still. You see, deep-pocket teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots would thrive without a money ceiling. Smaller, home-grown teams like the Green Bay Packers (who are owned by the community and lack a fat-cat corporate owner) would likely never be able to keep up.
It’s numbers, people.
And it works.
It’s this kind of business side that starts to get an icy feeling to it. If a player isn’t producing, has injury issues or … ages … they are no longer a viable contract to move forward with. It’s all about staying under the salary cap and still being able to acquire young, raw talent. This is where fans have a hard time reconciling the loss of a favorite player with the prospect of keeping a healthy cap.
Fans don’t understand this and I think I know why. It’s our money that drives the business side of the NFL. We pour our hard-earned resources into hats, shirts, apparel of all kinds. We buy tickets to pre-season and regular season games. We cross our fingers for a post-season appearance and then basically mortgage our futures to be apart of that 60-minute ball game experience.
We pay higher prices for sports packages via our cable providers, we stand in line in unbearable heat and freezing cold temperatures for our authentic game day jersey to gain a signature. We pay the salaries of our favorite players and then – watch them leave in free agency because the team is moving in a different direction or the player prefers a higher paycheck somewhere else.
No matter the reason for the separation, the fans take it hard. Look at Greg Jennings for example. The Packers were prepared to use our financial investments to keep him in Green Bay, wearing number #85 for years to come. We all called for a contract extension. Even through an injury plagued 2012, we stood by him, wished him well … wanted him back. He (for reasons we will probably never understand) decided on a division rival, who offered a small percentage more.
The players help feed this emotional disconnect. They preach that they live and breathe your team colors – that they want to retire in the NFL city that gave them a home. But when the money train starts pulling out of the station, they are on the first bus out to follow it. It’s instinctual for fans to become so attached to the guys on that field week-in and week-out. We wear their jerseys on casual Friday’s, we have their bobbleheads glued to our dashboards. We buy life-sized cutouts of our
favorite players to take pictures with at parties and send out as Christmas cards. It’s like they’re our family – if family also included people that we have never met but talk about them as if they are our best friends.
I just read an article about how Antrel Rolle was “recruiting” Jermichael Finley to the New York Giants. My understanding is that Finley was excited at the prospect of playing for Big Blue. He was also recently quoted as saying that the Seattle Seahawks would be an ideal situation for him.
Hold on a second, J-Mike – I thought that you wanted to be a Packer for life? I thought that you bled Green and Gold? We’ve stood by you through ALL your ups and downs … and they have been many. We stood by you when you had a bad, bad case of the drops, when you spent half of your seasons sidelined by injury, when you were rehabbing from a spinal fusion surgery to get back on the field.
If the Packers don’t offer you a contract, I get it – it’s business, and you move on. But saying that you don’t extend hometown discounts and that you are excited at the prospect of playing the free agency field is a bit disrespectful to all of us who will have nowhere to put that enormous fathead of you – covering the hole in the wall that we punched out the last time that you dropped a huge third down pass.
For fans, it’s all about loyalty. We spend the money because we are loyal to our teams, to our players. We have a hard time believing that the players, the teams, the owners have other priorities.
So, as you move forward into another free agency period, especially as a fan of the Green Bay Packers (fielding 20 of its own free agents), try to keep in mind that we are not executives and do not have to think in dollar signs. It’s OK to be illogical and emotional and to ask why?
That’s our job.
Our actual executives are doing theirs.
We are one of the few NFL teams featuring a truly healthy salary cap. Our finances are in order and the decisions-makers are not mortgaging this team’s future for a one-and-done shot at success.
We’re doing it right; we did it right in 2010 and we’ll get back there.