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Well now you've done it, Washington Redskins...

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Not only have you turned a winning team into a losing one with your senseless personnel decisions, you've gone and $%^$%ed up the economic "unified theory of everything" with your irrational behavior.

So says the Director of Economic Policy for the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, Kevin A. Hassett. But what the hell would he know about it. (Hat tip: Redskins Insider)

Yes, it's not just our division and conference rivals, and the NFL in general that is lambasting this team for repeated spending failures. Now the flipping economists have locked their menacing gazes on us as well.

Really most of what Mr. Hassett has to say should surprise few Redskins faithfuls. We all know that Free Agents are overpriced by necessity, because you are forced to pay an actual market value for them. Or, in our case, you pay well above market value for them. Draft picks on the other hand, are paid somewhat arbitrarily according to the round they are chosen in. And this number is itself deflated because of collective bargaining. So says the economist:

Economics has a very clear prediction for optimal team behavior. Firms should load up on draft picks, especially from the inexpensive late rounds. Every team has the same cumulative salary to pay, so, to outperform the other teams, you must receive higher value relative to salary from your players than your opponents receive from theirs. If, for example, you select a Pro Bowl (all-star) receiver in the fifth round of the draft, that player may well receive a salary one-tenth that of a veteran Pro Bowl receiver of roughly equal talent who has had his salary set on the market. So your team gets a huge surplus.
That's a pretty big "if" if you ask me, and I think you're far more likely to find a pro bowler in free agency. That said he has an excellent point; from a purely financial perspective it makes far more sense to draft your talent then acquire it elsewhere. You have to pay free agents what they've earned. And although we tend to buy free agents who haven't really earned anything, they've at least produced more than any particular draft pick, who has yet to play a down in the NFL.
The Washington Redskins are perhaps the leading exemplar of this tendency toward irrationality. Last spring, for example, the Redskins gave up key draft picks for high-priced veteran players. An especially silly trade gave the Jets three Redskins' picks: in the second and sixth rounds this year and in the second round next year. The trade left the Redskins with only one pick in the first three rounds this year.
They are discussing the McIntosh trade which does look foolish some time later when all he's done this year is contribute on special teams. Until he starts on this football team, that trade will have been ill-advised.

But the Redskins are not just screwing up their own franchise:

The problem for economics is that teams like the Redskins continue to exist, and are not driven out by competitive forces. They confound our ability to model for two reasons. First, it is impossible to conceive of what foolish thing the Redskins might do next. Second, their behavior can alter the decision framework for the fully rational teams. If the Redskins are going to bid up the prices of all wide receivers, for example, then a team like the Patriots has to adjust (as they did) and load up on cheaper pass-catching tight ends.

The Redskins are not driven out of business because there is a high demand for football in Washington, and the NFL has a monopoly. A wisely run team cannot enter Washington and compete for Redskins fans.

On the first point I don't really care and, frankly, it's in our best interest to do so. The Redskins are allegedly pioneers in cheating the salary cap -- although I've yet to understand how. Also it could help us when we finally do wise up to the failures of free agency because the price of players will remain inflated. And no one understands the failures of free agency better than us, though we have an unsettling tendency to repeat mistakes ad infinitum.

The second point might be true, but it's more true that the reason the Redskins aren't driven out of town is because Dan Snyder is a genius at convincing us year in and year out that he's put together a great football team when he hasn't. If the team is only 8-8 (the horror!), nothing inflates expectations like a coaching change, especially when that coach happens to be Steve Spurrier. Nevermind his 0 seconds of NFL experience. And it ended so well!

Or when a team goes 7-9 and then 5-11, nothing fixes the problem like bringing in a famous D.C. icon like Joe Gibbs. Nevermind that he goes 6-10 the following year.

The sad thing is that after the success we enjoyed last year, success we had not enjoyed in many years, the team went out and spent a fortune just to screw things up. We added a bunch of coaches and players that haven't done anything to do improve this football team. Quite the contrary, actually, as even if we win out (which we won't) we'll still have more losses in 2006 than we did in 2005.

Hopefully Dan Snyder will finally realize the err of his ways and take the time to build a team from the ground up as opposed to trying to pay one into existence annually. But given the easily dazzled nature of Redskins fans like myself, I just don't see that happening. The real problem in Washington isn't Dan Snyder (I don't mean this; it is) who has done exactly what a successful team owner should do: line his pockets with gooooooold. And the reason he's been able to do that without producing a quality product is because the fans haven't operated with realistic expectations. 5 or 6 win teams do not turn into Superbowl contenders overnight. They certainly won't do so just because you've added a coach with zero experience or one who hasn't done so in over a decade.

Worse than all that we've found out that the Redskins are great at turning a mediocre but passable team (2005) into a very bad one. What this means for our ability to produce a perennial contender that enjoys lasting success, I leave for the readers to decide.