Monday Morning Quarterback Peter King, in yesterday's column, mentioned the ever familiar Redskins as paradigm case of Free Agency mismanagement:
All of which should suggest that the only standard for evaluating success is winning, and that's as fine a standard as any. What the Patriots do is win; what else they do is always cited as the cause. What the Redskins do is lose; what else they do is cited as the cause.
Logically this becomes difficult to accept when the two teams behave the same way yet yield different results. Without the slightest sense that there is a different standard for the Redskins and the Patriots, Peter King makes the demonstrable connection between spending and losing when it comes to the Redskins and applies it to the 49ers and Bills -- but not the Patriots. Or later more explicitly:
For another example just check out this Michael Clayton article which characterizes the Patriots as "aggressive" in Free Agency. I don't have a problem one bit with this characterization, I just wonder why he didn't bother comparing the Redskins aggressive '06 with the Patriots aggressive '07 -- like causes like effects and all that, right?
Really, trying to predict or predicate success and failure merely on the aggressive offseason approach of any NFL team in any particular Free Agency cycle is a pointless endeavor as there are countless other factors to be considered. Yes free agency matters. Overspenders put themselves in a position to spend less money in the future and thus handicap themselves significantly. But conclusions about effects should limit themselves logically. Was the Redskins "aggressive" FA approach of the past simultaneously responsible for their failure in '06 and their success in '05? Or are there things happening on actual football fields that are as or more important to outcomes as the dollar amounts on contracts?
None of this is to either claim that the Redskins are geniuses in Free Agency or even to exonerate their spending excess strategy as pimped out by conventional wisdom. I just think we need to view any individual team's free agency approach in the context that they find themselves in. And I happen to be in good company in this approach -- it was Bill Belichick in yesterday's New York Times that essentially defended that approach:
And if the Patriots win 10+ games next year will we have to accept that their new Free Agency approach caused it? And if they have an off year will everyone conclusively claim (unreasonably) that spending precipitates losing? Personally I think Football is far too complicated and nuanced a game to demand those types of conclusions, though maybe that's just me.