On Wednesday, we discussed the book Crunching Numbers: An Inside look at the Salary Cap and Negotiating Player Contracts, written by Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap and football biz veteran Vijay Natarajan. I’m pretty excited about this book because I think it makes a difficult topic, one that’s central to the modern NFL, a lot easier to understand.
I had several questions for Jason and Vijay and I covered some of them yesterday. Here are a few more questions and answers regarding their book, as well as the cap and its perception across the nation.
The average fan hears about the salary cap all the time, but do you feel most have a reasonable understanding of the cap and how it works?
“We think the average fan has a basic understanding that there is a limited amount of money that can be used on the roster and that there are ways to manipulate the cap to make it happen. But when it comes to understanding the future consequences of the actions being made, we think there is much less understanding. For example, you may see a team (beat) reporter (discuss) moves made by a team to comply with the cap that adds millions of dollars to the following year. Fans listen to this and their initial thought is their favorite team is doing great finding ways to manipulate the system with no understanding that the team is actually putting themselves in a bad situation the following year. Then the team goes out, has a stinker of a season, and is now millions over the cap. There are also many misconceptions about contract values, guarantees, and true earnings on a contract.”
How about the general media? Do they ‘get’ how the cap works, in your estimation?
“The print media has gotten much better with their understanding of the salary cap in recent years. It helps that they can often lean on agents or even team front office executives to help clarify some things. We think the increase of bloggers who focus on contract-related items, and the social media-fueled, hard-core football audience that they have to write for, has made them learn more and more about this side of the NFL. There is still a similar lack of understanding when it comes to long-term consequences, both good and bad, on contract decisions, reasons behind certain contracts, free agent possibilities, and certain rules concerning the cap. We think when it comes to your radio/TV personalities the cap knowledge is lacking. Granted, that side of the NFL is going to have limited appeal for everyday discussion, but if you are going to criticize a team on air for a salary cap charge or contract value for a player, you should at least have a fundamental understanding for why the team did it.”
Do you think the average fan wants to understand how the cap works?
“Guess it depends on what you consider average. If the average fan is the person who starts paying attention in September, and whose interest level is dependent on their fantasy football roster or team record, and only has an offseason interest in the team at the start of free agency and on the first day of the draft, we doubt they would have (deep) interest in the cap. If the average fan is the person interacting all year on forums and blogs, actively follows reporters on social media, and engages with other fans either online or offline for a majority of the year, then we would expect them to be interested in learning about the cap. Crunching Numbers gives you another avenue to become invested in your team and speak more intelligently about the NFL.”
How long did it take each of you to ‘understand’ the cap?
“In terms of understanding the basics in a way where we could go and sit down with someone who has worked in the NFL for years and have an intelligent conversation, we would say a couple of years. The reality is, we are still in a learning (phase) and you gain more knowledge all the time.”
In general, do you think most teams manage the cap well, or are there teams that put themselves in jeopardy consistently due to simple mistakes?
“Being a fan of the NFL, for a long time, and having seen various approaches to salary cap management, we would say that the majority of teams have gotten much better at managing the salary cap than they were 10 to 15 years ago. The decision-making process has changed a lot since then for most teams, and it’s led to more efficiency, even though the dollars in contracts are getting bigger and bigger. Still, there are more than a handful of teams that, year after year, are having to find ways just to comply with the cap because of some really bad decisions. Check out Chapter 17, Salary Cap Philosophies, for different strategies executed.”
If you’re part of that hard-core fan base that lives and breathes the NFL, I really encourage you to give Crunching Numbers a look. I know Vijay and Jason are passionate football people but also regular guys, and that’s why they can convey such a complicated topic in a plain-talk kind of way.