Thursday, October 31, 2013

If Brian Waters is out, my best case scenario for the Cowboys.

If Dallas has lost their former pro bowl guard, it is difficult to imagine the OL providing even average pass or run blocking.  If that is the case there will be plenty of 3 and outs repeatedly putting a thin defense on the field and opening the door to a lot of yards being surrendered.

On top of that, fans are putting pressure on Garrett to open up the offense.

Garrett has to do what he can to keep Romo on the field.   If Romo goes down this team could finish the season 0-8. Any scenario that has this team finishing outside of the playoffs will enrage the fan base and lead to a Jerry Jones snap judgement designed to correct "the problem".

Put another way, it could cost Jason Garrett his job.  That means shorter pass routes.

Now on the positive side, one has little doubt that while the team will be launching quick passes, a much greater percentage of them will be aimed at Dez Bryant, regardless of double coverage.  That should help the offense.

Additionally Demarco Murray's return should help the offense immensely, somewhat offsetting the loss of Waters.  Murray is a solid pass blocker, a good receiver, and an above average runner who really suits this offense.  It is not a coincidence that the offense looked great when he was playing and lousy when he wasn't.  He does a LOT for this team that his backups cannot (yet).

I hope the team goes 9-7, but given that Jerry Jones doesn't understand the need for building around durable starters or, barring that, the need for quality depth, this team is built for 8-8 annually.

I think as long as Garrett makes the playoffs and they are competitive in the first round, he is safe.  Jerry Jones really likes having a very solid head coach who likes Jones and even will tolerate Jones's meddling.

I personally think Garrett is a fine head coach who would do far better elsewhere.  If Garrett is Fired, I think former Dallas DC Mike Zimmer would be willing to step in with largely the same staff and would be able to build off Garrett's foundation.  Zimmer also has very fond feelings for Jerry and would likely work well with Jones.

Any Cowboys fan hopes for a super bowl every year, but the reality is until this team builds a good OL with solid depth, that isn't a possibility.

I'd like to see Dallas go 4-4 the rest of the way and win the division at 8-8, but to be honest a part of me perversely hopes Dallas wins the division at 6-10.  But I would like to see them win the division.

Why the cowboys should have made a deal before the trade deadline.

I cannot shake the feeling that my beloved hometown Cowboys blew their season by not making an NFL trade deadline move.  That feeling was dramatically increased after learning that Brian Waters would miss the season.

The importance of Brian Waters

Last season, the Cowboys rolled out the worst offensive line I can recall.  IMO only one of their OLs, OT Tyron Smith was an average or above player.

This preseason Dallas was looking only slightly better due to injuries.  Doug Free had bounced back from his collapse last season and was playing with much better technique.  The trouble is Free has a definite ceiling.  He is a left tackle type player (ie. good pass rusher, poor run blocker) who is not good enough to protect a QB's blind side long term on a top team.  Plus Dallas invested so much in Smith that they feel Smith has to play the LT spot.  This creates a situation where even when Free is playing well, he represents a positional deficiency as a run blocker for us.

Rookie Travis Frederick has played well, but well for a rookie.  He is at least an average NFL starter today.  He is a good run blocker.

In the pre-season our guards were 1) constantly injured and 2) horrible.  That meant we would only have 2 (possibly 3) average or above spots on the line.

Brian Waters is a Dallas guy (former UNT player!) and former pro bowl guard.  He had been retired last year, but clearly wanted to play for the Cowboys.   I thought signing him would raise the level of play at all spots on the line.   I have listened to Nate Newton talk about how Larry Allen drove the other linemen to new heights and have thought for the last 3 seasons that this team is in crying need of a dominant pace setting guard.

Dallas signed him and Waters has provided that leadership and played very well.

Dallas was the worst rushing team in the NFL last season.  They were playing dramatically better in that regard until RB Demarco Murray again went down and Joseph Randle proved physically unready to be a feature back.

Even before Waters went down, I still felt Dallas should have acquired a competent veteran starting caliber guard for a late pick in next year's draft prior to the trade deadline as it would improve both the starting five and the depth.

Now Waters may be gone.  There are reports that Free may play some guard again as he was in the pre-season.  He is below average at guard.  I can only hope that Waters can deal with the pain enough to stay on the field (without causing some chronic injury that will haunt him after football), as without him this team's OL is once again below average.

Dallas Cowboys' fans are melting down about the yards the defense has given up, but when you force four turnovers and your OL can't do much but punt the ball away, is that a defensive problem?  What problems there are on defense are really that is just a syptom of a new scheme combined with defensive injuries decimating the OL and secondary and, since Murray was lost, an often ineffective offense.  The offense bit boils down to no Murray and injuries taking out Waters last week.

The OL is the key.  Everything else would respond if that were fixed.  IMO, you can't win in the playoffs with a substandard OL.

Why trading would have fixed these issues and was the right play

This post is all about overcoming bad conventional wisdom.  Today NFL CW regarding draft picks is that you don't do it.  Fans regularly read articles quoting former GMs on how teams should hold on to all of their picks.

"You have 53 players and only seven draft picks," said NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly, who was the general manager of the Redskins and Texans for 18 seasons. "Those are like gold."

This is bad conventional wisdom and is especially bad CW in regards to the Cowboys.

Not all draft picks are created equal.  If they were Jimmy Johnson would not have assembled a trade chart to assign worth to picks for trading purposes.  The idea that they are all "precious organizational assets" is poor logic. The value of a first or second rounder may equate to "precious" to NFL owners and GMs, but a 5th-7th round pick?

Jimmy Johnson's infamous draft value chart valued the first pick in the draft with a value of 3000.  The values of the picks in the 5th -7th rounds value between 43 and .4 points.  How valueable are those late round picks really????  And yet NFL GMs have bought heavily into this CW creating a great opportunity for the Cowboys.

The Jimmy Johnson chart has proven it's worth as a "quick and dirty" guide for assembling trades.  Most of the NFL front offices appear to use it a a guide, suggesting it has proven to be a fairly widely accepted approximator of draft pick values on the open market.

Recently Kevin Meers of The Harvard Sports Analysis Collective published a similarly formated chart that looked at the value of historic picks.  This totally disregards demand for the higher picks and simply looks at historic value of the picks themselves.  In that way, it makes even a stronger argument for dealing later picks while the deals are favorable.

His chart more or less computes the average "career approximate values" of NFL picks.  He values the top pick at a little over 494 and the 5th to 7th round picks range from 75.6 to 39.8.  He sites the 94th pick (30th pick in the 3rd round) as the normal pick.  He advises valuewise one might expect a player to have a career the level of a Josh McNown. That's a guy who might start for a few years before losing his job- Basically a below average NFL starter/ backup.

Now if you really think highly of your scouting department you can try to play the odds in the fourth round.  By looking at prospects who were likely devalued in the evaluation process either for unruly behavior, lack of intelligence, playing a position that is valued less, or playing at small schools, maybe you can stretch that window into the fourth round.

Precious picks in the 5th to 7th round?  Not really.

Over the last decade the Cowboys have tended to hold on to their late round picks (guys who are working their butts off to make a roster) and let more talented early and mid rounds ones go. Physical talent measurables tend to drive earlier selection in the draft.  Keeping later picks over earlier ones effectively lowers the talent level on the Cowboys roster vs. their opponents.  This is a long standing problem.  There are several top of draft Cowboys picks playing well for other teams.

Now you can still steal a nice developmental QB, or even an immediate middling starter at DT, LB, or Safety in the fourth round.  But the fifth through seventh rounds?  Trade that crap.  You are bucking the odds big time with those picks and in Dallas they add to the problem of thin depth.  You may get someone who will make your roster, but the odds are way against you that you will get an average or better starter.

And the NFL is perfectly set to help you maximize the value of those picks.  It is not uncommon to land a semi-bust former first rounder for a 5th to 7th round pick.  (By semi-bust I mean a guy who was a poor fit for his drafting team's scheme, but would fit a different team much better. A player like Reggie Bush, for example...) That is far better value than picking someone with a 6th round pick.


Now lets be clear.  I do not advocate trading late picks for big money players.  Note even ones on ending deals.  No Darren McFadden.  No 35 year old DEs for example (or even expensive 23 year old DEs).

My thinking is that you have already identified and drafted the players you trust and want to reward with big money in the early rounds of your drafts.

Dallas Cowboys' "insider" Mike Fisher is a bit of a troll when the idea of trading for players comes up.  He likes to point at the really ridiculous trade ideas (from a cap perspective) and say no deals can be made due to a lack of cap space.  I am not inclined to buy that line of thinking.  Dallas always seems to have cap trouble and then a deal is re-worked and suddenly cap space is available, so to me those kinds of arguments just seem silly.

If Jerry wants someone, the space is made available.  I think Dallas could open up $2M in cap space fairly easily by renegotiating a deal or two.  The question is always, "Does he see the need?"


So lets think about cost effective trades for expendable assets

Now most may think we need DLs, especially pass rushing DE help.  I would not be opposed to pursuing a run stuffing 0 technique who the defensive coaches endorse, but I think the defensive coordinators aren't really interested in that and their are better ways to spend our assets any way.

I think Dallas has done a great job picking up linemen who fit a 4 man front who were playing in the wrong pro schemes.   I would say Dallas should take a look at Vernon Gholson, former Ohio State Star and former NYJ bust #1(6) pick.

Now Gholson was admittedly bad in NY.   Actually not just bad. Abysmal.  Gholson is certainly not the first elite 4-3 DE prospect who looked very ordinary as a 3-4 OLB running around in space.  (Anthony Spencer anyone?  Having a pass rusher running around in space on over 50% of your plays is inviting poor performances.)

Gholson was not a Rob Ryan guy in addition to being a piss poor fit in that scheme.  Dallas's current situation is the perfect one to see if this guy has anything.  Dallas can bring him in and let him play 10-15 snaps a game (mostly passing downs) for the rest of the season.  It isn't like the other guys we have at DE (with Ware out) have higher pass rush ceilings.

Gholson had a weeklong cup of coffee with Chicago when their defense was run by current Dallas DL coach, but that was a very different scenario.  Chicago had a solid core on the DL.   Dallas is in tryout mode on their DL, trotting people in they maybe wouldn't normally consider for extended regular season tryouts. 

Why not give this top talent an extended tryout?  I have included a video of Gholson in college put together by a Gholson groupie.  I do not think he looks dominant at all, but he was productive in college and he does look productive here like a quality second DE and the combine proved he has a fantastic mix of 4-3 DE size and speed.

Now who would I have gone after...?


I was a proponent of signing former NYG free agent guard Kevin Boothe this offseason.  My thought was Boothe would fill a guard spot competently and force the Giants to spend another early draft pick on an OL.  My logic was "Add to your team and hurt your conference opponent".

Boothe is a good run blocker and an OK pass blocker who stays healthy.  He is essentially a slightly above average veteran starting OL.  He can play center in a pinch.  He maybe has 1-3 more solid years.

Dallas did not sign Boothe and New York was able to sign him to a cost effective one-year deal.

If Dallas acquired him, it would give Dallas 5 competent starting OL and would create playoff caliber depth on the OL, something Dallas just doesn't have right now.

Additionally, it would allow Eli Manning to take more of a beating.  There is a point where an NFL QB has taken so much of a beating that his end of game play suffers.  That is the best part of Manning's game.  Anything that can be done to excellerate that helps Dallas long term.


I think Dallas could very possibly have acquired Boothe for next year's 6th round pick.  While NY doesn't have many healthy OLs making keeping Boothe to be their first thought, they signed this guy to a 1 year deal.  It is pretty clear what they think of his long term future.  I am assuming NFL CW on draft picks would have been in play in the Giant's front office. Being able to acquire a pick for a guy who is probably playing his last half season for NY may have been too much for the Giant's brain trust to pass on.

I'd have gladly taken any similar guy to Boothe at that cost.


Dallas has a RB they like in Demarco Murray.  He looks like a bit of a plodder, but actually has good speed.  When you watch him run he seems to have great balance and does no dancing behind the lines.  He looks like a strider perfectly comfortable in snow shoes.  He picks up his blocking assignments well and is a great receiver out of the backfield.  He competently finishes his runs.  He runs with power when needed and sees the holes well and gets there.  He would be a perfect fit here but he seems to get injured ever 5 games or so.  His history of injuries dates back well into his college days and is consistent.  Even though he plays at a near pro bowl level, you cannot count on him long term.

Dallas signed UNT star Lance Dunbar as a free agent a while ago.  Dunbar would be a prototypical 3rd down back but he lacks true elite speed.  He lacks the size and power to be a featured runner at the NFL level.  That said, Dunbar is a deadly open field runner who has an uncanny knack for breaking big plays.  If he got ten receptions a game, I think he'd likely break at least one for a huge gain/TD.  He may lack the size to stay healthy though.

Dallas drafted Joseph Randle in the fifth round.  He is pretty typical of what you get in the fifth round.  Randle should have stayed in college another year and gotten bigger and stronger.  He runs a LOT like Murray, but he isn't a great blocker yet and lacks the power that Murray shows.  He is also not as good at finishing his runs. If Randle gains weight and power without his body becoming brittle, Dallas might have a great backup/replacement for Murray, but those are big ifs.

And then they have Phillip Tanner.  Tanner is a typical 3rd RB in the NFL.  He can do everything at a tolerable level if forced to play, but I have not seen anything special out of him.  He is probably the team's second best short yardage back, I guess, but really he is a fringe roster player who makes this team every year because the players ahead of him have huge flaws and cannot be counted on (long term and as needed).


I think Dallas alone would have been able to pry away former Heisman trophy winning RB Mark Ingram from New Orleans due to Jerry Jones' connection with Sean Payton.

For those of you unfamiliar with the dynamic there, Ingram was a guy Saints Coach Sean Payton lobbied for the Saints to trade up to get.  The Saints traded a second round pick and the following year's first to land Ingram.  This makes Payton very unwilling to deal Ingram, but no one is denying it hasn't worked out for Ingram in New Orleans.  Saints fans largely dislike him and consider him a huge bust.  Even the fairest of Saint reviewers find his game lacking.

I don't think calling him a bust is quite accurate.

Now certainly, Ingram is not all that, but he still could be VERY useful for the right team (DALLAS).

Ingram drew some comparisons to Emmitt Smith coming out and it is understandable.  Like early Emmitt, Ingram is no physical specimen as merely a midsized back with average speed, but he can carry a feature load, works hard to get the most out of his runs, and doesn't fumble much. 

Like later Emmitt, Ingram is a bit of a backfield tap dance, tip toe burgler when the hole is not readily evident, but his vision is much poorer than later Emmitt's and he lacks any apparent skill at cutting back (which later Emmitt lived on in the early 2000's).

While Ingram has become solid at picking up his blocking responsibilities and is a pretty solid receiver out of the backfield, the best parts of his game are lost in New Orleans.  Ingram is a thick, heavy load, passionate runner who continues to run hard as his opposition wears down.   He is a guy who breaks his 16th and 22nd carries in a game. Ingram will never get the 20+ carries a game he needs to meet his potential in New Orleans.

Additionally Ingram showed some ability to set up his blockers and follow his blockers in college.  That is largely wasted in New Orleans where most OL cannot hold a run block.  As a stutterer with mediocre speed, he is slow to the hole.  Backs who hit the hole quicker do much, much better in New Orleans.

Ingram's issues are compounded by the fact that he almost always starts his runs 8 yards deep in the backfield in that offense.  Ingram is generally caught upright waiting for a hole to open so his ability to finish runs is largely compromised. He is often utilized as a short yardage back in New Orleans, but he is so slow to get there that his tough running is often fruitless.

In Dallas, Ingram could be much better utilized.  Often Dallas will line up their running back about 5 yards back next to Romo in passing sets.  Romo is now heavily involved in calling the plays and favors heavy passing play calls.

That 3 yards would help Ingram immensely by reducing his time to the hole.   In addition, the addition of Travis Fredrick and Brian Waters has transformed Dallas from having one of the worst OL's in the league to having an average to maybe even above average one.  Dallas with Waters can run block.  Dallas would be able to maintain a run block allowing Ingram to better maximize his ability to set up, play off blocks, and finish his runs.  I think he would yield an extra yard a carry at least in Dallas and very likely could be an effective short yardage back.

My thoughts are that Dallas could start Murray when healthy and give him all the snaps and when Murray goes down hand almost all of the snaps to Ingram.


I think Dallas could have landed Ingram for next year's 5th rounder as long as the deal was dressed up to be face saving for Payton and the Saint's leadership.  Offering to upgrade the compensation to a first if Ingram hits 1000 yards this year or a 3rd if he hits 600 yards would have made it tolerable to the Saints front office and sellable to the fans.  And that is the thing.  To get Ingram, Dallas would have to make it look tolerable to NO fans. 

It would not be a bad offer.  If Ingram was the same bust in Dallas, NO would get a 5th --- as much as any Saints fan could expect.  If he looks a lot better, they would get an equally appropriate value and can just mark it up to "he didn't fit here".

Alternative solution

The Detroit Lions had declined Cleveland's early season overtures for Mikel Leshoure, but were reportedly calling around looking for takers right before the trade deadline.

Given the current talent in Dallas, Leshoure is the kind of back Dallas absolutely needs backing up Murray.  Leshoure is not what you want in a starter overall, but can absolutely fill the rushing load if Murray misses a game. A mix of Leshoure and Dunbar could actually competently replace Murray.

Leshoure is a somewhat big power back.  He is a straight ahead runner who has the power to turn a crease into a hole.  I absolutely love to see how often Leshoure gores a defense right up the gut.  While it translates into a shorter career, it is uncommon and very much improves an offense.  He is a good short yardage back.

While not elite breaking open gaps, he has much better power than Ingram.  He is not a polished or developed as Ingram in all the other areas.

He had an Achilles injury, but came back from that strongly.  There is little to suggest he is injury prone, although I think anytime you have that injury you won't have a long career.

While he can catch a pass, he was displaced in Detroit because Reggie Bush was such a dramatic (and needed upgrade) in their passing game.  In Dallas that would be far less of an issue as Dallas has a far better 2nd -4th receiving option than Detroit.  Leshoure is very competent as a team's 4th or 5th receiving option.


I think Detroit would not have taken less than a third round pick.  I would have been comfortable with that because that is about the caliber of back you can land in the third round in a good year.

I think you could have gotten 3-5 good years out of him --- basically the Tony Romo window.  That seems worth it to me, but Ingram would have been the cheaper pickup and maybe the longer career.

But that is my two cents.  Now I am left hoping Brian Waters can play to prevent a second half collapse.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

New USFL rolls on.

I am late writing this piece.  Shortly after I wrote my last entry on the new USFL, I morbidly visited their website and found that the USFL was moving ahead with a targeted launch date of 2014.  for the last couple months I have been thinking "I really need to write a followup..."

The USFL has a blog on their site that is used to broadcast updates to potential fans.  They don't appear to like putting information out there, but use it when they feel they absolutely have to get their view out there.

The "Jaime Cuadra doesn't work here anymore" recent post reminded me of "the two envelope" joke.  There are a hundred takes on that joke.  Sometimes an accountant leaves it for his replacement.  Sometimes both guys are athletic directors...Regardless, the story goes like this:

A new executive is taking over from an old employee.   The guy leaving tells the new guy "I've left two envelopes in the desk drawer labeled #1 & #2. When you are in real trouble open one of them."

So a few months pass and the new guy finds himself in an awful fix.  He cannot imagine a way out.  So he opens the envelope labeled #1". 

The note inside simply says, "Blame me."

So the new guy blames all the trouble on the old guy and all of the pressure on him disappears.

Then a few month later the new guy finds himself in more trouble.  Not knowing what to do, he opens the second envelope.

The note inside says, "Prepare two envelopes."

Michael Dwyer may have funded this new USFL in exactly the wrong way, but his passion for starting a second USFL oozed out of every interview.  He clearly loved the idea of a new USFL.  While he would throw out the company line of it not financially competing with the NFL, he seemed eager to throw out that there would be plenty of familiar faces from the NFL and top names from college.

Honestly, that kind of passion grabs fans and will be hard to replace. You don't hear that stuff from the new USFL under Jim Bailey.  (Jim Bailey is a long time NFL guy.  Based entirely on USFL blog announcements, he kind of hits me as a very bland bean counter.  There is a place for that type, but as a former marketing guy for an Inc 500 company, I'd argue when you are selling "permanently minor league, small market, maybe not on TV, coming soon", a little sizzle from your CEO helps.)

Cuadra had passion.  For someone who destroyed his life stealing money to launch this league, one can well imagine Cuadra writing out two envelopes.

The new USFL had little choice but to throw him under the bus as hard as they could to try distance from his criminal activities, but one suspects true believer Mr. Cuadra may have been OK with that in concept (but perhaps not the actual execution).

So where is the USFL today?

It is hard to say.  The current leadership is keeping a tight lid on things --- just as Michael Dwyer did after the first year in his 3 year "failure to launch".

We do know that 2014 is not on the table.  The league is looking at 2015 now as a start time.  Every delay is brutal.

We don't know the teams...Or do we?

On July 20, 2011, Mr. Cuadra did an interview with a Las Vegas radio station where he laid out what he thought the league would look like by opening day 2012.

He thought they weren't far from having 12 teams in 3 divisions.

Eastern Division
Michigan (city not specified, can it actually not be in Detroit/Pontiac?)
Columbus, OH
Norfolk, VA
with a slot for another undetermined team

Southern Division
Orlando, FL
Memphis, TN
Jackson, MS
with a slot that might be filled by Little Rock, AR or Shreveport, LA

Western Division
Los Angeles, CA (Cuadra's team coached by Sean Salisbury)
Salt Lake City, UT
San Antonio, TX (noted as the frontrunner for a Texas team)
with a slot potentially available for Sacramento, CA or Portland, CA.

It sounds like at the time of the interview that they had 9 ownership groups they considered "mostly acceptable"...

(It is very interesting that in the interview there was some discussion of speculation that the struggling UFL might somehow merge with the new startup USFL, something I would think would have been very unlikely due to UFL debt and the two leagues' differing business model views.  Dwyer was insistent that the new USFL would not pick up the UFL's debt, but would readily welcome their owners.

It may be that the new USFL's nine (?) ownership groups would have been better served to offer to "buy" 3 of the UFL's teams.  That would secure 12 owners, give 12 teams to allow money making scheduling, and could have mostly guaranteed a 2012 launch. 

The UFL was running it's course.   If the new USFL had offered $3 million dollar life boat checks each to Paul Pelosi (Sacramento Mountain Lions), Bill Hambrecht (Las Vegas Locomotives), and Bill Mayer (Virginia Beach Destroyers) --- in trust until January 2012 --- to shutter the UFL and play a full season (or more) in the new USFL, it seems fairly likely the trio may have considered it.  It could have been publically sold as purchasing the goodwill and name value the UFL generated --- Even though the UFL had little of either --- but in truth would have been about bribing that trio to reject their UFL business model for the new USFL's.

That kind of offer would have cost the new USFL ownership groups $1 million each.  One wonders if the nine (?) new USFL ownership groups have burned through a million each in retaining their operational personnel in the years they have been waiting to launch.

It is very possible that doing the interview on a Las Vegas radio station and mentioning the possibility of a merger was entirely about fishing for 3 more owners...  Sadly with the new USFL's stance on UFL debt, they may have been fishing with no bait.)

On a June 12th new USFL post ---shortly after Cuadra was gone ---  the new league leadership wrote, "When the league launches, it will play a 14-game regular season with eight teams..."  The 9 teams Cuadra mentioned --- minus his LA franchise --- would give the league 8 teams...

No NFL markets

The latest post explains the USFL leadership's logic behind not pursuing NFL or MLB cities.  I thought it was a reasonable post to put out to sway fan opinion, but their logic that NFL teams fulfill NFL cities "appetite for football" is simply not supported at all ---unless you evaluate this as a true minor league.

Look at the classic USFL which competed against the NFL for select players. 

The classic USFL's "A grade markets" for attendance (cities that averaged over 40,000 per game for at least one season) were New Jersey, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and Denver.  3 of the 4 were NFL cities.  Philadelphia, Houston, and Detroit were solid markets.  Detroit drew like 60,000 fans to their 1983 playoff game. 

Even the USFL's NFL markets that were not successful attendance draws were much better than most assume. 

Chicago drew the same numbers as Detroit and Philadelphia in year 1, but then their 12-6 all-star team was traded for PART of the worst team in the league  (4-14 Arizona).  That largely explains why the USFL failed in Chicago.  If the trade of teams doesn't happen, there is every reason to believe that the Chicago fan support would have rivaled that in Detroit and Philadelphia.

LA slightly outdrew that trio in year 1 with an 8-10, no-name team coached by CFL legend Hugh Campbell.  I think what happened in year two is that the season ticket holders from year 1 who sat in a stadium with 70,000 empty seats in year 1 were not as eager to renew as in other markets.   It is unnerving to sit in cavernous empty stadiums.  (In addition, the team was totally overhauled ---fans develop their favorite players... I wonder if LA fans felt like their new owner was spending the league out of business on unproven college players.)

Boston was simply a facility issue. They had the opposite problem as LA. Having a stadium that only seats 20,000 effectively guaranteed the 11-7 Breakers average attendance would top out in the 12-16K range as when you have potential sellout games, you only draw 18-20K.  They drew 12,817 on average.  With a better stadium situation in year two, the Breakers drew quite well in NFL city New Orleans.   In their only season there, they drew 30,557 per game even though the team crumbled under injuries to 8-10.

And the Federals were just bad timing.  They offered a lousy team (tied for the league's worst record at 4-14) to DC fans against vs. a Redskins team at the height of their popularity that happened to be dominating the NFL. 

Are you really telling me the new USFL doesn't need markets where they can potentially draw 40,000 plus per game in short order?

The idea that all NFL cities would have "football fatigue" is just not supported at all by classic USFL numbers.  It appears to be bad logic coated in a reasonable (but wrong) premise.

Now if you want to compare it to a true minor league offering that sells itself that way --- say UFL or WLAF --- well, OK, you get no argument from me. 

San Francisco is a perfect example.  The XFL said they were going to compete with the NFL and marketed the crap out of essentially the same caliber of league the new USFL is building.  The SF Demons averaged 34,954.

The UFL on the other hand chucked any illusion of competing against the NFL for a minor league brand far before their first season.  The UFL's California Redwoods drew an average of about 6500. Now certainly from a marketing perspective the UFL did almost nothing right, but the attendance is what it is. 6500 is an embarrassing number.  It is a striking difference.

The XFL drew over 22K a game to Las Vegas, the UFL's Locos drew 14,000 in their best season average.  The XFL's Orlando Rage drew over 25K a game, the UFL's Tuskers drew 11K in their best season.

The WLAF had attendance around 25K a game in their two years in existence, but their fans support was far, far stronger outside the US than inside.  And that was with the NFL brand backing them and marketing their league.

The WLAF was seen as minor league in the US and drew minor league numbers.   For this reason, the NFL pulled the plug on the WLAF after two years and then revamped the WLAF into a foreign market venture.

The Orlando Thunder was a relatively successful American WLAF football team but they only drew 16-17K a game.  The Sacramento Surge was run by an out and out great owner, but they only drew about 20K.  Really the only strongly attended WLAF team was the no-brainer --- the NY/New Jersey Knights --- who averaged over 30K a game. (Football fatigue in NFL cities? Please.)

Minor league US football will not fund the travel, stadium costs, 45+ player rosters, football coaching staffs, and all the front office personnel that is required.

The whole concept of non-competitive minor league football just sucks.

When the UFL opened I (rather impolitely) wrote at the time that if a bunch of millionaires want to light some money on fire they should just call me and I'll do it.  (I know.  That was not a very nice thing to say. I was horribly frustrated with their business plan.)

What is the point of pouring millions of dollars into starting a league no one will see?  If just doing it is the point, what is the difference between making up imaginary teams and game results and posting the results?

Minor league offerings are bush league.

It isn't just NFL cities that will balk at supporting minor league teams. Big city fans do not support bush league ball.

Think about it.  Why doesn't anyone ESPN pay big money for FCS content?  Because it is minor league college football mostly played in small rural towns.

Why don't FCS schools like Villanova (Philadelphia), Portland State, Sacramento State draw big crowds? (For that reason, why don't lower level FBS schools in big markets like SMU, UNT, Temple, Houston, and Rice?) Why don't schools like Boston U and UT  Arlington play football at all anymore? Because big cities do not support small time football at the required support levels.

That is why FCS success stories (Montana, Montana State, the Dakotas) are almost without fail located in small towns in small media markets where there is almost no other competition for fan sports dollars.

Certainly the new USFL can load up on markets like the UFL's Omaha and draw 16-20K averages, but there won't be any significant TV revenue supporting the venture.

The only thing that happens by choosing smaller markets is that you get a league no one wants to watch on TV.  More than anything else, that killed the UFL.

To me, the new USFL appears to be surrendering a lot of useful TV revenue for no reason by selecting these markets.

Given that path, I am frankly still not very excited by their chances.

In my opinion, the NFL is the most vulnerable to a competing league that it has been since the days of the classic USFL. (While I don't do marketing as my source of income anymore, I do want a league to compete with the NFL long term.  If the new USFL wants to hire me as a consultant, I'll get off my ass and put all my supporting arguments for this contention into a powerpoint.)

But that is vs. a competing league.  IMO a second "real" football league would have to compete to survive.  The true football as a business model simply dictates it.  There is too much cost involved.

Guys if you don't have the money to compete at a higher level than the UFL, do yourselves a favor and start an arena football league instead.  Your attendance will be the same or maybe even better and your costs will be far, far lower.  At least there your money (and enjoyment) will last quite a bit longer.

How to Count to 60 (...schools in Contract Conferences); Part 4- The SEC backfills to keep up.

So we have the Big Ten at 20, The Pac-12 at 20 (possibly with Rice as an Olympic sports only 21st member) and the SEC at 14 to 16 members.

This could put the SEC into a position where they would be seen to have an easier path to a title game.  It could hurt them landing at large spots in the playoffs --- creating an at large spot is one of the main benefits of getting to three contract conferences.

Plus the financial advantages of the other two conferences would be huge.

The SEC would feel a need to go to 20.

The SEC appears to have no shot at UT and with Duke and UNC off the board, the SEC would have all the big gem schools off the table.

The SEC leadership and their athletic departments are about new TV markets and states.  The SEC boosters are about football culture.  The SEC presidents would like to see some better academic schools.

Assuming Vanderbilt would pass on the Big Ten and Miami would be their 20th member and Missouri (or Arkansas) would take the PAC-12 invite to be their 20th team, the SEC would be at 15 members.

With that in mind, a lot of schools start to make sense.  Clemson should be able to get in at that point as the SEC's new 16th member.  They fit the SEC mold and are a pretty decent academic school in SEC standards.

A pairing of West Virginia and Pitt would make a lot of sense for schools 17 and 18.  Both draw well.  The area is a good recruiting area that is often used by the Big Ten.  They bring two states.

West Virginia is a cultural fit and Pittsburgh is not far off culturally.  Pitt is a fairly strong academic option.

It could make a lot of sense for the SEC to strongly consider two of the followingfor their last two spots:

Wake Forest, Tulane, Tulsa, Kansas State, East Carolina, Louisville, UCF, and USF.

Only Tulsa and Kansas State bring new territory, but they are not very exciting for the SEC faithful or SEC leaders.

Wake Forrest and Tulane are in rich recruiting grounds and could draw quite a bit better in this kind of SEC.  Both would dramatically raise the SEC academic profile, but offer little in TV terms.

Louisville would offer an elite basketball program which carries a lot of value for a conference network.  ECU could be a great football rival to NC State and could help the SEC try to own football recruiting in that talent rich state.

UCF and USF are very long shots (due to Florida not wanting them) and are comparatively subpar academic brands compared to some of these candidates, but they are two of the largest public universities in the country.  It is just a matter of time before they are drawing SEC sized crowds.  Adding them would insure the SEC would not lose their primary position in recruiting Florida to the Big Ten.

So any pair.

To me...That is how you get to 60.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Count to 60 (...schools in Contract Conferences); Part 3- UT and OU take their tribe westward....

With the Big Ten up to 20 and the SEC landing their preferred candidates to get to 16, the Pac-12 and UT would have to make a deal.

The reality is that there would not be a way to make either the PAC or the Big 12 into a top revenue conference with both conferences keeping their current membership.

The Big 12 is the lesser conference.  It would have to go.

It would take a vote of 8 of 10 members to kill the Big 12.  In theory, the basis would be the old PAC deal for 16 (UT, Tech, OU, OSU) plus 3-4 more candidates.

Obviously the PAC-12 was prepared to add Kansas as A&M's replacement in their first push for 16, so Kansas is in as the fifth Big 12 school.

I think the A&M departure did a ton to further open Texas recruiting to SEC schools.  Dallas/Ft. Worth is a key recruiting territory for UT & OU --- not to mention Tech and OSU.  I believe the four felt they absolutely had to add the best "home school" in DFW to remain the "home conference" in DFW and as such protect their recruiting turf.

The four could not afford to see the SEC figure it out and add TCU.  OU and UT do not want to see TCU vs. Arkansas or LSU in the Jerry Dome each year fueling SEC recruiting in DFW.

I think this situation would still be potentially in play if TCU was left behind for the SEC, so the PAC would have no choice but to bring them along for the ride.

Now some might think there is no way the PAC would admit a school with religious connections.  I do not think that is the case.  The evidence that would be presented against my contention is the PAC's balking on Baylor and BYU. 

Let's start with the big PAC headache, BYU.

BYU made the institutional choice most religious privates have made, not to heavily pursue research.  The PAC-12 and Big Ten have a conference culture that strongly values research.  BYU specifically limits research for religious reasons.  Regardless of how strong BYU's undergraduate program is, that combo will not fly in the PAC unless all of the PAC's other options are exhausted. 

Plus BYU won't play on Sunday, which is an annoyance.

Plus a lot of liberal leaders in the California schools resent the hell out of the LDS church for bringing their money across state lines into California to fund the opposition of the California initiative to legalize gay marriage in California.  This appeared to be the LDS church using a California issue to try to score points for their church with mainstream US Christianity.  There is a feeling in California that the LDS church made BYU's bed.

Baylor has been frankly religiously odd.  They probably reminded the PAC of BYU.  (This article, and the thoughful responses to it, are an excellent discussion on why the PAC is probably out on Baylor long term.)

TCU is a little bit of a different creature.  Founded by Addison and Randall Clark with "a vision for an institution of higher education that would be Christian in character, but non-sectarian in spirit and intellectually open-minded", TCU is not your average religious school with a Christian word in it's name.

That goal sounds like the kind of religious school that PAC presidents can tolerate.  Football is important at TCU.  They have fought hard to get back to the big boy's table.  If staying there means TCU has to further codify their methods to reflect their founders desire for intellectual open-mindedness (to fit PAC-12 standards), I am thinking that won't be a problem.

Adding TCU would immediately silence all the "PAC is against Christians" talk, so it actually would offer some strong added benefits by effectively underscoring out why BYU and Baylor are not in the PAC.  It isn't that they have religious affiliations, it is that their religious beliefs either regularly interfere (or could interfere) with intellectual pursuits.

So that gets the PAC to 18, lands UT, protects the vitality of UT's and OU's football programs, but that only accounts for 6 Big 12 teams.  The PAC needs 8 Big 12 votes.

Now it gets really interesting. With two slots left and Baylor, Kansas State, Iowa State, and West Virginia left, which schools does the conference take?

I think it's a no-brainer when you figure in TV, academics, geography, and religious terms, but most fans will hate the answer.

You add Iowa State.  Baylor and KState are in markets already owned.  West Virginia is far away.  Iowa State is AAU and has a state-wide following in Iowa.  It may be a state of only 3 Million, but it is fairly wealthy and you wouldn't have that market otherwise.  Plus it allows the PAC and Big Ten to have a shared border ---symbolically that is something likely to be appreciated and valued by the traditional Pac-10 leaders.

That is 7 votes.  This is where the PAC can get tricky.

At this point Kansas State would be in the driver's seat for the last slot in the conference.  The PAC would have little interest in adding Kansas State.   I suspect given the quality of Kansas State football, UT would be totally OK with leaving them behind.

If the Pac could somehow come out with an open slot, they could end up with a dramatically stronger conference.

Enter Baylor.

If KSU is added, Baylor would be out.  With the conference out of business the Bears would be looking at no future UT generated conference revenue.  As it seems the SEC is uninterested in Baylor, the Bears' athletic budget would drop by at least $20 M a year overnight.

It is a very poor position.

Offer them a deal.  If Baylor votes to be the 8th vote to torpedo the conference, the PAC will cut them a very sweet deal.  If they don't, KSU gets the slot and Baylor gets nothing.

What would such a deal look like? Home and home games against UT, OU, OSU, Tech, and Kansas in all revenue sports at fat rates for the next 20 years.  Structure it so Baylor would essentially net say $20M per year from those games (all slushed in from the top of a newly renegotiated PAC TV deal) as an independent.  That way Baylor is effectively on the same tier as BYU.  That isn't a bad long position for Baylor at all.  The PAC can then use it's influence to help keep Baylor and BYU in the D4 mix (along with other friends of the PAC ---  ND, Army, and Navy).

This opens another full slot for the PAC-12.  Several schools make sense.

Options for the last all sports slot

AAU Missouri would be a strong add as they share history with the SW division, reinforce the idea of the PAC and Big Ten bordering each other, and offer good sports and markets.  Missouri football is somewhat reliant on Texas recruiting and Missouri didn't really want to be in the SEC in the first place.  Missouri football is currently having a good season.  While not the Big Ten, this would be a much more natural home than the SEC.

And the money would be better.

Another option would be Notre Dame.  I do not think the Irish would accept a full membership without requiring opponents that would create ridiculous divisions for most of the other schools.

Arkansas would be another option.  They really like being in the SEC, but they aren't SEC lifers.  This would be an elite academically affiliation with a lot of nearby rivals (unlike the SEC) and plenty of recruiting opportunities in Texas.  Arkansas turned Texas recruiting into becoming nationally relevant in football and basketball in the last days of the Southwest Conference.  They really haven't matched that in the SEC.

Today, Arkansas isn't thinking about leaving the SEC because the SEC has the better hand.  In this scenario, the SEC would not.

(Arkansas used to be UT's #2 rival behind OU.  For UT fans, A&M was always #3.)

The University of New Mexico would make a lot of sense too.  They were a finalist when the Big 12 was formed.  (An alternative plan would have formed a Big 14 with BYU and UNM joining.)  They bring an unserved state (even though it is a small population state with little money.) and would serve as a bridge between the eastern PAC-12 schools and Texas Tech.

The addition of UNM could open the door to selling PAC brand in Mexico.  (The PAC isn't currently looking at Mexico, but conceptually that is not far off of what I have read of the PAC's plans to develop more revenue streams by selling more merchandise to markets outside of their footprint.)

UNM has been hamstrung in football historically due to the fact that they compete with UTEP and New Mexico State for the limited football talent generated in the low population state of New Mexico.  If they were the only school of that trio in a D4 conference, UNM would get the pick of that talent.  Playing in this conference with PAC TV money would allow them to easily supplement their New Mexico recruiting with Texas recruits.

It becomes rather easy to see their football becoming competitive.  They are an historic basketball power with one of the best winning percentages in the nation and a large, basketball crazy fanbase.  The Pitt is one of the great college basketball venues in the US.  Give UNM another quality 7 footer from Texas every 2 years and they would be an annual national title threat.

Their academics lag behind most PAC schools, but they do a significant amount of research which the PAC schools appreciate.

Colorado State makes some sense too.  They are a pretty good academic school with a great, new, on-campus stadium. They do a lot of research and are currently very competitive in basketball too.

Colorado sees a large portion of their alumnibase move westward into PAC territories.  CSU alumni are much more likely to settle in the Denver DMA.  CU and CSU in the same conference makes more TV sense than KU and KSU.

If those 5 are out, Rice or Houston would make sense.

AAU Rice would be a great get from the perspective of the California schools.  That would give the PAC the two best academic schools in Texas. Rice has a strong baseball program which matters to the California schools.  Playing UT, OU, Tech, and OSU would make Rice's football attendance look quite respectable overnight.  (Rice's small enrollment has become a huge problem in making their football relevant.  One would hope the PAC schools would lay down the law with Rice about increasing enrollment as the cost to get in, but you never know...)

Another option would be to add Houston.  Houston draws solid crowds on their own and would likely do much better in this PAC.  Houston is a large university actively working to increase their research volume.  It would read very well in the state and would serve as a strong platform for PAC recruiting in Houston --- currently lost territory for most of the Big 12 since A&M's departure.

I would think Missouri, UNM, or Arkansas would generate the most value.  Lets say Missouri takes the spot.

Finally the PAC could consider adding Rice as an Olympic member.  That would create 3 divisions in basketball and the other Olympic sports with UT, Rice, Tech, OU, OSU,  Kansas, and either ISU or mystery team (Missouri, Arkansas, UNM, etc.) in a division,  ISU (or mystery school), Colorado, Utah, ASU, Arizona, USC, and UCLA in a division and Cal, Stanford, OSU, Oregon, Washington, and WASSU in a division.   That would allow the 20 football programs needed for fat TV revenue while potentially cutting travel costs dramatically at all the PAC schools. 

How to Count to 60 (...schools in Contract Conferences); Part 2- the SEC cherry picks...

With the Big Ten pulling a number of additional schools (Virginia, UNC, Duke, Georgia Tech, FSU and either Vandy or Miami) the Big Ten schools would be making insane money and the ACC would be dead in the water.

The loss of those ACC schools would have ESPN looking to drop the per team payouts from $17 Million per school.  That would have every school looking for a way out.

The Big Ten payouts would likely dwarf other conferences.  The Big 12's plan was to try to capture Florida State and Clemson to spike the conference's payouts, but with FSU out of the picture and Big Ten payouts off the chart, joining the dysfunctional Big 12 would not be at the top of any school's list.

The Big Ten's per team payouts would skyrocket causing the SEC and Pac-12 to again look hard at expansion.

The SEC would quickly scoop up North Carolina State and Virginia Tech to get access to those states. In an ideal world that would be all the SEC leaders would want to do.  That kind of addition would help their per school payouts, but would not equate to Big Ten money. Keeping up with the Big Ten's money is important to the SEC, but regional play matters to SEC fans.  It would be a tough balance to maintain.

Those schools are the easy adds.  The tough debates in the SEC are Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech.  Those trio of schools allegedly were historically blocked by Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia working together.  If FSU and Georgia Tech were off the board, it would be pretty likely that that alliance would collapse and that Clemson would likely find their way in at some point.

If Vanderbilt was lost, the SEC would also be in a tough position.  With no private schools in the conference, the SEC would be subject to freedom of information requests.   They would not tolerate that, so almost immediately a replacement private school would have to be added. 

The SEC as a whole does not appear to be strongly in favor of adding Miami with it's Northeastern attitude, but in such a scenario it could make sense to add a private like Miami to restore their ability to avoid FOI requests and be perceived as a strong add. 

Other candidates to replace Vandy as the token private would be Wake Forrest and former SEC member Tulane. While schools like LSU and Florida might balk at the addition of a better academic school from their own state, NC State would likely welcome the addition of another NC school.  It is hard to see how the dynamic might unfold.

Tulane may have a lot of "tradition votes" to return. Or maybe not.

For now, we will say Virginia Tech and NC State only in if Vandy stays.  Miami, Wake Forest, or Tulane in if they go.  I think the SEC would sit at 16 for a year or so to regroup unless someone forced their hand.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Is Tony Romo 'clutch' or isn't he?" That kind of misses the point.

Dallas fans tend to blame Tony Romo for all of the team's lack of playoff success in the Romo era.  It is a gross oversimplification to be sure, but the rash of recent articles defending Romo as being clutch also miss the point... in my opinion.

Tony Romo is a victim of his own skill set and Jerry Jones blowing his evaluation of Romo.

Let's briefly touch on clutch and then take a deeper look at the previous sentence.

Being a "clutch QB" is a pretty wide ranging concept.  Some believe a clutch player is a guy who can bring a team from behind with creative magic and carry a team to a victory.  By that definition Tony Romo is certainly a clutch player.  He has skills in that regard that match up with the greats --- Elway, Farve, Montana, Staubach, etc.

Some define being a clutch player as not making a mistake that costs a team a win in crunch time.  By that definition, guys like Troy Aikman would be considered clutch and guys like Elway, Farve, and Romo (and even our beloved Roger Staubach) might fall off the list.

Romo isn't Montana or Brady.  So if your definition of clutch is both, it is a very small list.  As Dallas fans, I think it is important to get that.

With no clear shared definition of "clutch" and as multiple superbowl winning QBs would not qualify on either list, the question of whether Romo is clutch or not seems very pointless.

To me, Romo is clearly a good QB who has moments of brilliant play.  That should be enough to allow a team to win a superbowl.

So what happens to Romo that leads to these costly late game mistakes?  The vast majority of Romo's late game errors seem to originate from two causes:

1) Being asked to do to much.
2) Offensive line breakdowns.

I think both of these situations point back to the core problem of Jerry Jones not understanding what he has in Romo.

Just prior to Tony Romo taking over, Dallas was quarterbacked by Drew Bledsoe.  Bledsoe had progressed from "lacking mobility in the pocket" to being statuesque.

Now I love tough QBs who will stand in to make a tough throw, but by time Bledsoe was starting in Dallas he was the equivilant of a punch drunk old heavy weight.  He was slow to deliver the ball, had no escapability at all, and had lost his feel for sensing the rush.

Dallas had a mixture of rapidly declining old vets and scrubs signed off the street blocking for him.  The result was a mostly open pathway to sacking Bledsoe.

Enter Romo.  Romo combined an uncanny knack for sensing the backside rush and buying time with great field vision.

With Romo on the field, suddenly Dallas's offensive line could buy their QB enough time to find an open receiver.

I contend this lead Jerry Jones to believe that his offensive line was better than it was and to believe he can afford to pinch pennies on the Oline because Romo can create his own time.  I think Mr. Jones also oddly seemed to believe that all Romo needed to iron out his mistakes was for Jones to back him unconditionally (or maybe Jerry Jones just absolutely needs to have a love-fest with his current QBs.)

Eventually Jason Garrett had to break it to Jones that expensive vets on the Dallas offensive line were not much better than guys off the street and certainly weren't worth the money they were being paid.  Jones purged the expensive vets off the line.  One has to think that Garrett expected Jones to burn a number of 1st, 2nds, and 3rd round picks on offensive linemen to rebuild the line or sign some top offensive linemen in free agency, but up until the draft day meltdown that lead to the drafting of Travis Fredrick this year, the only OL of note brought in was Tyron Smith.

Instead Jones brought in an undrafted guy rated one of the worst starting OLs in the league the previous season (Nate Livings) and a former 7th rounder Carolina fans nicknamed the turnstile for his inability to reliably pass block (Mackenzy Bernadeau).

Jones' logic clearly seemed to think that new OL coach Bill Callahan would teach these two strong but mistake prone vets not to make as many mistakes and the assumption was clearly that any blown blocks would be covered by Romo scrambles.

This was again a big mistake.  Romo can escape an end on the edge, but pressure up the middle is very disruptive to his game.  Jones blew the evaluation on Romo there.

Predictably, it didn't work.

Neither did all of Jones's series of "Romo hugs" --- ie. Making the team "Romo friendly", Meddling to give Romo access to play calling, etc. ---- haven't changed who Romo is as a QB. 

As Bill Parcells quickly figured out, if you give Romo too much rope, he will hang himself with mistakes.  The best Romo is one reined in by a demanding coach.  Romo needs to be constantly challenged to play his best.

Today he status quo continues.  When Romo feels fat, dumb, and happy his game is sloppy.  When Romo feels under fire, he plays disciplined ball and is often brilliant.

Luckily the fans in Dallas are likely to keep the heat on Romo for the rest of his time in Dallas --- overcoming all of Mr. Jones's hugging.

Jones followed up last season's offensive line debacle by not signing any competent free agent guards this offseason.  When the Oline feel apart in the pre-season under the weight of injuries and abysmal guard play, Jones was finally forced to lure Brian Waters, a competent guard, out of retirement to prevent a fan rebellion.

It makes one wonder why Jones could not see how poor line play was killing his QB and his team's chances when it was plainly clear to all Cowboy fans.

The answer seems to be rooted in an underestimation of the effect poor line play has on Romo and an overestimation of Romo's ability to overcome it.

Romo has had a crappy OL throughout his career in Dallas.  For him to achieve what he has accomplished statistically is really astounding.

And it explains his end of game meltdowns.   When a game is on the line, good players dig deep to make plays.

When these players are on the defenses playing Dallas they are going against a tired and at best an average offensive line with several weak spots.  Invariably the Dallas OL gets exposed and a worn down Romo gets pressured or sacked adding more pressure to the next play.  We have seen it over and over.  When the pressure comes next, Romo can't square his feet and get off a good pass, and that's ballgame.

Jerry Jones needs two good starting guards more than an expensive CB, linebacker, or wide receiver.

Hopefully he gets it before Romo's career is over.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How much is Johnny Football worth to A&M? The answer will surprise you...

I have to open with a disclaimer.  I am not a Johnny Football fan.  I think Johnny Manzel is a bit of a reckless young dope.  Everyone makes mistakes in their early 20's, but he seems to make more than most.

He is a train wreck waiting to happen.

Why do I say this?  What pushed me over the edge on Manziel?

Allegedly, Manziel signed a bunch of autographs for pay to buy himself some new rims for his car.


The guy, who is reportedly from quite a wealthy family,  reportedly put his collegiate eligibility at risk to buy rims that allegedly he could have easily bought on his own.

(Manziel and Texas A&M leaders deny it.  The NCAA didn't have proof to make it stick, but A&M  worked out  a deal where Manziel would sit out half of a game --- a mismatch that was decided when it was scheduled --- in exchange for the NCAA never mentioning it again.  That strongly suggests there was smoke there --- Way to show "institutional control" A&M... )

It hits me as the latest in a series of incidents that suggest Manziel is problematically immature and that an NFL owner would be silly to put the keys to their franchise in the hands of Johnny Manziel --- regardless of his obvious knack for making plays.

Now all of that said, this autograph scandal scandal really has everyone questioning the justice in the NCAA having rules limiting a student's ability to make money off their athletic fame while in college.

Let's take that and apply it back to Johnny Manziel.

Johnny Manziel may be an NFL flop. History is filled with top collegiate QBs who never get a fair shot in the NFL or get injured in college and never make it to the NFL.

Texas A&M fans are ridiculously football crazy and up until last season had been starved for top level success for decades.

How many A&M fans would have paid $40 for a signed picture of Johnny Manziel after last season? How much money would A&M boosters have paid their football rock star in appearance fees last spring if they were allowed to do so?

It is not out of the question that Manziel might have earned up to or even over a million dollars last year if he had been allowed to sell himself to Aggie fans.

Immature brat or not, I cannot think of a valid reason he should not have been able to earn money off his fame, just like Miley Cyrus or any other entertainer.

What ever that number is, Manziel's unstable behavior has certainly cut into the demand he might get today. (And that doesn't even begin to cover the basic loss of demand resultant from him no longer being "new").

This is in affect a macrocosm of the earning lifespan of your average college football star.

When the iron is hot, only the NCAA and the schools can make money off the player's fame.  It isn't right.

Manziel's situation just makes the numbers bigger and easier for a fan to see the injustice of those NCAA rules.

The Manziel autograph scandal in it self is quite interesting.  When you link it to the amount of money that was donated to A&M last year it becomes mind-boggling.

Lets look at the link between A&M's football success and their fund raising efforts.

In 2008-09 A&M finished #89 and they received $187 Million in donations from fans and alumni.
In 2009-10,  A&M finished #58 and that number was $212 Million.
In 2010-11, A&M finished #20 and that number was $184 Million.
In 2011-12, A&M finished #14 and that number was $181 Million.

Last year Manziel carried A&M to a #3 finish in the final Sagarain rankings --- unheard of recent Aggie history.  He single-handedly validated Aggie dreams of what value moving to the SEC might create.

A&M pulled in $740 Million in donations in 2012-13.

To put this into perspective, the top fund raising university in 2012 was California Berkley with $405 Million in donations.

A&M almost doubled that.  Just think about that.

There is an argument to be made that Johnny Football may have brought in anywhere from $528 to $559 million dollars to A&M last year.

Again this is similar to dynamics that occur all over college football, just on a much, much larger scale as Aggies love football.  Not every alumnibase is as football crazy as A&M's, but there are other ways to see the value football athletes generate for schools.

College athletics is a "loss leader" promotion for universities. Football especially.

When Doug Flutie won the Heisman Trophy, Boston College saw an explosion of applications the following year.  It is not inaccurate to say that Flutie's miracle pass expanded enrollment and allowed BC to have a slightly better academic profile among their next few incoming classes. Forgetting all the other doors that opened for BC, that kind of application explosion alone is worth a lot to a university.

Since Wichita State dropped football, they have seen their university growth flatline vs. in state competition Kansas State and Kansas.  Dropping football is a decision that viewed to through the lens of history appears very short sighted.

Since Lamar, a university located in football crazy east Texas, reinstated football with an eye on eventual FBS status, they have seen their enrollment grow from 11,000 to over 14,000.  A gain of tuition for 3000 students is pretty significant.

Taking it back to A&M and Manziel as it is again a much more glaring example, why should a kid like Manziel be prevented from making $1M (or more) selling himself to rabid football fans when his university appears to have made 500 times that amount last year doing the same.

It stinks.