Fun With NFL Payrolls and Draft “Value”

It seems that the payrolls of NFL teams can be interpreted in many different ways. This is apparent from a pair of statements in articles over the last couple of days.

On Sunday, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the following:

If the Jets win the AFC Championship at Heinz Field, perhaps the Krafts will be inspired to spend a little more money on payroll next year (are we supposed to feel good that the Patriots have the third-lowest payroll in the NFL?).

Today, Mike Reiss has this:

“We’re comparing teams by a simple, bottom-line metric: Player payroll dollars spent per regular-season victory,” Hruby writes. “Using the most recent and accurate salary figures available, we’re also examining which clubs have been penny-wise and which have been pound-foolish.”

Hruby ranks the Patriots fourth in the NFL — their $152.73 million was the second highest in the league and the team produced 14 regular-season wins.

So which is it?

This is a game I’ve heard the likes of Ron Borges, Michael Felger, and Shaughnessy play. They interpret the payroll one way so that they can accuse the Krafts of being “cheap” and others calculate things out so that it shows that the Patriots are near the top of the league in payroll. They cite bonuses, “dead money” and actual salary paid for that season as variables that can be swapped out, apparently to make your argument either way.

Where did Shaughnessy get his information? If you type NFL Payrolls into Google, this page is the second result, and has the Patriots third-lowest in the NFL. The problem is that the data on that page is from at least 2008.

I’d like to think that Shaughnessy used better information than just a quick Google search.

Shaughnessy also snuck in: Maybe New England will stop trading down to get “value’’ for high draft picks.

I think that strategy, while criticized, has worked out pretty well the last two years. In 2010, they traded down twice in the first round, and still ended up with Pro Bowler and Second Team NFL All Pro cornerback Devin McCourty. In trading down from their original position at 22, the Patriots obtained the picks used to later select Taylor Price (3rd round, from Dallas) and Aaron Hernandez (4th round, from Denver).

Then check out this maneuver – During the 2009 draft, the Patriots obtained the #47 pick in 2010 in exchange for a third round pick in 2009. Then in this year’s draft, the Patriots traded that second round pick (47 overall) to Arizona for a later second round pick (58 overall) and a third round pick (89 overall).  They then sent the #58 pick to Houston for #62 (Brandon Spikes) and #150 (Zoltan Mesko). They then took that #89 pick and sent it to Carolina for their 2011 second round pick, which is now the top pick in the second round.

So from that one third round pick in 2009, they turned it into Brandon Spikes, Zoltan Mesko and the top pick in the second round in this coming draft.

Instead of sarcastically refering to that as “value,” I’m going to say they got VALUE from that one pick and a couple of trades.

For some reason, the media and fans HATE when the Patriots trade around in the draft. It generates snide remarks like the one from Shaughnessy, who can’t be bothered to see what actually comes of those moves.

“Four Days In October” Preview

I just finished watching the screener DVD of Four Days In October, the ESPN 30-For-30 film that makes its debut tomorrow night at 8:00 PM on ESPN.

Despite the presence of Lenny Clarke, I’m glad to say the film is tremendous. Clarke is paired with Bill Simmons at a bar and the film comes back to them at various moments during the one-hour film. In small doses like this, Clarke was OK. He even made me smile a couple times, something I don’t recall doing with Lenny Clarke jokes before.

The film focuses solely on the 96-hour stretch in October of 2004 when the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 deficit to beat the New York Yankees. Starting with Kevin Millar talking to Dan Shaughnessy prior to game four (when Shaughnessy had referred to the Red Sox as “pack of frauds” in his column – a point referenced by Millar) the movie moves quickly, with no narration, just jumping through audio and video clips from those four days.

Along the way, you are reminded just how unsufferable Joe Buck was/is. Even in game seven, he’s making comments, which, knowing now how things turned out, are patently ridiculous, and maddening at the same time. He refused to give up hope in the curse to the very bitter end.

Simmons has taken heat for making the comment that people have forgotten just how huge David Ortiz was in this series. The comment might sound silly on the surface, but watching this film, you get what he meant. It wasn’t just the game-winning hits in games four and five. Ortiz was everywhere in that series. The Yankees were terrified of him like they’ve been of no other Red Sox player. Ever.

There’s plenty about Schilling and the bloody sock in game six, including a look under the bandage, and pregame talk from ESPN talking heads who were dismissive of Schilling’s ability to pitch effectively in the game. There are other details that you forget a little over the years, like the police in riot gear having to surround the Yankee Stadium field after the umpires overturned the original call on the play in which Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove. The play is well remembered, of course, but the reaction of the Yankee Stadium fans and the need for the riot police had slipped my mind.

Prior to game seven you’re treated to snippets from the likes of Donald Trump, Jackie MacMullan and Yogi Berra, all certain that there is no way the Red Sox can finish off the comeback. Yet, even as they’re speaking, you can sense the confidence wavering ever so slightly. Others, like Spike Lee were admittedly nervous, and said so.

Johnny Damon is among those who comment here and there throughout the film, and he’s pretty subdued. You’ve got to wonder if the fact that he went on after 2005 to play with many of those Yankees caused him to be a little muted in his reactions to this event after the fact.  

The best part of this film is that there is no narrator leading the story along, no cadre of local media giving their retrospective “take” on the series, it’s just raw footage (some of it taken from Red Sox players’ camcorders and those of fans) put together with audio clips from the broadcasts (radio – both teams and national – and TV broadcasts from FOX). You just get to live through the ride again, seeing the events that changed history for this franchise. You’ll feel the emotion all over again.

It airs tomorrow night, Tuesday, October 5th at 8:00 on ESPN. Be sure to watch it.

ESPN Radio…on 1510?

A short post on the website RadioInsight.com reports that 1510 The Zone  – or more accurately, Revolution Boston GM Anthony Pepe (remember “The Diehards?”) recently registered the domain names 1510ESPNBoston.com and ESPN1510Boston.com via his Mouthpiece Boxing company.

I find it a little hard to believe that after all the hype about WEEI becoming an ESPN affiliate and talk from ESPN that they wanted to establish their national programming in Boston that they would settle for airing on the poor signal that is AM 1510 in Boston. The scenario that made the most sense to me was WEEI going to FM, and them putting the ESPN programming on the 850 signal. Going to 1510 makes little sense to me.

This could simply be Pepe being proactive, or perhaps wishful in registering the names, or perhaps something is in the works.

Update: A quick response from Pepe to my inquiry – “Nothing happening!”

Alrighty then. Carry on. Nothing to see here.