Parity in the NFL is a myth
By Fred Guzman
Parity in the NFL is a myth, a parody of the popular clichÃ© that on any given Sunday any team can beat any other. Last given Sunday, as a case in point, six of the 12 games were decided by 28 points or more. The last time that happened was nearly 40 years ago.
And don’t put this off as an aberration. Based on research by SI.com, last week’s string of lopsided results were not an aberration. Double-digit blowouts have become the rule in 2009, as 56 of 103 games (54.4 percent) have been decided by 10 points or more.
For the first time in NFL history there are three undefeated teams after Week 7 — Indianapolis, Denver and New Orleans. On the other end of the spectrum are three winless teams – Tampa Bay, Tennessee and St. Louis.
So what about the NFL salary cap? What was designed to create a level playing field has had an opposite effect. To the contrary, the salary cap has put a premium on good management, good talent evaluation and good coaching.
That’s why franchises such as Pittsburgh, New England and Indianapolis have flourished, while others – think Oakland, St. Louis and Kansas City – have consistently struggled.
Yes, the bad teams get to pick earlier than the good ones in the annual draft. But, for many bad teams, early first-round picks are more of a curse than a blessing.
For two reasons: One, without a slotting system to compensate rookies, the higher the pick, the higher salaries those teams have to make. And, two, teams making bad decisions in evaluating talent end up having to allot an inordinate percentage of their payroll to unproven players who never pan out.
It’s not secret that New England shies away from high first-round picks in favor of having multiple picks in the second, third and fourth rounds because its personnel department is confident that it can find good players later in the draft without having to pay outlandish money for guys who have never played a down of professional football.
People who have gulped the “parity” kool aid are fond of pointing to baseball’s need to implement an NFL-style salary cap. But, again, reality is quite different from perception.
To wit: 17 teams have won the World Series since 1984. Yet, over those same 25 years, 14 NFL franchises have won the Super Bowl. In other words, a salary cap does not necessarily guarantee a level playing field.