I was reflecting on the Patriots draft this past April, and as usual, second-guessing the logic of not drafting a premier pass rusher for a defense that “can’t stop a nose bleed.” It defies conventional thought. The Patriots defense made Mark Sanchez look like Peyton Manning in the the Divisional round. They missed Richard Seymour’s presence – they need someone who can consistently get to the quarterback. But, once again, they decided against it, opting for a number of offensive players to backup the league’s best offense last season. When asked about it, Bill Belichick gave the guarded response that the Patriots draft for value, and if there hadn’t been a run on d-linemen early on in the draft, things might’ve shaken out differently.
That’s when it hit me. The Patriots draft philosophy ensures they are competitive every year. Its a lower risk way to go. But, with lower risk comes lower reward. By not rolling the dice on a couple players, or stretching a bit to draft a player that fits a need, I fear the Patriots may not be building a team that will win another title anytime soon. After having this epiphany I began to think about why in a world where winning is the “most important thing” would a team not take steps to win a title.
The answer, of course, is simple. Winning is not the most important thing, money is. We often forget that the owners of each franchise are running real businesses. As fans with no economic interest, we want a team to win. We don’t see any piece of ticket revenue or endorsement deals. We don’t sit down and think about whether we would make more money if a team won a title sandwiched between two good years followed by a decade of unimportance vs. 10 years of 10 wins. Of course, the position and perspective of most owners of a sports franchise is more nuanced. Its about trying to build sustainable, cash-flow generating businesses that also win titles. But, when faced with the prospect of making a foolish amount of money or winning titles, the vast majority of people would take the dough. While I feel good about the Pats chances of averaging 10 wins for the next few years, I can’t say I feel good good about their chances of winning another championship.