In the early years of the National Football League, scouting and roster development resembled the wild west. Drafts were held in hotel ballrooms the day after the last game of regular season college football was played. There was no combine, limited scouting, and no salary cap. Over time, these aspects have changed dramatically, in part due to key figures from Pete Rozelle to Gil Brandt to Bill Belichick. The development and learning from this time period have laid the foundational infrastructure that modern roster construction is based upon. In this modern day, managing a team and putting together a roster involves numerous people, intense scouting, layers of technology, and, critically, the management of the salary cap. Since it was first put into place in 1994, managing the cap has become an essential element of building and sustaining a successful team. The New England Patriots’ mastery of the cap is a large part of what enabled their dynastic run over the past twenty years. While their model has undoubtedly proven to be successful, an opposing model has become increasingly popular and yielded results of its own. Both models center around different distributions of the salary cap, starting with the portion paid to the starting quarterback. The Patriots dynasty was, in part, made possible due to their use of both models over the course of their dominance. Drafting, organizational culture, and coaching are all among the numerous critical factors in determining a team’s success and it becomes difficult to pinpoint the true source of success for any given team. Ultimately, however, effective management of the cap proves to be a force multiplier; it does not guarantee that a team will be successful, but it helps teams that handle the other variables well sustain their success.
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