Friday, October 28, 2016

Dangerous Faction

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

I’m going to blatantly ignore the unceremonious end to the professional baseball season.  You good with that O’s fans?  Nats fans?  Thought so.  A furry mammal, a 30-year-old football team and a wig-wearing American legend is on the docket… 

The 1985 Chicago Bears are, for my money, the greatest NFL team of the Super Bowl era.  After a 15-1 regular season (11 of those wins were by double digits), the Bears won three playoff games, including Super Bowl XX, by a combined score of 91-10. 

Chicago’s offense featured future Hall of Fame RB Walter Payton, flashy but gritty QB Jim McMahon, and lightning fast WR Willie Gault.  The identity of that great Bears team, though, was its devastating and historic defense.  Middle linebacker Mike Singletary and defensive lineman Dan Hampton and Richard Dent are in the Hall of Fame.  Outside linebackers Otis Wilson and Wilbur Marshall wreaked havoc off the edge.  Defensive lineman Steve McMichael was a two-time All-Pro and safeties Gary Fencik and the late Dave Duerson were as good as any in the league.

More than a collection of talented football players, the ’85 Bears were a crossover pop culture phenomena.  Rotund DT William “The Refrigerator” Perry caught the nation’s fancy with his lovable girth and touchdown plunges.  McMahon was a professional wrestling persona in cleats.  Head Coach Mike Ditka was the perfect booming, unpolished personality to lead this band of bandits and brash defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan made sacks, turnovers and shutouts cool.   

Collectively the Bears played hard, won often and embraced fame.  They shot television commercials and, true to the MTV era of the mid-80’s, made a corny music video - The Super Bowl Shuffle.  Always a sports documentary in the making, ESPN recently made it official by featuring the ’85 Bears in a “30 for 30” episode.    

One question has lingered about those fabulous and fun ’85 Bears: Why did they manage just one Super Bowl appearance?  They had a nice run – five consecutive division titles from 1984-88 – but that single championship is a lonely piece of hardware for a roster with dynastic capabilities.
The answer was revealed in that “30 for 30” piece and explained by James Madison, unsuspecting football whisperer, in Federalist Paper No. 10 (a centuries old political document): The Bears were a fractured group. 

Ryan was hired as defensive coordinator in 1978, four full season before Ditka was hired as head coach.  His defensive unit was fiercely loyal, even lobbying ownership to retain Ryan in 1982.  By 1985, the defense was dominant, among the very best in league history; the offense was…okay.  The performance delta created tension between Ryan’s defense and Ditka’s offense and between Ryan and Ditka personally.  In a way, the defense was its own faction, existing and operating as an isolated entity.

So what does a founding father have to offer about NFL football?  Well, in arguing for a new form of government in late 1787, Madison, noting the human compulsion for factious discord, wrote, “A zeal for different opinions…have in turn divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to cooperate for their common good.”  He went on to comment that “So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities”, the new government shouldn’t seek to combat the cause of inevitable faction but only seek, “…the means of controlling its effects.” 

That is brutal commentary on our species, but it is, unfortunately, spot on.  The division within the Bears teams of the mid 80’s was insufficiently controlled and, ultimately, diminished its accomplishments.  There was too much defense versus offense and not enough prevailing, unselfish commitment to a common cause. 


Be it 1787, 1985 or 2016, and whether the test subject is a personal relationship, a professional team or our representative government, the challenge is to promote spirited, constructive debate and avoid rogue faction.  Our next big test arrives on November 9 when we will wake up either excited, disappointed or indifferent; but, regardless, we will still be Americans tasked with the responsibility of building a more perfect union.

You’re Making How Much?

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

The interview went well.  An offer was made.  The job was accepted.  You landed in cubicle village hungry to produce, earn respect and advance.  After learning the ropes and chatting up veteran members of your new work family, your suspicions were confirmed: your position or department isn’t highly valued in the organization and, even among your second-class peers, you aren’t making an equitable salary. 

With professional careers now spanning well over three decades and job-hopping increasingly common, this is a situation – feeling underappreciated and underpaid - nearly everyone will experience (unless, of course, you follow the path of a certain presidential candidate who has never struggled to pay a bill or spent a day chasing a middle-class life). 

There are perfectly legitimate reasons, of course, for such predicaments: an inaccurate assessment of market value, a new entrant to the workforce, a temporary gig, starting a second career or a financially hastened employment decision.  And legitimate or not - and at the risk of sounding naïve and dated – it can be a temporary state if the tried and true trilogy of hard work, a positive attitude and shrewd maneuvering is deployed.   

In the meantime, working harder while making less than the slacker in the adjacent cube, despite the same job description, can be demoralizing, a natural and understandable reaction that retards the employee’s potential and threatens the development of a successful organizational culture.

It is this common sense lesson on human behavior and organizational health which makes what is happening in professional sports so fascinating.  The financial landscape in the NFL, NBA and MLB is being redefined yearly.  Monopoly money is being thrown around: $200M contracts and $20M annual salaries are the new normal. 

It is an indisputably good time to be really good at sports.  But, the bonanza is concentrating wealth in just a few positions and producing salary structures within individual teams that are grossly misaligned with talent and production. 

Consider these statements.  Golden State G Stephen Curry is the fourth highest paid Warriors’ player and will make less than half of teammate Kevin Durant’s 2016 salary.  The top six MLB salaries and eight of the top 10 belong to starting pitchers.  NFL quarterbacks claim the 14 highest 2016 salary cap figures and are the most expensive player on 23 of 32 teams.

Closer to home, John Wall, the second highest paid Wizard, will make roughly $17M less than Bradley Beal over the next three seasons.  Bryce Harper’s salary ranks tenth on the Nationals.  Joe Flacco ($22.5M) and Kirk Cousins ($19M) have the highest cap figures for the Ravens and ‘Skins, respectively, and make exponentially more than all-world Ravens G Marshal Yanda ($4M) and ‘Skins RT Morgan Moses ($864K), two offensive lineman tasked with protecting those expensive quarterbacks.

Lies, damn lies and statistics?  According to Spotrac.com, all of it is true. 

With collectively bargained time-of-service-based salaries and structured free agency qualifications, this disparity is somewhat understandable.  Still, consider the environment such financial chaos creates.  Ultra-competitive athletes with an abbreviated career – those that last 10 years are rare – are asked to buy-in completely, give maximum effort and play hurt despite often either earning far below market value or a fraction of a lesser-talented or more valued teammates.

The point isn’t to prompt pity for offensive linemen or the Wall’s and Curry’s of the NBA; a professional athlete’s life is a glorious gig.  But those fortunate elite athletes are still human, manage a unique career arc and face the ever-present reality of an injury altering their career and financial outlook in a split second. 


It is amazing, then, and a credit to athletes and coaches (who no doubt double as psychologists), that holdouts aren’t prevalent and more teams aren’t compromised by the evolving business of professional sports.  Maybe players are just appreciative of the opportunity.  Of course that’s easy to do while making millions and hoping to make tens of millions.  Still, there’s something there, some hint of solace for the struggling cube dweller who is dutifully implementing the aforementioned trinity – hard work, a good attitude and strategic networking – and awaiting a deserved market correction of their own.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Borrowing From Our Future Selves

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Washington’s 38-16 Week 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a comprehensive destruction of a franchise desperately trying to sow some semblance of a winning culture.  Pittsburgh treated Washington like a Southern Maryland spring thunderstorm treats a freshly planted garden full of vulnerable vegetable plants.  When the hail and gale force winds subsided, it was a total loss. 

Washington was outplayed, outcoached and outclassed as an organization.  Whatever momentum Washington had from last season’s playoff berth and whatever mojo QB Kirk Cousins had after his record-setting 2015-16 campaign was completely eviscerated after three brutal hours of physical and strategic domination (and the fog carried over this week against Dallas). 

The Black and Gold are contenders; the Burgundy and Gold are pretenders.  It’s that simple.
Washington was universally bad, but its defense was horrific.  Pittsburgh ran at will, created explosive plays in the passing game, neutered Washington’s pass rush and routinely uprooted the line of scrimmage and shoved it downfield. 

Watching the destruction, I longed for perspective from Sam Huff, Washington’s tough-as-nails Hall of Fame middle linebacker and one half of the long-time “Sonny (Jurgensen) and Sam” must-hear game day color commentary.  Huff would have shredded this defensive abomination and, in doing so, validated the frustration of irate fans. 

But Dr. Huff, having retired in 2013, was unavailable.  Huff did make news in the week following the game, but it had nothing to do with a tongue lashing of the defense.  Sadly, it seems the icon is suffering from dementia and an ongoing legal dispute between his caregiver and daughter garnered the unfortunate attention. 

For former NFL players and their families, Huff’s story has become all too familiar.  While prior generations unknowingly put their long-term health in peril, the disturbing facts are now indisputable: Football increases the risk of degenerative brain disease.  Huff didn’t know that; current players do and with this knowledge comes confusion.  Do you stop playing a game you love?  Avoid it altogether?  And if you’re an NFL player, do you truncate a lucrative and rewarding career? 

In short, how do you balance today’s risks against tomorrow’s consequences?

With early retirements more common, it’s clearly on players’ minds.  After a particularly harsh beating during the season opener against the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton was asked about long-term health concerns.  Here is the reigning MVP's response: “I’m worried about winning.  That’s it.  Winning.  Winning football games.  That’s why I’m here.  I’m not here to worry about retirement plans.  I’m not here to worry about pensions.  I’m not here to worry about workers comp.  I’m here to win football games.  Simple and plain.  This is a contact sport.  This is a physical sport.”

Part of me loves that response - LOVES IT.  Passionate.  Competitive.  All-in.  Another part of me, a new conscience-laden version, worries about Newton and his peers and their post-NFL life.  A 2014 NFL report indicated that 30% of NFL players will suffer from degenerative brain disease, making them twice as likely as the general public to be diagnosed - and many will be diagnosed at disturbingly young ages.  Huff is part of the 30%.  Will Newton be?  It is a difficult outcome to consider.

But life is a thrilling, hazard-infused odyssey.  Living in a risk-free bubble – a place with no fried foods, red meat or alcohol, where sexual pursuits are closely legislated and where everyone drives the speed limit - sure would be a drag.  And even then, there are unavoidable stressors – relationships, careers, parenthood, etc. – that can be clear and present dangers to human health. 

Hunter S. Thompson captured our earthly journey well when he said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride.’”


That about sums it up, indeed.  Of course how that quote is interpreted and applied – how an experience today is balanced against a potential consequence tomorrow - is unique to every person, pro football quarterback or not.

E.T. Phone Earth…Please

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

On 26 August, San Francisco 49ers backup QB Colin Kaepernick did what backup quarterbacks do: He took a seat.  Then all aitch-e-el-el broke loose. 

Kaepernick didn’t sit quietly with a cap and a clipboard.  To raise awareness of persistent racism, the uneven extension of Constitutional rights and, more specifically, the recent killings of minorities by law enforcement, Kaepernick sat loudly in silence while the Star Spangled Banner played.

In a post-game interview with NFL Media, Kaepernick explained his anthem protest: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.  To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

The initial reaction to Kaepernick’s act - mostly unproductive, misplaced outraged – was predictable.  He was called un-America and told to leave the country.  His jersey was burned.  Former NFL QB Matt Hasselbeck lauded the end of his career as a starting quarterback.  Resident NASCAR hot-head Tony Stewart urged him to learn the facts before “running his dumb_ss mouth” and called him a “#idiot”. 

Former NFL safety Rodney Harrison produced this best-of-the-worst reactions: “I tell you this, I’m a black man.  And Colin Kaepernick, he’s not black.  He cannot understand what I face and what other young black people face, or people of color face on a every single day basis.” 

For the record, Kaepernick’s father is black and his mother is white.  To his credit, Harrison apologized profusely for his ignorance.

These impulsive reactions are indicative of an increasingly polarized society, one that is easily offended, quick to react and slow to listen and contemplate different perspectives.  Whether it’s a majority of people or just a loud, obnoxious minority that drowns out measured, objective thought, issues are increasingly classified in either black or white, yes or no, left or right terms.  Regardless of the political issue, scant shades of gray exist or can be developed through constructive debate.  No wonder Congress – representatives of the electorate – is so divided.    

Knowing this, maybe that’s why Kaepernick played the anthem card.  A few weeks ago, NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron James collectively addressed this same issue during the ESPY Awards.  Despite the star power, the message lacked staying power.  But Kaepernick’s protest boiled blood.  While the words expressed by those NBA stars were important, the approach was too polite.  History indicates that social change is often only achieved through intense agitation.  Kaepernick agitated us and demanded an outcome all Americans should desire: equality and improved relations between communities and law enforcement.   

Whatever you think of Kaepernick’s protest, his vilification should raise concerns.  We are a nation founded on discord - it is as much a part of our fabric as the anthem itself.  The Second Amendment is vehemently defended.  The Thirteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments were secured, in part, by passionately using the same First Amendment rights Kaepernick exercised this past August.  Yet Kaepernick was personally attacked for his peaceful – albeit intentionally inflammatory - public protest.  And this while the state of Texas has been flirting with succession – the ultimate defiance of our American union - for a decade.    

This excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” is inscribed on the north wall of the MLK Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” 

Dr. King’s quote captures Kaepernick’s fundamental point: We have a problem that cannot be ignored.  We must address this American imperfection – this disconnect between reality and the promises of our Declaration and Constitution - and collectively work toward a common solution. 

That only happens if the message is received by open minds.  Maybe we need something other-worldly to remind us of our shared human cause.  Scientists did receive a strong extraterrestrial signal last week.  E.T., if that was you calling, your timing was impeccable.   

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Perfect 10 and an Absolute Zero

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

My daughter’s convinced that watching sports is a waste of time.  She lectures me about it and often uses it to rebut my suggestion that she’s neglecting her homework assignments while absorbed in her electronic devices and social life – an apparently far more noble pursuit than following competitive athletics.  In her mind, what’s good for dad is good for daughter, despite the gross imbalance of leisure time afforded by her middle-school life and my adult-with-multiple-kids life. 

But she’s 13, so there’s no winning the argument.  Frankly, I don’t need to; I just need to win the moment.  To do so, I recite a refrain my dad used on me: Do as I say, not as I do.  Once I layer on the threat of confiscating her precious electronics – the ones her parents procured and pay to keep connected to the outside world – for a frightening length of time (you know, like an hour), she reluctantly, if not silently, complies.  Deep down she knows I’m right.  I think.  I hope.

When she gets older, I’ll explain why I watch sports.  It’s still about the obvious: passionately rooting my teams to victory.  But at age 43, it’s not entirely about the results.  Sports are therapy now.  They are an old friend and a retreat to a comfortable place.  I watch seeking tangible examples of human excellence, elite performances under intense pressure, individuals overcoming adversity and teams reaching heights beyond what their collective talent would predict.  Despite being affixed to the couch with a remote, not a pick axe, in my hand, I am a desperate miner searching for golden nuggets of inspirational fuel for my journey and for moments when life fails to deal me aces and faces.      

Sports consistently fill my tank.  The Rio Games alone offered up Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Paul George and Kristin Armstrong (a fellow 43-year-old in slightly better shape than this writer) to rekindle the fire in our guts.  Sports are, however, nothing if not a cross section of society, so with the good comes the bad.  Watch enough sports, or even a little, and you will encounter unimaginable egos, rampant narcissism, cheaters and perpetrators of a myriad of crimes.

Oh, and don’t forget liars.

Remember when Ryan Lochte, a 13-time medal winner, was just the second most decorated male swimmer in Olympic history?  Wasn’t it great seeing the 32-year-old veteran winning gold with rival and long-time teammate Michael Phelps one last time? 

It was a storybook ending until Lochte went boorish frat boy, got hammered and destroyed property at a Rio gas station.  Then, for some reason known only to that ego-laden, self-serving space between his ears, Lochte concocted a fictitious account of the event that put his teammates at risk, dimmed the well-earned spotlight of other Olympians, embarrassed his country and laid waste to his reputation.
Lochte claimed he and three teammates had been robbed at gunpoint by a man dressed as a police officer.  In reality, he and his boys damaged property and urinated on the premises because, you know, they thought they could.  The truth, as it usually does in the information age, eventually surfaced which prompted Lochte to play the drunk/immature card and latently apologize for the “over-exaggerated” account of the night’s events. 

Lochte didn’t “over-exaggerate”.  He lied.  And this from a guy who was born on the exact day – 3 August 1984 – that Mary Lou Retton stuck her “Perfect 10” vault to win the women’s all-around gymnastics gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.  Who could have guessed the day that produced American perfection would produce an absolute zero 32 years later?

But I want to thank Lochte.  Seriously.  At some point I’ll be having a conversation with my kids and I’ll need evidence to illustrate the importance of respectfully diffusing a bad situation, being forthright and truthful and recognizing that a person’s reputation, while forged by countless acts, can be undone by a single error. 


Lochte will be perfect for those moments.  Maybe he’ll even help my daughter understand why I watch sports and realize it’s hardly a waste of time.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Negativity Bias and a Timely Tangent

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Olympians from country after country, including an inspiring team of refugees, strode proudly into a cheering arena.  NBA stars, well-known Olympians and anonymous athletes from all around the globe wore the same huge, infectious and uninhibited smiles. 

The Parade of Nations during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics last Thursday night was spectacular.  The organic joy and global comradery was a welcomed tonic.  If the moment grabbed you, it should have.  Frankly, it should have grabbed us all.  Our minds are under constant attack by real and important media bombardments of racial division, complex political struggles and worldwide terrorism.  This necessary but brutal truth threatens our faith in our species, our common humanity and the humble desire we all share: to live in peace and to cultivate a world for our children that is a little more decent than the one we navigated.  

To keep the gale force winds of corruption, violence and evil from extinguishing our flickering hope candles, it is important to remind ourselves that the vast majority of earthlings can’t fathom belittling, disrespecting, discriminating against or terrorizing another human based on differences in gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin or any other differentiating factor.  We want to live.  We want to love.  We just want to be. 

Most of us, that is, but not all of us.

The minority who do not, the peddlers of darkness who purposely cultivate fear and anxiety, often dominant the headlines.  The media has the responsibility to report, of course, but the human psyche and the economics of limited space and endless consumer options heavily influence the message.  Hate, horrific acts and apocalyptic declarations get eyes on papers and (more importantly now) entice clicks.  Shock and awe sells.  That’s why weather-dependent programs lust for any and every atmospheric disturbance and name storms (and embellish the impact) with anything over a 48-hour life expectancy. 

This is all evidence of what the psychology community would call the negativity bias - the human tendency to remember and to be impacted more significantly by negative than positive events.  Fighting this innate urge and maintaining a glass half full outlook while disturbing events are reported from sea to shining sea and all over the world is, quite literally, a mental wrestling match. 
Every time the compulsive negativity is restrained after processing the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Charleston, South Carolina, the Navy Yard and Baltimore, Maryland, there are more incomprehensible insults to our optimism.

Orlando.  Paris.  Dallas.  Nice.  Baton Rouge.  Turkey…

So yeah, every now and then, we need something like the Olympics, the opening ceremony and the Parade of Nations to combat the negative bias and remind ourselves of decency and spirit that still exists in the world and its most sophisticated inhabitants.  Obviously there’s much to criticize about these Rio Games – Zika, Russian doping issues, bacteria-filled waterways and the poor infrastructure that was slapped together just-in-time (or not-quite-in-time).  There is also the environmental stain left behind at past Olympic venues and the perpetual corruption of the International Olympic Committee. 

I get it.  I’m not blind to it.  Frankly, I started this piece with the intent of criticizing the choice of fellow Marylander Michael Phelps - he of two DUI arrests, a 2014 suspension from USA Swimming and documented marijuana use – as the flag bearer for the United States Olympic team.  There were better choices – literally hundreds of them.  Phelps, in his fifth Olympics, didn’t need the additional attention and despite his 22 Olympic medals (the most ever), he didn’t deserve to be the symbol for the United States Olympic team.  His swimming talent has raised Old Glory many times; his performance out of the pool didn’t warrant him raising it ahead of the Rio Games.  


But then the overwhelming beauty of the Parade of Nations – thousands of athletes from around the world celebrating their countries, themselves and global athletic competition – overwhelmed my negativity bias of Phelps, hijacked this article sent it in a far more important direction.  I’m thankful for the tangent.  Now there’s something I never said in geometry class.

Unlikely Prudence

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins pocketed $2.7M total during his first four years in the NFL.  This coming season alone, Cousins will earn $19.953M on a one-year franchise tag. 

Despite the unimaginable raise, the prevailing suggestion, given the lucrative quarterback marketplace, is that Cousins should be insulted by the team’s disrespect of his talent. 

His accomplishments are inarguable: In 2015, the final year of his rookie contract, Cousins led Washington to a division title, set a single-season franchise record for passing yards and provided a definitive exit from the disastrous Robert Griffin III era.  And for all this, Cousins got “rewarded” with a prove-it-again deal.  Preposterous.  Washington should have showered Cousins with a long-term contract and football riches reserved only for elite quarterbacks.  Instead, the organization slapped Cousins with the one-year franchise tag and ultimately failed to reach a multi-year contract extension by the July 15 deadline.

Washington did Captain Kirk dirty.

That’s the rhetoric being spewed by many media spin doctors.  The reality is there’s nothing to see here.  Two entities assessed a professional situation and made individual business decisions.  The world will continue to rotate.  Cousins will work hard and, barring injury, start at quarterback this fall.  Washington coaches will work intensely to ensure his and the team’s success.  Should Cousins thrive in 2016, the process will repeat itself again: Cousins will either play under the franchise tag at an increased 2017 salary of $24M or sign a long-term contract. 

While it is rare for franchised players to actually play out the one-year contract and almost unprecedented for quarterbacks to do so, this scenario makes perfect sense for both Washington and Cousins considering the root of the impasse: a volatile quarterback market.  This offseason, Andrew Luck set the bar after signing a six-year, $140M contract with Indianapolis.  Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler, an average signal-caller, inked a four-year, $72M deal with Houston that includes $37M in guarantees. 

Where does Cousins fall on the Luck-Osweiler continuum?  Well, it’s hard to say, hence the stalemate.  The dollars that Luck received provoked Cousins to bet on himself and another big season; conversely, the guaranteed money being commanded by quarterbacks and Cousins’s relatively shallow resume (he’s just 11-14 as a starter), gave Washington justifiable pause.
Nobody blinked during negotiations – so here we are.

Given Washington’s compliment of offensive weapons, its shaky running game and modest defensive talent, it is probable that Cousins will throw often and compile impressive numbers.  It is also probable that with each big statistical outing – victorious or not – Washington’s front office will be ripped for failing to lock up its quarterback. 

Fair enough.  Such debate moves the needle.  But not overpaying to reach a long-term deal was absolutely the right move.  With a salary cap of $155.3M and a 53-man roster to fill, if a team pays elite quarterback money, it must ensure it will receive elite quarterback play - and even if it does, the inequitable allocation of financial resources produces uneven results. 

Some of the best quarterbacks in the league – Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson – won Super Bowls on below-market contracts.  After slipping on their rings and scoring big deals, more Super Bowls didn’t always follow.  Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is the most obvious example of the elite quarterback financial trap: After winning the Super Bowl in 2013, Flacco signed a six-year, $121M contract.  The Ravens have managed just one winning season since.  But he’s not alone: In 2012, two years after winning the Super Bowl, New Orleans signed Brees to a five-year, $100M contract.  In the four subsequent seasons, their record is 32-32.

Considering its decades of instability at the most important position in team sports, Washington should feel fortunate to have Cousins.  And the hunch is a long-term deal gets done next summer.  But there was no reason to rush to pay a relatively unproven asset this year.  Every team – athletic or otherwise - needs its quarterback, but individual positions don’t sustain success and win championships, teams do.  Washington’s prudent handling of the Cousins negotiations was true to this formula. 


Did I just use “Washington” and “prudent” in the same sentence?