More Moneyball (the economics of wins and losses)

Last week we looked at the raw numbers of what each team in the NFL spent from 2004-08, with the clear indication being that many of the most successful organizations spent in the middle of the pack, while several of the top five spending teams suffered.

Now, we’re going to rank the teams in terms of “bang for their buck” — how much each club spent per win the past five seasons. The sheer disparity between, say, what the New England Patriots spent on each victory, versus the Oakland Raiders at the bottom of the list, indicated the inefficiencies in dollar terms. And remember, this is not salary cap spending, this is actual dollars as per the NFL Management Council.

Okay, here’s the list:

Team Wins Committed Cash Cost Per Win
1.) Patriots 63 512.31M 8.14 M
2.) Colts 63 532.77 M 8.44 M
3.) Chargers 54 485.46 M 8.99 M
4.) Steelers 56 516.69 M 9.22 M
5.) Broncos 47 485.40 M 10.37 M
6.) Giants 47 497.63 M 10.58 M
7.) Jaguars 45 480.06 M 10.66 M
8. ) Eagles 46 495.75 M 10.77 M
9.) Bears 45 495.57 M 11.01 M
10.) Packers 41 457.16 M 11.15 M
11.) Panthers 45 516.09 M 11.46 M
12.) Ravens 44 507.05 M 11.52 M
13.) Titans 40 465.28 M 11.63 M
14.) Bucs 38 449.00 M 11.81 M
15.) Seahawks 45 552.42 M 12.27 M
16.) Falcons 41 493.07 M 12.07 M
17.) Cowboys 46 566.89 M 12.32 M
18.) Vikings 41 526.87 M 12.85 M
19.) Bengals 38 491.05 M 12.92 M
20.) Jets 37 502.53 M 13.58 M
21.) Bills 35 483.71 M 13.82 M
22.) Chiefs 32 451.58 M 14.11 M
23.) Saints 36 518.49 M 14.40 M
24.) Redskins 38 547.37 M 14.40 M
25.) Cardinals 34 505.30 M 14.86 M
26.) Dolphins 31 500.56 M 16.14 M
27.) Texans 31 522.23 M 16.84 M
28.) Browns 28 506.43 M 18.08 M
29.) Rams 27 502.08 M 18.59 M
30.) 49ers 25 486. 40 M 19.45 M
31.) Lions 21 505.04 M 24.04 M
32.) Raiders 20 513.21 M 25.66 M

The bottom quarter of the league all spent roughly twice as much per win as the Pats, and all of those clubs, save the Houston Texans, have made coaching and/or management changes in the past year (it also explains why some believe this is a make-or-break season for the Houston brass). The Raiders are, in these terms, three-times as poorly operated as the Patriots.

It’s hard not to look at the list and throw some love at the front offices in San Diego and Jacksonville, hanging with the big boys despite their low spending. It’s also interesting to me that a few of the clubs at the top — Denver and Jacksonville — have had front office shakeups in the past year or so, despite that success (the knock that ex-Broncos chief Mike Shanahan was a wayward spender does not hold up here; clearly they had some personnel decisions backfire, but the team is among the elite in dollar/win since 2004).

We’ll come back to the list from time to time, I’m sure, and it will be a reference point later in the week, when we look at some of the potential next generation of general managers and some rising NFL execs. Would love to hear any feedback from you guys as well about any surprises/observations from the Moneyball list.

Furthermore, now that we are deep in the NFL’s June swoon — the only time of year in which football news is not overflowing — I’m all ears in terms of what interests you guys. I’m thinking of breaking down the league division-by-division for a pre-camp sketch later in the week, and will also be following potential contracts for Julius Peppers and Terrell Suggs. If there’s something else on your mind, drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get on it.

I’m back on the East Coast now after a week in LA (all thanks to the crew at NFL Network and NFL.com; everyone was too cool and totally helpful) and I’m looking forward to my first chat on NFL.com this afternoon. Hope you guys had a great weekend.

– Jason La Canfora

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