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Quick Note: The Super Bowl, Tactics and Economics, Part II

February 11, 2012

Today’s second Note is another Freakonomics.com blog post, this one by Stephen Dubner. His post, “Football Freakonomics: The First Annual Dough Bowl Awards,” discusses the economics of player value versus cost.  Reminiscent of the film (and book) Moneyball, this post examines the cost and performance of NFL players and lists a set of the highest performing low-cost players. The post is, as Dubner describes, “our latest Football Freakonomics episode. It’s called “Dough Bowl.” It is our tribute to the NFL’s best bargains, the players who lit it up this year for far fewer dollars than their counterparts. ” [all italics are added by me, and denote quotes from the original post or article]

The Freakonomics list differs from the Moneyball concept in one important way. Moneyball was fundamentally about identifying baseball players whose costs were low because they were systematically undervalued by mainstream player analysis. Thus, the players could be signed for less than their performance objectively warranted. The Dough Bowl analysis identifies players who are valued at more than their current cost by consensus mainstream analysis. In most cases, their cost is held down artificially by existing contracts. When it is not, those players can expect to increase their compensation through free agency. In Dubner’s words, “Some of our Dough Bowlers are about to strike it rich with new contracts. But some are locked in to cheap contracts and will to repeat this year’s performance to get the big payday. Furthermore, this off-season promises to be one of the most chaotic in history: more than 600 players will have their contracts expire before free agency starts on March 13.

The names of some of the players in Dubner’s list may surprise you; they include some playoff and Superbowl heroes. It certainly reinforces the notion that free agency can change the face of the NFL each and every off-season. Dubner’s analysis is powerful and interesting. I strongly recommend the article for a quick read. And, if you enjoy it, you may want to check out Part I of todays’ Quick Note duo, Quick Note: The Super Bowl, Tactics and Economics, Part I.

Quick Note: The Super Bowl, Tactics and Economics, Part I,

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