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Credit Card Spending- A Cautionary Tale

As Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay is now telling us with actions and words, the NFL is truly a “Not For Long” league. It’s a tough grind of emotional and physical commitment for decision makers who don’t play a snap and are in buildings around the National Football League.

I’ve seen it reported that injuries and losing during this season has taken its toll on McVay. I have some news for you. It takes a toll on everyone, not just the head coach. I had a season in Miami as the general manager where we won one game. I lost 25 pounds and have never felt worse, both physically and mentally. It’s a freakin grind for all staff, both coaching and support. Welcome to the NFL buttercup.

Coach Sean Payton walked away from the New Orleans Saints a year ago at age 58. I fully understood the drain from one’s mind and soul that leading a franchise at this level can cause. After 15 years at the helm and having led the Saints thru suspensions (Bounty-gate) and a Super Bowl in 2009, among many other things, he stepped away to recharge.

The McVay camp is showing similar job wear-n-tear and, as we wind down the 2023 season, most think he’s leaning towards an exit of his own kind. As still a very young coach and with a five-year body of work leading the Rams under his belt, McVay seems destined for different horizons.

Nothing compares old school to millennials like 36-year-old McVay wanting to pack it in after going 5-12 the year after winning a Super Bowl, yet 71-year-old Bill Belichick with all of his Super Bowls, embraces the challenge of rebuilding the Patriots.

With both Payton and McVay, there are similarities in their plights in what would be left behind if McVay takes his ball and goes home. Both are Type-A personalities, control freaks (in a good way) who are always searching for that little edge. Push push push. They are both the type that will be involved in everything football related in the building. They struggle to trust others, delegate or off load responsibilities.

However, there is a more common thread between them, in my opinion. Both the Saints, when Payton was there, and currently McVay with the Rams, used a credit card spending approach in building their teams and paying their players at what some have always said was an alarmingly high level that would come back to haunt them down the road. Both coaches urged their general managers to push the limits of their salary cap and were ultra-aggressive in player acquisitions.

These spread out salary cap charges have caused SOME to say that the cap is not real, it’s just a fictitious wall and there is always a way thru it. My experience tells me that’s not true, but the perception is out there in both cases. The cap is real and these two teams, the Saints and now the Rams have giant cap bills to pay. Eventually, it simply can’t be done with doubling down on more credit card spending. It has to be done in a similar fashion to the rest of us in our own personal finance world. It has to be done with CASH.

This strategy was all being done to help push their teams over the top once they knew they were close. Both the Saints and Rams now have a Super Bowl/Lombardi trophy to show for it. What teams are left with in the wake is a huge salary cap bill to pay and in the Rams case, very few draft picks to rebuild around and replenish these paper-thin rosters in the foreseeable future.

We have known that it would be tough to sustain this type of aggression in player acquisition and maintain their high level of play once they pushed off cap dollars to the future.

This strategy just doesn’t sit well with me. When ONE of the driving forces to build these teams in this fashion BAILS, the pain is going to be felt by everyone else in the organization for who knows how many years in the future. Knowing the kind of personality and leaders these two coaches are, surely gave them a certain complicity with the decisions that were made by each of their teams. Usually, the head coach is a driving force with the philosophy a team executes when it comes to contracts AND team building.

Short term gains were made by these teams FOR SURE. But we all knew it would come with a cost down the road. Injuries were always going to deplete these rosters at some point. A lack of depth because of the decisions they made was always going to factor. “Hoping” to stay healthy is never a real plan. If I have learned one thing in my 35 NFL years it’s that injuries are a matter of when not if.

A coach’s health matters. Being solely focused for long pressure packed periods of time takes its toll on leaders. One season can sometimes feel like three. The pressure is real and palpable and I have seen firsthand what coaches go through. I just don’t like organizations being left with bills to pay, especially when the mess to clean up was helped along by someone else who made the decision to walk away when the going got tough.

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