The Meritocracy Of Sports

At the core, sports are a meritocracy.  If a player or a team is better than an opponent, that player or team is recognized as such.  Competency can – and has – overcome deeply held beliefs such as racial superiority/bias simply by the demonstration of skills’ competencies.  As with just about any human endeavor, the standing of this meritocracy must endure a few bumps along the road.

In an ideal world ruled by merit, comparable player salaries would line up competence and achievement.  And if you stand back a bit and take a synoptic view, that is most often the case.  However, on a more fine-grained investigation and for moments in time, there are some significant disruptions in that continuum.  Consider:

  • As of this morning, the second highest paid player in the NFL will be Kyler Murray.
  • Aaron Rodgers will be the highest paid player.

Aaron Rodgers has been around a lot longer than Kyler Murray, so it is natural to expect that he has more achievements than Murray but let’s take a look.  Aaron Rodgers:

  • Has been NFL MVP 4 times
  • Has been selected to the Pro Bowl 8 times
  • Has been named to the All-Pro team 5 times
  • Has won a Super Bowl and was the MVP in that Super Bowl Game
  • Has a career record of 139-66-1 in games he started at QB

Now let’s look at Kyler Murray:

  • Won the Rookie of the Year award
  • Made the Pro Bowl 2 times
  • Has a career record of 22-23-1 in games he started at QB.

Kyler Murray is a fine young QB; he is probably in the top third of the QBs in the league but is – as of today – not nearly the second best QB in the NFL.  But the Arizona Cardinals are betting on the come because they just gave him a fat contract extension worth $231M over 5 years with $160M of that total value guaranteed.  Murray’s deal is worth $1M more than Deshaun Watson’s deal with the Browns but the entirety of Watson’s contract is guaranteed – – just to give you a sense of comparison there.

Oh, and for the record, I believe that Watson is the better QB here even though Watson is also not the second or third best QB in the NFL at the moment …

A few days after the announcement of this humongous contract with all the smiling faces and the dulcet  tones of Kumbaya wafting through the air, someone found a really strange “clause” in Kyler Murray’s contract.

  • Murray is required to spend 4 hours a week in “independent study” every week of the regular season and the post-season (if the Cards are in the post-season) where “independent study” is defined as “studying material provided by the Cardinals to prepare for the upcoming game.”

My guess is that this “Cardinals’ provided material” is better labeled as “The Game Plan” and not as “Poincaré’s Conjecture”.  Now, if that surmise is correct, it is fair to wonder why the Cardinals found it necessary to put it in the deal.  I understand the concept of cognitive dissonance – a condition where one can hold inconsistent thoughts/beliefs in mind simultaneously – but this situation makes me shake my head:

  • On one hand, you think enough of Kyler Murray to pay him $231M for his QB services over the next 5 years where “studying the game plan” is an essential element of his QB services.
  • And on the other hand, you feel it necessary to make it a contract stipulation that he will put in work on his own studying that game plan outside the supervision and without the oversight of anyone in the organization.
  • Really …?

Moving on …  Kyler Murray is involved in a totally different “cycle of life” set of events that have just happened:

  • In 2017, Baker Mayfield was picked overall #1 by the Browns.  Josh Rosen was picked overall #10 by the Cardinals.
  • In 2018, the Cardinals traded Rosen to the Dolphins and picked Kyler Murray overall #1.
  • In 2022, the Browns traded Mayfield away and just signed Rosen to be one of their backup QBs in case Deshaun Watson is unavailable.
  • Wheels within wheels…

`           Finally, staying with the idea of NFL signings, I read where the Packers signed Sal Cannella – – a tight end out of Auburn and a player for the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers.

Of course, you probably know about his more famous cousin, Sal Monella…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



One thought on “The Meritocracy Of Sports”

  1. The 2021 Phoenix Cardinals went 10-2 to dominate the NFL. The team then went 1-4 to obliterate their chance to win the NFC West and secure a home-field playoff game. That 1-4 black eye included a season-ending loss to the 7-10 Seattle Seahawks in the desert. Perhaps the Kyler Murray contract was management’s feeble attempt to replace “If only.”

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