Once upon a time, teams aggressively relied upon the lack of a salary cap for coaches to justify spending as much as they wanted in order to attract the head coaches and assistant coaches they needed. At some point since the Buccaneers underscored the importance of a head coach by giving up two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million for the rights to Jon Gruden, teams decided that a coach doesn’t have that much value.
Or, more accurately, teams decided not to acknowledge that a coach doesn’t have that much value, by not investing that kind of value in coaches.
That may be changing, at least in one NFL city. For the first time in a long time, an NFL owner publicly pointed out that NFL teams have no spending restrictions when it comes to paying coaches.
“The National Football League has a salary cap for players, and so it’s very competitive,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said during Tuesday’s press conference (re)introducing Jon Gruden. “And there’s parity, so to speak. And I think one of the big differences in teams is the front office or the coaching staffs and those things. There’s no cap there.”
Indeed there isn’t. And based on the lack of growth in the coaching market relative to the salary cap and player compensation, there’s plenty more money that could be and should be paid to the best coaches.
Really, what makes more sense, spending $25 million per year in a capped environment on Derek Carr or spending $25 million in the absence of a cap on Bill Belichick?
The NFL necessarily colludes in a variety of ways, and it’s fair to wonder based on the failure of the coaching market to grow in a manner commensurate with other objective indicators like the salary cap and player compensation whether owners have a wink-nod understanding that coaches won’t be getting paid as much as maybe they should or could.
Davis, in a desire to exit Oakland and enter Las Vegas the right way, is ignoring whatever preferences may have been communicated from the Management Council to the teams about blowing the curve on coaching pay. Or maybe the league is looking the other way, in an effort to help the Raiders thrive in their eventual new city.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see whether other teams will once again embrace the “no salary cap in coaching” mantra, and behave accordingly.