Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mike Alstott: An all-MoneyLaw fullback

Fullback is a football position that MoneyLaw simply has to admire. It lacks glamor — fullbacks are usually asked to block, and most of them weigh less than other blockers, let alone would-be tacklers. When fullbacks run the ball, they leave glamor behind in their pursuit of yards. No speed, no agility, just raw power on power.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will honor retired fullback Mike Alstott this weekend. So should MoneyLaw. ESPN writer Pat Yasinskas explains why:
Mike AlstottI think about [Mike Alstott] every year when the draft comes around and people start talking about 40-yard-dash times, vertical leaping ability and potential.

I was sitting in Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay's office one day during the 1997 season when Tony Dungy's Bucs were just starting to get good. I was working on a story about how the Bucs had used the draft to build this team. We started to talk about Alstott and McKay made a comment that floored me and, then, made me realize how brilliant it was in its simplicity. . . .

"When we drafted Mike Alsott, we drafted a guy with absolutely no potential," McKay said. "We knew he wasn't going to get any better than he was. But he was already a very good football player and that was good enough for us."

Moral of the story: Take the guy that's the good football player over the guy who is just an athlete. The football player has produced. The other guy just has potential. Production should be more important than potential.
Once again, as in football, so too in academia. Production matters more than potential.


Blogger Ani Onomous said...

Here's an instance where I think you're right about the MoneyLaw moral of the story, but the question has to do with whether the story is compelling. McKay indeed had this philosophy more generally, and further claimed that it differentiated the Bucs from other teams who drafted based on a player's ceiling rather than his floor. This is in keeping with the original MoneyBall theory and competitive opportunity. But . . .

1. This is why it's superior as a competitive strategy, but not necessarily something profitably adopted across the board. Then Alstott and his peers don't fall to the second round (and not clear whether the Bucs would have ever been willing to take him in the first round).

2. There is a huge amount of back-patting when this works. But look at all the performance-tested players who fail -- see, e.g., such fantastic college players as Archie Griffin, or Tony Mandarich . . .

3. Nice approach, in any event, if you have a college system that pretty effectively provides a 3-4 year proving ground. Now imagine McKay is drafting, but his data is confined to just a few guys who played for 1-2 years and a whole bunch who played other sports or worked a day job and moonlighted occasionally as a football player. Do we expect that he would have the same confidence in his philosophy? If he's smart, and he is, I bet he starts downplaying the relative significance of results mighty quickly.

10/15/2008 7:55 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

If we are picking the all-moneylaw team I think Zack Thomas should be added.

10/16/2008 8:45 AM  

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