A new way of winning
The Super Bowl is only days away and one can't stop to think about how both the 49ers and the Chiefs built their teams. This brings to question how a Championship team is built and how dynasties can be built.
The traditional thought of how to build a dynasty was the New England Patriots. They were the gold standard for success in the NFL. The Patriots would not overpay their players, not trade draft picks to mortgage the future and not bring in free-agents in the off-season. Nobody would disagree that this formula works to build a winning team, but is there a new way of winning in the NFL?
In recent years we've seen teams follow the opposite approach with the risk and reward of a championship. One of the key attributes to the new approach was having a young quarterback on a cheap contract. When a quarterback is on a cheap contract or making less than ten million dollars a season, it allows the roster more flexibility when it comes to paying their other positional players. With this in mind, we will see a team spend heavily in an off-season and bring in star players with their quarterback on a cheap contract.
This thought process is further developed following a team's strong draft class. After a team have a strong draft class and has those players on rookie contracts, they will be even more inclined to buy in and acquire expensive players.
We've seen numerous teams attempt this method with hopes to win a championship. Notable examples are the Eagles in 2017 when they still had quarterback Carson Wentz on his rookie deal, the Bears when they acquired Khalil Mack in 2018 which was possible with Mitchell Trubisky on a rookie deal, the Cowboys in recent years also attempted to take advantage when they drafted both Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and had them on under cheap contracts. The 49ers are in the Super Bowl following a great 2019 draft class and acquiring many players after realizing the opportunity at hand (Tevin Colman in the off-season, Emmanuel Sanders in a mid-season trade).
As seen from the above mentioned teams, it works to varying results. The Eagles were able to win a Super Bowl when they bought in and the 49ers are one game away from possibly joining them. The Saints and Rams were both in the NFC championship game last season with the thought of taking advantage of great draft classes, great free-agent signings and a cheap quarterback contract. Both teams failed to win the Super Bowl and it looks to be that both teams are going to progress. Now with the windows close for both teams they look to be entering a few rough years and came away with zero championships from the window.
When seeing both the 49ers and the Chiefs in the Super Bowl and seeing how they built their rosters, one has to wonder if we are going to see more teams try to emulate them and not the former gold standard in the New England Patriots. I think we will see teams like the Ravens and Bills try to take advantage of a quarterback on a rookie contract and spend a lot of money in the off-season. We will see other teams try to take advantage of the few years that have the championship window. The problems the teams that try this strategy have to be aware of the negatives. The first risk one is taking is the fact that they must win for the spending to be worth it, teams that don't win in their small window don't have a good future to look forward to. The other problem that teams have to be aware of is the longevity of success that this fails to provide, teams that buy in for a few seasons tend to not maintain the success in the long run. In conclusion, expect this trend to continue but the Patriot way won't be leaving any time soon either.