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New England Patriots

Is Cam New England’s Stairway to 7?

There are only a few free agent signings in the last 20 years of sport (Lebron James to the Heat, Barry Bonds to the Giants, Shaq to the Lakers, A-Rod to the Rangers, Rice to the Raiders) that rival what I believe will become the most impactful signing in the history of the NFL … Cam Newton coming to the New England Patriots.

LebronJames_Heat
There have been a few blockbuster free agent signings over the last 20 years … Lebron James to the Miami Heat may very well top the list. 

The storylines are endless.

  • You have probably the most dominant franchise in the history of modern sport in the Pats, seemingly abruptly halted with a wild card weekend defeat followed by the departure of their fearless leader and greatest of all time, Tom Brady.
  • Never once in the history of the NFL has a team lost a league MVP and acquired a league MVP in the same offseason.
  • There is now a QB race in New England between two former Auburn Tigers who couldn’t be any more different.
  • There may not be a more boisterous, off-the-field headache of a QB in the league in Cam Newton, coming into a more business-like team first environment in New England.
  • And on top of all this, you will have Bill Belichick who will be coaching a team for the first time in 20 years without Tom Brady, who will inevitably answer everyone’s question by season’s end … was it the Belichick system or the Goat TB12 responsible for the 6 rings?
Jarett StidhamQB
Jarrett Stidham has only thrown 4 NFL passes and one of them was a pick 6. Compounded by the fact that he was a 4th round selection and is only 23 years old, many believe Stidham may not be ready. While others, especially close to the organization, maintain Stidham may very well still be the starter when the 20-21 season begins.  

Why this is a great signing for the Patriots:

  1. Jarett Stidham isn’t ready to start. Stidham has thrown a total of 4 passes in the NFL, one of which was a “Pick-six” interception. By all accounts, the New England coaching staff is very high on Stidham, but coming in at 23 years old trying to replace the GOAT is a formidable task.
  2. Cam Newton is an upgrade over Brian Hoyer. While Tom was the GOAT, he was not mobile whatsoever. Josh McDaniels and the offense are likely going to change things up quite a bit schematically with a more mobile QB leading the way. The positive about Hoyer was that he knew the Patriots system … but unfortunately for Hoyer, that system is likely changing now given the personnel.
  3. Cam gives them the best chance to win this season. If healthy, Newton is undeniably the more talented QB (and it’s not close). Cam was a former #1 Overall Pick, 3x Pro Bowler and a former MVP. Belichick is a win first type of coach, and Newton (again, if healthy) gives them the best chance to win this season.

    CamNewtonAuburn
    Cam Newton was a National Champion and Heisman Trophy Winner at Auburn (coincidentally Stidham’s same alma matter), as well as a NFL MVP and 3x Pro Bowler with the Carolina Panthers. If healthy, Newton will be the most talented QB ever to wear a Patriots uniform. 
  4. True QB competition this offseason. Many people thought the Pats were going to draft a QB in the draft and yet they held tight. Many thought they were going to make a move earlier in free agency for a guy like Jameis Winston. Competition breeds success and having two legitimate QBs in the mix will make them both better.
  5. The Value was absolutely insane. Newton agreed to a one-year deal with a base of $1.05 mill, the minimum salary for a player with his amount of experience (9 years) in the league … and only half of that money is guaranteed. Now with all the incentives, Newton can earn an additional $5.75 million, creating a max value of the contract of $7.5 million. Low risk, high reward … it doesn’t get any better than that.
AB
Antonio Brown played in one game as a New England Patriot and cost them $9 million. Needless to say that was an investment did not pay the expected dividends. 

The Patriots have a history of bringing in controversial, yet talented players over the years . Some have worked (Corey Dillon, Aquib Talib, Randy Moss) and some haven’t (Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Adalius Thomas and most notably and most recently Antonio Brown).

 

It’s the most important position in all of sport. It has been the most dominant franchise in the history of sport. And now you have one of the most polarizing talents in the National Football League who has been handed the keys to replace the GOAT.

Breaking into the Sports Business Industry: A Note from my 30-Year-Old Self to my 20-Year-Old Self

Everyone loves sports.

Our culture is predicated around them for better or for worse. Sport has served as humanity’s greatest form of unwritten entertainment from it’s very beginning. And since then, sport has transcended humanity, snowballing into a captivating phenomenon over the centuries into what we know it to be today.

I am one of those people who became unequivocally enthralled by the power of sport from the very beginning. At 5, I was religiously reading the Sports Section of the Boston Globe. By 10, I was tapping my toes and fidgeting with my batting gloves in the Little League batter’s box emulating my favorite Boston Red Sox, Nomar Garciaparra.  When I was 15, my all-boys catholic prep school gave us the day off school so students could attend the parade and celebrate the New England Patriots winning their 2nd Super Bowl, which has now turned into 6 (and counting).  And at 20, I accepted a summer internship to work at Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR … marking the day I officially transformed my passionate fandom into making it a career and launching my path into the sports business industry.

As a young, eager junior at Georgetown University, the sports business industry was something I dove into passionately, yet somewhat by chance. And now, after having just turned 30 this past year, it has caused me to think back on everything I’ve learned in my] career as a sports business professional. I will get approached from time to time by college students or recent college grads asking for advice about the industry … and so I figured I would reflect on a few things (many of which I failed miserably at and others that I did okay with) that I wish I could tell my 20 year old-self who had just accepted that first sports business internship.

Be Opportunistic. It may sound like a cliché, it may even sound blatantly obvious … but I believe it’s the single greatest factor that distinguishes people who succeed in this industry versus people who don’t. That first Nike internship I got was somewhat of an odd happening. I received an email from a Georgetown email domain that looked identical to the hundreds of other spam emails I receive … however for some reason I opened it.

Nike was a company that I resonated with from being an athlete … it was the company I chose when my dad told me I could pick any one stock to invest in as just a little kid (it turned out to be an ok pick). Needless to say, I followed through with the application process and sure enough became the one Georgetown student-athlete that Nike chose that year to be part of their Summer Internship Program. It was only until after I was out in Beaverton, OR that I realized how lucky I had gotten. Nike received about 10,000 applications for their Summer Internship Program that year and only 90 were selected (45 student-athletes from Nike sponsored universities and 45 “at-large” candidates).  After doing the math and realizing that was a 0.09% acceptance rate, my sense of opportunity heightened.

While I had been opportunistic to have secured that internship, I look back at that experience and realize I could’ve been more opportunistic in my time at Nike. While I was definitely doing some cool things like playing hoops with LeBron James and showing Manchester City around the Nike campus, I underestimated how valuable an opportunity that was to network and build more meaningful relationships with key people within the company. Several people in that intern class with me (many of whom I’m still friends with today) have advanced through the ranks at Nike over the last 10 years and are in various Senior Director roles, due in large part to the networking and relationship-building they did during the course of their two months on the Nike campus that summer.

nike-campus-1
Nike’s World Headquarters in Beaverton, OR. 

Never underestimate the power of your current situations (no matter what it might be) and take advantage of the resources you have at your disposal.

 

Be Patient. The sports industry is an interesting one given the discrepancy between earnings of athletes and everyone else in the industry. Manny Machado signs a $300 million deal yesterday in becoming the San Diego Padres newest shortstop and simultaneously you have an extremely competitive application process to get selected to be one of the San Diego Padres unpaid summer interns. Because its sports, people are willing to work for next to nothing to be in the industry. Consequentially, entry level salaries fall below many other industries.

When I had graduated from Georgetown in 2012 (after having gotten both my BA in English and my MS in Sports Management), I had a good majority of friends go straight into Finance. Meanwhile, I chose to head down to sunny (yet somewhat desolate) Bradenton, FL to work at IMG Academy … making a fraction of what my friends were making at any of the big banks or consulting firms.

IMGAcademy.jpg
IMG Academy is one of the world’s biggest and most renown sports academies in Bradenton, FL. The campus is over 500 acreas, costs over $80,000/yr to attend and hosts many of the world’s top professional athletes throughout the course of the year. 

I occasionally had fleeting thoughts of whether I had made the right decision with my career, but my day-to-day work of being at one of the world’s best sports academies and largest global sports companies made it worth it.  And while that was certainly a humble beginning, I very quickly got promoted within 6 months from running the Academy’s Soccer camp/team business to overseeing their brand-new Lacrosse program. In growing the program from 15 Floridians to 50 boys from all over North America and becoming a nationally ranked lacrosse program, my experience at IMG Academy was incredibly rewarding.

The sports business industry is not a race, especially at the beginning given the nature of the industry. Find the right environment, with a path for growth and your patience will pay dividends sooner rather than later.

 

Find a Mentor. Most people want to help other people … it’s human nature. This is a concept that extends far beyond just the sports industry; however, it was something I didn’t fully grasp early on. I think I had a do-it-yourself mentality for much of my early career, perhaps due to my competitive nature of being a former athlete or perhaps simply due to lack of experience.

I would encourage all people new to the sports business industry to try to find one (or a few) people whose careers they regard highly and whose footsteps they want to follow. Get to know that person or people and build a relationship with them.

For me, these mentors I developed during my earlier years In the industry introduced me to key people, gave me advise on important career steps I was considering, and ultimately opened doors to more opportunity within the industry. Just like sales, people buy from people … and when a well-regarded person in the industry can endorse your own abilities and character, more doors will quickly open up.

Surround yourself with the right people and find the one or two you really connect with on a personal level, whose career path you identify with, and cultivate those relationships.

 

Put Yourself Out There. The sports and entertainment industry is perhaps more of a people industry than any other industry in business. And while yes, there are some technical-based jobs within sport, the very nature of the industry is predicated on people. The cliché holds true: “It’s who you know, not necessarily what you know.” People are often the commodity within sports business, whether it be an athlete you’re trying to sign, a sponsor you’re trying to land, or an audience you’re trying to market to.

CatapultWorkshop
Catapult hosts workshops throughout the world for coaches and users to learn and better utilize their wearable technology. 

This has never been truer for me than in my most recent endeavor with Catapult Sports. When I transitioned over to the sports technology field about a year and a half ago, I had lots to learn quickly about the industry while simultaneously trying to hit my number and do my job as a Business Development Manager. Much of my time was spent early on attending conferences and conventions, meeting with the major players in the space (both externally and internally at Catapult). Sometimes it would mean staying up late and having a drink with an expert Catapult client/user after a long day at a convention, another time it might be listening to a panelist speaker at a workshop and being compelled to engage with that person in deep conversation afterwards.

You can’t be afraid to swing and miss … that’s part of being a professional. Roll up your sleeves, talk to people, go to conferences, and put yourself out there to not only listen but also to be heard.

The Greatest Dynasty of All Time

sports dynasty is defined very concisely as a “team or individual that dominates their sport or league for an extended length of time.” Or more broadly defined by Merriam’s Webster Dictionary “a powerful group that maintains its position for a considerable time.”

The very nature of a dynasty evokes a physiological sense of envy. If you’re looking up from the bottom, “they’re cheaters!” … and if you’re at the top looking down, “they hate us cuz they ain’t us.” This lofty term could not ring any more true than it does with what now can be considered as one of the greatest professional sports dynasties in the modern  sports era … the New England Patriots.

Their story is one from a fairy tale … their star QB Drew Bledsoe going down against their hated rival (the New York Jets) in 2001, only for their 2nd year, 6th round draft pick QB Tom Brady to survive a snowstorm and invent the “Tuck Rule” against Oakland and go on to lead his team to their first ever Super Bowl win in 2001 as a -14 point underdog to the St Louis Rams. Since then, they have not had one losing season, they’ve won 15 divisional titles and played in 12 AFC Championship games, been to 7 Super Bowls, and are attempting to win their 5th Super Bowl title next Sunday. They’ve won 196 times (average of 13.75 wins per season) in the regular season since 2001 (next closest is the Colts with 166). In the playoffs, they have 24 victories (9 more than the next closest in the Steelers).

brady-tuck-rule
Brady celebrates after defeating Oakland. The birth of the “Tuck Rule” allowed the Pats to maintain the football on a critical drive, setting the stage for Adam Vinatieri and the Patriots to win their first ever Super Bowl Title.

Undoubtedly, there has been controversy … whether it was “Spygate” in 2007 where Head Coach Bill Belichick was disciplined by the league for videotaping the Jets’ defensive coaches’ signals from an unauthorized location, or it was “Deflategate” in 2015 where Tom Brady was accused of tampering with footballs in the AFC Title game against the Colts. $1 million dollar fines, loss of draft picks, and the suspension of their superstar players.  Most recently, there was a rule change surrounding Belichick’s deceptive offensive substitution methods which “unfairly” confused defenses. Oh and mixed in there, one of their star players was charged with murder and sentenced to life.

Before we digress any further, what this conversation should naturally lend itself to is the discussion of whether this Patriots franchise is truly the greatest dynasty in the history of sports or, perhaps more specifically, of the modern sports era?

Comparing dynasties is hard because you’re not comparing apples to apples … and thus there is some wiggle room based on how you evaluate league structure, salary cap constraints, league competitiveness and a number of other variables relative to the number of titles won over a period of time.

spursdynasty
Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs are probably the most comparable modern sports dynasty (5  Titles in 17 years from 1999-2014) to the New England Patriots.

Let’s start with the NBA. You have the Boston Celtics who won 11 NBA Championships in the span of 13 years from 1957-69 led by Red Auerbach and Bill Russell. You have MJ’s Chicago Bulls who won 6 titles in 8 years (1991 – 98). And most recently the San Antonio Spurs, who have taken 5 NBA Championships in the last 17 years (’99, ’03, ’05, ’07 and ’14) under Tim Duncan. The difference between basketball and football is there are 5 players playing at one time for a team versus 11 in football. Historically it has been a sport that has catered to superstars being able to carry their team and thus much easier to dominate, just ask Lebron, MJ, Russell or Magic.

 

boston-celtics-banners
Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics won 11 NBA Championships in 13 years from 1957-1969.

The MLB of course belongs to the Bronx Bombers, where the New York Yankees rattled off 16 World Series from 1936-64 in what started with the rise of Joe DiMaggio and ended with the twilight of Mickey Mantle. The caveat here was there weren’t any playoffs back then; rather, it was simply the team with the best record who went right to the World Series.

dimaggioandmantle
Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle and the New York Yankees won 16 World Series titles from 1936-64.

The NHL’s best dynasty was the Montreal Canadians who won 16 Stanley Cup Finals from 1951-1979 … although at the time there were only 6 teams in the league and thus simply not comparable.

Two of the greatest dynasties in sports came from college basketball. John Wooden led the UCLA Bruins to 13 Final Four appearances and won 10 national titles from 1962-76,  and on the women’s side, Geno Aueriemma has led the UConn Lady Huskies to win 11 of the last 21 national championships. The Lady Huskies have been to nine straight Final Fours and have two separate win streaks of 90 or more games. While these are respectable in their own right, college athletics is simply not comparable to professional sports. The NCAA actually lends itself to “dynasties” by its very structure. There is no draft or salary cap, and so when a team wins a championship, they’re able to attract the best recruits in the country and consequently you see “rich get richer” phenomena … look at John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats and Nick Saban’s Alabama Tide.

 

The salary cap, the draft, numerous penalties (loss of draft picks, fines, suspensions), countless personnel changes … and through it all Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have built, what should be considered the greatest sports dynasty of the modern era.

If you live outside New England you hate them – the star QB is a little too perfectly polished, he’s a little too pretty, he has the supermodel wife, and has been accused of facilitating the deflation of footballs in one game; while the mastermind coach wears ragged hoodies, says absolutely nothing to the media, and has been accused of filming opposing coaches to gain a strategic advantage.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, one cannot ignore the magnitude of what this New England Patriots team has accomplished over the last 16 years. An empire, a dictatorship, a dynasty …  you can call them whatever you want. They win.

And while their diehard fan-base loves coining commandments like “Do your job”, “In Belichick, We Trust” and “The GOAT” … if in fact this Patriots team does beat the Atlanta Falcons and Roger Goodell has to hand them their 5th Super Bowl trophy in 16 years next Sunday, there will be little doubt that this dynasty is the “Greatest of All Time.”

Signs Support Super Bowl Showdown in Santa Clara

I really do not like to hype up major sporting events, but when I do, there is usually a good reason. I understand it’s only the day after Christmas, but it’s not too early to start looking at Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. And if everything goes as planned in the AFC and NFC playoffs in January and the best teams in the NFL “hold serve”, the biggest sporting event in America will pit the undefeated Carolina Panthers against the defending champions, New England Patriots.

Super Bowl 50 will be the first Super Bowl logo not to have roman numerals in it. It will also be played in the league's newest, most technologically advanced venue, Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
Super Bowl 50 will be the first Super Bowl logo not to have roman numerals in it. It will also be played in the league’s newest, most technologically advanced venue, Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

The storylines would be innumerable. On what will be the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, you would have the NFL’s biggest surprise (and quite likely undefeated) in the Carolina Panthers against the team who has owned the NFL for the last 15 years in the New England Patriots. You would have the League’s two best quarterbacks and front-runners to win the MVP in Cam Newton and Tom Brady. The cocky “Dabbin’ Superman” versus the humble “Golden Boy.” You would have a rematch of Super Bowl 38, in which the Patriots narrowly won 32-29. You would have the northeast part of the country rooting for the Patriots to win their 5th super bowl in 15 years, while just about everyone else (including Roger Goodell and the NFL)  rooting for the Panthers, who have not won a Super Bowl in their twenty seasons as an NFL franchise.

Cam Newton, and his infamous "Dab", has taken the NFL by storm this season by leading the Panthers to an undefeated record.
Cam Newton, and his infamous “Dab”, has taken the NFL by storm this season by leading the Panthers to an undefeated record.

Of course, many people will say “it’s way to early to predict a Panthers and Patriots Super Bowl.” First, you have the Pittsburgh Steelers who are coming off impressive wins over both the Bengals and the Broncos. The red hot Steelers will likely get their chance at a rematch of their season opener against the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round. In the NFC, the Seahawks currently look better than when they won the NFC the last two years. If the Panthers manage to get past them in the NFC Divisional Round, they’ll likely have a very good Arizona Cardinals team in the NFC Conference Championship. Moreover the Panthers have been miraculously holding on in games against the Packers, Saints and most recently the Giants, which suggest an eventual fourth quarter collapse is inevitable. The Patriots, meanwhile, have been devastated by injuries to Danny Amendola, Patrick Chung, Dion Lewis, Rob Gronkowski and Dont’a Hightower, not to mention Julian Edelman. A major question mark remains whether or not this team will be healthy in the playoffs.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have won 4 Super Bowls in the last 14 years ... they will be going for number 5 in the next 6 weeks.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have won 4 Super Bowls in the last 14 years … they will be going for number 5 in the next 6 weeks.

Having said all that, Vegas still favors the Patriots and the Panthers to win Super Bowl 50, with the Patriots at +333 odds of winning it all and the Panthers at +400. The next most likely team to win the whole thing is the Arizona Cardinals with odds of +650. At least at the moment, all signs point to a showdown in Santa Clara, CA (where Tom Brady grew up) between the perfect Panthers and the despised Pats.

The NFL season started with Brady and Goodell butting heads in “Deflategate” and it could very well end with Goodell handing Brady and the Patriots the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Brady’s hometown. Needless to say, the very confident Cam Newton will undoubtedly have something to say about that. It is only December, but all signs point to Super Bowl 50 being one of the best ever.

How the NFL is Doing One Quarter into the 2015 Season

So what have we learned after the first quarter of the NFL season? Well first and foremost, the NFL continues its dominance amongst American professional sports as the premier league, not only in this country but also the world.

 

In 2014, the average NFL game drew 68,776 fans, more than 25,000 fans per game than the next-highest league (the German Bundesliga with 43,500). The English Premier League was third at 36,695 and Major League Baseball was fifth at 30,346. So far this year the NFL is right on par as last year at 68,000 fans a game in attendance per game.

 

In terms of television, the league continues to do extremely well. The opening game between the Patriots and the Steelers was the highest ever TV rating for an NFL opening game. The game tied the Vikings and Saints from 2010 with a 17.7 rating, which was up five percent from last season’s opening tilt between the Packers and the Seahawks. Given all the media coverage surrounding Tom Brady and Commissioner Rodger Goodell’s prior to the game, the record high TV ratings prove that scandal didn’t drive fans from the NFL, rather, it brought them in.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots unveiled their 2014 Super Bowl banner prior to the 2015 NFL season opener against the Pittsburg Steelers.
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots unveiled their 2014 Super Bowl banner prior to the 2015 NFL season opener against the Pittsburg Steelers.

The NFL continued their tradition of playing games across the pond in London this past week when the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets played in the famous Wembley Stadium. This season’s international NFL matchup was the second-fastest selling game in the eight year history of the professional football league’s International Series. In fact, only the inaugural 2007 matchup that pitted the Dolphins against the New York Giants sold out quicker than this year’s game. The tickets to the game ranged from $26.53 to $241.08 according to the NFL UK website as 90% of the ticket holders were reported to be from the UK. These have been extremely lucrative to the league, as last year’s three matchups generated an estimated $30 million in revenue. This game was the first of three games to be held at Wembley Stadium this year, with the Bills playing the Jaguars on October 25th, and the Lions playing the Chiefs on November 1st . Both of these games are expected to sell out.

The Miami Dolphins played the New York Jets in front of a sold out Wembley Stadium in London, England in Week 4.
The Miami Dolphins played the New York Jets in front of a sold out Wembley Stadium in London, England in Week 4.

On the field there are still several, six to be exact, undefeated teams including the Bengals, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Broncos and of course the Patariots. The New England Patriots Power Rating Index actually ranks this year’s team even higher than the 2007 undefeated team. Perhaps the two biggest surprises of those 6 undefeated teams come from the same division, the NFL South with the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers both remaining perfect through four games.

 

A big talking point among the sports gambling world is the amount of buzz around Draft Kings and Fan Duel. These two startup gambling sites have made a killing from fan to fan wagering surrounding NFL games. DraftKings, a $1.2 billion, Boston-based startup, has raised $375 million in venture capital funding from investors like MLB’s venture arm, Melo7 Tech partners, the NHL, and Redpoint Ventures.

The two multi-billion dollar online sports gambling companies, Draft Kings and Fan Duel, have stolen the show with the amount of marketing dollars they've poured into the first quarter of the NFL season.
The two multi-billion dollar online sports gambling companies, Draft Kings and Fan Duel, have stolen the show with the amount of marketing dollars they’ve poured into the first quarter of the NFL season.

Since August 1, Draft Kings has spent $81 million on 22,000 ad spots, while Fan-Duel (another billion dollar fantasy sports startup), has spent $20 million on 7,500 advertisement airings according to the Wall Street Journal. The front-end heavy marketing strategy has paid off for DraftKings as they have grown their users from 3 million to 4.5 million over the course of the last month.

 

All the media coverage on the recent surge of both of these sports wagering startups has triggered lots of discussion of legislation changes and other policies being put in place. Both companies have temporarily banned employees from wagering on sports. Meanwhile, much state legislation has been discussed with politicians engaging in conversation about policies of banning online gambling.

 

Regardless, the NFL continues to soar as the world’s most successful sports league across the vast majority of key performance indicators.

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