Johnny Sunk Costs


One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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23 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    This is only partially a sunk cost fallacy. He may have been drafted to high but he likely still has potential and a chance to be a good qb. If you get rid of him A) the GM and staff look like massive ijits and B) you are back at square 1 with finding a franchise qb. Protecting the GM’s authority has value, at least to the GM. It’s not like many people don’t think he has value, so you still have something worth a chance. In a true sunk cost situation he would be of little value and not worth putting any more time into.

    Of course the caveat is you have to think he has the chance to be good. If you think he is a chump then its titanic time. I actually don’t think he will ever be that good, not Ryan Leaf level bust, but not a good or elite level qb.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to greginak says:

      Yea… I think if we take this scout at just his words here… “We never should have gotten this but now that we have it it’d be an even bigger mistake to get rid of it”… it is full on sunk cost. Because we’re talking about people and the vagaries of the NFL, I’m comfortable calling it partial.

      I’m more likely to put Manziel in the group with Jamarcus Russell. Neither seemed/s to give a shit and both probably had substance abuse issues.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to greginak says:

      I think greginak has it right. If the coach had said it would be a mistake to let him go because of how highly they drafted him (or how much they’re committed to him financially), it would definitely be a sunk cost fallacy. But his phrasing allows for the interpretation that he really meant “we should have drafted someone else, but the kid still has enough upside that we’re not likely to get something better right now.”

      But that’s still a bit of an odd phrasing. Are the Browns really not in a position to get someone better than Manziel? Do they really think he has that much upside given his immaturity? Maybe. This is the Browns we’re talking about; they haven’t had better since, who, Bernie Kosar? But it does certainly have a strong flavor of the sunk cost fallacy.

      I don’t think there’s any problem with your understanding of the fallacy, though.Report

      • I agree for the most part, but there is one other dynamic at play. It could make financial sense to keep Manziel rather than let him go, because they’ve invested so much in him…but not in the sunk cost sense. Rather, Manziel would have signed a four-year deal, and that would have included a lump sum signing bonus that gets prorated across the length of the contract for accounting purposes.

        Depending on the contract structure, cutting Manziel could mean that the Browns take a big cap hit, because some of that signing bonus can no longer be prorated across four years. So, cutting him could put them in a bind signing free agents or re-signing their players. Better to just bury him on the depth chart for a year or two before you can cut him with a lower penalty.

        (However, I think the Browns are in ok shape, salary cap-wise.)

        There’s one other way that this statement might not be a sunk cost fallacy. The scout says “let him go”. That usually means cut/waive the player. Even if Manziel will never do much for the Browns, even if he really doesn’t have much upside, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other teams that think he has upside. It’s possible to say that they shouldn’t let him go (cut him) because they’ll be able to trade for some draft picks.

        And you may think That idea is crazy, but back in the 90s, Seattle drafted Notre Dame star Rick Mirer second overall. Mirer had a decent rookie year, then quickly washed out. He wasn’t able to be a starting NFL QB. However, Seattle was able to trade him to the Bears for a first round pick. Mirer went on to play for a decade or so, but purely as a journeyman back-up.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    It’s (possibly) an accurate analysis of costs vs rewards pre- and post-signing. The big money was already spent on his bonus. For what he’ll cost next year, you might as well give him the chance to show something. It’s not like there’s a really good quarterback to be had if you dump him.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Really good? No. But your replacement would simply need to be “Not exceedingly terrible” to trump Manziel based on what we’ve seen thus far.

      Assuming he is still in playing shape (which I would assume), I’d take Tim Tebow over him. And I am *not* a Tebow fan.Report

      • greginak in reply to Kazzy says:

        There are some unreasonable standards for young qb’s. Expecting many of them to come in a turn around a team is unreasonable. Some guys need to hold a clipboard for 2-3 years before being worthy of a start. He might actually turn into a decent qb if given some time to learn and develop. Or at least its worth a shot to develop him if he has shown enough in practice. It was always foolish to think he was mature enough to jump right in.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        It used to be customary to bring a young QB along slowly. Montana has said many times how grateful he was to Bill Walsh for doing that, putting him in favorable situations, and building his confidence. What changed, besides being unwilling to pay someone that much to sit on the bench?Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

        fewer starting quarterbacks. Charlie Batch seemed pretty damn competent, for someone who sat on the bench most of the time.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ll bet that if someone ran the numbers (and I’ll bet someone has somewhere) there isn’t that big of a correlation between either ‘brought along slowly’ or ‘thrown to the wolves’ vs overall career success.

        Young was famously Montana’s understudy for years, and Rogers equally famously so for Fahvr-er-er. In contrast neither Peyton nor Eli held a clipboard for that long. (looking it up, Peyton never did). Neither has Luck. Dan Marino started his first year. Elway started the first game he ever played in the NFL, as did Troy Aikman.

        Brady rode the bench for a while, but he was always a designated backup, and would have likely been a career one if Bledsoe didn’t get hurt and the Pats wouldn’t have seriously over performed that year (though a lot of success in life and love involves simply not screwing up a good thing).Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        “First game he ever played” should be “first game in which he was an active roster player” to avoid a bit of a tautology.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

        I remember reading about the game where Brady took over after Bledsoe was hurt. I believe it was a playoff game, or at least an important one. And near the end of the game the coach was counseling Brady to play safe and cautious, don’t make any mistakes, and apparently Bledsoe grabbed him after the coach walked away and said something like “fuck that, just wing the ball.” And Brady did, and the Pats scored and the rest is history.

        And one wonders what would have happened had Brady taken Bledsoe’s advice and thrown an interception.

        And if Bledsoe ever regrets having given that advice.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

        Young had been a starter both in the USFL and with the Bucs. He was considered a failure, which is why he was available for a trade and why he was on the 49ers bench rather than starting somewhere else. Something changed to make him a hall-of-famer. Watching Montana? Playing in a better-designed offense? Having more talent around him? Some of each?Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        There’s a loose parallel with Theismann, another late bloomer that bounced between the CFL and NFL before finding some measure of success in the NFL when the right combo of coach, offense, and organization came together. But no real quarterback ‘mentor’ (sorry Billy Kilmer).

        Also, when Young finally got his start (thanks to a Montana season-ending injury) he was really shaky his first year.

        At the end of the day, we’re talking about the 1% of the 1% of the 1%. And in football, luck (not Andrew) matters more than any other sport to differentiate the good from the great from the greatest. Due to shorter careers, shorter seasons, and specialists, there are far fewer trial iterations for a football player than there is for anyone in any other sport, 1 or 2 orders of magnitude fewer. Bumgarner threw more pitches in the 2014 playoffs than either Brady or Wilson (or anyone else) had pass attempts all year.Report

  3. Will Truman says:

    Manziel would have had a much more fun year in College Station.Report

  4. Stephanie Jergens says:

    This young man is three years out of high school and has only played 6 quarters. TomBrady has been in the league 15 years and 13 as a starter, he was developed for two years before he was given the reigns. All the QBs this year were started to early. There should be an investment made. He should not be discounted after 6 quarters. He has years ahead of him in which he might be able to contribute. We should give him that chance. How long have they played Brian Hoyer? 9 years? He deserves the chance. I hope he proves you wrong because he is the most exciting thing I have ever seen and it hasn’t been the same since he has left. You should want him to succeed and everyone should get behind this young man and push him forward, I can’t understand why you would want to keep him down. If he succeeds it will change the Browns for ever!Report

    • Mo in reply to Stephanie Jergens says:

      Don’t compare him to Brady. He looks like a bust compared to Carr and Bridgewater, two guys drafted after him. Heck, he looks bad compared to Garoppolo. The problem isn’t his on the field performance, it’s the sum total of everything that makes him look bad.Report

  5. Pinky says:

    Think of Manziel as a stock currently trading at $0. You’re not losing money holding onto him, and there’s a possibility of his value going up.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Pinky says:


      It is pretty impossible for an NFL player to have an effective value of zero. You’re still paying him (though the exact structuring of his contract will determine how much, if any, money is saved by abandoning him). And any capital invested in him is capital not invested elsewhere; an NFL team is not quite zero sum, but there are opportunity costs. Most importantly, it seems that Manziel has a dentrimental effect on the team because of his behavior. His end-of-year party led to Josh Gordon’s suspension and the article details a number of ways in which his teammates are grumbling about him. That grumbling can quickly torpedo a team.

      I think the Pistons’ handling of Josh Smith is instructive. They determined that they were a better basketball team without him on the court. And they determined that benching him carried costs and risks. So they swallowed the money which they would have had to pay him no matter what and bit him adieu. They have played markedly better since then and, while it would be foolish to attribute all of that to his absence, they bucked the trend of teams failing to consider the sunk cost fallacy. “But we already paid him X/invested Y in him! And we owe him Z!” Well, X and Y are gone and Z is going to him no matter what you do so if he isn’t contributing, get rid of him.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        ” And any capital invested in him is capital not invested elsewhere; an NFL team is not quite zero sum, but their are opportunity costs”

        With the salary cap, it’s closer to zero sum than not, and the opportunity cost is quantifiable.

        However, the most recent collective bargaining agreement has put a lot of stipulations and provisos on what a rookie contract can provide. However on that, anyone picked in the first round has a unique set of rules that govern that contract. And I’m not sure even after reading King’s piece just linked, if the rookie contracts interact with cap space in a different way than a similarly structured veteran contract would.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        I was referring to non-financial capital, e.g., coaching, a roster spot, etc. Some of that is zero sum (roster spots) and some isn’t but there are limits (coaching… every minute spent coaching Manziel is a minute not spent coaching someone else; teams can hire more coaches, but that cuts into their bottom line).Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Kazzy says:

        You’re absolutely right – that facet most often is highlighted during any ‘quarterback controversy’ as the presumed starting quarterback gets a lot more reps during practice than the backups, and gets them with the other first-teamers.Report