Monday, June 14, 2004

Theismann on Maddox and Ward

Every year Mario Lemieux has a celebrity golf tournament in western Pennsylvania and this year somebody considered Joe Theismann enough of a celebrity to invite him. I'm not sure how his golf game is, but his football acumen, as usual, is off the mark.

Theisman believes that not only is Tommy Maddox still underpaid, but the fact that Hines Ward is unhappy with his current contract situation is a non-factor.
"The fact that their receivers are unhappy means nothing...Tommy Maddox is underpaid by standards of professional quarterbacks, anyway. Do you know what starting quarterbacks make? It's a little over $6 million. Do you know what Tommy makes? Half that."
The average salary (base salary + signing bonus) for a starting NFL QB in 2003 was $5.4 million. The median salary wasn't much different -- it was $5.1 million. And as everyone knows, Maddox was the lowest paid starter in the league in 2003.

The Steelers finally gave Maddox a new contract last week and this prompted Ward to take the opportunity to try and re-work his deal as well. So far, he's made no progress and amidst the grumblings there have been rumors that he might holdout (which to me, seem pretty far-fetched). Anyway, all of this only provided a reason for Theismann to share more of his football wisdom:
"If Hines Ward wants to gripe at how much Tommy Maddox is being paid, he ought to look at what the average salary for a starting quarterback is. Tommy played last year for $750,000, and Hines didn't say a word."
If anything, Hines should have been griping that Maddox made too much last season given how poorly he played. A lot of Maddox's struggles were directly related to the poor running game and shoddy line play, but even still, Hines had almost the identical numbers in 2003 as he had the season before. As a point of comparison, Burress's offensive contribution dropped about nine percent in 2003 when compared to his 2002 numbers.

Most people agree that Maddox deserved a raise. But to say that the fact that the best receiver on the team is upset about his contract "means nothing" is a bit close-minded and even myopic. Maddox was ranked 18th in QB rating in 2003 and now he's paid more in line with his performance. Ward was 9th in receiving yards and 5th in receptions in 2003. His salary in 29th among wide receivers. Ward had every right to complain and perhaps he should have been complaining louder than Maddox.

That said, they both signed contracts that don't expire for a couple of years and if the Steelers don't want to re-negotiate they don't have to. The problem is, players (and their agents) don't soon forget slights -- especially when it involves large sums of money -- and when other teams often overpay in free agency for quick fixes.

Does Ward deserve more money? Without a doubt. Will he get paid this summer? Probably not. The Steelers are already against the wall financially and they still have to sign first rounder Ben Roethlisberger and re-sign linebackers James Farrior and Kendrell Bell, both who have contracts that expire in 2005. If Ward has a season that resemebles any of his previous three, he'll get a big payday next summer (and he might get one even if he has an average year -- Kordell did when he signed his last contract in Pittsburgh) -- especially since the Steelers are known taking care of their veterans.

Either way, none of this changes the fact that Theismann's still a dope and the only reason he's tolerable on Sunday Night Football is because Mike Patrick and Paul McGuire keep him in line.