JOHN PITTS: Will NFL overplay its hot hand?

TUPELO – For a league that’s been so smart about so many things, the NFL sure can be dumb sometimes.
Exhibit A: Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, the top 2009 draft pick, signed a contract with Detroit this weekend that guarantees him a record $41.7 million even if he never throws a pass.
Exhibit B: Even as the global economy continues to struggle, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell continues to push the notion of expanding the league’s regular season to 17 or 18 games – moving the Super Bowl to mid-February, where it could run into the Daytona 500.
“We have not found a saturation point for pro football,” Goodell boasted to reporters on Friday.
I’m not so sure. I wonder if all pro sports aren’t on the brink of wearing out their welcome for a lot of folks.
There are only so many ad dollars to go around, only so many hours in the day to watch TV, only so many (any?) trips to a game in the budget for the average fan.
The NFL has the hot hand right now – but often, the guy with the hot hand will eventually overplay it.
I am reminded of a store in my hometown when I was a kid. It was an Army surplus store, about a block off the square in an old building, packed to the rafters with cool stuff. They always seemed to be busy.
But the owner decided to build a shiny new building out on the main drag. He started selling lots of not-Army-surplus stuff, too.
You know how this ends, right? The new store closed within a couple of years. The old surplus store occupied a good niche, but the owner just couldn’t leave well enough alone.
This is just a variation on a story every child knows: the one about the goose and the golden eggs.
The NFL’s coming labor negotiations can hash out both of these issues, the ridiculous rookie salaries and the possibility of expanding the schedule.
Veteran players will probably hold the key to both questions.
Stopped making sense
“Right or wrong, he makes twice as much money as Tom Brady,” Vikings quarterback Sage Rosenfels said Saturday about Stafford. “To me, it doesn’t make sense.”
That’s why you see organizations like the New England Patriots trying to get out of the first round so they can get more picks later.
For that same $41 million, maybe they can sign four or five good players. That’s how winners play the game.
The veterans aren’t going to play more regular-season games for free, and the only real source of additional revenue might have to come from limiting rookie pay.
I read that the 32 first-round picks in this year’s draft will rake in $400 million in guaranteed money.
Say, what’s in your wallet?
John L. Pitts (john.pitts@djournal.com) is sports editor of the Daily Journal. He has very little in his wallet.

John L. Pitts/NEMS Daily Journal