Weekend mailbag


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Hope you're having an outstanding summer weekend. (I call it summer even though we're officially a few weeks away.) To make it even better, let's dive into a few issues here in the weekend mailbag. We'll devote the first question to one posted on our sizzling new Facebook page that all the cool kids are noticing.

Jeremy of Facebook writes: Kevin, what do you think about teams allowing corporate sponsors to have a patch on NFL practice jerseys? Do you think this sets a precedent that will eventually lead to game jerseys having corporate sponsorship patches on them?

Kevin Seifert: I don't have a problem with any of it, to be honest. When it comes down to it, pro football is a business run by capitalists whose goal is to make money. I don't have any illusions about that and I don't think fans should, either. Yes, football is also a game and in many places a civic treasure, but let's not allow sentiment to override the bigger picture here.

Would it cheapen the look of the jersey? Possibly. But remember, to this point the discussion has only centered around practice jerseys -- which are seen publicly in training camp and in short snippets of practice video during the season. And I wonder if NASCAR fans or European soccer hooligans believe the corporate sponsorships cheapen their aesthetics. Corporate logos have simply become a way of life in those sports, and football fans would learn to deal with them as well.

In these economic times, to me it is inevitable that NFL owners will seek cash wherever they can get it. (As they should.) Personally, I'd rather them seek it from corporations than individual fans through, say, ticket prices. Eventually, I can see a time when teams have logos on their game jerseys as well, possibly in concert with the networks that televise games.

I'm no economic expert, but I wonder if corporate logos would ultimately benefit fans. Could the presence of a corporate logo on an authentic game jersey lower the price for consumers because of the perceived advertising benefit for the sponsor? Maybe some of our economics majors can weigh in on that one next week.

Drew of Edwardsville, Ill., writes: Kevin, for like the 800th time you mentioned that the Bears were "only a couple of games behind the Vikings last year." The Bears were exactly one game behind the Vikings last year. I realize that they needed two more games to make the playoffs because of the tiebreakers, but as far as the standings and the records are concerned, it was a one game difference. I appreciate your work and your time, thanks.

Kevin Seifert: This is an interesting issue, and one that I've actually spent some time debating how to phrase. It's true: Minnesota was 10-6 last season and Chicago was 9-7. Numerically, that means if the Bears had won exactly one more game, they would have also had a 10-6 record.

But because of tiebreakers, the Bears would have needed to finish a game ahead of the Vikings to win the division race.

I wouldn't say that tiebreakers are necessarily a thorough way of deciding which team is better. They are merely a way to break ties for playoff purposes. But if you look at the season as a tryout for playoff positioning, you can say the Vikings finished two games ahead of the Bears last season.

Overall, here's my point in noting the difference between the Bears and Vikings last season: The acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler could be enough to reverse positions. As of this moment, the Vikings are essentially the same team as last year, with the possible exception of new receiver Percy Harvin. If you imagine them more or less producing the same season in 2009, you can make an argument for Cutler as a transforming figure by pushing the Bears from 9-7 to 11-5 -- and, theoretically, the division title.

BT of Wisconsin writes: With how cheap Matt Cassel went to KC, do you think the Vikings, Bears, or Lions missed the boat on that one?

Kevin Seifert: It's an interesting point to make when you consider all three teams attempted to improve their quarterback positions this offseason.

Remember, the Chiefs gave up a second-round draft pick to acquire Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel, and they also take on Cassel's $14 million salary.

The Bears sent two first-round picks and a third-round pick for Cutler. If all goes well, they'll have to sign Cutler to a mega-contract extension in the next year or two, one that would include a multiyear average close to the money Cassel will earn this year.

The Lions used the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to select Matthew Stafford and then signed him to a six-year contract that includes an NFL-record $41.7 million in guarantees. The Vikings, meanwhile, sent a fourth-round pick to Houston for Sage Rosenfels and have explored the possibility of signing the retired Brett Favre as well.

On the face of it, there is little doubt the Bears and Lions allocated more resources for their new quarterbacks than the Chiefs did. The Vikings didn't have to use a second-round pick to get theirs, but they also didn't get one who passed for nearly 3,700 yards last season, either.

There have been reports that suggested the Patriots turned down more lucrative offers, or at least weren't patient enough, in consummating the deal with the Chiefs. If New England coach Bill Belichick was determined to send Cassel to the Chiefs, perhaps to fulfill a promise to former Patriots executive Scott Pioli, it might be a moot point to discuss whether the Bears or Lions should have gotten more involved.

If Belichick really was open to other offers, it's now clear that at least two NFC North teams missed out on a value addition -- a good player at a good price. But I'm sure the Bears and Lions would argue that you get what you pay for. Both Cutler and Stafford have high upsides, and you wonder how Cassel will perform outside of the cocoon of New England's record-setting offense.

We'll ultimately know whether either team made a mistake in pursuing their eventual option. But before any of the three take the field with their current teams, I'll go on record saying I don't have a problem with the Bears choosing Cutler and the Lions taking Stafford rather than pursuing Cassel.