Thursday, August 31
Capologists: Who are these people?

Don't even try to look up "capologist" in the dictionary because you won't find it.

Don't even bother calling teams and asking for their "capologist" because they might insist that they don't have one.

GM Vinny Cerrato will have new capologist Mark Levin handle the 'Skins' tricky budget.

And don't ever waste your time searching the classifieds in hopes of finding a job as a team "capologist."

A "capologist" is not a helmet fitter or a concussion diagnoser. It's actually a media-invented term, first used when reporters needed a word for those that managed the NBA salary cap in the mid-to-late 80's.Years later, as the NFL adopted a cap as part of the league's Collective Bargaining Agreement in 1993, the term took hold for pigskin enthusiasts.

"Some people might think, when they hear 'capologist,' that it's similar to a proctologist. People get the term confused (with other occupations) all the time," said Denny Thum, executive vice president of the Kansas City Chiefs. "Then when people hear what they really do, they think of a guy with the rolled-up sleeves and the shades on, wheeling and dealing with numbers all day long. That's not really how it is."

With the terms of every player's contract being disclosed in all media outlets throughout the country, and with some of the marquee agents actually becoming household names, it's kind of strange that those who work the cap for the team are virtually unknown.

That's because most of them like it that way.

"No publicity is good publicity in the NFL," said one cap man, who appropriately asked to remain anonymous.

They have their protection as well. Start asking them questions and they'll begin throwing their jargon at you. It's quite entertaining with escalators, re-dos, take-downs, ups-and-downs, voidables, buybacks and even "the Deion rule."

Capologists are pretty tough to find -- even in media guides -- since they go by all sorts of titles. They range from the plain (director of football administration) to the more creative monikers held by the Chiefs' Duane Bailey (manager of player compensation) and the Broncos' Dave Blando (director of salary cap and football finance administration).

"There is absolutely no consistency with the titles," Thum remarked. "A lot of them are based on the background that these people come from. If they are from a football background or a finance background they might use different titles, but the bottom line is they all pretty much do the same thing."

They are a diverse group to say the least. There's a capologist who came from Boeing, there's one who was a former sportswriter and another who was an ex-coach. Three of them used to be agents. They're the son of the owner (like Dallas' Stephen Jones) or the daughter of the president (such as Cincinnati's Katie Blackburn, Mike Brown's daughter).

While you can't minor in capology -- although the NFL does give the teams review sessions -- there is a breeding ground for the next line of experts. Fourteen people that currently work with the NFL cap (as either chief capologists or assistants) once worked for the NFL Management Council, the organization that, along with the Players' Association, enforces the cap and oversees its functionality.

"People hired from the Management Council are not so much experts at the dollars and cents of it all, as they are with the framing of the contracts and their thorough knowledge of the rules and regulations," said Andy Wasynczuk, CEO of the New England Patriots. "They are obviously a great resource to any team."

"It's sort of a behind-the-scenes thing. But these days it's pretty apparent that the cap has as much to do with a team's success as anything. Now, even coaches will tell you that.
Michael Huyghue, Jaguars capologist

When teams need some help with the cap, they know where to place their "Help Wanted" sign -- inside the offices of the NFL Management Council.

"We are proud of our tradition," said Peter Ruocco, senior vice president of labor relations for the council. "We've employed good, hard working people and we continue to provide recommendations for clubs that come to us looking (for their next hire)."

Despite possessing a rare lack of ego in the sports world, a good salary-cap maximizer is an essential piece of the puzzle.

"It's sort of a behind-the-scenes thing," said Michael Huyghue, capologist and senior vice president of football operations for the Jacksonville Jaguars. "But these days it's pretty apparent that the cap has as much to do with a team's success as anything. Now, even coaches will tell you that." Capologists say that the biggest misconception is that fans don't understand how teams can seemingly spend more than the $62.2 million hard cap.

"There's a lot of flexibility with the cap," said Ed McGuire, resident cap guru and vice president of football operations for the Chargers. "It's really like everyday life, where you have your budget that you have to live with, but you also have your credit cards that give you some room."

While some view the cap as an elastic budget, others say it comes down to a team's particular patience.

"It has become clear since the 1993 Collective Bargaining agreement that there is a lot of flexibility and it's not pure voodoo," Wasynczuk said. "Rather, it's an assessment of how much you want to borrow from your future to pay for your present."

Cap managers need to possess a wide range of skills. They have to have some basic knowledge of a player's ability, have to be good negotiators, work well with the higher-ups and have a constant eye on the market. For the most part, they are generally well-compensated. As their value has continued to rise, the intricacies of the cap have increased.

Maybe it has to do with their scarcity or it could be that their job is really as "year-round" as you could possibly get. Their season basically starts Feb. 1 at the start of the new league year and doesn't end until the Super Bowl -- if they're lucky.

"The cap never stops, that's the basis of it," said Thum. "So their job is very, very important. They have to maintain the cap 365 days a year."

Darren Rovell writes on sports business for He can be reached at

Teetering on edge of salary cap's cliff

Salary cap climate of all 31 teams

Clayton's salary cap FAQ