What if NFL Players Were Paid Like Teachers?

I’m not a big fan of football analogies in politics (think of former Sen. George Allen absurdly carrying a football wherever he went), but Fran Tarkenton has a good one:

Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

This would incentivize mediocrity, not excellence. It is also almost exactly how government-run K-12 schools are structured. Reform ideas that ignore those incentive problems are doomed to fail. Adding some competition to the existing near-monoply would do much to give teachers the same incentive to make the most of their talent that athletes currently enjoy.