Losing NFL teams often models for strong crisis management


Seven National Football League teams fired their head coaches Monday and a few found reason to ax their general managers as well.

The NFL is a weird place to work. Salaries are high, as are the unrealistic measures for success and career brevity. Most players and coaches spend more time in college than they do in the NFL. Players face short- and long-term injury prospects after signing multi-million dollar contracts.

Thirty-two owners, members of the most exclusive club this side of the U.S. Senate, are often capricious, short-fused and egotistical — and those are the good ones. A maxim is that losing teams — by definition those in crisis — fire coaches, GMs and players and seek to reverse a failing course fast.

These team actions can be microcosms of good crisis management.

The teams that acted had losing seasons or ones that fell well short of expectations. Buffalo, Chicago [Lovie Smith, right], Arizona, Cleveland Philadelphia, San Diego, the Jets and Kansas City cut their coaches, general managers or both.

The message is clear: End the crisis — in this case losing — by moving decisively to fix the problem.

Creators of the crisis — coaches and GMs — pay the price by losing their jobs. Many players — since there seems to be a near endless supply of young men who want to play in the NFL — follow their leaders out the door too. We won’t weep for these guys. Many coaches have contracts that mean they’ll continue to receive salaries while they fish or play golf. Most players sign up-front bonuses that can set them up for life. And, some of those from both groups who wore out their welcome in one place will no doubt land at another.

Eagles coach Andy Reid, right, may be headed for Arizona; fired Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt, below, may take over the Bills; Smith from the Bears may also be interested in the Buffalo job.

Resolving the crisis of poor performance is crucial for sports teams who need to continue selling tickets, merchandise and fan dreams. It would be interesting to see the Fortune 500 boards react similarly to losing years.

As much as NFL teams take on great importance, they are small operations by comparison. Much of their capital is in their stadiums, uniforms and monopolies. The teams’ values soar because there can only be 32 — so far. Average annual team revenues are under $275 million, making them relatively small businesses.

But with majority owners calling the shots, the crisis management formula keeps those team values growing and the fan base calm.

For successful teams, like New England, the Giants, Pittsburgh and Green Bay, there is solid leadership. Like the baseball maxim of strength up the middle — catcher, pitcher, center fielder — NFL teams need a strong owner, GM, coach and QB.

You can also be certain that when the stars on those successful teams fade and a crisis of losing arises, their owners will act fast to end it.

The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.

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About steveoncrisis

The content is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It comes from Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and as managing editor and editorial page editor at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower and Associates, one of the nation's largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agency with six offices in the Northeast and Southeast.
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