Retain your best people or you’ll pay through the nose
NFL Free Agency (circa 2015) will be in full swing a month from today, and that green grass on the outside of the fence will look even greener to NFL head coaches and general managers – metaphorically speaking of course.
This is just one piece of the Player Personnel puzzle that has to be put together every offseason by NFL front offices and many organizations are more than willing to spend their past troubles away in pursuit of “much needed veteran talent and leadership” fix. But all 32 organizations would be well advised to use the next few weeks to take an introspective look at themselves.
As I’ve said before, “The most important player evaluations are your own.”
My last couple posts have taken team building principles from the book Leadership Lessons of the Navy SEALS (by Jeff and Jon Cannon) and applied them directly to an NFL Club’s own efforts in constructing a Super Bowl contender. With the start of the new League Year just around the corner, the next lesson is more than apropos – Retain your best people or you’ll pay through the nose.
The point here is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and money on the part of the American taxpayer to train a single Navy SEAL. Circumstances both within and subsequently outside of the control of the Department of Defense have led to major attrition within the SEAL ranks. So much so, that the United States is “dangerously short of commandos.”
The Cannon’s expound even further, “Worse still, those who resigned were experienced midlevel SEALs with years of corporate knowledge and combat experience under their belts.”
Like the DOD, a number of NFL clubs will be forced to make some hard pressed decisions concerning veteran players through factors both within and outside of their own control. Fluctuating budget concerns influence both the Navy and an NFL organization. Where best can the money be spent to maintain or improve TEAM productivity, on and off the field?
The Dallas Cowboys have decisions surrounding Demarco Murray and Dez Bryant. The Denver Broncos must sift through signing Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. Detroit is in a daunting situation with Ndamukong Suh. What’s there ultimate worth?
Frustration within the Navy SEALs centered on the relatively low cost requirements of retaining these highly productive, elite combat forces. Little things could have easily meant the difference in continuing a distinguished service career versus opting out for life as a civilian. Replacing a Navy SEAL isn’t as easy as signing an Unrestricted Free Agent to fill a glaring roster hole.
But the message from the SEALs is clear; train, improve, and grow your best people. It’s exactly what many feel is the secret to a championship organization in professional football; draft, train, and retain your very best players.
What’s always baffled me a bit is how some in NFL club leadership feel they can easily replace the lost production of an outgoing star player. “We’ll find another in the draft that’s as productive and younger. He isn’t worth the cost it’ll take to keep him on the roster.” Not taken into account is the ripple effect of his productive leadership and performance on others in the lineup, or the negative message and resulting impact the decision sends to the rest of the team. What’s worse is rarely are these decisions explained to those left behind and with that comes “loyalty lost.”
Over the coming weeks a significant amount of analysis will go into whom to keep and whom to let go. Clubs will be faced with some hard internal choices and tempted with some exciting outside opportunities. But NFL General Managers should be aware of the sometimes “enormous costs” of seeking Free Agent help from what otherwise is already on their roster.
Once again from Leadership Lessons;
“And if you decide you don’t want the team members to succeed badly enough, then don’t expect them to stay. In retention, you’re either with them or you’re against them. If you’re not actively trying to keep and grow your people, then you’re pushing them away. And that is a waste of your most valuable resource.”
Sometimes finding that little extra room in a negotiation is well worth the payoff over the coming seasons. And a word to the players/agents as well, don’t be that bull with his head stuck through the fence, grazing on the other side.
“The grass isn’t always greener.”