Two Collaboration Insights from Last Weekend’s Football Games

It’s football season! Today, I came across two gems about this past weekend’s games that spoke to me about collaboration in general.

Data and Impact

In reaming Tennessee Titans coach, Mike Munchak, Bill Barnwell wrote:

Mike Munchak put us all through a lot of field goals for no real reason, and in doing so, he illuminated the difference between meaningful game management and the illusion of impact.

In this one, biting sentence, Barnwell is offering commentary on how we evaluate coaches. When you kick a field goal, you’re putting points on the board, and so it may look like you’re getting results. But the real question is whether kicking a field goal the highest impact move you could have made at the time. The sports analytics movement has shown that some of our most common practices are often the worst moves we can make, even though they give us the illusion of progress.

Sound familiar?


The Seattle Seahawks have the league’s stingiest defense, and they completely dismantled the San Francisco 49ers powerful offense this past weekend. How did they do it? Gregg Easterbrook wrote:

The short version of the success of the Seahawks’ defense is good players who hustle, communicate with each other and wrap-up tackle. Contemporary NFL defenses are so plagued by players’ desire for spectacular plays that make “SportsCenter” that blown coverages and missed assignments have become de rigueur. Seattle’s defense almost never has a broken play. And those lads can tackle! Seattle misses fewer tackles than any NFL defense. Lots of wrap-up tackles where the runner gains an extra yard are better than a few spectacular hits for a loss, plus frequent missed tackles. Seattle defenders understand this.

Hustle, communicate, execute. It sounds so basic, it’s almost a cliche.

A big reason I developed Changemakers Bootcamp was my realization that getting really, really good at the basics could have a much bigger impact than on inventing new tools or processes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of attention and focus seems to be on the latter rather than the former. We see lots of stories from sports and other fields what a mistake this can be.

Photo by Philip Robertson. CC BY 2.0.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

A great story from last week’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback, by Gregg Easterbrook:    (MOQ)

Once, in Silicon Valley, I heard Joe Costello — a founding light of “electronic design automation” and now CEO of the lowercase think3 — give a talk about the difference between seeking success and avoiding failure. Studies of crashes during aircraft landings under difficult circumstances, he said, showed that pilots who made bad mistakes when approaching an airfield and crashed, but lived to tell the tale, reported that they had been focused on avoiding obstacles. Pilots who made difficult landings without incident reported they had focused solely on the runway. Business and artistic success, Costello continued, follow the same pattern. Setbacks result from constantly trying to avoid obstacles, worrying about what might go wrong. Achievement results from keeping your eyes glued to the prize and endlessly repeating to yourself, “I can do this.” Or, as I once wrote, “Keep your gaze in the distance, and though you will stumble, you will reach your destination.”    (MOR)

Easterbrook told this story in regards to Adrian Peterson‘s ridiculous game against the Chargers last week:    (MOS)

Watch tailbacks: Most are darting their heads from side to side trying to figure out where problems are. Peterson says he is always looking at the goal line and driving his legs, ignoring tacklers. His runs have this quality: maximum power toward the goal line, pay no attention to the obstacles. The great Walter Payton once said he could never remember the numbers of those who hit or missed him because he was looking down the field and the rest was a blur. (That’s a paraphrase.) Peterson seems to have this same success-focused running style, plus he’s bigger and faster than Payton was.    (MOT)

It applies to aircraft landings, it applies to football, and it applies to life. (Would be nice to get a source on the aircraft study; if anyone has a link, please let me know.)    (MOU)