Settling for the Super Bowl
Jan 14, 2010Posted by james

The Indianapolis Colts made a bad decision 2 weeks ago when they played the Jets. They decided they were going to settle for the Super Bowl.

The Colts had a perfect 14-0 record going into the last 2 weeks of the regular season. Their division title was won; the number 1 seed position in the AFC playoffs was locked in; and so there were no more “meaningful games” left in the regular season. Right? Wrong!

Most “experts” agreed among themselves that the smart thing to do was whatever gave the best odds of winning the Super Bowl. They debated whether it was better to rest players or whether they should keep the players sharp and focused by playing the remaining games before the playoffs. But there was consensus that the coach had to stay focused on the big picture – the ultimate goal – the Super Bowl.

I think they missed the really big picture. The Colts had a chance to do something that no one else has ever done. They had a chance to win the Super Bowl with a big exclamation point ; to go into history as the first 19–0 team and only the second to ever be undefeated World Champions. They had a chance to have one of the best seasons of all-time, and instead they decided to not take the risk. They settled for just the Super Bowl.

Every now and then the same thing happens in business. Sometimes unlikely opportunities arise - opportunities to do something truly extraordinary. When this happens, how do you react? Do you continue to stay the course and continue on the path toward your “real goals”? Or do you jump on the chance to get to a level that is far beyond your earlier dreams?

Regardless of whether the Colts win or lose the big game in February, we will never know for sure whether sitting out those games helped or hurt their chances. But I can tell you this: Seeing the dejected look on Peyton Manning’s face as he watched the Jets ruin their perfect record showed us that at least one champion understood they may have let the chance of a lifetime slip away.

Fourth and 2 from your own 28
Jan 01, 2010Posted by james

The New England Patriots clinched the AFC East division title last weekend and the world is right again with Bill Belichick.

Belichick, the Patriots coach, took a lot of heat from the press and fans a month ago when he decided late in the game to go for it on fourth and 2 from the Patriots own 28 yard line. The Patriots were up by 6 with 2:08 left in the game against the Indianapolis Colts and the common sense play was to punt the ball away. As you all probably know by now, the Patriots didn’t make the first down and Peyton Manning took the Colts in for a game winning touchdown.

The criticism was immediate and intense. The Monday Morning Quarterbacks and sports pundits argued that Belichick should have punted the ball to force Manning to go the length of the field. They said he should have gone with the percentages and wondered if he had lost his mind.

But regardless of the game’s outcome, I believe that Belichick made the right decision to go for it. He took a calculated risk based on his knowledge of the game and his team. He knew that his team had given up 2 touchdowns already in the fourth quarter and were tired. It was obvious to Belichick that giving the ball back to the Colts with 2:08 remaining in the game would leave plenty of time for Manning to deliver the ball down the field. And making the first down would have ended the game.*

The bigger picture here is Belichick’s strong leadership skills. His decision might have gone against conventional wisdom, but that is what makes him a great coach. He trusted his instincts and didn’t worry about how he would be judged or by what convention would say to do. He has the unwavering confidence that leaders need and the courage to stand by his decisions.

* By the way, here’s an interesting analysis showing that Belicheck’s call was actually the higher percentage play. Let me know what you think.