Straight up. I’m not a general manager. Never even met one. Furthermore, I am not the most adept at salary caps, contracts, or even the Xs and Os of football. But as an Officer in the Army of this here United States, I know a lot about leadership. So, I count myself qualified to issue advice on running a football operation to a general manager who will probably never visit CSR to read it.
First things first, I like our general manager. As a fan, I enjoy it when our team makes the playoffs and if he keeps doing that then I’m willing to forgive the whole Steve Smith debacle (but never forget!). I honestly believe we are headed in the right direction and that Gettleman and Rivera are the right men for the job. G-man says that he’s doing what’s best for the team long term and I’m cool with that concept. He says that he’s taken emotion out of the evaluation. I think he’s both right and wrong about that approach. I just want to offer words of caution about taking all emotion out of decisions.
The Pros of not making emotional decisions
Making decisions based on emotions is generally a bad way to go about business. I think it’s been proven. For case number one I point to myself and my reaction to Game 2 last season against the Bills, before the dawn of the Riverboat Era. I was devastated at what appeared to be the continuation of a dreadful pattern from the previous season with that one point loss. In the moment, I gave up on the season and my bold 12-4 preseason prediction. I was also on the CSR comment thread that day. Some of you had emotional responses, too. Skip to Game 3 and we begin to see that maybe we did have a chance and I was racked with self-loathing for going against rule numbers one through three of the Homer Code; blinders on, 16-0, ignore the facts (please ignore the fact that I am a homer writing a post about making emotional decisions). Some of you regretted your posts in that comment thread as well (certainly by week 8). So, if it’s that big a deal with you and me, imagine the impact of an emotional decision when hundreds of millions of dollars are involved. The Panthers have been a shining example of what can happen to football teams when you don’t take emotion out of it. Inflated contracts due to loyalty have had profound negative impacts on the organization, resulting in a decline in production on the field and a descending into cap hell off it which has stymied growth. In the end, the unit became ineffective and people lost jobs.
The Cons of not making emotional decisions
Before I was put in charge of Soldiers for the first time, I had a mentor who told me to be careful with my personality because your unit will take it on and become just like you. If you develop the traits of procrastination, Joe will procrastinate. If you cut corners, so will members of your unit. If you are outspoken, hard charging, and smart et cetera, et cetera. Behold, after all these years of doing it, I have discovered that he was correct. Show me a convoy that can’t move because Joe didn't fuel the Humvees because he was sitting in the cab waiting for somebody to tell him to move, then I will show you a Platoon Leader who is in his office not ready to move because he is waiting on someone to tell him that it’s time to move. Here is the warning for our general manager. Take emotion out of it, and the players will, too. It’s harder to negotiate with a veteran free agent when they aren't feeling the emotion of loyalty. The family atmosphere evaporates when players feel that they will be mercilessly shown the door at the hint of a regression in production. There will be no more Thomas Davises. Remember that game last season we had to have? You know the one where Charles Johnson got injured yet willed the line to hold it together? That was an emotional decision on the part of Big Money. A decision that, by the way, was reflective of the personality of his leadership. Take out the emotion, and you could lose your unit.
So, emotion or no emotion?
For me, the answer to most debates involving two extremes lies somewhere in the middle of those extremes. Be emotional AND objective. For me, that means empathizing with your player and fan base enough to sit them down and explain the situation, while also being objective enough to reach the ultimate conclusion that it will never be all Cam’s team with Steve around. With the Steve Smith situation, we had the objectivity without the empathy. You can’t be an effective leader long term without both emotion and objectivity.
The best advice I’ve ever received as a Soldier came from General Tommy Franks (if you don’t know him, look him up; Great leader) whom I met when I was a PFC assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. I was selected to be the copy runner for a very big exercise called Warfighter, which means I had to make copies of orders in one building and run them in a 1 mile circuit to the trailers of 4 generals. I had to move VERY FAST. 5 times a day at a minimum for a whole week I had to make that circuit at top speed. Copy sprinter should have been the title. Anyway, there was little time for conversation with the Generals, but Gen. Franks was a people person and would spell me for a couple of minutes every time I hit his trailer and he was there. For the whole week, I carried a copy of a book he had just written with Tom Clancy trying to get up the courage to ask him for an autograph without seeming unprofessional. Not only did he sign the book, but he also answered my questions about leadership and becoming an Officer. My final question was "Sir, what’s the most important thing about leading Soldiers?" He said "Take care of your Soldiers, and they will take care of your mission." This is the advice I would offer to our GM. Football players, like Soldiers (and me and you) will give it all if they know their non-negotiables are taken care of (pay, family, food, time, recognition). Show no emotion, and you may not win because your Soldiers will not fight at the level required. They are distracted, splitting energy between the team and taking care of one, or more, of their non-negotiables.