Every year, new young players come from seemingly nowhere and emerge as dynamic talents in the NFL. Often they are late draft picks or even undrafted free agents and we are left to wonder how our team missed out on them. Two of these players, Taylor Gabriel and Dion Lewis, played on opposite sides in this year’s Super Bowl. Gabriel hit the spotlight around the middle of the regular season; where he would routinely take simple wide receiver screens and turn them into 50+ yard touchdowns. Lewis was injured up until late in the year, but quickly established himself as a threat on the ground, in the passing game, and the return game.
As these two players became more well-known, an interesting fact surfaced about both of them. At one point, both Gabriel and Lewis played for the lowly Cleveland Browns. It didn’t take long for memes and posts to circulate on social media poking fun at the Browns for releasing two players that could certainly help a 1-15 franchise. How could they pass on these guys?
Believe it or not, I’m here to defend the Browns. The Browns can’t succeed because of their culture. Neither can the Jets, Bengals, Bills, Jaguars etc. Taylor Gabriel and Dion Lewis would never develop and grow to their full potential on the Browns. I guarantee if you put the most talented young players on the Browns every season, 90% would not reach their potential. Only a select few with unique work ethic like Joe Thomas and Terrelle Pryor would thrive. But again I’m not just picking on the Browns here, there are countless examples:
Danny Woodhead: Undrafted free agent signed by Jets. Doesn’t make the team, picked up by Patriots and becomes one of the best pass catching running backs in the league.
Chris Hogan: Cut by 49ers, Bills, and Dolphins (teams with no recent success). Now a starting receiver for the Super Bowl champion Patriots.
Greg Olsen: Solid starting Tight End with Bears. Three time pro bowler with Panthers.
Willie Snead: Undrafted free agent signed by Browns. Now starting for New Orleans Saints, just under 1,000 yards past two seasons.
A crappy team looking for a quarterback would be far better served to trade for Jimmy Garoppolo than try to develop a rookie. Garoppolo comes from a winning organization and has developed under possibly the best coach/quarterback duo of all time in Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. You’d have to try really hard to screw him up.
For years I thought the Jets scouting department was awful. How could they miss on quarterbacks time after time? Geno Smith, Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, Matt Simms, Kellen Clemens, Tim Tebow, Bryce Petty. You would think ONE of these guys would pan out right? Then it finally dawned on me. This has nothing to do with scouting. All of these guys have the talent to succeed, but the culture within the Jets organization does not facilitate growth. There may be outlier seasons here and there where they make the playoffs. But overall the organization is so inept that even the great Brett Favre couldn’t save them. If you think Deshaun Watson or Mike Glennon is the answer, I’ve got bad news. Change needs to happen at the top first.
The same idea applies to business. Ever been in a job with a shitty boss, no opportunity for growth, and miserable co-workers? At some point you realize you’re not developing and either quit or stop trying. On the contrary, a great work environment miraculously makes employees try harder (I get it, this is rare. Hence why I work for myself). You have to be able to recognize this, especially if you are in my age range. Once you ‘have to’ work somewhere because of a mortgage, wife, and kids it becomes problematic. At that point you’re stuck unless you’re willing to take the financial risk of possibly being unemployed.
If you are in a position of leadership, you better take notice. You better have the self awareness and emotional intelligence to lead people. If you micromanage and become apathetic toward their feelings, they will resent you forever.
Be like the Patriots and Spurs, not like the Browns and Knicks.