We like to believe that under the scrutiny of pervasive media that we are aware of the important players. This is particularly true of sports, right? There are only so many teams and players, and under this theory the best athletes earn media attention and become known to us. Especially in football, where fans and NFL scouts are hunting for the best college prospects on which to pin their hopes. This is especially true for quarterbacks, possibly the most crucial position in sports to determining overall team success.
Enter Blake Bortles. You are forgiven if you’ve never heard of him because he has been off the radar of the national media. Blake is the starting quarterback for the University of Central Florida. He decided to attend UCF because they were the first school to send him a recruiting letter. UCF is in the brand new American Athletic Conference that was formed from the leftovers of the Big East and several small Conference USA teams like Memphis. Their coach, George O’Leary, is primarily known for being fired by the University of Notre Dame for exaggerating his resume. The sports media treated UCF like the land of lost and forgotten toys. UCF won the inaugural AAC title which entitled them to an automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series, to the jeers of many.
UCF’s opponent was Baylor of Texas, which earlier in the season was considered a possible national title contender. Baylor scored the second most points of any team this season. A Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin the Third recently won the Heisman Trophy. Baylor was favored by 17 points over UCF, the highest point spread in BCS Bowl history!
Bortles and his teammates ignored the narrative and hammered Baylor 52-42. UCF scored on their opening drive and led the entire game.
Suddenly the many successes of UCF’s season make more sense. Oh yeah, they were the only team to beat Louisville, #8 at the time, and team of media darling quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Oh yeah, Blake Bortles had a completion rate of over 67 percent for the whole season, throwing 25 touchdowns and rushing for six. His quarterback rating was an otherworldly 163.4! Oh yes, did I mention he is 6 foot 4 inches and 230 pounds, the prototypical NFL quarterback? He’s also experienced, starting for 3 years. After being virtually unknown, this morning Brian Bortles is in the top 5 prospects of NFL draft predictions of many sports media talking heads. Suddenly today scouts are lauding his poise, toughness, and judgment.
The media is not alone: as individuals and organizations we take short cuts by taking new facts and forcing them to comply with established, comfortable narratives. Admit it: it is easier to discount new information than questioning ourselves all the time. We establish favorites among our subordinates and are influenced by the halo effect. We habituate processes that get us by, rather than questioning potential changes that might pay off in a big way.
Look around: who or what is your Blake Bortles?
Perhaps you are too familiar with your processes to successfully conduct an objective review of them. Sometimes an outsider can provide new insights. Consider leveraging Bear Compass Consulting LLC for this purpose.