Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Alienate teammates the Brady Quinn way

How was your weekend? Better than Brady Quinn's, I bet. He lost an estimated $30 million in potential income over the next 5-6 years and likely alienated 50+ teammates he hasn't even met yet in the process.

If you are like me and a fan of pro football (the American kind, to be clear for my non-US readers), you probably know that the annual NFL Draft was held this past weekend. The biggest story by far on Saturday was when Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn was expected to be a very high pick in the first round but was not. As is not uncommon, the many of the teams with the first few selections in this year's draft performed poorly last season because of poor quarterback play. Because of this, Quinn was expected to be taken 3rd overall by the Cleveland Browns, a perennially bad team. According to several pre-draft reports, this was all fine for the Ohio native Quinn, who hoped to be able to sign a contract similar to the one that the 3rd pick in the 2005 draft, Tennessee Titan quarterback Vince Young, signed last year -- which is worth as much as $58 million over the his first 6 seasons.

Then something happened that Quinn didn't expect. The Browns drafted somebody else with the 3rd pick. So did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 4th pick, whose starting quarterback last season ruptured his spleen during a game. With Matt Leinart as their top pick last year, the Arizona Cardinals didn't need a quarterback. And so it went. Quinn's last shot at being a top 10 pick rested in the hands of the Miami Dolphins, a team with which he worked out for extensively during the pre-draft auditioning process. Instead, the Dolphins used the 9th pick on wide receiver Ted Ginn and Quinn continued to be passed up by teams that didn't need a quarterback. It looked like nobody wanted this guy.

Finally, Cleveland orchestrated a trade with Dallas that landed them the 22nd pick in the first round and they used it to select Quinn. Since the value of a player is so tightly coupled with his draft position, though, his salary would be significantly less. ESPN analyst and NFL expert John Clayton estimated that Quinn lost as much as $30 million on Saturday by being selected 22nd instead of being picked 3rd. When I heard that, I genuinely felt bad for the guy.

That is, until I heard his reaction and that of his family later in the day.

In a Yahoo! Sports article entitled "Bitter Beginnings" Brady Quinn and his family came across as pretty ungrateful and have no idea how good they have it.

"He missed a lot of childhood dreams and goals: winning the national championship, winning the Heisman [Trophy], and being the No. 1 pick. They all just faded away," said his mother Robin, not realizing how much closer her son got to those goals than the general populace of people with similar dreams.

Quinn himself trotted out the motivational card when he said, "You've got to feel all of the teams that passed up on you, you have to come out with a chip on your shoulder. That just builds the motivation. All of the negative things that people say, all of the things that happened in college, all through this entire process."

Huh? What team did he want to play for? The Cleveland Browns. What team is he going to play for? Uh, the Cleveland Browns who gave up two other picks in the trade with Dallas in order to get him. He got picked by the team he wanted and is going to be a multi-millionaire.

And the problem is . . . . . what, exactly? The problem is that $30 million he won't be getting now. While he has spent considerable time talking about being snubbed, what he's really doing is airing his frustrations about the significant financial opportunity he missed out on the national media and, by extension, his mostly lesser paid teammates heard every word.

Think about that for a second with the team you work on. I bet everybody knows who the highest paid person on your team is, and imagine being at a team meeting where he or she starts crying about the pittance of a raise he or she received this year. How would that make you feel? How many favors would you want to do for that person after that? What would such complaining do to your attitude towards that person?

This has to be what at least some of the Cleveland Browns are going through this week. Alienated by a guy who has yet to play in the NFL and is already upset about money when he'll be paid more than most everybody else. Not exactly a great way to build synergy.

Do you have a right to complain about things from time to time? Of course you do. Everybody does. All humans on this planet have things not go their way every once in a while.

There are just better forums for complaints than ones where you can irritate those you have to work with that would love to be well off enough to have your problems. In front of others, you have an obligation to stay positive or at least be non-responsive to negative things going on with your job, especially when you already have it better than everyone else. And that's the kind of comment you can't take back, although Quinn was quite humbled on Sunday after the media fallout of his Saturday when he said, "Everyone was saying that I was losing money. Well, I never had it to lose. In my wallet, I have, like, maybe a dollar in cash."

This is the kind of scenario where, if you aren't careful, you can burn bridges in your long term relationships and that will eventually come back to negatively impact you in some way. Unlike Brady Quinn, our melodramas don't usually play out in the pages of but the lessons to be learned are the same. Appreciate what you have and keep your mouth shut in public even when you do have something legitimate to grouse about. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging relationships you are going to need


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 11:12 PM   9 comments


At 10:24 AM, Blogger JibberJobber Guy said...

Excellent post. Amazing story - and very cool transition to "office politics." You hit it on the head Pete.

Jason Alba

At 10:12 PM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

Thanks for the kind feedback, Jason.

It's easy to forget with how athletic these guys are and how much money they make, they deal with the same group dynamics that we all do. The big difference is that my biggest failures (or triumphs) aren't replayed over and over again on ESPN.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Liz said...

Fantastic post. In fact, if it's OK with you I am going to post it on my blog today. What a great reminder to all of us to be grateful for all to watch what we say in public!

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

Feel free to repost, Liz, and thanks for the kind words.

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

His teammates and fans aren't likely to forget this soon, and the media will make sure they don't! Sounds to me like he's a young guy who had a mild temper tantrum, but the forum for tantrums is with your family and close friends not the public. I guess that's lesson number two from this story which is to remember your audience at all times.

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

Hey Johnathan,

I completely agree. I'd have a temper tantrum too if I lost that much money. Kind of a bummer for him that there were 1000 cameras pointed at him.


At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Carolynn Duncan said...


Great post. It's especially apropos for bloggers for bloggers to remember, as we're occasionally prone to "therablogging", as my good friend Rob likes to say.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Pete Johnson said...

Thanks for the kind words Carolyn. You are absolutely right about "therablogging" too. There was some press a few months ago about employers doing MySpace searches on potential employees to see what they acted like in that environment and it certainly applies to the web in general. I'm just finishing up a great book called The Virtual Handshake that talks a lot about personal branding on the web and there's a section about being careful where you air your grievances because you never know who's eventually going to find it.

At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worst blog comment on Quinn ever! Why worst? Because you are serious. Yes, Quinn was closer to the National Title and Heismann, etc. than "Joe Everybody" - but it's not like he just won a raffle and was tossed into that position. He worked his butt off to get there. So his mother has a right to sympathize with her son a bit. Yeah - he's still wealthy. He's still in the NFL. He's still got a future ahead of him (at least for now). She's not complaining about this. But when you see your son work hard for over a decade trying to succeed and accomplish his goals, only to see him come up short time after time (mostly due to heavy media bias against Notre Dame), you have to feel for the guy. One can't help but wonder if Quinn was with USC - he might have won some of those dreams (as the media adores USC). As for Quinn's comments - it is YOUR interpretation that those words were about $$. I read them differently. I saw a guy who did feel snubbed by a lot of teams. Ted Guinn? Taking a lineman as a #3 pick? These choices were highly questionable. And while Quinn ultimately did get what he wanted (and Cleveland did pay a high price for it - makes you wonder if they were better off just taking Quinn at the #3 spot...), to drop all the wat to #22 after being considered one of the best college football players in the past 2 years is insulting. So he's using that as motivation - just like players and coaches use words from other teams as motivation. He's using that snub (and it was a snub) to fuel his desire to win.

If you hate Quinn, that's fine. But you are clearly over-interpreting these actions through your hatred.


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