One of the great things I love about football – and sports in general – is the portable lessons applicable to recruiting and talent management. Today on NFL.com, current NY Jets players anonymously ripped their starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Clearly they have big issues in the Jets locker room. When one player was asked about the possibility of the Jets pursing ailing Indianapolis Colts signal caller Peyton Manning during the off season, the response was anything but hesitant.
“Come on. That’s a no-brainer,” the source told the Daily News. “If you have a chance to get a healthy 36-year-old Peyton Manning and you don’t do it, then you’re stupid. If I could get a healthy 36-year-old Peyton Manning, then, hell yeah, I would trade Sanchez.”
Turns out, professional football players are pretty darn smart. Yet how does this apply to recruiting and managing talent for the rest of us who don’t wear shoulder pads to work?
While Peyton Manning will certainly one day be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his career is undoubtedly coming to an end. Some suggest he’s just one hit away from a career-ending (if not life-altering) injury. He might not last one game. Or he might lead his team to a championship. There’s no doubt Peyton has the skills, experience and potential. And there is no doubt from the Jets teammate about getting Manning on the roster now and, if necessary, trading or benching the struggling Sanchez.
In short, is it better to get a game-changing, superstar talent for maybe a couple of years who is nearing the end of his career or to keep the younger incumbent who has many years left to play and might still develop into a decent, more consistent quarterback?
Time and time again, I’m surprised that hiring managers often dismiss the battle-proven, highly talented candidate with the verifiable track record over concerns about tenure or longevity. I should be used to it by now, but I’m not. The difference between average and game-changing performance in terms of business outcomes isn’t incremental – it is both exponential and transformational.
Would you pass on a star simply because she might leave in two years and hire the average candidate who comes with the perception of stability? It sounds silly – almost a “duh” kind of question. We already know that it’s likely the superstar will do more in less time. Yes, she might leave. True, you’ll have to work hard to keep her challenged and engaged. And – darn it – you might find yourself recruiting for her replacement in the not so distant future.
Then again, she also brings with her the possibility of winning now versus winning later – if at all. And that’s the point, isn’t it?
So what’s a hiring manager to do? Like the anonymous player above said so astutely, “Come on. That’s a no brainer.”