Yesterday the Washington Redskins clinched the NFC East division championship after finished in last place the previous two years. They weren’t in last place by a little, at 3-13 and 4-12, they were truly awful. While there can be multiple reasons for a turn around like this, one certainly stands out. This year the very talented, and expensive, starting quarterback Robert Griffin III sat on the bench while the arguably less talented 2nd string quarterback Kirk Cousins led the team. This was not an easy decision, the Redskins were paying a lot for Griffin and there was more than a little controversy with him.
Robert was a loud mouth that often spoke ill of his teammates to the media. He had a hard time following instructions and, by many reports, didn’t seem to push hard in practice. Robert had the best gurus to advise and train him in season and out. Griffin was such a problem on the field that two different head coaches benched him in mid-season the last two years. He is a Heisman trophy winner and had great success in his first year as a pro - no doubt he’s an extremely talented guy. He was so good that many hoped to build the team and it’s future around Robert. But, when he started to be too full of himself and act like a jerk, the whole team’s performance suffered. Watching them play was painful. They missed the most basic plays and couldn’t get anything to work on a consistent basis. They were in last place and struggled to squeeze out 3 or 4 wins a season.
Enter the second string quarterback Kirk Cousins, an arguably a less talented guy that was happy to work hard where ever he was placed in the pecking order. Never spoke ill of his teammates, grateful when he go to play. When he did get the chance to play, his performance was good but not spectacular. By all accounts just an all around nice guy, on the field and off. The team has rallied to him and began to work as a team again, not just individuals playing positions. The backbiting stopped and focus retuned to playing, and winning, games. Things just started to click again and success started to build on success. The results speak for themselves, as the Redskins finished in 1st place this year.
The lesson here is easy to see, if you have brilliant jerks on your team - get rid of them . Or, at least put them on the bench. No matter how much you, and they, think you need them, it’s not worth it. These jerks costing you more than you know. These people always leave a trail of misery and destruction in their wake. It doesn’t matter how talented they are or what unique knowledge they have, the costs are too high. What matters, if you want to win, is that the team is working and winning together. Any time focus moves from what’s good for the team to an individual, you’re on the path to losing and losing big.