Building (and Maintaining) a Championship Team

Darrin Briggs Articles, Incentives 0 Comments

“My name is Darrin and I’m a football fan.”
[“Hi Darrin.”]

In fact, I am a HUGE football fan. The start of both the college football season and the NFL season each year are days that I look forward to and long for starting from the last tick of the clocks at the College Football National Championship Game and the Superbowl. For my entire “adult” lifetime, from when I can really remember being a football fan who enjoyed the small nuances of the game rather than just simply idolizing certain players and teams, the New England Patriots have been good…no, check that, they have been GREAT.

Now, before I go any further, I have to clarify that I am NOT a Patriots fan. I am a hard core Green Bay Packers fan. As a kid, I grew up loving the 49ers teams of the 80s and early 90s but my favorite individual player was Reggie White, the “Minister of Defense.” When Reggie was traded to Green Bay, I began learning the history of the Packers and decided I had found a new team to root for. But, I digress…this article is about the Patriots and their decade and a half of dominance.

First, I need to provide some context. Patriots owner, Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 in part as a way to prevent the previous ownership group from breaking their lease with the stadium he owned and to prevent the team from moving to either St. Louis or Jacksonville. When he bought the team, Mr. Kraft said his ultimate reason for doing so was to build a team that would bring a championship to New England. When Mr. Kraft bought the Patriots, Bill Belichick was entering his 4th season as the Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns. Belichick was eventually fired by the Browns after having an overall record of 37-45 over his 5 seasons (’91-’95), including 1-1 in the playoffs, for a combined winning percentage of 46.25%.

Five years later, prior to the 2000 season, Coach Belichick was hired by Mr. Kraft, after two previous coaches had both failed to consistently deliver success. In Belichick’s first season as Head Coach of the Patriots in 2000, the team finished last in their Division with an overall record of 5-11. On that 2000 season roster was a rookie 6th round draft pick backup QB out of the University of Michigan named Tom Brady. Brady’s stats for the entire 2000 season included one completed pass on three attempts for 6 yards during garbage time of a loss. In the following season, 2001, Tom Brady again started the season as the backup QB behind starter Drew Bledsoe, but Bledsoe famously went down with an injury in the second game of that season, and Tom Brady took over as the starting quarterback, never again lost the starting job, and the rest, as they say, is history.

After Drew Bledsoe recovered from his injury (somewhere around week 10 of the 2001 season), the Brady-led Patriots were already well on their way to beating the favored St. Louis Rams in the Superbowl and beginning their unprecedented run as the model franchise of the NFL. Since Bledsoe’s injury, Tom Brady has started every game at QB for the Patriots (except for in the 2008 season when he went down with an injury in the first game of the season himself). Also worth mentioning is the fact that since 2001, when Coach Belichick and Tom Brady joined forces as the core of the Patriots organization, the team has failed to make the playoffs only twice (2002 & 2008) and they have notched 10+ win seasons in 14 of those 15 seasons.

As a Head Coach for the Patriots, Belichick has an unbelievable winning percentage during the regular season of 73.05% (187-69) and has averaged 11.68 wins per season. Even more impressive though is the Patriots’ winning percentage in the playoffs during that same time, where the wins are harder to come by and a loss means you are done. In their 15 seasons together in New England, Belichick and Brady are 22-9 in the playoffs (70.97%) and have won 4 out of the 6 Superbowls they have played in (66.67%) and from 2001-2004, they won the Superbowl in 3 of those 4 seasons. Tom Brady also holds 15 individual NFL Playoffs statistical records (including most games played, most wins, most touchdown passes, most passing yards, most division titles and most conference titles) as well as 7 Superbowl records (including most passing yards, most touchdown passes and most appearances).

Starting in 2001 through the present time, only three individuals have been present in the Patriots organization during their incredible 15 years of dominance in the NFL: Owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick, and Quarterback Tom Brady. Every other roster and front office position within the Patriots organization has changed during that time span (some several times) but these three individuals have been the foundation of the Patriots success. What makes the consistent success of the Patriots even harder to understand though is that the NFL is the toughest professional league in the world in which to maintain excellence at the highest level. This is due to a combination of player free agency, salary cap rules, the propensity for serious injuries to key players, innovations in game planning and strategy, and even rules changes in the way the game is played.

All of these outside factors make it so much harder to keep the right combination of coaches and players on which success is built year-in and year-out. And yet, there hasn’t been a more sure bet in sports than penciling the Patriots in as the AFC East Division Champions at the beginning of each season, which they have been 13 times in the past 15 seasons, including a current streak of seven in a row (which, had Tom Brady not been injured in 2008, would probably be at 13 in a row right now). Tom Brady is the longest tenured starting QB for any team in the league and Bill Belichick is the longest tenured head coach – by several years! Consistency and striving for excellence every day have become hallmarks of the Patriots organization.

But unless you are a Patriots fan, the question you are probably asking yourself is, “Who cares?” So why am I listing significant stats about the Patriots? Why should anyone who is not interested in football, let alone the Patriots or Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft actually continue reading this article? Because theirs is a model that businesses (and every other NFL team for that matter) are trying to duplicate the world over. The Patriots, led by Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick, have developed an approach to their business that works: they have identified and consistently applied their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each member of their team and those individuals are then rewarded (or not) and kept on the team (or let go) depending solely on how much that person is contributing to the overall success of the team.

Coach Belichick doesn’t tolerate players who are not “team first” and the Patriots don’t overpay for high-priced free agents who are unwilling to check their egos at the door. Likewise, Tom Brady has famously restructured his own personal player contracts with the Patriots over the years and has taken less money in the short-term on multiple occasions in order to help the team attract, hire and retain the players who will help make him and his team better. As the leader of the team, Tom Brady knows that he can’t throw touchdown passes to himself, that he can’t block for himself and that he can’t prevent the other team from scoring because he doesn’t play defense. As a result, he knows that his performance and the success of his team is dependent upon other players being able to be recognized and compensated for their contributions to the team as well. Tom Brady’s ultimate KPI is winning Superbowls, and with four rings to date, he has repeatedly delivered on that metric and as a result is already considered one of the greatest NFL players of all time.

Building a team like the Patriots, one where the most critical contributing members constantly strive to be the best and will stop at nothing to reach that goal, is a result of consistently developing and maintaining the right culture. Snowfly can help any organization identify those KPIs which drive their specific success and which establish and maintain a consistent culture of excellence within their teams. Providing a working environment for employees that rewards and fosters excellence leads to attracting and retaining the highest performing team members for your organization which ultimately improves your “winning percentage” and bottom line. By rewarding performance excellence of measurable, deliberate, and repeatable key behaviors, just like the Patriots have established a deliberate culture, any organization can achieve success. Let Snowfly help your “GM” attract, hire, reward and retain the best players for your team by contacting us at: info@snowfly.com or by calling us at 877-Snowfly today. www.snowfly.com

Oh, and one more thing…Go Packers!

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