This is the time of year when almost everyone wants to express an opinion on who
will win in the NFL. Whether it is division winner, wild card teams or the Super Bowl
champion, there is no shortage of thoughts on the eventual survivors.
The NFL is a very complex series of 267 games that ebb and flow. As a former coach
was so accurate in stating, when he looked at the upcoming schedule, "It is not who you
play, but when you play them." Injuries have so much to do with a team’s success.
As you read all the prognostications, there is always an emphasis on returning players,
free agent signings, rookie contributors and the head coach. Those elements are
important to the success of any NFL team, but there is so much that really goes into
the performance fans see.
An NFL team can have anywhere from 100 to more than 250 staff members over the
head coach and players. Every single one can have an impact on the team's success:
*Assistant Coaches: No group of individuals spends as much time with the players. The
media wants to focus on the offensive and defensive coordinators, who do make the
key decisions on play calling and personnel on the field, but each assistant plays a key
role. Not only is this teaching proper technique, but as with any supervisor, they are
charged with motivating the player to reach his potential. They know the personal and
professional issues and insecurities that affect performance.
*Football Operations Staff: From equipment staff, athletic training staff, strength
training and conditioning staff to video staff, each has a key role in the preparation of
the players. The video staff must prepare and work tirelessly to give the team and the
players all knowledge of the practices, games and opponents’ games. These services are
needed immediately. The equipment staff armor the players properly and comfortably.
They must anticipate every request and have solutions to any need. The strength
training and conditioning staff are the key to ensuring that the players can compete
with their opponents physically. Pushing the players in the off season and during the
season properly prepares them. The athletic training staff must analyze each player,
respond to on field injuries, treat issues, rehab injuries and conjole players to play
ICONJerry Jones and his fellow owners have a massive impact on whether a team is, or is not, successful
*Public Relations Staff: These people have to manage some of the most difficult
relationships that the team has. The players and coaches are constantly under media
scrutiny. How prepared they are for the media can prevent issues from arising. They
need to manage the media so that players can fit the demands into their days as well as
provide direction on the focus of the questions.
*Travel Staff: As Napoleon put it, “An army marches on its stomach." The successful
operation of travel arrangements, securing the best services -- plane, buses, hotels,
food -- demonstrate not only the professionalism of the organization, but reinforce
the concern the administration has with the players. The NFL is littered with travel stories and service drops. How these inevitable issues are handled seamlessly affect the team's performance.
*Game Day Operations: There is no doubt that the affect of home field impacts a
team. So much goes into this. Whether it is field preparation, parking arrangements,
family arrangements, or just enthusing the crowd with music, video and entertainment,
all easily motivate the players.
*The Front Office: From accounting, marketing, community relations, security...all have
interaction that impact the teams mental state and feeling of appreciation for their
efforts. All need to interact in a professional and respectful manner.
*Ownership: No area has a greater impact on a team. This individual must provide the
leadership that all in the organization need. Their ability to motivate all involved is what
leads to success. They must provide an environment that ensures individuals perform
at levels that lead to success. The players and coaches need to want to perform for
themselves, their coaches, the administration, the fans and the owner. The best
motivation is to perform not out of fear, but to not disappoint.
So, when individuals make prognostications, it is not all about the players and head
coach. Many teams with the greatest talent do not win the Super Bowl, and undoubtedly
it is a result of the failures of some of the above staff. From my experience in running
26 Super Bowls, it was easy to predict 72 hours out, the winner just by observing how
many of the above staff were handling their jobs.
Former NFL Senior VP of Special Events Jim Steeg was responsible for changing the Super Bowl from a championship game into the event it is today. He also was the man who turned the NFL Draft from a behind-the-scenes meeting into a televised spectacle.