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Manning and Irsay: Where Sportsmanship Meets Business

Oct 20, 2013

Manning Irsay Photo: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Manning and Irsay: Why Sports and Business Don't Mix

Last week’s “controversy” surrounding Jim Irsay’s comments regarding Peyton Manning’s tenure with Colts brings up an interesting discussion of how business ethics intersect with sportsmanship. Never mind ESPN’s full-fledge “TMZ” charade on the game week topic, but the comments did spark a knee-jerk reaction among the sports community – and it’s really no surprise.

To the everyday sports fan, these comments were perceived as cold and ungrateful. Manning is the star that lived up to his greatness and put a Midwestern rust-belt city on the map. However, when we step outside of the sports world and into the world of business, Irsay has a point.

Business Ethics

For instance, Jim Irsay is an owner of a franchise whose main objective is to succeed (ie: win Super Bowls). What the owner was saying, albeit in different words, was the he has a particular standard for his business and that standard is to win the Super Bowl at a higher rate than 1 out of 11 (or 9%) of the time his team made the playoffs.

Obviously, we must ask: Is that a reasonable standard to hold a team to? The fact of the matter is yes, it is.

The proof? Irsay mentioned it: "(Tom) Brady never had consistent numbers, but he has three of these," Irsay adds. "Pittsburgh had two, the Giants had two, Baltimore had two…”

Simply speaking, Irsay is stating that by a results-oriented point of view the Colts had a successful player but not a successful franchise. By his business standards, this called for a change in the management model that would mimic success of other teams.

Of course, when phrases like “Star Wars numbers” are sprinkled in there, it takes on a less professional tone and seems personal. This, after all, is what the media is running with - the emotional response is that these comments are ungrateful or insulting or inappropriate.

All Press Is Not Good Press

This brings me to the final point: the concept in business where strategies (including past ones) are kept in the board room behind closed doors. This is good business. It spares your company from outside criticism and lets your company be evaluated on results, not speculation. Is it an accident that Apple is one of the most successful companies as well as one of the most secret?

Irsay, obviously, did not follow the concept of holding the cards close to the chest.

In conclusion, the problem is not what Jim Irsay said. Rather, it's the fact that he said it on the record.

Business is not always friendly and it even contradicts the human values embraced by sportsmanship. We all appreciate honesty, but Jim, did you have to say it out loud? Before the big game?

What do you think - was Jim Irsay out of line for his statements or was he simply stating a business case for his franchise? Share your answers with the hashtag #teambuildr

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