Football Coaches Would Make Great CEOs

Dec. 21, 2004
Gridiron "executives" offer business managers some sage advice.

Bob Chieger and Pat Sullivans colorful, witty book, entitled Footballs Greatest Quotes (1990, Simon & Schuster), is a compilation of more than 1,500 memorable quotes from coaches, players, and personalities. Reading it is a bit like taking a graduate course in business management delivered by a stand-up comic. Although not intended to be used as a CEO training guide, I found the book to be full of sage advice, much of which can be adapted to managing your company. We can learn a lot from these unique and colorful management professionals, as the following witticisms and observations illustrate. Tips for chief executives: Ben Schwartzwalder, coach, Syracuse -- "A successful coach is one who is still coaching." Woody Hayes, coach, Ohio State -- "They give you a Cadillac one year, and the next year they give you the gas to get you out of town." Bum Phillips, coach, Houston Oilers -- "There are two types of coaches: them that has just been fired and them that are going to be fired." Frank Howard, coach, Clemson -- "Bear Bryant was always ahead of us humans. Even when we started the two platoon system, he was using three platoons: one on offense, one on defense, and one to go to class." Edward Bennett Williams, owner, Washington Redskins , about his coach George Allen -- "We gave George an unlimited expense account, and hes already exceeded it." Willie Davis, Packers lineman -- "Vince Lombardi was so tough to work for that winning was the easy way out." Ways to motivate employees: John Heisman, coach, Georgia Tech (with his team ahead 120-0 at halftime) -- "Men, were in front, but you never know what those Cumberland players have up their sleeves. So, in the second half, go out and hit em clean and hit em hard. Dont let up." (Final score: 222-0.) John Heisman on football -- "What is it? It is a prolate spheroid, an elongated sphere -- that is, an elongated sphere in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died a small boy than for any of you to fumble it." T.A.D. Jones, coach, Yale -- "Gentlemen, you are about to play football for Yale against Harvard. Never in your lives will you ever do anything so important." Vince Lombardi -- "If you think you dont hate the Rams on Thursday, let me promise you that by Sunday youll hate me so much that youll go out and destroy them." Chuck Mills, coach, Wake Forest -- "I give the same halftime speech over and over. It works best when my players are better than the other coachs players." About management/labor relations: Joe Robbie, owner, Miami Dolphins -- "This is the first time in the history of labor negotiations that millionaire players are driving Mark IVs or Cadillacs to the picket lines." Eddie Payton, Minnesota Vikings running back -- "Jack Donlon [chief negotiator for the NFL] has done the job of three men -- Larry, Curly, and Moe." Lamar Hunt, owner, Kansas City Chiefs -- "The best description of utter waste would be a busload of their lawyers going over a cliff with three empty seats." On winning and losing: Fielding Yost, coach, Michigan -- "Winning is not everything. Its the only thing." Duffy Daugherty, coach, Michigan State -- "When youre playing for the national championship, its not a matter of life and death. Its more important than that." Woody Hayes -- "When youre winning, you dont need friends. When youre losing, you dont have any." Reporter to John McKay, coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- "What about the Bucs execution?" McKay -- "Im in favor of it." Keeping shareholders happy: Lou Holtz, coach, Notre Dame -- "Remember, it takes a woman nine months to have a baby, no matter how many men you put on the job." Russ Francis, San Francisco 49ers tight end -- "Im getting tired of scraping vegetables off my car. And I didnt like it when they shaved my girlfriends head." Earl Bruce, coach, Ohio State -- "Thats why youre seeing more coaches go into the cattle business -- because cattle dont have alumni." Sal F. Marino is chairman emeritus of Penton Publishing Inc. and an IW contributing editor. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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