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What if Your Favorite NFL Team Chose Players Like Most Hospitals Choose Physicians?

December 17, 2015



In football-crazy Pittsburgh, the Steelers’ season never ends but it kicks into high gear with the annual NFL draft. A year’s worth of scouting and data analysis culminate in three days where the team drafts seven or so college players in the hope that 1 or 2 have long term success. Fortunately for us, the Steelers have, over the years done a pretty solid job picking talent. (Unlike the Cleveland Browns who we love to make fun of!)

Let’s compare the Steelers to a typical hospital: The business models and salary structures aren’t that different. The bulk of the Steelers’ salary costs are tied up in 45 employees and even among those, a select handful account for much of it. A hospital has more employees, but employed physicians, some of them highly paid specialists, make up a substantial portion of the salary costs. In both cases, the highly paid talent generate the revenue. The players put fans in the seats and are the reason for the TV contracts. The physicians provide the high revenue services.describe the image

How do you think rabid Steeler fans would react to the following NFL draft strategy?

  1. A current player tells Head Coach Mike Tomlin, “Hey – I know a linebacker I played with in college who would love to play here.”
  2. The front office flies the candidate to Pittsburgh, shows him around, introduces him to the coaching staff and asks, “So, tell me about yourself and what kind of football shoes you like to wear?” (That’s the interview).
  3. The candidate seems nice enough – presentable, articulate, and looks like a football player.
  4. The front office calls the college coach to confirm that the guy played there.
  5. No review of his college game film. Never have him run a 40 yard dash, do a push up or do any drills. Never quiz him on football knowledge.
  6. Draft him and pay him a base salary of $750,000.

Would you be surprised to find out that he doesn’t really like to practice and when he does, he shows up late. He shows up for training camp out of shape, doesn’t really like “team sports” or work well with others, is slower than your largest offensive lineman and really always wanted to play wide receiver so he doesn’t want to play defense (which may be good because he couldn’t tackle a 5th grader).

Sound absurd? The coach and general manager would not survive this debacle. Not in Pittsburgh, that’s for sure. It’s not a stretch, however, to say that we just described the physician “selection” process. Yet we are surprised when employed physicians underperform, display disruptive behavior, or tell you in their second year that this wasn’t what they expected.

It’s really time to re-think this approach. There is too much on the line. What’s your draft strategy?


Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.