By Tim Hayes
A few days ago, as the Chicago Bears prepared to play the Green Bay Packers, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, feeling his oats, felt compelled to share his perspective on the Packers, stating, “Good luck. Our speed guys are going to get around them and our big guys are going to throw and go.”
Good plan, Jay. What could possibly go wrong, after a statement like that?
By the end of the game, Cutler had been intercepted four times and suffered a classic beat-down shellacking. Afterward, Packers defensive back Charles Woodson had some pithy quotes of his own, saying, “Same old Jay. We don’t need luck — we just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball.”
Pardon me, Mr. Cutler, but I believe you have just been served.
They call those sorts of over-confident predictions in sports “bulletin board” items. Clips that players can see in the locker room as they prepare for their next opponent to serve as motivation.
Before the Pittsburgh Steelers went out to play their first Super Bowl at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans against the Minnesota Vikings in January 1975, a bulletin board was chock full of stories insulting and castigating the team, predicting their looming humiliation at the hands of the obviously superior Vikings. Steelers head coach Chuck Noll simply pointed to the board and said, “I think you’re a hell of a lot better than that.” Final score: Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6, and the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s was born.
That’s the risk of shooting off your pie-hole, making guarantees about things before they happen. It’s stupid, and there’s still no cure. For two years running, bombastic New York Jets coach Rex Ryan guaranteed at the start of the football season that his team would win the Super Bowl. Two years running! Hasn’t happened yet. If you’re a Jet, you’d better be Joe Namath if you plan on guaranteeing Super Bowl victories.
Steeler history unfortunately includes an instance of being on the stupid side of predictions, too. Late in the 2007 season, a 24-year-old defensive back named Anthony Smith jinxed it when he bleated, just prior to a game against the undefeated New England Patriots, that, “We’re going to win. Yeah, I guarantee a win on Sunday.” Really, now, Anthony. Imagine his surprise when, on the very Sunday in question, Tom Brady shredded Pittsburgh’s defense for 399 yards and burned Smith for two of his four touchdowns in a 34-13 pasting. “We’ve played against a lot better safeties than him, I’ll tell you,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Smith after the meltdown.
That one was especially egregious, since the Steelers organization has never encouraged that kind of inane braggadocio. As Noll used to say, “Act like you’ve been there before.”
In business, you’d better not promise results to your shareholders, lest the SEC come down on you with both boots. You can talk about trends and reasonably anticipated directions. But guarantees and promises? Nay, nay.
They say “If you can back it up, it ain’t bragging.” But it’s best to wait until you can indeed back it up. Until the outcome has been reached. And even then, take it easy. Because people have a way of remembering the dumb things you say. And there’s still no cure for stupid.
Copyright 2012 Tim Hayes Consulting