Last Wednesday, I was having lunch with a client and his partner who are in wealth management for several athletes across all the major sports. I’d met my friend’s partner before, but this was the first time we really had to talk, and I found out he had roots in Cleveland.
I told him the only time I’d been to old Municipal Stadium, a place where the Browns really had a home-field advantage, was sometime in the 90s, when Bill Belichick was the head coach. I remember that game because it was a dreary day in Cleveland between two really bad teams, the Browns and the Saints, neither of whom seemed to have any clue about how to run an offense. “It’s Bill Beli-choke against Jim Moron,” I remember my friend, Ryan, saying of the Belichick-Mora head coaching match-up that day.
I mentioned, while looking over the menu, that people forget that Belichick wasn’t nearly the ‘genius’ he’s considered to be today back then, when he was coaching the woeful Browns. “Here we go,” said my friend with a wry smile, knowing I’d struck a chord with his partner.
It became somewhat of a ‘soapbox’ moment. He discussed his belief that Belichick was one of the main reasons Cleveland lost the Browns, then had to reassemble the team as an expansion franchise. “The team wasn’t good enough to have a guy like Belichick, who didn’t get along with the media, as the face of the franchise,” he said.
I had to admit he was right, though I’d never thought about it that way. The strain between the team and the fans only worsened when owner Art Modell made it clear he wanted a new stadium, and soon it became inevitable that the team would leave.
If Belichick hadn’t gotten a second chance in the game, history would remember him as the guy who lost a lot and showed up to his press conferences wearing a rumpled hoodie and a frown. But he did get a second chance, applied the lessons about defense he’d learned at the knee of Bill Parcells, made the right decision about his quarterback, and the rest is a different kind of history. The key is that Belichick learned from that experience, sticking to his guns on the things he knew still worked, but improving.
This lesson is especially poignant to me this week after so many would-be NFL contract advisors found out about a week ago that they’d failed the agent exam. This year, the NFLPA chose to change up their exam quite a bit, and also made some other choices that lead to my view — admittedly based on anecdotal evidence — that this year’s agent class will be down significantly from the usual 150-200 that pass the test. We won’t know for sure until the new class is posted on the NFLPA website in late October or November.
Maybe you’ve suffered some other setbacks as you’ve attempted to build a place in the football world for yourself. The key, I feel, is to not think of yourself as a bum, or washed-up, or whatever, if you fail, especially if it’s a very public, very embarrassing failure. History will only remember your success, so keep on fighting. You may one day be considered a ‘genius,’ like Norman Einstein.