Learning lessons from sports isn’t just a cliché. Professional sports are just a business and we can look to it for examples and teachings, specifically when it comes to leadership lessons and team building. I grew up a Philadelphia Eagles fan — frustrated, tormented, but “bleeding green” for a team that always seemed to capture the soul of Philly — hard-working, hard-hitting, but never quite getting to the top despite having years of teams that were the best in the league (the McNabb years). In 2018 the Eagles finally reached the pinnacle and won the Super Bowl and each year since I’ve lost more and more interest in the team that I spent the better part of the last 4 decades supporting.
How did this team lose me as a fan after they finally won? Here’s how it unfolded for me. With the signing of stars like Joel Embid and Bryce Harper, there was a golden opportunity for Philadelphia sports to rise to the top and emerge from the shadows of other cities the way its culinary scene had in the past decade. But, no, that’s not what happened.
The Eagles management mistakes will be a case study for years to come in business school. When ego and a complete lack of emotional intelligence are combined at the top levels, the results are the only Super Bowl-winning coach to be let go in less than 3 years, losing records and a debacle of a trade to “get rid of” the quarterback that was drafted and believed to be the future of the franchise.
Egos can and should ride high after wins, but real winners find a way to not let winners’ confidence become overconfidence. This must come from the top down. Sitting on their Jeffrey (Laurie) Laurels — the Eagles didn’t make moves to get better after their first Super Bowl win. They erected statutes of a backup quarterback and had parades. Philly has re-lived the championship over and over — do the Patriots or other organizations that have won more than once do this? No, they act like they’ve been there before and move on as professionals knowing there’s still work to do.
No matter your belief in Carson Wentz’s abilities, the handling of the situation demonstrated a complete lack of emotional intelligence by the organization’s front office. A team without leadership that can display empathy and has self-awareness is destined for failure. It shows in the absence of motivation and poor play across the board. When the Eagles gave up on the final game of the season to move up in the draft, it was pitiful. Trading up to take Wentz, giving him a huge contract then drafting Jalen Hurts, eventually trading him for very little value and the largest negative cap hit in history will likely spin the organization further into the doldrums.
Until there are some real changes in the way the organization is run, I’m done. Fans invest time and energy and real money to support their team — for many — it’s their biggest entertainment expense. The organization should give that same commitment back to its fans. No one expects to win the Super Bowl every year (unless you have Tom Brady at the helm), but we expect that our team will be in the best position to win games and anything can happen on any given Sunday, it’s why we watch.
Run your organization with empathy and kindness and drop the ego.
This organization is literally for the birds.