Yesterday, Bbobely asked the question: “Why would anyone be offended by a sales pitch?” Bbobely is a frequent visitor and commenter on this site and deserves an answer on that basis alone. The short version of the answer is “Bill Walsh.” For the longer version, you’ll have to Read More.
Back in the late 1970’s, Bill Walsh inherited a SF 49ers organization that was dysfunctional at every level. He talked about a trade the team made (prior to Walsh’s arrival) to get OJ Simpson late in his career, how they got this overweight, aging over-the-hill runner who had arthritis, rode the bench, and cost the team a 1, 2, 2, 3 and 4th round draft choice. HOLY CR*POLA Batman! (Rule #10 strikes again.)
But beyond the team’s “paper thin talent level,” Walsh noted the “substandard headquarters and training facility.” Morale was low, a culture of failure was evident in the staff, and Walsh set out to turn things around brick by brick, person by person. (He didn’t even have all his draft choices because of the Simpson deal, so he knew it was going to take time.)
Walsh: “To put it bluntly, I would teach each person in the organization what to do and how to think. The short term results would contribute both symbolically and functionally to a new and productive self-image and environment and become the foundation upon which we would launch our longer term goal, namely, the resurrection of a football franchise.”
Walsh went on to explain that leadership meant a “philosophy that has as much to do with core values, principles and ideals as with blocking, tackling and passing… Great teams in business, in sports, or elsewhere have a conscience. At its best, an organization bespeaks values and a way of doing things that ultimately are characteristics of your team.”
Walsh called this his Standard of Performance. He specifically discussed how important it was to have everyone adhere to this, from the secretary to the players. He talked about nurturing an “organizational conscience with this very high internal code of ethics, ideals and attitudes.
“My Standard of Performance applied to marketing, office personnel, and everyone else with the details applicable to their jobs.” Anything that carried the emblem of the 49ers was ordered to have the same respect and professional appearance. Scouts and first year players, who traditionally had less respect, were given as much respect as anyone else in the organization. And here is the most important part- Walsh said that from the start, the prime directive and number one goal of the organization was not to win but to adhere to the Standard of Performance.
It may seem tangential and unrelated, that a sales pitch has ANYTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the health of a football organization. But after rereading these passages from The Score Takes Care of Itself, I am more convinced than ever that in many ways it has EVERYTHING to do with winning on the field.