Lessons Learned from the Worst Play in NFL History

I recently came across a video where former Indianapolis Colts punter and current NFL analyst Pat McAfee describes how “The Worst Play in NFL History” came to be. Watch the play here, then listen to Pat McAfee give the backstory here. As a longtime football fan who watches as many games as his wife and kids will allow him to, I remember this play vividly. I, like the rest of the viewing public, was absolutely dumbfounded by what I had just seen. Everyone, myself included, thought that the play was desperate, ill-conceived, had zero chance of success, and that everyone involved should be fired.

After hearing the backstory behind the play, though, I was surprised by how relatable the reasons that play failed are to experiences I’ve had both in my personal and professional life. For those who didn’t watch the video (or didn’t understand the football lingo), here’s the gist of what happened:

  • Colts coaching staff comes up with trick play designed to catch the Patriots with too many players on the field, giving the Colts a free five yards
  • Right before the play happens, one Colts coach tells one Colts player to do something else
  • That one Colts player follows the instructions that were given to him, not realizing that his teammates have no idea what he’s doing
  • Miscommunication leads to the play being a total disaster for the Colts and a hilarious meme for everyone else
  • Everyone on the Colts is confused and points the finger at somebody else

Does this pattern sound familiar at all? I’m sure most of us have worked with organizations or on projects where communication breakdowns took place. The results aren’t always disastrous or meme-worthy, but they are usually less than ideal. Even if the results of the project turn out well or the company is successful, regular miscommunication will lead to confusion and frustration for team members, which could lead to other problems down the road.

So what should we do after the communication breakdown happens? The best way to fix bad communication is with good communication. The team leader should gather information from everyone involved to figure out where the confusion originated and how to streamline communication in the future so that everyone is on the same page. If finger-pointing and blame-shifting is the only outcome, be prepared for a lot more disasters.

+Tim Peters is a consultant with Morrison, providing business valuations, business planning (including budgeting, cash flow forecasting, strategic planning), feasibility studies, interim controller services, recruitment, and special projects that don't fit into any conventional category.  You can contact Tim directly at tpeters@morrisonco.net or via telephone at 530-893-4764 ext. 208.

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