I talk a lot about “team." Teams are fascinating and I absolutely love seeing well-oiled teams executing efficiently toward a common goal. Specifically, I’m talking about our team here at Shelby, but I examine teams in action wherever I see them, whether it’s at a startup, at a restaurant, or on the athletic field.
It is easy to pooh-pooh team dynamics in athletics, as it all seems so simple - "You’re on the same team. You all want to win. Just play.” but it is anything but that, particularly in the pros where big contracts and egos come into play.
One such team (that I’ve discussed before) is the New England Patriots. Sure, I’m from MA, so yes, I like the Patriots… but that’s not the only reason why. The more fascinating reason for me is the organization that Bill Belichick has built. Team first. No ego.
The most powerful example of that is today’s news about Tom Brady’s contract extension, in which he is accepting an offer for FAR less than he’s worth in order to free up cash to build a better, more competitive team for the long haul. (P.S. It’s the second time he’s done this).
In 2005, after his third Super Bowl title, Brady agreed to a six-year, $60 million deal, which at the time was dwarfed by Peyton Manning’s contract, which averaged $14.2 million a year. This year, clearly, he is doing exactly the same thing – in fact, giving the team even more of a hometown discount – with one goal in mind: to keep the Patriots competitive for the rest of his career. He’s putting his money where his mouth is. He knows it’s easy for him to make millions in endorsements. One teammate once said about Brady he would be such a sore loser he’d do whatever it took to never lose. At a time when the growing market for quarterbacks pegs the average per year at about $20 million – Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are there, and it’s likely Super Bowl champ Joe Flacco will be there soon – Brady’s average over the next six years will be consistently about 30 percent lower.
It’s a jaw-dropping move and I can’t help but relate it to startups when hiring. The analogy is simple. The “salary cap” is your runway and you only have so much wiggle room. Startup lore dictates that you must only hire “A” players and get them at any cost, thus blowing through your salary cap. The other option is to spread that cash out across a couple hires in the hopes that the sum of the parts is greater than the individuals.
The latter is what the Patriots have done. They pick up no-name players and groom them into the best team they can possibly be. (Hell, even Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick). Further, their individual stars believe in the organization, its mission and their future legacy so much, that they’re willing to take less cash for the betterment of the team and the potential for true greatness.
I’m obviously impressed by this and commend Brady for it. Of course, it’s easy to do when the difference in cash still leaves you a multi-millionaire with three Super Bowl rings and a supermodel wife, versus a Ramen-eating startup junkie, but still.
h/t to Alex Rainert for sharing the link.