Why do Sports Teams Insist on Rewarding Failure

I can't think of another "industry" that rewards failure as much as sports does. The most recent, flagrant example is the Cleveland Browns hiring of erstwhile NY Jets Coach Eric Mangini and awarding him a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract. What is Browns' ownership thinking? More to the point, how do I score an ounce of whatever it is they're smoking?

Mangini failed miserably in his three years with the Jets. Sure, he started off well and was called "Mangenius" for a brief, shining moment. But, last season was a disaster and this year proved that he was simply a poor manager and motivator of talent. And, yet, the guy is richly rewarded by another team. 82e35853-9321-4f78-a701-1a27e454032d.widec

Is the coaching pool so bereft of talent that abject failures like Mangini immediately land on their feet? It must be, because this pattern has been occurring as long as I've been following sports and certainly isn't limited solely to football.

What does it say about an organization's image and reputation when it hires a new top dog who just got canned for poor performance by a competitor? Could you imagine a Fortune 500 company doing something similar……."ABC, Inc., Names Jeff Skilling CEO; Failed Ex-Enron Chief to Assume New Post As Soon As Incarceration Ends." Gimme a break.

The Mangini news has to make rooters puzzled, if not angry. But, here's the stark reality: Browns fans will buy into whatever hype the team's marketing machine spits out, Mangini will coach for a few losing seasons and some other failure will replace him down the road. And so on and so forth.

Oh well, pitchers and catchers report in a few weeks' time and hope springs eternal for this particular blogger.

8 thoughts on “Why do Sports Teams Insist on Rewarding Failure

  1. Interesting perspective, David. It helps to hear from a Browns fan’s perspective. That said, I don’t think you could possibly feel our pain and frustration with Mangini. He lost control of an extremely talented group of players at the exact moment strong leadership was demanded. He’ll be working with less talent in Cleveland. For your sake, I hope we’re wrong. But, I predict a spate of 4-12 seasons for the Mangini Browns.

  2. I can think of another industry: it’s called American business, where execs (still) win if they lose and win big if they win.

  3. David,
    You can’t be serious. If you think Mangini is qualified consider this. He was 23-25 in three full seasons. Even if you take away the 1-3 mark over the last four games when “Favre faltered” he still would be 22-22. Not a pretty picture.
    You state that he had two winning seasons. Big deal. When Mangini was hired in 2006, he inherited a team that was 4-12. Keep in mind that the NFL created parity so that losing teams play weaker schedules the following season. And voila! In his rookie season, the Jets went 10-6 and made the playoffs only to be blasted by New England in the first game, 37-16. Yeah, the Jets made the playoffs and showed marked improvment.
    So now that they were 10-6 in 2006 they obviously get a tougher schedule in 2007. But keep in mind, Daniel, this is a playoff team from 2006. Well, the Jets under Mangini go 1-8 to open the season and turn in another disappointing season going 4-12.
    Now, we replay the scenario above about getting a weaker schedule. They go 8-3 to open the season this year, folks are talking about Super Bowl and they fell flat on their face. They went out and spent money in free agency with Favre, Faneca, etc. and still collapsed.
    Now Mangini will inherit another 4-12 team with your Brownies. Let’s see what he does here. He may win with a weak schedule but let’s see what he does against the Steelers and Ravens. Good luck!

  4. As a Browns fan, I think you all are being a little hard on Lerner. Mangini wasn’t my first choice(I wanted Holmgren or Shanahan, but they weren’t interested), but he certainly wasn’t far down my list. You have to understand that since the Browns came back in 1999, we haven’t hired a coach with previous NFL head coaching experience. We’ve tried the “hot” coordinator route (Chris Palmer, Romeo Crennel) and the “upcoming” college coach (Butch Davis), both with miserable results.
    History has shown that many coaches are most successful in their 2nd HC job (see Belichick, Bill). Mangini did have 2 winning seasons in three years, and was partially sabotaged this season by Brett Favre’s miserable 2nd half. He has shown signs of promise on the big stage, which is something that can’t be said for Steve Spagnuolo or Jim Schwartz. It’s also not like he went out and signed Rod Marinelli which is probably a better fit for your Jeff Skilling reference.
    Lerner has a particular philosophy about the coach/GM relationship and decided that bringing in the coach first was the way to go. His opinion is that it is the GM’s job to bring in players who will best fit into the head coach’s system. He doesn’t see the GM as the most important person in the organization. I guess it remains to be seen whether this was the right approach, but I think you’re overreacting.

  5. I agree with Greg. I dont know how they hired the coach first before the GM but to me, that is a recipe for disaster because you are undermining the GM even before he is hired.

  6. What’s mind-boggling is how the owner makes one round of interviews and picks a coach. What happened to his interest in hiring a general manager of VP of football operations first? Mangini is not a high profile coach that the owner has to worry about losing him to another franchise. And what happened to the NFL’s policy of at least interviewing minority coaches for the position. Mangini is not a household name other than having been a ballboy with the team, which was his entree into the NFL. He only lasted three seasons with the Jets and had a 23-25 record. Yet, Lerner will be a “learner” when Mangini doesn’t do anybody than his predecessor. Maybe he’ll take Brett Favre with him.