How Bad Teams Become Great – Part 1

In November 2009 I wrote two posts on Why Good Teams Go Bad ( which was a study of NFL ( teams that were 13-3 or better one year and experienced a losing record the next.

What was interesting was that three of those teams had losing records prior to the one great year.  In other words – a bad season, then a great season, then back to a bad season.  I had to find out what these teams had in common that contributed to their performance spike.

Understanding the commonalities of these teams was extremely important.  If we can extract those principles that enhance performance and apply them to our individual settings, then perhaps our underachieving team can experience the same level of significant improvement.

In Part 1 of this two-part series, we will simply identify the success links.  Part 2 will focus on the applications to our church, team, business, or organization.

The three teams analyzed were

  • 1998 NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons
  • 2001 Chicago Bears
  • 2006 Baltimore Ravens

The common threads that these teams shared were the following:

  1. Experienced Leadership – No team had a rookie Head Coach.  Dan Reeves was in his 2nd year in Atlanta, Dick Jauron was in his 3rd year in Chicago, and Brian Billick was in his 8th year at Baltimore.
  2. Stable Assistant Coaches – Each team had continuity in the Defensive Coordinator position.  Rich Brooks was in his 2nd year in Atlanta, Greg Blache was in his 3rd year in Chicago, and current New York Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan ( was in his 2nd season as Defensive Coordinator and 8th year overall with the Ravens.
  3. Experienced Quarterback – Each team had a quarterback in his 30s.  Another interesting similarity is that this was the second team for each player.  33-yr old Chris Chandler (formerly of Indianapolis) led the Falcons, 30-yr old Jim Miller (formerly of Pittsburgh) led Chicago, and recently acquired 33-yr old Steve McNair from the Tennessee Titans led Baltimore.
  4. NFL DraftEach team drafted an impact rookie in that year’s draft.  Keith Brooking of Georgia Tech (12th pick in ’98), Anthony Thomas (38th pick in ’01) rushed for 1.183 yards, and Haloti Ngata (12th pick in ’06) all played key roles for their respective teams.
  5. Fundamentals Each team had a very high Turnover Ratio.  The Falcons (+20, 1st in the NFL), Bears (+13, 4th), and Ravens (+17, 1st) all did the fundamentals necessary to have great years.  
  6. Key Veteran Defensive Acquisitions – The Atlanta Falcons added Safety Eugene Robinson.  The Bears added Safety R.W. McQuarters and in addition to trading a 4th round pick to acquire McNair, the Ravens also added Defensive End Trevor Price.

In Part 2 we will breakdown what the six success links mean to your organization.  Also, using this as a template, I will tell you which NFL team is best positioned to see a performance spike this upcoming season.

To help remind you of some of the people mentioned above and whet your appetite for the upcoming football season, enjoy the following entertaining comments from Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan.


About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

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