NFL Playbook to Corporate Culture

Pete CarrollAlthough there are variables to every industry and organization, employee engagement is largely contributed to social connections created throughout the workplace, which is an enormous driver to productivity. Healthy company culture creates higher employee retention, motivation, and commitment to the overall organization and its future.

Last year’s Superbowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, were by no means an overnight success. Head coach, Pete Carroll’s list of accomplishments come with controversy; however, it’s hard to not to take note especially since he’s won championships on both an NFL and NCAA level. Love him or hate him, his cutthroat management style can give us all a brief lesson on successful employee management and the importance of corporate culture.

Within Coach Carroll’s first year, he completely reorganized the Seahawks with 502 transactions. In a business perspective, these transactions take the form of layoffs, terminations and new hires. He was able to recognize that not only did poor performers need to be removed, but those who allowed an environment of poor performance needed to go as well. Reports have shown that poor performers have detrimental affects on productivity, because not only are they not upholding company standards, but they also influence coworkers with their bad habits. It’s difficult to implement massive organizational shakeups but, simply recognizing when cuts need to be implemented can be the determinant between creating a winning or losing team.

Unsurprisingly, decisions such as these are often difficult and unpopular. Last month, Percy Harvin, who contributed to the 2014 Superbowl win with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, was traded to the Jets. Although Harvin has had a lackluster performance this season, this mid-season trade still took many by surprise. It was later revealed the main objective behind the trade was due to Harvin’s anger management issues, which caused physical altercations with teammates and prevented him from fully fitting in with the team. Despite his contributions, the organization knew it was best to part ways.


Just as important as letting go weak links or those who are not a culture fit, retaining talent is also a vital contribution to an organization’s success. There’s no question that this is the reason why the highest salaries in the NFL are granted to quarterbacks who not only throw the most touchdowns, but also limit turnovers. Translating back to the business world, this shows that organizations must be able to recognize management achievement by rewarding and compensating accordingly. When managers are able to create a framework that creates great corporate culture, it not only creates durability for long-term success, but it opens the doors for new organizational opportunities.

How important do you think corporate culture is within the workplace?

Do you think strategies such as Coach Carroll’s are too drastic to apply to an organization whether big or small?

Do you see any other strategies organizations can borrow from the NFL?





9 thoughts on “NFL Playbook to Corporate Culture

  1. This post was well thought out and I enjoyed reading it. It was great how you linked football back to the workplace. Many people are not keen when it comes to restructuring the organization, believing at the end of the day it makes no difference, but by relating it to football we see the greater good of the company and how this one major change caused them to win the Superbowl. Coach Carroll’s mission was to eliminate those who did not contribute to the success of the team. If they physically did not contribute, their values were not aligned with the team which is why they were laid off. I think it was a bold move to fire so many people in a single year, but from this act we see that it caused the team to win the Superbowl. By hiring employees that shared his same drive and mission they became a great organization.I think this should be done for all organizations. There is no point in having people that do not share your same passion and drive, it only brings down the other members.

  2. As a sports management major this is a post I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I think corporate culture within the workplace is important and really agree with the whole post and can post many points this happened. One such time is during the 2001-2002 Oakland Raiders that went to the Super Bowl. In between the 01-02 seasons, owner Al Davis made the biggest mistake of his career by firing John Gruden. Gruden like Carroll’s coaching style was his cutthroat management style, if a player did not work hard, or accept less than 110% they were cut. But with the firing of Gruden in 2001, Gruden technically led 2 teams to the superbowl the previous year, his Oakland Raiders from the previous year and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers whom he won the superbowl with in 2002. As a season ticket holder during those year I understand the power of a great head coach and when it comes to these decisions I do not think this is enough. I think that there must be a pass fail on the NFL IQ test, at least for players wanting to come out of college early. Reason being that in that transition from college to the NFL most players do not become great players, but those who do are generally more intelligent players.

  3. Corporate culture is incredibly important within the workplace. If people do not follow the mission and values of your company, then nobody else will. This NFL example is great. Since Pete Carroll believes that corporate culture is so important within his organization, and one of his players, no matter how skilled he was, did not believe in that corporate culture, so he decided to let him go. I think it is a great example of how important values are within the workplace, especially one that makes as much money as the NFL. I think it is a great aspect and other teams should really follow the model of not only trying to win football games and be successful, but also maintain the values set forth by the coach. It is not just about winning games, and could easily be applied universally.

  4. Great post and timely, considering Percy Harvin was traded a matter of weeks ago. I think corporate culture is tremendously important. I have taken numerous accounting courses, one dealing with internal audit, which focused on corporate culture. Many of the examples we looked at (i.e. Enron, HealthSouth, etc…) had a poor track record in corporate culture, and the final results show this. Ultimately, the corporate culture is set by the tone at the top of the organization. It seems that Pete Carroll and the higher level execs of the Seahawks have set a good tone and back up their talk with actions. With the amount of bad publicity sports teams have gotten recently they could learn a lesson from Pete Carroll and the Seahawks.

  5. I really liked this post, it was interesting to compare the NFL to a corporation because we always here how, “it’s a business”. I did want to point out that Pete Carroll does not have championship-level wins on the NCAA and NFL level (2004 was stripped due to NCAA sanctions). However, disregarding his tenure with the Patriots, he has done very well so far in the NFL. Completely revamping their defense into, what might be, one of the best defenses we have ever seen. His QB, who is by no means overly talented, has an astounding record because of the system that was built by Carroll. So far, it reminds me of the Spurs in a sense. What’s even more interesting is where Jay Cutler would fall on that list. I’m curious, because I know he is paid to be near the top of the chart but I’m not sure where his DYAR is.

  6. I liked this post, rarely do you see a post (or article) that gets to the business management or team management side of the NFL. It seems more people are interested in watching games and complaining when their team loses rather than trying to figure out what really goes into making a good team. Company culture seems to be important as it gives a reference point to anyone new entering the organization or people looking to continue their work there. I would imagine that some companies do have strict standards and it may benefit them.

  7. Like other commentators have said, it’s interesting to think about the NFL as a business. Most of the times we see it as just a game that we watch for entertainment but in reality it is probably one of the most cut throat businesses in the world. I think corporate culture is important and just like other businesses it is important in the NFL. If a negative corporate culture is in place the effects could last generations. The NFL has had a history of domestic violence and only until recently have they addressed this issue. I believe that covering things up to to protect their image was in their culture but to their credit they are putting much effort into changing this.

  8. Pete Carroll’s approach was evidently game changing for the Seahawks organization; what I find really important to note is the trust the organization had in their new coach. I believe it’s important to create the right environment for a new leader to thrive, and with an eccentric man like Pete Carroll, giving him the opportunity to lead his team how he saw fit was the most important piece to the puzzle. This could transfer into the work place well if the owners of the organization look to shy away from stagnation; it’s a gutsy move but if you want change the organization has to commit 100% to a new way of doing business.

  9. If I have brain cancer, I don’t ask my dentist what I should do. If my car has a problem, I don’t seek help from a plumber! Why do you think the public car es what a football player thinks about politics? If we want to know about football, then depending on the information we seek, we might consult with you, but even a quarterback doesn’t seek advice on playing his position from a defensive tackle!

    You seem to have this over inflated view of yourselves, thinking because you enjoy working on such a large scale stage, that somehow your opinion about everything matters. The NFL realizes the importance of its “image” so it has rules that specify the clothes and insignia you can wear, the language you use, and your “antics” after a touchdown or other “great” play. But somehow you and your employer don’t seem to care that you disgrace the entire nation and its 320 million people in the eyes of the world by publicly disrespecting this country, its flag, and its anthem! The taxpaying citizens of this country subsidize your plush work environments, yet you choose to use those venues to openly offend those very citizens.

    Do you even understand what the flag of this country means to so many of its citizens before you choose to “take a knee” in protest of this “country” during our national anthem?

    You may think because you are paid so much that your job is tough, but you are clueless when it comes to tough. Let me show you those whose job is really tough:

    You are spoiled babies who stand around and have staff squirt GatorAid in your mouths, sit in front of misting cooling fans when it’s warm, and sit on heated benches when it’s cold. That’s not “tough” that’s pampered.

    You think that you deserve to be paid excessively high salaries, because you play a “dangerous” game where you can incur career ending injuries. Let me show you career ending injuries!

    You think you that you deserve immediate medical attention and the best medical facilities and doctors when injured. Let me show you what it’s like for those who really need and deserve medical attention.

    You think you have the right to disrespect the flag of the United States, the one our veterans fought for, risked limbs and mental stability to defend, in many cases died for. Let me show you what our flag means to them, their families, and their friends.

    You believe you are our heroes, when in reality you are nothing but overpaid entertainers, who exist solely for our enjoyment! Well, your current antics are neither entertaining nor enjoyable, but rather a disgrace to this country, its citizens, all our veterans and their families, and the sacrifices they have made to ensure this country remains free. You choose to openly disgrace this country in the eyes of the rest of the world, yet with all your money, still choose to live here rather than in any other country. People with even the slightest amount of “Class” will stand and respect our flag. Where does that put you? You want to see heroes… here are this countries heroes!

    Wife & Son at Vets Grave.jpeg

    Marine Presenting Flag to Young Son.jpeg

    You can protest policies, the current government, or anything else you choose, that is your right. But when you “protest” our flag and anthem, you are insulting the nation we all live in and love, and all those who have served, been injured, or died to keep it free. There is nothing you can do or say that can make your actions anything more than the arrogance of classless people, who care about themselves more than our country or the freedoms for which our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much, to ensure you have the “right” to speak freely. Our country is far from perfect, but if you can point to any other country where your freedom and opportunities are better than they are here, then you just might want to go there and show respect for their flag!

    If you respect America and all those who have sacrificed so much to keep her free, please forward this to your friends and relatives. Eventually, it should end up in the mailboxes of those who choose to disrespect our country, its service members, our veterans, their families, and all of us who appreciate the freedoms America represents.

    B Michael Walsh
    206-781-0188 home


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