Survivorship Bias & Judging The 2021 NFL Rookie Class After The Fact

NFL Draft is this week. Seven rounds where each of the league’s 32 teams will see how well their talent evaluation processes work as they create a few dozen instant millionaires. The drafted, selected from the ranks of college football, still must prove their worth, as the 254 total players who will have their rights owned by a particular team for the next three years still has to make a roster of 53, with the bulk of the 53 assuming they are still on those rosters not in a hurry to give up their spot.

But the draft is not perfect. Many teams rely on ‘sleeper’ to emerge that are picked up late in the process but end up outshining first-round picks in actual performance. Tom Brady’s status as the greatest quarterback of all time was not predestined, as he was considering being an insurance agent before finally being selected by the New England Patriots with the 199 pick in the 2000 draft. He also had to be ready to take over in an instant when an injury to starter Drew Bledsoe meant he had to take the field and the tenacity to make sure he stayed on the field when Bledsoe eventually healed.

But the biggest fear is for a team to pick a player who turns out to be a bust when another player who turns out to be a boon was still in the pool. Here are five examples from the past 20 seasons.

  • The Philadelphia Eagles traded up 15 spots to take defensive end Jerome McDougle with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2003 draft. At No. 16, the Steelers selected safety Troy Polamalu, who spent his entire 12-year Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh and was one of the more dominant players of his day.
  • The Oakland Raiders hoped they were getting someone who could man left tackle for them for the foreseeable future when they picked Robert Gallery as the No. 2 overall pick in 2004. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was picked No. 3 overall by the Arizona Cardinals and was one of the more dependable and durable wide receivers of his era.
  • Two years later, the Raiders took cornerback Fabian Washington one pick before quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who went to Green Bay. Washington played just three seasons with the Raiders before going elsewhere, while Rodgers would have been playing backup to Rich Gannon and ready to take over after he announced his retirement instead of Kerry Collins
  • Three years after that, the Raiders made what is considered one of the greatest busts in NFL history. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell was the number 1 overall draft pick of his class, but his performance highlights were all from pre-draft day. Number two that year went to the Detroit Lion, who selected Calvin Johnson, who is considered one of the greatest wide receivers of his era and is a recent inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
  • Later in the 2007 draft, defensive end Adam Carriker was selected number 13 by the St. Louis Rams, ending with what most consider a modest seven-year NFL career. What makes this pick a bust was the man selected next by the New York Jets, legendary cornerback Darrelle Revis, who spent 11 years in the league, was named to the Pro Bowl seven times and was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection.

But remember, hindsight is 50/50. None of these players I highlight were a given to perform extraordinary or terrible and were always one fluke play away from greatness or disaster. Looking back at the career of a stellar athlete and comparing it to a flameout is a classic example of survivorship bias. There is a false conclusion on just how good or bad they are based on the actual circumstances as history recorded them.

Bledsoe’s injury is a fine example of this. If he does not get hurt, Brady may not get a chance to start for the Patriots in 2001, probably does get a chance to play at 20-plus seasons of football, and unlikely to get a shot at being the oldest quarterback to appear and win a championship in Super Bowl LV.

Survivorship bias is seen frequently as we attempt to evaluate business success. Unless due to some catastrophic or extremely quirky failure, we quickly forget a company that is no longer operating when gauging the success of others. So, the companies that thrive seem to have done everything right when very few ventures statically succeed. Most in the current business span do not even look to win, but just to be bought out and purposely forgotten. There are more Mr. Irrelevant style businesses that no one expects much out of, so they quickly forget those top-round companies that flame out spectacularly.

The Raiders did not draft Larry Fitzgerald in 2004 because they did not see a need for a top wide receiver for pick number 2. Chances are since they did not seem to need him, they probably would not have much use for him, and his proficiency would not have been showcased. The same can be said for the pick of JaMarcus Russell, as the Raiders we in serious need of a quarterback of the future, not having someone to throw the ball to Calvin Johnson.

Please do not get fooled by the businesses and people running them that you see as successful because you never really get to examine the failed ones, or even the ones doing fine but operating totally on stealth.

I personally thing the bigest draft busts are in the NBA

Portland Trail Blazers taking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in 2007, and previously in 1984 selecting Sam Bowie Michael Jordan. In 1983 they drafted Clyde Drexler and in 2007 Oden was seen as a bet that if paid off would have been huge. But what we know now, we know now.

Who do you want your NFL team to take off the board in this week’s draft? This could be a real debate. Email me at, and we’ll talk.

Your Coworkers Are Not Your Friends

If there is one lesson you need to understand immediately as you enter the workforce, it is this: your coworkers are not your friends.

It would be best if you always were cordial and friendly with your coworkers, and you can make friends with the people you see daily at work. But the blanket statement is always at play when it comes to any possible office-related issues. Your coworkers are not your friends.

What does that mean? Much of the non-friendship relations comes from just how much you know about the people at work. Over time, you will find pockets of conversation that will flesh out your coworkers to real people, but some subjects can open up potential trapdoors for you to fall in when you are least expecting.

Unless they are legitimately your friends, then you can talk about anything you feel like if you take that conversation out and away from the office.

We already don’t talk about general politics and religion with strangers to be civil in the current state of affairs. When we get to discussions between coworkers, an extreme taboo is to go deep into talk about money. This means not talking about your salary, not talking about your debt, and not talking about your savings. And while it makes for interesting conversation, limit your talk of the high-cost hobbies and how much you spend on them.

Limit your talk about your relationships. This can be a trigger of stress for people who do not share your good fortune or a source of chatter for those who deem themselves more fortunate for whatever reason.

Don’t talk about people’s drama, even if the company culture is all about gossip and rumors. While this may not get you invited into many of the side chats that turn out to be where all the inside knowledge comes from, your reputation for staying out of the muck will get you invited to more of the quiet conversations where real ideas are shared, and real decisions are made.

And should you feel the urge to get extra friendly with a coworker, as a manager, peer, or subordinate, understand the rules about personal relationships at your office. This goes beyond simply hanging out after hours into dating and possibly mating relationships. HR should have a policy in place for fraternization among people of different rank and standing, mostly to protect the company from shenanigans, but hopefully as real guidance to protect all involved should a relationship sour or blossom, leading to a needed change in office structure. As far as peers go, this will, in most cases, be unwritten rules of engagement beyond the general policies for harassment and discrimination.

The important takeaway is that you have to be vigilant with this. You may work in a fun and creative workspace, but it is not a club or playground. Your coworkers are not your friends and probably wouldn’t be there with you if offered a more fun place to be in exchange. And the friends you do make at work come with some trade-offs that are usually worth it. Until they are not.

Do you think you can afford to be friendly with coworkers? Please email me at and give your take.

Calm The F*** Down

Life is not all that complicated. It is as simple as following a path of simple action.

If you can breathe, have the power of movement and speech, and a few dollars to spend on a sandwich and a car note, life is a simple game to master.

Unfortunately, it is not such an easy game to win. Mostly, it is tough to determine the parameters of a win, and when we do, we cannot translate those parameters to other people to agree with.

And the worse person we have to convince, and rarely succeed in doing, is ourselves.

The simple assertion of ‘the scoreboard tells the tale’ does not often work. There are too many nuances in a true masterpiece of work and a minor eeking of passing.

The one universal factor is that life is not supposed to be all that complicated, and if you are living an overly complex life, you need to calm the f*** down.

Is the language of the last paragraph a little too harsh? Please email me at and send me your reprimands.

The Flat Tire Analogy

This is an analogy I worked up a few years ago, and it is still not perfect. If you would like to help, please feel free to send your feedback. 

A few years back, I was called in to intervene in an emergency. The exact details about the incident easily tell a story and teach a lesson. Still, because I am a ‘personal development so-and-so’ with a need to collect these types of stories, this seemingly doomed analogy was loosely formed from the situation.

The analogy goes like this: you head outside, intent on hopping in your car and driving off somewhere. And when you get outside and to your car, you find that you have a flat tire. A very visible and obvious flat tire.

If I were to ask you what the first thing is you would do when faced with this situation, I should be almost guaranteed that your answer will not be: get in the car, put the key in the ignition, start the car and drive away.

You could choose to open the trunk to get your spare tire. You could choose to get on your phone and call a cab, and maybe even call a person you were supposed to meet at a specific time and let them know you will be delayed. You could choose to stand there and cry. You cannot choose to get in the car, put the key in the ignition, start the car, and drive away.

Okay, that is not true. You can just as easily get in the car, put the key in the ignition, and start the car. There is no impediment to that procedure. And you could always attempt to drive away, although it would be difficult to go very far, very fast, or very comfortably on a flat tire. But it is not impossible. It just happens to be a horrible idea that is guaranteed to make the issue worse.

That was the situation I walked into. A client arrived and needed to progress on a project with the standard setup to get things done unavailable. And was going to remain that way for the 20 minutes that he had to operate in. And he had no choice but to operate in that 20 minutes.

He called up for the standard procedures, and no one could provide it for him. I walked in, he called for standard procedure, and there was no way I could offer it. After taking control of the situation, I offered him an alternative. Only one alternative, which at this point, was the only way we could have done anything.

To my relief, my actual relief came in to attempt to get things back on the path to normal. Well after the 20 minutes of the allotted time I had to try to incorporate a fix.

Back to bad analogies: life will offer you plenty of curves that will try to throw you off your path, and some will be successful at the moment. The way to act in those moments is to accept that what you intend to happen can not be willed into existence. Accept it, deal with it, and move on from that moment.

So, how bad was my analogy? Email and let me know, good or bad. 

Commentary Is Easy. Governing Is Hard.

Commentary is easy. Governing is hard.

Headphones on Sound Mixer In Professional Radio Studio

And it gets harder when the people who do commentary act like ordinary citizens who need their representatives to govern, not just as a source of content.

Because people who do commentary have a louder voice and the ability to hold people feet to the fire.

But regardless of how much work the commentariat (a real word) works to establish itself as doing the will of the people my yelling and screaming at those elected to do the will of the people, it’s the elected officials that must make the hard choices and deal with the consequences of being wrong.

Commentary relies on the public having extremely short-term memories.

Governing relies on decisions made now that do not bring much of a determent to the future. At least not a long-lasting one.

Agree? Disagree? Email me at, and we can discuss.