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What Tom Brady's Patriots Exit Teaches Us About the Value of Teamwork

As New England's iconic ex-QB heads elsewhere, it focuses attention on the valuable role players that are the backbone of all organizations.

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It’s no secret the most talked-about figure in sports this week has been former New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The first-ballot Hall of Famer announced via social media he would be leaving the franchise he helped rejuvenate and lead to six Super Bowl wins over the course of two decades. 

Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

Getting less buzz, however, are two relative journeymen QBs who’ve not only managed to stay in the league (a feat in itself, considering the average NFL career is just over three years), but are also cashing in by being good teammates — and teachers.

Case Keenum, previously with the Washington Redskins, signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Cleveland Browns to back up Baker Mayfield. Chase Daniel, previously with the Chicago Bears, signed a three-year, $13-plus million deal with the Detroit Lions to back up Matt Stafford. Here’s a breakdown of the value they bring, Super Bowl titles or no, and the lessons therein that you can apply to your own career.

Related: What Tom Brady Can Teach Entrepreneurs

Sacrificing Ego

On game day, both Keenum and Daniel know there’s a good chance they’ll be on the sideline, either sitting on the bench or standing near the head coach with a clipboard in hand. Both of them were signed not because of how fast they can run or how far they can throw, but because of the value they bring Monday through Saturday by helping the starter get ready.

Everyone who plays in the NFL wants to be on the field, but great backups know it’s their job to prepare the starter for any and all situations. Ego and pride run rampant throughout the league (as they can in business), and it gets a lot of players kicked off teams.

In your current role, whether you’re an entrepreneur, an employee or a manager, try to keep value ahead of visibility. What is it you bring to the team that keeps your business moving downfield? It might be something you consider small, like setting up a meeting or proofreading a document, but it’s important. There’s value in it — and you.

Mastering Your Job Description

When backups like Keenum and Daniel are signed by teams, coaches expect mostly three things:

  • An experienced veteran who can act as a sounding board for the starter.
  •  A decent locker room guy who can impart wisdom in different scenarios.
  •  A capable option if the starter goes down who can step in and keep the team competitive.

Notice those three adjectives: experienced, decent and capable. A head coach is happy when a backup meets those expectations. So much of our career trajectory is focused on moving up that we forget to master the title we currently hold.

In your own job, it’s important to review your job description once every three to four months. See what you’re doing consistently, and assess areas where you can step things up. This isn’t new information to any of us, but chances are you’ll have longevity by simply being experienced, decent and capable.

Related: How Michael Took Control of His Post-Football Career

Embracing Being on the Field (Even If You’re Not in the Game)

Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young was the backup to Joe Montana for four seasons on the San Francisco 49ers. His frustration of not getting on the field shifted when, as he outlines in his autobiography, he happened to sit next to Stephen Covey, author of the famous The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, on a chance plane ride.

As Young was lamenting his current situation to Covey, focusing on the cons rather than pros, the author stopped the quarterback in his tracks with some poignant questions: “Wait a second, is this the best team in the league?” “Do you play for the best coach?” “Is Joe Montana around you all the time?" "Can you ask him questions?” 

Young answered yes to all four. He would go on to a Hall of Fame career.

There’s a good chance neither Case Keenum nor Chase Daniel will make it to Canton, but they’ve done enough to keep themselves valuable and employable. If you want to stick around at your place of work, sacrifice your ego, master your job description and embrace being on the field. There’s always a chance you might get called into a big game. 


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