The following post is a summary of an article written by Beaumont Vance in Risk Management Reports (February 2008) where he drew comparisons between the role of the Left Tackle (described in Michael Lewis’s book The Blind Side) and the future of risk professionals. All portions from Vance’s article are in italics.
Up until the 1970’s, the men who protected the quarterback (called linemen) were considered to be of little importance. Since they never handled the ball and never scored any points, they were paid very little. The general thinking back then was that one needed only find a very large strong man to pound the daylights out of anyone approaching the quarterback and that such men while not exactly common, were not rare enough to merit a high salary.
Now think of the football team in corporate terms. You had the quarterback who was like a CEO calling the plays. You had people who carried the ball who could actually score; they were like sales people. Then you had the big lugs who pushed people around the field; they were like operational people. The Scoring personnel were white-collar professionals and the linemen were the blue-collar line workers.
Anyone working in risk management knows that people who produce income, such as salespeople, get an inordinate share of the rewards and glory. This is true in football as well. The guy who scores the points is the star and gets paid the big bucks. Never mind that he could never succeed without a small army of support people. To the producers goes the spoils. The people doing the manual labor are overlooked.
From a business perspective, the loss of a quarterback is a catastrophic financial loss. And like these corporate catastrophes, the loss of the quarterback was the result of a new type of threat that had never before been seriously considered.
Things all changed on November 18, 1995 when NY Giants linebacker Lawrence Talyor ended the career of Washington Redskins’ quarterback Joe Theismann by snapping his leg while breaking his tibia and fibula. The lineman (Left Tackle), charged with protecting the quarterback from Taylor, was out with an injury. The back up did not do a very good job protecting his quarterback.
After this infamous football game, those who managed the staffing and strategy of professional football may well have come to the conclusion that protecting the quarterback was necessary (obvious in retrospect, but then so is every game-changing catastrophe.) More to the point of this article, they decided that those players protecting the team’s chief asset were very important indeed. They took a new look at the large men in charge of protecting the quarterback. These players were talented, to be sure; however, they were paid very little money and were treated as third class citizens. That all changed.
The corporate management of professional football began to look for the very best talent to protect its on-field CEO’s. They soon discovered that very large, very strong, very fast men were not abundant. Soon, they were paying these behemoths salaries in excess of the quarterback’s. In fact, one lineman had a clause in his contract specifically guaranteeing that he would always be paid more than the quarterback.
Vance goes on to explain that he believe the time will come when the chief risk officers will be paid more than the CEOs and like football, once the quarterback is well protected then the rest of the team can concentrate on executing their plans.
We can only hope this is true.