Professional sports teams love nothing more than to boast about going after players of character.
Of course, it’s funny how often those desires take a back seat to talent that could help to win games. But as a potential tiebreaker, sure, it makes sense to go with the player you think is the better overall human being, or whose character you think could help in the locker room or on the field of play. The problem, of course, is how do you possibly quantify such traits?
The Colts are trying to do that by hiring a former Army colonel who created methodology designed to improve Green Beret admissions:
It’s a fascinating move by Chris Ballard, the Colts’ first-year general manager, to reshape Indy’s personnel department and comes 10 days after he dismissed some staffers.
(Retired Army Lt. Col. Brian) Decker, who led several successful missions in Iraq, effectively reinvented the process for selecting Green Berets. He turned an outdated system based on who survived three brutal weeks of training into a data-driven model that amassed 1,200 predictive data points, from peak physical performance to psychometrics, the science of measuring mental processes.
His system was calibrated to detect intangible leadership characteristics in order to find soldiers who weren’t satisfied merely with becoming Green Berets, but who wanted to become great Green Berets.
The NFL also loves to mix in military-style anything, so this perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise. There’s also ready-made irony in the Colts, a team owned by drug-busted Jim Irsay, deciding that character is so important. (I’d honestly forgotten he had nearly $30,000 in cash on him during that arrest. What a detail.)
No one is saying that teams shouldn’t aim for high-character players. But the idea that such a thing is quantifiable in any real, tangible way seems a stretch. And even then, if a team has a chance to put themselves over the top by taking on a talent with a lurid past, even the most respected front offices have demonstrated a willingness to make such a move.
In fact, often, teams will justify bringing in those players by pointing to their established clubhouse or locker room culture, as though that alone is enough to rein in troubled players.
Whether or not this methodology has any merit is one thing, and Chris Ballard might indeed see value in this sort of analysis; after all, plenty of companies require prospective employees to take numerous tests or surveys designed to gauge personality or aptitude. It’s not new.
But whether or not it ends up mattering is something else entirely.