Talent and ‘It’

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A recent article appearing on grantland.com discussed in great detail the ‘It Factor’ as it related to the NFL.  In short, the ‘It Factor’ could be described as the intangibles that define the quality of a player beyond his physical, technical and tactical abilities and by extension contribute to his success (or otherwise).  To cut a long story short, and like everything on Grantland it is a long story, you can’t define the ‘It Factor’, predict its development, or in many cases identify it before the fact.  And yet there are clearly people who possess those qualities.  I find a lot of parallels here to various discussions about talent.  The last paragraph of the story is perfect as it is.

If you want proof that nobody really has any handle on who has the It Factor when it really matters, go back to the two most prominent cases of the It Factor in football. Ask 100 personnel executives around the league to name a player with it, and the top two names that are going to come up are Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. You could build a cottage industry around ex-coaches, personnel men, and anonymous scouts who swear up and down today that they knew Brady and Wilson were going to be stars in the NFL because they had the It Factor.

You remember what happened at the time, right? Every single team in the league passed on Brady several times during the 2000 draft; the Patriots were9 debating whether to take Brady or Louisiana Tech quarterback Tim Rattay, eventually settling on Brady with the 199th pick because he was four inches taller than Rattay. In 2012, Wilson fell for the opposite reason, as his 5-foot-11 frame didn’t fit the quarterback paradigm. The Seahawks eventually snapped him up with the 75th pick, and like Brady, he was a Super Bowl champion by the end of his second season.

Think about that. Coaches swear up and down that they’re looking for a guy with the It Factor and how they can see it in a player by looking in his eyes or having a conversation or watching him practice. Every team in the league that might have been interested in a quarterback talked to Tom Brady and Russell Wilson. They saw each of them work out at the combine. They saw them on game tape and talked to their college teammates. And yet, because Brady’s arm was too erratic and because Wilson was too short, every team in the NFL passed. Presented with the most obvious It Factor guys in football, not a single team trusted their read enough to snap up Brady or Wilson with their first- or even their second-round pick. The next time you read about somebody having the It Factor, remember that the professionals couldn’t see it even when it was staring them in the face.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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