Even Pro Sports Teams Stink at Hiring

By Adam Robinson,
May 14, 2013

As a born and bred Michigander, I am a die-hard Detroit Lions fan. 

Get your laughs out now people, being a Lions fan gives me some pretty tough skin. As one of the only National Football League teams that has never won a Super Bowl, the Lions have embarrassed and mortified even the most dedicated fans with their lack of professionalism, team-spirit, and law-related incidents. However, nothing compares to their horrible and incompetent draft picks.

The Detroit Lions have selected some of the worst players the League has ever seen and just like any business environment, the team has seen the consequences of what a bad hire can do. 

It may seem crazy, but a professional football team is a lot like a business. The leadership team decides who they want to hire and after interviewing and reviewing past performances, they make a selection. 

True Faith HR Blogger, Matt Stollak, recently wrote about the Lions and NFL’s selection woes and he says, “Given the time, energy, and resources at the team’s disposal, they still get it wrong…..a lot.  If an NFL team can’t get it right, why should we expect most HR generalists with a one or two page application process, a small battery of tests, and an antiquated ATS to do it any better?”

Stollak’s right. We can’t expect hiring managers to do better. But they can learn from their mistakes!

Here’s 3 of the Lions worst draft choices that all hiring managers can learn from:

1. The All-Star Quarterback

He was a Heisman nominee, College All-American, and star of the 2003 cover of the NCAA College Football video game but Quarterback Joey Harrington was anything but a star for Detroit. Drafted by the Lions in 2002, Harrington quickly became the biggest draft bust the team had seen in recent years.

He did not get along with the management, his role in the company was changed (The Lions switched the offense coordination) and his less experienced co-worker consistently displayed better work. 

Overall, choosing Joey Harrington as their team leader was a complete miscommunication flub made by the management of the team. 

What can we learn?

When you are selecting a new teammember it’s important to know exactly what you are looking for. Understand the role that you are hiring for and make sure communication between the management and the ownership is crystal clear.

2. The All American

In 2003, the Lions failed again. This time with second-round draft pick, and wide receiver Charles Rogers. In Detroit, Rogers was just as busy off the field as he was on the field. With a series of substance abuse issues and injuries, the amount of games he was suspended matched the amount of touchdowns he caught.


He also owed the team around $6.1 million dollars for violating his contract which the Lions have still not collected to this day.

What can we learn?

Background checks are KEY. If the Lions would have dug deeper into Rogers’ past they would have seen he was caught with drugs in his system twice while playing in college. Understanding your new hire’s background is important to the safety and integrity of your company.

3. The Free Agent

The most recent bad hire was the 2011 Lions second-round draft pick of WR Titus Young. A promising choice in the beginning, he played well and displayed signs of strength, however it all went downhill in 2012 when he sucker punched a teammate.

Yeah, punching your co-worker doesn’t win you many fans…

After some more detrimental actions and a series of deliberate acts of rebellion on field he was banned from the Lions facilities and released a month later. Things took a turn for the worse just last week when Young was arrested 3 times in 5 days. A sad ending to a promosing career. 

What can we learn?

Past behavior predicts future performance. Young was suspended for a half of a season in college for fighting with a teammate and was known for his off-field behavior. If the Lions leadership team would have taken a better look into his background, they may have reconsidered their choice. 

A behavioral interview where the candidate is asked about their past performances can prevent a bad hire because any issues or red flags will be identified during this process.

Prevent Bad Draft Picks

Some players suck at their job, others are great performers but not a culture fit, and many don’t have the talent or potential to live up to their expectations. But sometimes it comes down to the hiring manager, going with their gut feel as the Lions have experienced over and over again.

Everyone cross your fingers for this year’s draft pick.

Erin Borgerson is the Marketing Coordinator/Tweeter/Crisis Controller/Culture Ambassador (the last two titles she gave to herself) for Hireology, a web-based selection management platform that provides customized interviews, job profiling, and one-click background checks to help you hire the right person. Start your free trial at www.Hireology.com today!

Many of your draft picks might be Millennials. Learn how to hire them with this handy guide…

About the Author

Adam co-founded Hireology with the mission to help growing companies make better hiring decisions through data and better technology. Adam is passionate about entrepreneurship, donating time to a number of organizations that support the entrepreneurial cause. Adam completed his undergraduate study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and received his MBA from DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

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