It takes an intelligent and talented individual to assess the quality of an athlete and push him to his full potential.
Last night at 7:30 p.m., Master of Davenport College Richard Schottenfeld introduced a Master’s Tea featuring Yale Head Football Coach Tony Reno, former NY Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and Nicholas Dawidoff, author of “Collision Low Crossers,” an inside look at the world of NFL football. Reno, Tannenbaum and Dawidoff discussed the intersections of success in life and success on the gridiron, citing emotional intelligence and passion as keys to achievement. The panelists also touched on their backgrounds and some of the intricacies behind the scenes of both college and professional football.
Right from the start and throughout the panel, Tannenbaum made it clear that his passion is what led him to his position with the Jets.
Dawidoff immediately echoed Tannenbaum’s sentiments, citing his decision to forgo graduate school to pursue his dream of being a writer. Reno mentioned that after playing sports all his life, he chose to coach college football when he was nearing the end of college and unsure of what to pursue.
“I don’t know who the best plumber in the country is, but I know they love being a plumber,” Tannenbaum said. “I also don’t know who the best teacher in the country is, but I know they love being a teacher.”
Dawidoff’s insider’s look at the NFL came when he shadowed the Jets while Tennanbaum was the manager. The experience gave rise to questions from Schottenfeld about how to best recruit and motivate players.
All three panelists said that coaches and scouts look to balance character and talent when recruiting.
Tannenbaum also mentioned creating innovative interview questions for prospects in order to get them off the checklist they had prepared for the combine. “What was the most embarssing thing you did?” and “With your house burning down and just enough time to grab one material possession, what would you save?” were just a few such questions the former GM suggested.
In addition to recruiting players, Tannenbaum had to recruit coaches as part of his role as the GM. He walked through his decision-making in hiring Rex Ryan as the head coach for the Jets and compared analyzing the character of coaches to that of players.
Tennanbaum said the team’s management looked at three finalists and had all department heads in the Jets organization call the department members from the finalists’ previous teams to hear what the janitorial staff, equipment staff and video staff had to say about Ryan and his competitors before making the final decision.
Dawidoff and Tannenbaum in particular made a point of addressing the correlation between great coaches and their emotional intelligence.
“You walk into a professional football facility on a Monday morning [after a loss] and it’s like a scene from the Depression,” Dawidoff said. “But what I noticed was the coaches had a new game plan by Wednesday morning and by Sunday they felt optimistic themselves as well as had figured out how to make their players — who had heard a million speeches before — feel optimistic about the upcoming game.”
When the floor was opened up to questions from the crowd, audience members brought up the NFL’s latest safety issue of concussions, the place of analytics in pro football and the panel’s opinion of Richard Sherman’s latest post-game interview.
“As a sports fan it was very interesting to get an insider’s take,” tea attendee Jared Cohen ’16 said. “I thought Tannenbaum had some very interesting anecdotes and some apt strategies about how to motivate and manage people that we can apply to our daily lives.”
Dawidoff’s book was published by Little, Brown and Company and released on Nov. 19.