“Even a quick glance at Andy Reid’s wardrobe will confirm that the Eagles don’t operate within the buttoned-down constraints of an IBM. They don’t have the same single-minded commitment to profit as a shareholder-driven firm like Microsoft. And while they might have Apple’s cult-like following, the team certainly doesn’t possess its rule-breaking panache.
But, according to one die-hard fan who doubles as an instructor at Penn’s famed Wharton School of Business, the bottom line is that the Eagles have become a blue-chip NFL franchise because they operate much like a healthy corporation.
The upper-management rapport between Jeff and Christina Lurie, Joe Banner, Andy Reid, and Howie Roseman detailed in The Inquirer’s eight-part series that concluded Sunday, the consensus-building, the shared philosophy, the clearly defined decision-making process, are all indicative of a well-run organization, said Scott Rosner, a Philadelphian and an assistant professor in legal studies and business ethics at Wharton.
Still, since professional sports teams are at their core different animals than Procter & Gamble or McDonald’s, it’s not likely the Eagles’ management style would be the template for first-year Wharton students.
“It’s a recognizable and useful business model, but you wouldn’t start with it,” said Rosner. “You’d want to lay out the foundations from other more classic kinds of businesses and then draw the distinctions.”
The biggest distinction, he said, might be that, at least when it comes to their football decisions, the Eagles are better served by ignoring their consumers.
“The root of fanatic is fan. I went as bananas as everyone else when they picked Donovan McNabb instead of Ricky Williams,” said Rosner, 39, whose father was in attendance the last time the Eagles won an NFL championship, in 1960. “Well, how foolish were we? And how smart were they? Because it’s sports, everyone thinks they can make the decisions. But these same people who wouldn’t ever look at another business and say, ‘Oh, I can run that’ are always saying, ‘I can run that’ when it comes to sports teams.
“Of course, the Eagles need to embrace and listen to their consumers on the business side – marketing, sales, the fan experience, and brand-building. But you cannot listen to them at all when it comes to the building of a team.”
In The Inquirer series, Rosner said it seemed that a key to the Eagles’ sustained success in the last decade has been the relationship between team president Banner and head coach Reid. That management Mutt and Jeff operate in the textbook chief operating officer-chief financial officer style.
“They’re opposites who work very well together,” said Rosner. “Reid is looking to play role of the COO, looking at how to build the team. And Banner is the team president and salary-cap expert for whom the question is usually ‘How can we afford it?’ They’re both hyper-competitive workaholics. It seems like they’re philosophically aligned. And they have the necessary creative tension that you see in many other industries.””