Business Class: Sonny Jurgensen — “Play to your strengths”

By Randall Kenneth Jones

Originally published in the Naples Daily News
Monday, April 21, 2014

According to, a quarterback is defined as follows:

1.   an offensive back in football who usually lines up behind the center, calls the signals, and directs the offensive play of the team

2.   one who directs and leads

Allegedly, countless Americans perform this function from their “armchair” and/or on a “Monday morning.”

Still another subset claims to “quarterback” their business teams.

Yes, the world has attempted to apply gridiron lingo to the games people play in Corporate America. References to “game plan,” “run with the ball” and “tackle a problem” run wild in the boardroom.

With respect to Merriam-Webster, corporate leaders and armchair quarterbacks everywhere, to understand how to “quarterback” a team, go to the source: an actual quarterback.

Sonny Jurgensen courtesty Washington RedskinsHall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen ruled the National Football League for 18 seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins.

A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Jurgensen enjoyed a remarkable career that included 2,433 completions for 32,224 yards and 255 touchdowns.

However, to set the quarterback-as-leader record straight, Jurgensen states: “When it’s your job, quarterback is the toughest position. When it isn’t your job, it’s the easiest position to play.”

A comment that also gives new meaning to the importance of “walking a mile in another man’s…cleats.”

From a leadership perspective, Jurgensen explains: “The entire game goes through the quarterback. You have to do more work as everything goes through you.”

“Quarterbacking” = accepting unparalleled responsibility.

In 1969, Jurgensen found himself working under new Redskins head coach, the legendary Vince Lombardi. Their connection was established early due to Lombardi’s ability to “lead by example” as well as his support: “Be yourself and we can make this work.”

Later, when asked if he planned to (micromanage) Jurgensen’s on-the-field decision making, Lombardi responded: “If I haven’t been able to convey to him what I want him to call by now, you should fire me.”

For anyone wondering if the role of lifelong mentor requires a lifetime of interaction, Jurgensen would likely say no. Though Lombardi died from cancer in 1970, Jurgensen still speaks of him with absolute reverence and appreciation.

Then there’s the infamous 70s-era “feud” between Jurgensen and “rival” Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer—one that played out in the media and not on the field. “Billy and I knew it was going to take both of us to get the job done and the team would benefit from our contrasting styles on the field.”

As proven by Jurgensen, Lombardi and Kilmer: in the game of life, respect, support and trust simply cannot be beat.

Sonny Jurgensen photo courtesy Washington RedskinsSome argue that Corporate America can never achieve the same level of teamwork as professional sports—the innate focus on human interaction and immediacy cannot be simulated in our technology-driven business world.

This sense of immediacy also impacts accountability. Jurgensen explains, “You can’t hide. It’s all out there on the field for everyone to see.”

On his success, Jurgensen once said: “I beat people by throwing, not running. I won’t let them intimidate me into doing something which is not the best thing I can do.”

When asked for advice for future quarterbacks as well as leaders, Jurgensen scores a highly philosophical touchdown: “Make sure everyone on your team is given the chance to play to their strengths.”

Sounds like a (game) plan.

Randall Kenneth JonesMarketer, publicist, business humoristprofessional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.

Photos: TOP — Randall Kenneth Jones and Sonny Jurgensen (photo by Margo Jurgensen); Photo #2 — Sonny Jurgensen (photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins); Photo #3 — Sonny Jurgensen and team (photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins); BOTTOM: Randall Kenneth Jones.