In football circles, it is often said that quarterbacks get too much credit when the team wins and too much blame when the team loses.
You could apply the same saying to CEOs.
That's life as a leader. You're often overpraised or scapegoated. When the reality is, in many cases, your job performance depends on the competence of those whose titles and salaries are beneath yours. For example, CEOs get credit for profit margins and positive cash flows, when in many cases the person responsible is the accounts-receivable specialist.
That's why successful team building both in business and in football depends on depth. A company with a strong leadership team but a lousy rank-and-file is not one I'd bet on. Likewise, a football team top-heavy with superstars but with little depth is a sinking ship.
Rank-and-File Influencers, on the Seahawks and Broncos
So when you're watching the game Sunday, do yourself a favor.
Pay less attention to the prestigious leaders (quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson). Instead, cast your eyes on the players whose unglamorous blocking in the trenches makes the quarterbacks look good: the offensive linemen.
In particular, here are three I'll be watching:
1. Orlando Franklin, right tackle, Broncos. Reliable and durable. In his three pro seasons, Franklin has started 47 of 48 games. He is a big reason Manning was sacked only 18 times (in 16 games) this year.
2. J.R. Sweezy, right guard, Seahawks. The very definition of stick-to-it-iveness. Last year, he made the Seahawks as a seventh-round draft pick, which is the football equivalent of turning a summer internship into a full-time gig. More impressively, he did this while learning a new position. (He was a defensive lineman in college.) His efforts are a major factor behind Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch's 14 touchdowns this season.
3. Michael Bowie, left guard, Seahawks. Bowie is another seventh-round pick who defied the odds. He's something of a comeback story, too. He was kicked off his big-time college team (Oklahoma State) for violating team rules before his senior season. He atoned by transferring to small-time Northeastern (Okla.) State. And now he's one game away from being a champion.