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Variables in Decision-Making

Helping the Broncos Buck the Odds
Each year about 1,000 incredibly strong and talented athletes vie for a handful of positions on 32 National Football League (NFL) teams. In one of these, the Denver Broncos, determining which college athletes to select as candidates for its professional team is responsibility that falls heavily on the shoulders of Jim Goodman, that team's director of college recruiting. In this capacity, Goodman spends 363 days per year gathering information used to make vitally important selection decisions over several 15-minute chunks of time during the other two days-the NFL's annual player draft. One weekend each April, team executives and coaches look to Goodman for his input on not only which players are most likely to succeed in the pro ranks, but also which ones are best equipped to meet the Bronco's particular needs that year.

Most of Goodman's time is spent visiting colleges and universities in search of football players who are good enough to be selected for the "Big Show" (slang for the National Football League). Although being away from home is what Goodman finds the hardest part of the job, he enjoys being around college coaches (a job he had for 20 years before going into the NFL). Because of his longtime coaching experience at various Southern schools, Goodman spends most of his observation time here, leaving other regions to his assistants, who report their findings to him. Specifically, each of the eight members of the Broncos recruiting staff is responsible for schools in a particular section of the country. This specialization makes it possible for Goodman's crew to keep tabs on talented players from smaller schools, who otherwise might not get the attention of their more visible cohorts at major universities.

Whether the athlete's school is large or small, the key to Goodman's success lies in collecting all pertinent information about players in a massive database so that it can be called up when Broncos officials need to make decisions about which prospects to select as their draft choices. With this in mind, Goodman spends most of his time on the road closely watching players, both during games and in practice sessions-live from the sidelines when he can, but at least on DVD video. Goodman also talks to the coaches and trainers, getting their slant on each athlete's strengths and weaknesses. Along with his own impressions, this information gets fed into the computer for use when making selection decisions on-and even before-draft weekend.

As do his counterparts at the other NFL teams, Goodman routinely gathers detailed information on players' physical qualities, such as their height, weight, speed, percentage of body fat, and height of vertical leap. This is not all, however. Goodman also pays close attention to personal qualities and intangible characteristics, such as a player's "football intelligence," his work ethic, competitiveness, and his workout habits during the off-season.

Acknowledging that such a system is only as good as the data entered into it, Goodman and his staff spend a great deal of time entering information about players into notebook computers. And, because, he can't run up and down the sidelines while typing notes into his computer, Goodman sometimes takes notes on paper or simply speaks his impressions into a microcassette recorder. Then, either while on the plane or back at the hotel, he enters all of this information into his trusty notebook computer and transmits it to the main computer on his desktop back at Denver's Invesco Field at Mile High. No matter how tired he gets and how grueling his schedule, Goodman knows that the success of his team begins with helping head coach Mike Shanahan make the best possible selection decisions-a responsibility that all begins with him.

1. As an individual who is potentially overwhelmed by statistics and observations about individual players, how do you think Goodman's own decision processes may be biased?
2. Goodman collects lots of objective information, but decisions also are made on subjective feelings as well (e.g., assessments of "football intelligence"). In what ways do you think that the quality of the decisions about drafting players is helped or hindered by the use of such subjective information?
3. In what ways do you think the escalation of commitment may be involved in the decisions Goodman makes for the Broncos?

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I believe that the fact that Goodman's decision processes are largely based on statistical data about individual players, there is little chance that the decision-making process will be biased. I believe that the nature of his business requires that he is an objective of numbers cruncher, due to the fact that at the end of the day, quantitative data such as player ...