Bob Schwartz

Tag: Sid Gillman

Without a Brand New Playbook the Democrats Are Lost

Sid Gillman is a towering figure in National Football League history—in fact, in the history of American football:

He began his coaching career in an era that taught that running the ball was the surest way to victory.

It was a philosophy with which he disagreed. “The big play comes with the pass,” he would tell anyone who would take time to listen. “God bless those runners because they get you the first down, give you ball control and keep your defense off the field. But if you want to ring the cash register, you have to pass.”

Sid went on to become the foremost authority on forward passing offense. He was the first coach to produce divisional champions in both the National and American Football Leagues. Gillman’s first pro coaching job came in 1955 when he became the Los Angeles Rams head coach. In his first year he led the team to a division crown.

The rest is history. Not only did opposing teams have to learn to defend against the big pass play, which opened up the field, but they had to develop new and innovative playbooks of their own.

Like it or not, there is a new playbook in American politics, at least from one of the teams. Maybe—hopefully—it will return to a game that unconditionally rewards excellence, competence, integrity, morality, ethics, reasonableness, responsibility, accountability, civility and honesty. But not at the moment.

This isn’t to suggest that Democrats adopt the Trump playbook. But just as with the football teams that had to play against Gillman, the Democrats have to spend time—much of which they wasted in 2017—doing more than tweaking the plays or even finding better players. The old playbook is not going to work in 2018, and for all we know, in the foreseeable future.

Whatever you hear the Democrats propose, whoever you see the Democrats running, ask yourself whether it is part of a brand new playbook, or just updated versions of the same old one. Because without that new playbook, winning will remain often out of reach.

All Politicians Are Progressives

Horse Carriage - Lincoln
Either you embrace innovation or you don’t. And so all politicians who use an iPhone or love the NFL are progressives.

Innovation has two faces. One is the innovation that solves problems. The other is innovation that just does stuff—even if you didn’t ask for it, even if you never knew you wanted it or needed it. Moving from horse transport to self-contained mechanical carriages solved a basic problem, but over time added features some of which are useful and practical for the central function, others of which are just enjoyment that becomes essential. Because times change, as do human expectations and aspirations. Innovation feeds that.

So unless you are a politician who doesn’t have a smartphone, or who doesn’t use a phone or computer at all, or doesn’t drive a tricked-out luxury car (it counts even if you have a driver), you are the beneficiary and tacit endorser of innovation. Which is why when some politicians hearken back to the comprehensive goodness of 18th century America—or 19th or 20th, depending on the issue—it is dangerously silly. This economic Drecession requires an embrace of 360 degree innovation, not just untaxing and unburdening ourselves to prosperity. Not just churning out a generation of STEMers to magically bring us back to former glory. And not just putting digital devices in the hands of every school child either.

This is not the exclusive purview of any political party. There is a tendency, even among the most well-meaning, to take pages from a beloved playbook that are no longer viable. When the legendary coach Sid Gillman changed pro football forever in the 1950s by making the forward pass the centerpiece of the game, it was scoffed at—until he started winning championships and opponents had to permanently rethink the defensive game.

If politicians want to ride around in fancy horse-drawn carriages and send their messages by horse-carried post (if they haven’t made the Post Office disappear), that’s okay. But chances are they’ve embraced innovation in practically every minute of their lives (they love their Twitter!) because, well, it is 2013. It is 2013, everywhere, in every facet, and pretending otherwise is just horse-and-buggy policy. Or maybe just a convenient way to get elected.