What We Learn From El Chapo’s Management Problem?

Walt Disney is not going to get the movie rights to the El Chapo narcotrafficking trial in New York City. The characters are too animated for Walt. Still, this trial has its light-hearted moments. It seems that Miguel Martinez was hired years ago by El Chapo to pilot planes filled with cocaine from Columbia to Durango, Mexico. But he was a lousy pilot. He would have flown better had he been on drugs. One day he ran out of gas on the landing approach and broke the plane’s landing gear. On another, the landing was so poor that he wound up with the propeller stuck in the dirt and the plane’s tail assembly in the air. He was so bad that those who rode with him packed their own parachute.

El Chapo, the alleged kingpin of the Sinaloa cartel, thus had a management problem. Martinez could not continue as a drug pilot. He wasn’t even capable of running the kiddie rides at El Chapo World. What to do about him?

One option was to have Martinez sign a non-disclosure agreement; agree to never tell anyone where the bodies are buried, where the drugs come from, and certainly never tell anyone that the boss’s wife calls him El Chapstick. But that probably wouldn’t work. Another was to write him a letter of recommendation and tell him to seek employment with United or Delta or Southwest. Wouldn’t work either. If you read the news, airlines tend to go more for pilots with drinking problems.

If Hollywood writers had written the script, Martinez’ body would have soon been among the buried bodies. In fact, El Chapo’s bodyguard, an ex-cowboy named El Chaps, was ready to shoot Martinez, who was taking a selfie of himself by the plane with the propeller sticking in the ground. But being a kingpin who valued loyalty over ability – it doesn’t take much to sell dope to Americans – El Chapo instead gave Martinez a promotion.

Martinez was transferred to an office in Mexico City where his job was to grease the growing number of police palms, as well as those of government officials. He was so good at greasing palms that over the years he rose above El Chapo’s other MBA’s to run all of El Chapo’s companies. His compensation went from $25,000/flight to millions and millions/year. He became so wealthy that he could afford his own cocaine habit.

Now, to a different cartel. Although the Super Bowl is yet to be played, one of the stories to come out of the past NFL season has to do with field-goal kickers. I have nightmares about being a field-goal kicker. There I am. It’s the last few seconds of the game. My team is behind by two points, but if I can make the field-goal, which is very doable given the ball is on the 30-yard line, we’ll win by one! The center snaps the ball to the holder and I kick it! But it’s an unrighteous kick. It doesn’t go through the uprights. A sudden gust of wind blows it around them.

My team’s fans roar their disapproval and raise those big foam fan hands. Only their big foam fan hands don’t have the index finger pointing upward.  It’s the other one. And so, rather than face the sports writers, I go into the dressing room and shoot myself in the foot. But even then, no one is concerned about my pain. It’s tough being a field-goal kicker.

In the NFL, the saying is pretty much true, “You’re only as good as your last kick.” Fact: in the last 23 seasons, the Redskins have gone through 21 kickers. (The average for all teams over this period is 11.) The Chargers have gone through six kickers in just the past two seasons. Some kickers wake up on the road Sunday morning, and not only do they not know what city they’re in, they have forgotten what team they’re playing for.

There have been a couple of exceptions to the rule, though, one being the Chicago Bears. Robbie Gould was their kicker from 2005 through the 2015 season. He was one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. But because he was set to be paid one of the highest salaries in the league in 2016 for a kicker, the Bears had to make a management decision.

Couldn’t they find someone else to do the job on the cheap? How difficult is it kicking field goals in Chicago anyway? So, they let him go. Like El Chapo, they didn’t shoot him, but they also didn’t offer him another position in their organization. They simply allowed him to seek employment with another team.

And how did his less costly replacements do? The Bears finished in the bottom six in field-goal percentages in 2016 and 2017, also during regular season play in 2018.  How did Robbie Gould do? He was the most accurate kicker in the NFL these past three seasons, one season for the Giants, and two for the 49ers.

This past season, 73 NFL games were decided by three points or less. In fact, sportswriters tell us that you can count on two things during the NFL playoffs. One team will win the Superbowl, and one team will miss going to the Superbowl because of a missed kick.

All NFL teams soon face the question, “What to do about the guy who missed the kick?” Call El Chaps, the bodyguard, and tell him to handle it with sudden-death play? Or call El Chapo, a guy who values loyalty, and see what he advises?

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