If you are the New England Patriots, I suspect that you would tactfully avoid responding to that question given the recent murder and weapons charges that their 2010 fourth round pick, Aaron Hernandez, has been booked on. However, the Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, said on July 8th that if the charges are true, he and the organization were “duped” by Hernandez. Duped? Really? (it is worth noting that after Kraft’s wife passed in 2011, Hernandez donated $50k to a charity established in her honor). For me, what is unsettling about the troubled track record of this 2012 Super Bowl star is that there were early warning signs before he was drafted that were either overlooked, not given the proper attention or ultimately forgotten all together.
Human Resource Tactics (HRT) is a scouting service firm that provides psychological profiles on players for the NFL. Below are some key findings from Hernandez’s profile from 2010 that was created by HRT prior to the draft (as stated in the WSJ):
- He ‘enjoys living on the edge of acceptable behavior’
- He may ‘become a problem’ for the team he plays for
- He received the lowest possible score, 1 out of 10, on ‘social maturity’
- However, he did score extremely well on other areas such as ‘focus,’ ‘receptivity to coaching,’ ‘mental quickness,’ and ‘self-efficacy’ amongst others
What do the above excerpts from Hernandez’s profile tell you? Well, for the 2010 GM of the Indianapolis Colts, Bill Polian, they were signs to “steer clear of Hernandez” even though they were looking for a promising tight end. According to Polian, “There were questions out there, which is why a guy of that talent lasted until the 4th round.” The Patriots however, were able to get Hernandez for a much lower cost than a 1st - 3rd round pick could demand. Given the known risks associated with Hernandez, they structured the majority of his compensation around performance and staying out of trouble…until after the 2012 Super Bowl. After his performance at the Super Bowl and the 2011 Pro Bowl, the Patriots gave him a $40 million contract with $12.5 million signing bonus. Did his performance on the field warrant this? Sure. Why were the prior red-flags and the corresponding implications for his compensation disregarded now? Good question. How does this relate to those of us charged with ensuring top performers and best-fit employees comprise our workforce? Let’s discuss.
While no assessment is 100% infallible and all candidates may have some less than desirable characteristics if we dig deep enough, at what point does an organization determine that the ultimate benefits of a high-potential candidate outweigh the cost they may bring to the organization? The answer is subjective of course, but the hiring lessons we can learn from the Patriots is that no variable should be ignored and if risks are acknowledged and accepted, they must not be forgotten.