Bypassed Lamar Jackson Keeps Winning, Exemplifies ‘Play It Safe’ vs. Swing Big Dichotomy

By Frank Forza

Nobody else LOVED Lamar Jackson as an NFL franchise quarterback — only one team did. 

Only one team truly believed in him and was willing to bet big on him. 

Every other team, their coaches, their scouts, saw at best a backup QB, at worst a speed burner who should be converted to wide receiver. 

The Perception Game involved in NFL Drafts, and in companies claiming they know what Top Talent actually looks like, is a fascinating and faulty one. 

People, bystanders, onlookers, supposed “experts” … sit in chairs and cast judgment on someone … 

And it’s amazing how often the alleged “experts” misjudge and misunderstand and are flat-out wrong — both on the NFL gridiron and everyday American life and society. 

Skeptics are a dime a dozen; they are quick to put labels on someone and tell you all the reasons you can’t do this, won’t do that. They love to tell you all the reasons you’re doomed to fail, quick to point out how you are lacking in the conventional measurements that they consider so important. 

They pin labels on you, misjudge you … just like they tried to paint Lamar into a corner, tried to put him into a box, dubbing him a “running quarterback.” 

There’s a reason even experienced eyes miss out, misjudge and misunderstand a phenomenal talent like a Lamar Jackson: 

People don’t understand what they’ve never seen before, what history has never seen before. 

They don’t understand people who see things differently, think differently, move differently, do things differently. 

They fear people like that — which is why most people (teachers, coaches, HR hiring managers, executives, etc.) usually play it safe with their “draft picks.” 

Because they are unimaginative, poor perceivers, and can’t see a window into your soul, into the intangibles and spirit energy and heartbeat and fire that are often the true difference between success and failure. 

There’s an old saying that often rings true, in the business world and beyond: 

A class talent hires A class talent, B class hires C class talent, C class talent hires D class talent.” 

B’s hire C’s for many reasons — Ego (they’re less threatened by them); the Law of Attraction (B’s and C’s are often blind to brilliance — especially intangible excellence — since they themselves are not); and Arrogance (the unfortunate belief that almost all workers are disposable); 

Trust me, you won’t have to look very far in your own life to see this grotesque phenomenon of alleged “experts” underestimating others, playing it safe, and hiring to protect their own brittle egos. 

What does future excellence, future greatness, look like and how do you pick it out of a crowded line-up? 

Rule No. 1 to detecting and predicting it? 

Let go of all your biases, your assumptions, you’re so convinced that greatness has to walk and talk a certain way, has to move a certain way, or else it can never be great. 

No. Greatness, Excellence, comes in all shapes and sizes. All different personalities. The loudmouths, the quiet types. The freakish athlete (Bo Jackson), the athletically underwhelming (Tom Brady). 

Once in a generation, once in a century, talents are easy to miss — because the Regurgitation Nation, the Copy Cat cookie-cutter/echo chamber evaluators, can’t see beyond the limited BOX they have constructed and want to fit everyone into. 

Remember the word “EXCEPTIONAL” — which applies to those who are THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE(s). 

Lamar Jackson is shaping to be such a force, Tom Brady most certainly is… and history overflows with amazing talents like Elvis, Elton John, Michael Jordan and many others (non-athletes, too) who were basically told, “You’re not good enough.

I love the incredible improvement and leap that Lamar Jackson has made in Year 2, and I expect he’ll continue to evolve higher up the chain of excellence. 

What he’s doing is poetic, metaphorical, a powerful reminder: 

It will always be hard for the so-called “experts” and “pros” to judge heart and determination and predict “exceptional” — partly due to their biases, partly due to their tendency to PLAY IT SAFE. 

What I have learned: The more you play it safe in this world, the farther you will be from Spectacular. SPECTACULAR & PLAY IT SAFE DO NOT LIVE IN THE SAME ZIP CODE! 

You want phenomenal? You want to hunt Greatness, you want to exude Excellence… you MUST take chances, you must incur INTELLIGENT risks, you must be willing to risk having egg on your face. Risk & Reward will always have that kind of relationship. 

I love the chance, the risk, the Ravens took on Lamar. They dared to imagine outside-of-the-box. While others focused on risk, they focused on reward. Where others saw role player, they saw superstar. Where others saw solid, they saw special. 

What might that mean for you and your life? 

Remember, the “experts” missed on Brady and believed 198 players were better than him. 

The “experts,” the critics, the executives … miss a lot. 

Your boss misjudges. 

Your coach misunderstands.

Your kid’s teacher misses what is special about them. 

It is amazing how often people are wrong in their assessment of other people, in sizing other people up and trying to predict who’s going to fail and who’s going to thrive. 

A friend of mine told me that in VC circles (Venture Capitalism), they typically bet on 7 companies, hoping 1 will hit — and they usually aren’t sure which one will hit. 

But what if you could hit on 2 of 7, or 3 out of 7? What if you possessed that Eye for Detecting Exceptional? 

To spot the difference-makers who are going to change the world, who are destined for greatness… it helps to be different yourself. To embrace difference rather than fear it. 

And trust me, this is a play-it-safe world we live on folks. That’s the problem. That’s why so many incredible talents, loaded with intangibles, fall through the cracks (in Corporate America, in the arts, in music, in sports and beyond). 

If my life has taught me anything it is this: 

There is no glory, no lasting gratification, in playing small. If you truly want to be a DIFFERENCE-maker — then BE DIFFERENT. Genuinely. 

And if you want your company to be distinguished and DIFFERENT from the rest — then hire people who move different, think different, talk different. 

Learn to respect DIFFERENT rather than fear it. 

Being different is a blessing in a world drowning in the Seas of Sameness.

That is the pivotal first step toward SPOTTING GREATNESS, the crucial first step, and most hiring managers, coaches and scouts are blind to it because of their sad tendency to PLAY IT SAFE and try to label everyone and PAINT THEM INTO A BOX.