Last Thursday, the Denver Broncos hosted the Baltimore Ravens for a rematch of the game that ended the Broncos’ 2012 season. With 12:13 left in the 4th quarter, his team down 42–17, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco went for it on fourth-and-one. It was a short pass to the right, intended for Ray Rice. Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan read the pass, intercepted the ball, and ran it back 30 yards for a touchdown. It was beautiful.
Trevathan actually ran the ball back 29 yards, started his celebration early, and literally dropped the ball on the one-yard line (watch the play). As he danced his touchdown dance, players from both teams scrambled behind him to recover the fumbled ball. The play resulted in a touchback, the Ravens got the ball on their own 20-yard line, and one minute and 38 seconds later (on the game clock), the Ravens had taken the ball 80 yards down the field for a touchdown.
Here are six lessons we can take from Trevathan’s gaffe.
- Focus on the task at hand. Score the touchdown, then celebrate. That order. You’ve got to earn it before you enjoy it. Many studies have shown that we’re not good at multitasking—productivity suffers when we try to do two things at once. Add this to the list.
- Close doesn’t count in football. Trevathan still gets credit for an interception, but not a pick-six. Sometimes, success has a strict definition, and it doesn’t matter how close you come if you come up short. A yard short, a foot short, or an inch short won’t cut it. You’ve got to break the plane.
- You can make withdrawals if the account balance is high enough. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey uses a bank account metaphor to describe relationships. It works in business, it works with your fans, it even works with the points on the board. The Broncos had a strong enough lead that Trevathan didn’t cost them the game.
- Experience does not come from passing time alone. It takes 10,000 hours to master something. At best, that’s five years of 40-hour work weeks. That’s five years of pushing yourself, learning, and growing. If you just show up and bide your time, you might end up with one year of experience five times over. This wasn’t Trevathan’s first game as a sophomore on the team; it was his 17th regular-season game as a rookie.
- Learn from your mistakes. Trevathan, after the game:
It was a dumb play, in retrospect. It’s not going to happen again. I was just so in the moment, you know, it was kind of selfish of me. I’m growing from it, and I’m not going to let nobody stop me from getting better.
Double negative aside, I hope he does. There is no failure, only feedback. And definsive coordinator Jack Del Rio had a lot of feedback for him.
- If it doesn’t matter, laugh it off. Fortunately, Trevathan’s blunder didn’t cost the Broncos the game. They still beat the Ravens 49–24, Woodyard wasn’t injured, and Peyton Manning now shares the NFL record for seven touchdown passes in a game. Let it be a learning moment and move on.
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easy to take Trevathan’s gaffe in stride because the Broncos still won. Had they lost the game because they needed the points, or the momentum shifted and the Ravens rallied, would I be as quick to forgive? I hope so. It would probably take longer, though.
Trevathan’s running drills this week, I’m sure. The whole league has been reminded of an important lesson. Now it’s time to look forward to next week’s game. It’s a clean slate, and I’ll be watching to see how Trevathan does.