Sherlock Holmes and the Washington Commanders

Had Washington Commanders Coach Ron Rivera followed the Sherlock Holmes method as a leader, he might have avoided an embarrassing situation.

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In “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Sherlock Holmes explains to Dr. Watson the importance of seeing and observing.

“You see, but you do not observe,” he said. “The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps that lead up from the hall to this room."


"How often?"

"Well, some hundreds of times."

"Then how many are there?"

"How many? I don't know."

"Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed."

When we don’t do both, we end up making huge mistakes and become full of regret, much like Washington Commanders Coach Ron Rivera.

Rivera admitted he was surprised at how well his rookie quarterback last year, Sam Howell, played in the season finale. The only reason Howell received the promotion was that starting quarterback Taylor Heinicke told Rivera that Howell was ready to be a star, and he deserved to play instead of him.

“You can ask [my wife] Stephanie; all we f---ing talked about was the quarterback, what the quarterback did, who he was,” Rivera said. “I kept saying, ‘F---, if I would have known this, I would have played him sooner.’”

Rivera is the main decision-maker in Washington; he holds all the power to decide who stays, who starts, who goes and who plays. There isn’t anyone above him; therefore, he must be proactive in all of his decisions.

Rivera made a common mistake. He saw, but he didn’t observe. Had he followed the Sherlock Holmes method as a leader, he might have avoided this embarrassing situation.

Though Holmes is a fictional character, there is much to learn from his style and behavior that’s applicable to daily life. Here are seven key elements to take from Holmes and quotes from him to reinforce the lessons.

1. Be observant

“You see, but you do not observe.”

Rivera watched Howell practice every day; yet, he never observed him or gave him a second thought until it was too late.

2. Trust facts

“Data! Data! Data! I cannot make bricks without clay.”

Rivera never looked for or searched for facts or data regarding Howell. He never noticed Howell’s play in practice, so he didn’t have data.

3. Remain Objective

“Sentiment is a chemical defect found in the losing side.”

Rivera labeled Howell a rookie, and never was evaluating him objectively.

4. Never give up.

“My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence.”

Rivera resigned himself to believing there wasn’t an answer at quarterback.

5. Stay a step ahead.

“It is my business to know what other people don’t know.”

This may even be the secret to success in life! You can only do this from observing and seeing which Rivera didn’t do.

6. Have that one close friend.

“I don’t have friends. I just have one.”

Find someone who will tell you the truth, stretch your mind and cause you to think differently. You only need one. Rivera had none.

7. Think outside the box.

“Dear God. What is it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring.”

There is always more than one way to approach a problem. Think creatively, think outside the box — but there is no answer if you don’t identify the right problem.

Had Rivera watched “A Scandal in Bohemia,” he might have followed the Sherlock plan, which would have made him more observant and a better leader.

We all need to use Sherlock’s approach.

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