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“Jerry Maguire” by Crowe Term Paper

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Updated: Jan 9th, 2022


The Jerry McGuire movie starring Tom Cruise, Renée Zellweger and Cuba Gooding Junior is a 1996 movie production about a 35-year-old top league sports agent. “The film, written, directed and co-produced by Cameron Crowe, released in North America theatres on 13th December, 1996. It brought in returns in excess of $ 270 million worldwide” (Maguire).

Plot Summary

The film’s plot revolves around the lead character Jerry Maguire played by Actor Tom Cruise, a sports agent working for a Sports Management Company. Jerry goes through a nervous breakdown as a result of a guilty conscience developed because of his newly found ethical awareness. Ethical awareness in this case refers to Jerry’s ability and willingness to find the different ethical and moral contexts of his job and assess his own ethical values and implications on another.

Ethical dilemma

When we use the term ‘ethical dilemma’, it usually refers to an individual’s mental conflict on a certain moral choice that they have to make. They find themselves in a complex situation where choosing to go with a particular choice would lead to a lapse in the other. Jerry’s moral disengagement results from being driven by financial goals and not furnishing his clients with the best personalized services. Depicted in the movie when he is on the phone and does not pay attention to what his client is trying to discuss with him; instead he is thinking about how he needs to call another client and finish some other deals to make him and Sport Management International more money. In the Movie, Jerry’s nervous breakdown is symbolically used to illustrate his ethical awareness. The breakdown leads him to write a mission statement about the clear corruption and moral disengagement that is rampant in the sports management industry as well as his beliefs on how the industry could be managed.

Management Responsibilities

When Jerry makes the choice to distribute copies of his work titled “Things we think but do not say”; for which he receives applause from his co-workers who value his honesty; he gets fired by management through his protégé Bob Sugar (played by Jay Mohr). By doing this, the management team at Sports Management International fails to take up their responsibility of firing Jerry themselves. This neglect of their duties set up a potentially dangerous managerial precedent that will influence future managers who wish to get out of carrying out such unfavorable tasks.

Jerry faces his first moral dilemma when he and Bob set out to call all Jerry’s clients and to convince them not to source another firm’s service. However, his client Rod Tidwell, a wide receiver of Arizona Cardinals, expresses his dissatisfaction over his contract and tests Jerry’s resolve through a very long over-the-phone conversation that climaxes in the popular “Show me the Money Scene”.

While Bob Sugar manages to keep most of Jerry McGuire’s clients, Frank Cushman, a football superstar prospect, also decides to stay with Jerry leading Jerry to announce his plan to start a new agency and ask for recruits from his co-workers; to which only Dorothy Boyd (played by Renée Zellweger) a 26-year-old single mother accepts.

The Jerry McGuire movie is a portrayal of the classical story of David and Goliath. When Jerry’s entrepreneurial venture finally catches a break thanks to his business philosophy of having a personal connection with his clients, it shows his triumph against all odds over agencies like Sports Management International.

Communicating senior management commitment

After watching the Jerry McGuire Film, I felt that the principle of communicating senior management commitment that we learned in class could be applied better by Sports Management International. Internal and external communication is integral to the success of an organization. I observed from the film that without open lines of communication, the relationship between the clients and the employee’s sufferers to the loss of the organization.

The concept of communicating senior management commitment is visible in the movie when Jerry executed his philosophy of personal connection to his clients. Here, Jerry illustrates his commitment to his client Rod Tidwell by developing a personal connection with Rod and understanding his grievances.

Jerry’s mission statement that is well received and applauded by his co-workers can also be taken as his documented means of communicating management commitment to his clients as it describes his negative feelings about how the sports management industry operates – with the single-minded goal of financial gratification. The mission statement also denotes Jerry’s cognitive moral development. By his dissatisfaction with the moral disengagement shown by Sports Management International, he is not only demonstrating his commitment to his customers by being genuinely concerned about their welfare but also illustrating cognitive moral development.

Cognitive moral development

The Cognitive moral development theory developed by Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, proposes that people go through certain sequential phases on how they conceptualize moral matters. The six stage moral development theory describes three phases moral development. The “pre-conventional thinking Level” features the

Obedience and Punishment stage which relates actions are wrong if they result in punishment and the “Naively Egoistic Orientation” stage that relates actions are ok if they satisfy the individual’s needs.

An example of the Naively Egoistic Orientation stage in the movie was exemplified right before Jerry has his nervous breakdown. This is the stage where personal relationships with the client do not count; getting money is the only thing that matters. “The convention thinking level has the ‘good boy or good girl orientation’ stage where judgment of morality depends upon the traditional values of stereotypical principles of right and wrong and on a person’s intentions. The second stage of this level entails the authority and social order maintaining orientation in which views on morality adjust accordingly to show respect for authority and social order in each case” (Donner). An example in the movie is when all of Jerry’s co-workers applaud him for his mission statement but when he got fired as a result, only one of them showed support. We can also see it in the scene where Jerry requests his co-workers to join him at his new firm but only Dorothy takes him up on this offer. This illustrates that although all Jerry’s co-workers thought he was right in the views expressed in the mission statement, none of them were willing to stand up to management about it or take him up on his offer to start a new sports management firm. In doing so, they proved the social order and authority levels Sports Management International had placed on them. The fifth ranked cognitive moral development stage is “legalistic or contractual orientation”. In this stage, judgments of what is right or wrong depending on the shared beliefs and values as well as on generally accepted rules, rights and responsibilities in a community. Contractual orientation in the film as comes into force after Jerry and Rod Tidwell argue about failure to deliver each of their promises to one another. The difference brought about by Jerry not negotiating a better contract for Tidwell and Tidwell failing to do well enough to merit such a re-negotiation is fixed after Bob Sugar unsuccessful attempts to steal Rob Tidwell away from Jerry. “The last or rather sixth stage in the third level which is the ‘individual principles’ refers to an individual’s judgment of morality on the basis of personal choices which includes internalized rules, principles or conventions” (Donner). The movie illustrates Rod Tidwell as reaching or portraying the last cognitive moral development stage when he rebukes Bob Sugar attempts to steal him away from Jerry.

Virtue Ethics

The movie Jerry McGuire illustrates virtue ethics by portraying a man who gives up everything he has for a noble cause. Virtue ethics is a concept that dates back to ancient Greece. It sprang from Plato’s philosophy and holds that an individual’s motivations and character are much more important than his duties. This theory is the corner piece of the entire movie as we see it on more than one occasion.

Virtue Ethics in the movie is illustrated when certain events lead Jerry to suffering a mental breakdown which results in him leaving everything he has. When Jerry tries to enlighten all his co-workers on his views by sending them a copy of his “Things we think but should not say” document, he gets fired because his mission statement proposes an idea that the company he works for does not agree with. As such, they effectively state that the company places monetary gains far above their ethical well-being or the moral perception of the organization.


Effective Communication is imperative when it comes to the success of a business. Open communication channels need to exist between the business owner, his employees and clients for a business to have a realistic chance of success. There are two ways in which the principle of communication reveals itself in the movie: The first is when Jerry constantly talks to his secretary about what was going on with the firm and allowing her to share her opinion about her personal job security and financial status. The second example is when Jerry made it a point to communicate progress with his client Rod Tidwell. Although his communication with Rod was not always clear, Jerry did make a strong attempt to keep his client in the know constantly. Jerry’s ability to keep his client well-informed is what set him apart from Sports Management International and the status quo being observed by all the other larger companies offering the same services.

Social Responsibility Social Responsibility

”Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to organizational activities that go beyond actions that merely increase the achievements of an organizations goal without other obvious benefits to the society” (Hitt, Middllemist and Mithis 76). Although there are various perspectives on CSR, these viewpoints can typically be categorized into the classic and modern perspectives. The classic perspective of CSR matches up to the egoist view of normative ethics of maximizing the good for oneself; the case with Sports Management International in the Jerry McGuire film. This view stipulates that actions are ethical if they intended to meet most end values for one’s self. (Hit, Middllemist and Mithis 77) Advocates of the modern perspective of CSR believe that true social responsibility occurs when organizations adopt activities that go beyond the increases profits but to the benefit of the society in different ways as well. This view relates more closely to utilitarian ethics where organizations strive to do the utmost good for the greatest number.

Missions or value statements

Mission or value statements are ethical beliefs about the goodness or badness of major goals. These statements help show what an organization’s ethical views are and are very helpful to clients when they are making a choice on whether or not to do business with a particular company. In the movie, Jerry’s mission statement that got him fired from his pervious company is the same document that ends up bringing in more business to his new venture.

Decision Processes

Managerial decision-making ranges from programmed decisions, of rules and policies that are routine, to non-programmed, instructed decisions that are unique or categorized as having no set rules required. In the Jerry McGuire movie, Jerry’s pervious employers used a programmed decision-making process where rules were set in the way work got accomplished. While Jerry’s new entrepreneurial venture used a non programmed decision-making process. Jerry’s firm, being a new company with a non-programmed decision making process, makes it easier for his company to deliver services that satisfy his clients’ needs. This is because his agency was non-burdened by lengthy bureaucratic processes others had to observed when going about business.


“An interesting statistic has emerged of late about a high number of American businessmen on their deathbeds who begin regretting the direction and purpose of their lives. ‘Jerry Maguire’ offers an alternative although probably few in his place would find the wisdom to change course” (Steve). The Jerry McGuire film is about ethical issues faced in the business world and is a great example of how not all organizations structure themselves around an ethical culture. The movie begins with a very cynical Jerry who abruptly changes and becomes extremely idealistic due to the awakening of moral awareness within him. He then spends the rest of the movie trying to reach a balance between the two extremes.

The movie not only focuses on Jerry, but also highlights Rob Tidwell as an athlete who feels that his employers are discriminating against him by offering him an unsatisfactory deal and refusing to re-negotiate his contract to suit his needs.

The film portrays a lot of management concepts that offer insight to people in the business world by illustrating the various ethical, business and cultural dilemmas experienced in the corporate world. After watching the film, one can not help but want to take a step back to re-evaluate themselves.

Not all businesses in today’s world encourage behavior such as that portrayed by Jerry McGuire among their employees if it means that the business is going to have to spend extra be it in time or money. Most of our organizations today are more concerned about cost cutting, higher returns and maximizing shareholder profits that other stakeholders such as the clients, employees and the community are back benched.

The Jerry McGuire film offers a lot of insight in to such corporate behaviors and gives us something to learn from in terms of how business may or may not conducted.


Donner, Ed. “Cognitive Moral development”. eHow.com. eHow, n.d. 2007. Web.

Hitt, Michael et al. 3rd ed., “Management: Concepts and effective practices”. New York: West Publishing Company, 1993.

Maguire, Jerry. “Box office Mojo”1996. BoxOfficeMojo Ed. Jerry Maguire. 2007. Web.

Steve. “Agent seeking something higher: Possibly Cruise’s best film” imdb.com. Imdb, n.d. 2007. Web.

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