It is said that leadership starts at the top, then works it way down to the lowest ranks. It used to be known as the “top down approach” or the “head of the snake style” in reference to the fact that wherever the snake head goes the body will always follow. The method of leadership is flexible but the part that is inflexible is leadership itself. Football is a brutal sport that requires leadership at all levels to insure success. Teams can flounder for decades, then rise up to become elite franchises because they found the right leader.
The Steelers had 13 coaches in 37 years and a single playoff team (a playoff loss in 1947) from their inception in 1933 to 1969. In the years since the Steelers hired Chuck Noll in 1969, the team has had a total of 3 coaches (in 52 years), 30 playoff teams and 6 Super Bowl championships. Their current coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t even born when the Steelers hired Chuck Noll.
Like the Jets the New England Patriots were born in 1960 in the old AFC. In the first 40 years they had mild success, going to the playoffs 10 times while twice losing in the Super Bowl. After hiring Bill Belichick in the year 2000 the Patriots have had a single losing record (5-11 in 2000) while having 19 consecutive winning seasons, 6 Super Bowl wins, 3 Super Bowl losses, and two seasons without a playoff berth with records of 9-7 and 11-5.
Other teams have had prolonged success. The 49ers with Bill Walsh, the Rams with Chuck Knox, the Minnesota Vikings with Bud Grant or the Cowboys with Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson all have had sustained periods of excellence. The one constant among all these teams was a coach who knew what he was trying to accomplish and a viable plan to make it happen.
These men not only had a plan but also the ability to lead men. Ronald Reagan said “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does great things. He is the one that gets the people he leads to do great things.”
Let’s look at the leaders of the Jets.
Substitute owner Chris Johnson
I really don’t want to be too hard on Chris Johnson.
“One of the tests of leadership is to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency” Arnold Glasow.
Chris appears to be clueless to the happenings of the Jets. He merely espouses things that others tell him. He is told by people in his inner circle, whom he pays handsomely, that Adam Gase is an offensive genius, so he confidently states that Adam Gase is an offensive genius. You can imagine what this does to the players on the team. The players who know that the statement is an extreme falsehood now know their owner is going to be no help to them. This kills morale and hope. It is in direct opposition to leadership. It sucks the life out of a team.
I don’t want to be too hard on Chris Johnson. He would be best served to just sit in his office and let Joe Douglas say and do everything. He can come out for pictures, saying nothing, then retreating to his office and continuing to play with the paperclips.
GM Joe Douglas
Joe Douglas is in a tough role to be a leader on the Jets as it pertains to the players. If Joe were to use too much influence on the players it would usurp much of the authority of the coaching staff. If a player had a minor problem with a coach he might feel he could go over the coach’s head and take it up with Joe instead of working things out with the coach himself. Sure, Joe is there for major problems, but everyday situations are left up to the coaches. The less Joe intervenes with the players the better. Joe’s main job is to evaluate the players while also evaluating the coaches. This is done best from a distance.
“True leadership lies in guiding others to success—in ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.” Bill Owens
As for the coaching staff, Joe should hold their feet to the fire. The overall play is unacceptable. That comes back to the coaching staff. The offensive line is an area that Joe spent a great deal of effort fixing so he probably would like to see better execution by that unit. It will take time for that unit to begin to trust each other being that they were all just thrown together, but it is a priority to spark the offense and to better protect Sam Darnold.
Quarterback Sam Darnold
For some reason it seems that the guy who has been getting a pass so far in his career is Sam Darnold. I have no idea why that is. Sam is in his third year and is a paltry 11-19 as a starting QB. Much of that is not his fault because of the roster, coaching and injuries. Yet that doesn’t excuse Sam for his poor play, and worse, his acceptance of it.
This is supposedly Sam’s team. He is the leader, but I don’t see much leadership on his part. You can’t be a quiet leader as a QB. Players look to you for answers, so Sam needs to grow a backbone and demand better play from everyone. Sam is said to be a nice guy, but that is not what he is being paid to be. The guy on the sidelines who hands everyone water is paid to be a nice guy. Not Sam. He is the only guy in that huddle who can demand execution, demand hustle, demand excellence.
You don’t go three and out, then jog to the sideline to stand there holding your helmet while having a drink. You need to talk to everyone so you are all on the same page when you take the field again. Tom Brady was a nice kid when he came to the NFL. He developed quickly into a no excuses type of leader. Say what you want about Brady, but he was a competitor who demanded that everyone around him give as much effort as he did or there was hell to pay.
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.” Ray Kroc
This all starts in practice. When a receiver doesn’t run the pattern the way you like, you call him out, tell him what you want and make him run it again the right way. It is the only way to improve execution of a play. When you have to throw the ball just before a 330 lbs lineman is about to hit you, the receiver better be where he is supposed to be or bad things happen.
Talent is only one aspect of the skill set required for a franchise QB. You must lead your team, which means sometimes you have to demand things of players they are reluctant to do. The NFL is a QB driven league, so the players who get the ball every play must be of the highest character and demand excellence from everyone, most importantly themselves. Sam has to be precise, inspire confidence, be results driven but also ruthless, for the betterment of every player on the team.
It was said that Sam was mildly unhappy that Jonotthan Harrison (his close friend) was let go after the rosters were reset. He said “At first, I really couldn’t believe it, for the last 2½ years, for lack of a better term, he’s been kind of like an older brother to me, showing me the ropes. It’s been fun, man, watching him come to work every day. He works harder than anyone I know. … Jon is an incredible human being, a great leader and a great friend. He understands how much of a business football is. That’s how we both have to look at it, but it does suck.” The problem with that is why didn’t he see what everyone else saw, that Harrison was a poor player?
Sam to me seems to be a nice kid who likes everyone on the team. He needs to be the QB and leader of the team. He needs to learn how to compartmentalize his life. He can be the man of the year as a person when he is in street clothes but when he walks into that locker room he has to morph into a win at all cost, hold everyone accountable, execution needing animal that has to work harder than anybody, even in practice. If he can infuse that type of passion into his play it will infect the entire team, not just the offense.
I have not seen Sam act like he cares if the execution is great or not. He needs to begin to act like it is life or death, or the Jets will finally see that Sam is not the high ceiling player they thought he was and look to replace him. Joe Douglas did not draft Sam, so I doubt he is going risk his career on a player who does not have all the tools to be a championship caliber QB. He may feel Sam has physical tools but lacks the inner desire to be great. The problem is that inner desire is not something you learn, either you have it or not and I am severely doubting that Sam has it. If he did, by now you would have seen him explode on the sideline, fed up with the results of his offense.
Great players usually have little patience for situations that hold them back. They have an intensity that is tempered with prodigious expectations of team success. They are leaders who will their teams to victory over insurmountable odds; they live for that chance. They love the challenge and they can do it with a variety of teammates. They don’t need to have a dominant squad around them, just players with the same intensity that they have. I don’t see that intensity or desire in Sam. He would need to pick it up 3 or 4 notches for me or anyone else to notice.
Head Coach Adam Gase
The Jets coach is not a true leader by any stretch of the imagination. Gase might be the antithesis of a leader, a man who destroys faith and passion. The writer Tom Peters once said “True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” If true, then Adam Gase is certainly not a leader. Gase’s teams lack passion, they seem ill prepared and he as a coach does not make adjustments to opposing defenses.
I will not drone on about Gase like I did with Sam Darnold because I don’t see where he has any potential. He doesn’t add anything to the team and his news conferences seem to be delusional, with him looking to praise himself while throwing others under the bus. I was furious when the Jets picked him as a coach. That fury has only intensified.
“Leaders don’t inflict pain, they share pain.” Max Depree
A team takes its identity from its coach. You saw it first hand when Rex Ryan was introduced as Jets head coach. Rex said “I am not here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.” He also said his teams would play with intensity, and “if you punch one of our players we will punch two of yours in return.” That bravado resulted in a rebuilt Jets team that became the #1 ranked defense and made a trip to the conference championship game two years in a row.
You also saw later in his tenure when Rex stopped being Rex and his press conferences were more like an appearance at the local chuckle hut. You saw Rex cracking jokes, wearing wigs and planning all kinds of inane things for his press conferences. At the same time the Jets defense went from ranking #1 in points allowed to #6, then #20, then #20, then #19, then #24; an almost straight downhill drop. You then saw Rex get fired.
The Jets Roster
Sadly the Jets roster is filled with rotational type talents, practice squad talents, young players and some middle of the road veteran players. Steve McLendon is as close to a leader as the Jets have, but he is more of a “lead by example” type rather than someone who can heighten intensity on the team. C J Mosley and Jamal Adams were the players who could have lead this team but one opted out while the other was traded. I knew when Adams was traded there would be a huge leadership void. That has come to fruition. The defensive intensity is night and day different from last year and Mosley was missing last year as well.
”Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Warren G. Bennis
I don’t know where any new leadership will come from on this team. A boat without a rudder is just like a floating leaf with no direction. The Jets have no rudder and all the power in the world won’t put them on a course to success.
I guess I am not a leader either as Brian Tracy said.
“Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.”
We need leaders.
That is what I think.
What do you think?