As a human resourses consultant/attorney I have a lot of interaction with fellow consultants who specialize in team building. Since we tend to talk shop as much as any group of professionals, I have picked up on a lot of what the experts in this area tend to stress when helping to build successful organizations. A large majority of these specialists are former career military personnel and they draw heavily on a military structure when putting together an organization. Because of that I am going to relate the various team building steps to occur in a quasi-military manner.
At the top we have the Dallas commander-in-chief who has a mission in mind. I doubt many of us, including the jerry bashers. dispute that Jerry Jones wants to hoist Lombardi Trophies. In fact we realise that his ego demands it. That gives us the Cowboys mission. That is his role as commander-in-chief. Below JJ we have his generals; his son and his head coach. Clearly they are the ones who should be charged with the overall strategy of giving the boss what he wants. To do that they have put together one of the top collections of staff officers (front office and personnel and assistant coaches) in the league today. That would be guys like Rob Ryan, Bill Callahan, Jimmy Robinson, Jerome Henderson, and Mike Woicek. Also included are the college and pro scouting departments who bring in the troops. Below them we have the field grade officers. For the offense we have Tony Romo, and on defense it is Sean Lee. Both of these guys generally do an excellent job in fulfilling their mission. (Well there are those who routinely question Col. Romo.) As anyone who has spent time in the military will tell you, the real work in any military organization is done by the non-commissioned officers. Dallas is fortunate enough to have two excellent senior NCOs. By that I refer to Jason Witten and Jay Ratliff. Both have the respect of their peers, and both are there in the trenches getting the job done. I am also tempted to include Demarcus Ware, although he is one who tends to shy away from a leadership role. I would consider him as a staff NCO for this reason. Having this structure in place puts us in a solid position to finally take the next step.
The next step, unfortunately, is where the team is still breaking down. They are weak in the junior NCO department. The situation is showing some signs of improving, thank God. Some position groups are developing junior leadership; while others are not. Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh have shown solid signs of taking charge in the defensive secondary and judging from some of the "WTF Felix!" looks that I noticed DeMarco Murray giving Felix Jones during the Giants game I am beginning to see him as taking charge for the offensive backfield. The loss of Lee has also put Bruce Carter in a position to step up as a leader for the linebackers. The places the Cowboys are lacking are at wide receiver, offensive line, and a second and younger leader on the defensive line. From my point of view, Miles Austin can and should step up for the WRs. On the lines we don't have clear junior leaders that have emerged but there are potential ones who need to be developed. If Doug Free can fully extract his head from his tush or Phil Costa can remain healthy, they have a chance to solidify the offensive leadership cadre. Tyron Smith may also assert himself into this role. In any case someone must do so. Sargeant Major Witten only has a few seasons left and someone is going to have to fill his role. Jason Hatcher has the experience necessary to do the same on the other side of the ball. For the Cowboys to take the next major step these junior NCOs must continue to develop and/or emerge. Nothing less will give the team the quality of on the field leadership that championship leaders that are necessary to reach an elite level in the NFL.
Why is the junior leadership so important? Mostly to apply peer pressure to keep guys performing at the top of their game, or in some cases, to motivate them to do so. Unfortunately, we have guys who know that whatever they do on the field, they are not likely to lose their job. Some guys happened to attend the same college as the owner, or the owner got too generous at contract time and made them too expensive to cut. Some seem to be stuck on cruise control and content with where they are professionally. The only way to motivate a player like that, if he is not self motivated, is peer pressure. It is amazing what the pressure from colleagues can do to spur people on. That should have been the lesson the team, especially the front office and coaching staff, took away from the "training day" with the Navy SEALS. This is the level of leadership that has been lacking for a long time, and bringing it back is the next step in the culture change at Valley Ranch. That leadership does not come from the top, although they are responsible for developing it. It comes from the guys in the trenches busting their humps. That means the squad leaders in the position groups. Once the guys who have not been carrying their share of the load get the message from their junior NCOs (their peers who are getting the job done) things will finally start to come together. The Dallas front office has done a much better job of putting something that is getting closer to nfl level depth on the roster. The coaches are doing a better job teaching proper technique. It is now time for the senior leadership to develop and support the junior leaders that they have. This means Jason and his coaches, as well as the stars like Tony and Sean. It is time for the guys who take the heat to implement the principle that fecal waste flows down hill. Each man, ultimately, needs to hold himself and his team mates accountable. Once this happens, we will start to hear that the Dallas Cowboys are a team full of leadership.