I started to name this post “Jason Hatcher: Point/Counterpoint”, but decided to just concentrate on the leadership issue. With all due respect to ScarletO and Dave, I want to present an alternative point of view.
Is leadership or motivation (intangible factors in the game of football) overrated? You could let Vince Lombardi have his way with me for a month of Sundays, but when I line up against Jay Ratliff, I’m going to get my ass kicked good and proper! However, I am often reminded that pros play against pros and they pay players on both sides of the field . . . and in today’s salary-cap era, you can only stockpile talent at so many positions, and for a limited period of time. In other words, it is best to shelve the word “dynasty” when discussing NFL teams.
A leader does not have to be a Pro Bowl player . . . but he must be a contributor and have some tenure with the team. I listened to a local radio interview with Too Tall Jones at the Super Bowl and he was telling how Bob Lilly took him and Harvey Martin under his wing. Among various tips and instruction about the game of pro football, one of the things he was told was that the Cowboys may lose a game but they would never be out-coached if they followed Landry’s system. That in itself has to provide confidence to a player, and a belief like that has to be proven over time . . . and whether it’s Landry’s system or Garrett’s process, success builds that belief system.
Now take a look at the fruit basket turn-over of coaches the Cowboys have had under the current regime compared to Landry’s 29 years. There has not been a sufficient period of time under one coaching staff for veteran leadership to develop, much less for those leadership responsibilities to be passed on to the next group of leaders. One of Lombardi’s famous quotes about conditioning was “Fatigue makes cowards of us all!” Well, I would submit that if a team is unsure of its collective responsibilities during a game, then individual players are also unsure (and scared) . . . and in that brief span of time questioning “What should I do?”, their butt is on the ground by an opponent who knows what he’s going to do.
Am I making excuses for the team? Absolutely not . . . but I’m going to fall back on an old cliché:
“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link!”
And before you question the significance of that cliché or just call it a foolish statement, keep in mind that expressions of that magnitude do not last through the years if there’s not something to them. It’s like calling me an old fool . . . I didn’t get to be old by being a fool! An NFL team is made up of 53 individuals, some mentally strong and independent and others who require reinforcement. When you’re lining up across from an opponent who is just as big, strong and fast as you are, you need every form of technique, experience, and yes, motivation to win more battles than you lose. I personally do not know if Jason Hatcher needs that additional push, but just as I believe that there are independent self-starters on the Cowboys’ roster, I don’t doubt for one second that there are players on that same roster that need that motivation from a leader.
So while the intangibles of leadership and motivation may not be as important as talent (size, strength, speed, skill) and coaching, we should not totally discount those factors for the players that need that additional push . . . because there’s talent and coaching on both sides of the field of play.