We have heard it from the JG5000 more times than we can all remember, “it’s a part of the process”. I for one have wondered just what he is thinking when he says that. I work in a facility that is ISO certified and I know what process means to me, it means a written documentation of the steps taken to complete a task. So, using that idea as a starting point, I am going to try and document that “process” as I see it.
Where do you start with this one? Let’s begin where Jason began, mid season, taking over a team that you have had a limited impact on selecting. So, I think he began with developing a team mentality, so let’s start there.
Drive Personal Accountability
In season the development of a team mentality is much more difficult than during the off season. Instilling the appropriate attitude in practice is where Jason began. He went back to the Jimmy school and put the pads back on during the season for Wednesday practice. This part of the process will have to be altered thanks to the new CBA, but I think the intent can be captured. The intent is to reward good play and effort and to disincentivize the opposite. Amazingly enough athletes making millions of dollars can have their attitude and effort impacted by the same tactics employed by high school coaches, i.e. run sprints until you puke.
This all feeds into a basic concept that seems lost in this day and age, accountability. Each team member needs to be held accountable for performing their responsibilities. Jason seems to be very secretive on how this is accomplished, but he is doing it. As proof, I would point to Mike Jenkins and Anthony Spencer. Last year I was ready to cut these guys for lack of effort, especially Jenkins. I attended the Tennessee game in 2010, and was simply disgusted by his play. He was jogging out there while receivers were turning him inside out. Jenkins was a totally different guy this year. Spencer admitted to taking plays off in 2010. He had some moments this year where you questioned his results, but I can’t say his effort was noticeably lacking. I think Jason holds everyone to accountability in front of the team, not in the media. This is as it should be.
Garrett reminds me of Landry in the way he looks at players after a disappointment. He doesn’t say much, he is not an in your face yelling and screaming guy, but there is instant feedback on the sideline. Garrett will celebrate success much more than Landry ever would, where I see the similarity is in the disappointing plays, when a player comes back to the sideline he will give them “the look”, that lets them know they are accountable. Garrett does that much more with offensive guys than defensive guys and that is something he needs to improve on as he is accountable for everyone’s performance.
It will be interesting to see what he does in the off season, I hope this is where he can improve upon the mental accountability, especially defensively. A full off season to implement things exactly the way he wants should mean that players will have higher expectations of their system knowledge, and thus be help to a higher level of accountability. I am sure Jason is hoping to get to a point where players hold each other accountable, as this is where interdependence of the team is really developed. This means that each guy knows their job, does their job, and takes accountability. The opposite of this is what we have seen too many times around here, especially in the secondary, standing around and pointing fingers after a bad play.
So this part of the process can be summed up as DRIVE PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY. The steps are:
- Reward good performance
- Utilize all available and appropriate means to eliminate mental mistakes
- Do not accept lack of effort
This is the backbone of the organization. Professional football is a meat grinder and you always need fresh meat to stay even or improve. There are basically three ways to acquire players.
The first and most preferred is through the draft and rookie free agency. This is where you get cheap young guys to fuel your team. This is an inexact science as you are betting on the performance of 22 year old men. I don’t know about you guys but my decision making skills at age 22 left a little something to be desired. Garrett is trying to instill his philosophy in this area, the process change he is seeking here is to value the “Right Kind of Guy”. Just as athletic measurables and college performance are taken into account, Garrett wants the scouts looking at the character of the individual as well. I bet this comes from his dad, a long time scout. If you look at the performance of the team in selecting late round guys and free agents, it is actually pretty good. This is the area where the scout’s input is the most valuable input to the process (i.e. Jerry is not weighing in as much here). The problem here is that a team has no way of getting everyone they want, they have to wait their turn in the draft, or compete with others for rookie free agents. So this part of the process really can’t be counted on for filling needs, as it goes against the process rules to take a lesser talent simply because you have a need. Long term you end up with a lesser talented team if you do that.
The next route to player acquisition is through veteran free agency. This is where you fill needs, but it can come at the expense of your salary cap. In addition to generally paying too much, these are usually guys that other teams have deemed expendable for one reason or another, so “caveat emptor”. Garrett will look to apply some of the RKG principles here as well. I think he will also look to bring in younger guys that can be more easily molded to his way of thinking. Another process consideration here is team chemistry, how would bringing in a Mario Williams impact a DeMarcus Ware. While it might look good on paper, how would that really play out, would Ware continue to be the lead dog rushing that he is now, or would you ask him to drop more? Roles on the team and how it all fits together are an important part of the process. So the considerations on veteran free agents are likely to be: young, RKG, and team fit. Who fits those criteria? Dwight Lowery, Terrell Thomas, Richard Marshall, Tracy Porter, Samson Satele, Mike Pollak, Kendall Langford, Sammie Lee Hill, Dan Connor, Johnathon Goff. There are others but these are the types of guys I bet they sign, that is young, not the most expensive guys out there, and guys who like to play football (not real sure about all these guys on that front). The danger of giving a young guy millions of dollars are easy to understand. I am not sure I would have made wise decisions with millions when I was 25, again my decision making at that age was better than 22, but still not so good. So they will want to be as sure as possible that the player will respond well to the money, or they limit the potential detriment by limiting the money, i.e. go for the lower priced free agents.
The last route to player acquisition is sorting through other’s trash. It ain’t pretty but you can find some gems every once in a while. This team got real lucky and found two last year in Laurent Robinson and Tony Fiametta. They are certainly bringing in a bunch of others as well. This is something that Jimmy used to do, churn the bottom of the roster. It serves two purposes, you might find something (like Robinson) and you create a competitive environment on your team, which brings us to our next process point.
“There are no starters penciled in at this point.” This was Garrett’s response to a question about Bruce Carter, but he extended the thought to include everyone as that is how he wants them to think. He wants everyone competing for a spot, a starting spot, a spot on special teams, a spot on the team. He looks to drive this competition in any way possible. Churning the bottom of the roster does this as well, by making guys fight for spots on the team. The off season purge of high priced veterans is another part of this process. Letting high priced older guys walk or showing them the door is a necessary thing to do to foster competition. This seems to be where he and Jerry are not quite on the same page. They need to get that straightened out as conflicting messages from upper management lead to problems. Just like with your kids, if mom and dad are not on the same page, the kids will play one against the other.
So that is the process as I see it. It is refreshing to see Garrett sticking to his process in all things as opposed to Wade who seemed to go with the flow. Garrett seems to have taken a little philosophy from several sources. He is somewhat Landry like in demeanor, he likes to work the team hard and churn the bottom of the roster like Jimmy, and he has some builds of his own as well. He has an idea about what is going to work and he sticks to his principles of operation.