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Cowboys '09: Leadership By Committee?

Much has been made about the issue of leadership as it pertains to the Dallas Cowboys. Let me first say that I am happy that the team did not go the “rent-a-leader” route and bring in a guy like Ray Lewis. I believe that leaders are grown organically from within, and that players may not be very receptive to a hired hand who has never bled with them. I also don’t think that a leader necessarily has to be an in-your-face type of guy. A leader may jump a teammate at times, but in my opinion leadership is more about being a “come on, we can do this” type of guy. Leadership is as much about getting your teammates settled down as it is about riling them up.

With that said, who is in line to take on a leadership role this year in Big D?

NFL Network’s Warren Sapp has tabbed DeMarcus Ware as the player who needs to step forward as a leader. Sapp has been critical of Ware (and any other player he fears may be better than him) in the past, but Ware himself has said that he plans to assert himself in a more vocal capacity going forward. Still, Ware may not have the makeup to be that type of leader. Ware strikes me as more of a lead-by-example type of guy, and a fine one at that. Ware’s relentless non-stop play is remarkable, and that type of energy has to be infectious on the defensive side of the ball. DeMarcus Ware is not a rah-rah type of guy, but in my eyes he is already a leader.

Who said that leadership has to come from a singular voice? It seems that this team has a group of leaders at different positions. Rookies Michael Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith have both named Ken Hamlin as the player whom they will shadow and try to emulate. Keith Brooking, with all of his accolades, experience, and football knowledge (particularly his familiarity with Wade Phillps’ system) just seems to be the type of guy who would be easy to follow. In recent weeks even Jay Ratliff has begun to speak up. Much like Ware, Ratliff’s play commands respect.

Everyone seems to want to see Tony Romo grabbing wide receivers by the facemask and screaming down their throats. I don’t think that Tony Romo is that kind of guy, nor do I think that he needs to be. Everyone knows who the boss is in the huddle, and as long as it stays that way, things should be fine. If there is a group to be worried about on the offensive side of the ball it would have to be the receivers. Over the last three seasons the Cowboys’ receiving corps has looked up to Terrell Owens in an almost unhealthy, God-like manner. Owens was a model of an ideal work ethic, and his presence had the other guys practicing harder and even eating better. The wide receivers may no longer have another player to look up to, but I doubt WR coach Ray Sherman plans on letting any of these guys drag their feet.


At the end of the day, the Dallas Cowboys only need one leader, and that man’s name is Wade Phillips. It is refreshing to hear that Wade is putting an emphasis on paying attention to detail going forward. It all starts at the head, and everyone in the locker room needs to know that Coach Phillips is in charge. More importantly the players have to trust him, and believe in what he is doing. I’m not buying into this idea of a tougher, harder Wade Phillips, but a more assertive, detail-particular Wade Phillips may be all this team needs to finally turn the corner.

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