I decided to do this write up for a few reasons. One was a conversation I had via the comment section with HIV2Elway, and the other was the recent little dustup in the Redskins camp. I do want to make the point that I am not calling HIV out. I just wanted to give him a little bit of credit for this post, and hopefully a second one that involves those that have used the "Mean Coach" way. I understand that a lot of you dont get why Haley is so loud and in people's faces, and see that as an immature way to treat the men the make up our football team. As a Marine I have seen this style of leadership work up close, and I understand why it does. Also, I'm sure many of you are confused about the 70 in the title. The extra 17 represent the entire coaching staff (I hope I got the right number of coaches). None of this works unless everyone is onboard. Additionally, there is more to just character and self control in the "Right 53". The players have to have a little something extra that I will get to in a bit. Hopefully, by the end of this post, those of you who want the players to be treated better will at least understand more about what Todd Haley is doing, even if you still don't agree with his methods. And on to the jump, beware it is a bit of a read:
As I mentioned before, and as my name suggests, I am a United States Marine. The most important thing that I have learned in the Marines is that there are many different styles of leadership. The one we are most famous for, via the movie "Full Metal Jacket", is the aggressive, insulting, "jerk" (to name it politely) method. Of course, there is always the opposite spectrum, which is caring, helpful, "nice" method. The nice method tends to get more out of individuals, while the jerk method works better on groups. Perhaps this goes to mob tactics, but, as can be shown quite effectively from my experience in boot camp, harsh times endured together focus people as a group, and enable them to link together. I am sure many of you have seen this in war movies enough to make you think it is a cliche, but it is true. The Marines have something we like to embody called "esprit de corps". It doesn't quite translate, but "spirit of the corps" will fit for my purpose. It means that if a group identity is established and everyone in the group is instilled in the concept, then they will work harder to fulfill the purpose of the group. This is the way that the underdog teams overachieve to beat significantly better teams. They work together as a team toward a single goal and outperform the better group. Those "Right 53" aren't just better citizens, they are able to take that criticism, understand why it is there, and focus it into a team effort. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for the entire team, and forget about those individual stats and accomplishments. That is why 2.7 is gone. That is why TG is gone. And that is why Waters is not gone. The first two wanted things for themselves. As good as he was, Tony Gonzalez was not a team player. To want to be on a winning team is one thing, but to publicly declare that his team was not good enough for him is a completely different story. Waters too wanted to be on a winning team. He was strong willed enough to express his displeasure with the way things were going to his head coach and the rest of the front office. But when is got to the public, he shut his trap and let things get settled within the organization.
How this applies to Haley's Chiefs is this: Haley applies the jerk style. He applies it well. Was he brash and in everyone's face last season? Yes, but then he needed to be. The biggest part of making his style work is to make sure everyone knows who is in command. He asserted himself as the man at the top who would make the decisions. But through the season he also supported his position with the players by taking responsibility for the loses. The veteran core is vital for any teams in any situation. Brian Waters and Mike Vrabel both shocked everyone by showing up for the voluntary stuff. Especially after both opted not to last season. What does this mean? That the oldest guys with the most reasons to skip practice, and the fewest reasons to show up thought it was vital that they did show up. This should be the first hint that things are working well for those of you who think there will be a mutiny within the organization. In the movie "Miracle' about the USA beating the USSR in hockey so many years ago, the head coach was asked why he gave out tests that seemingly had nothing to do with hockey. He replied that he wanted to see just how far he could push them. To achieve greatness, one must be open to going way outside the comfort zone. And you don't make it outside the comfort zone by yourself. The other crucial point that Haley has completed is by being non-partial and consistent with all players. Everyone took the conditioning test. If you failed it, no matter the reason, you didn't practice until you could. Did we lost valuable practice time with this test? Yes, but this season there is no question of conditioning at all. If Haley had just ignored the lack of conditioning last year, we would be stuck in a similar time loop that the royals seems to be in. Haley sacrificed one season (that we still improved on wins) to set up long term success.
For everything there is a counter-argument though. And people's greatest fear is that Haley will take things too far, but no one seems to be able to define what too far is. Guess what, though. We have a great example in the 2010 Washington Redskins. Mike Shanahan has decided that Albert Haynesworth isn't ready to play. Check this story out. It seems innocent and typical at first, and places much of the blame on a prima donna player. But look deeper. What I see is a coach that is way too full of himself, and attempting to be a god and not just a coach. I see four huge things wrong with how Shanahan handled things. First is that Haynesworth passed the two sprint tests he was told he was going to take. Mike Shanahan decided he didn't like that and told Albert Haynesworth to take a third. This goes to that 70 number because Mike Shanahan apparently doesn't trust his coaches. How can you expect to run a team if you show to the entire world that you have no faith in those you have delegated to. It leads to micromanaging, and failure in rough times. Look for Mike Shanahan to try and do everything at crunch time, and then blame his players when things don't work out. Some will point to Haley taking over the offensive coordinator position right before the season as similar. It is not. Haley added this responsibility as a stop gap solution. It wasn't the greatest, but it was better than sabotaging the future to save the present. The second problem is that, according to Mike Shanahan, Albert Haynesworth is a backup no matter what kind of physical or mental shape he shows up in. This destroys any motivation that Albert Haynesworth had to show up to work. And who will really get blamed if Albert Haynesworth doesn't play, a proven player, or a coach who is well known for thinking too much of himself? $100 on the coach. Mike Shanahan has created a lose-lose situation for himself. Third up is that Haynesworth was the only one to take the test. The only one.... Really coach? Again, there goes that motivation. And now, not just Albert Haynesworth's. The entire team now has to be a bit scared. The coach's doghouse should be extra motivation to improve, not a feared tactic that means doing useless work that accomplishes nothing. Finally there is that tiny problem that not everyone who has failed the test in the past missed practice. Washington front office should be furious right now, and near calling for Mike Shanahan's head. Not only is he inconsistent with the application of the test, inconsistency with punishment is worse. It takes out the worth of punishment. Haynesworth will never work his best for Shanahan, and he has no reason to.
Ok to wrap this up for the five or so people left reading, what should we expect in the future from our coaches, players, and eventual draft picks. The first is the obvious one, consistency. It is also the most important. What we will see this year, is what we will see for the rest of the time that Haley/Pioli combo is together. Another thing is a quiet off season. And by quiet I mean no whining from players. Those that do will be shipped out, and shipped out quickly, regardless of skill. Look at the Patriots. There is only one stand alone player on that team, and that is Randy Moss. Everyone else is a product of the team first mentality. Look for the players to take care of player problems. Brian Waters will have almost as much, if not more, influence on the players themselves than any head coach could. That means things will go along smoother and Haley can focus on the team as a whole, instead of worrying about every single individual player. Those draft picks we will go after will come from hard working backgrounds with a minimum of "me" moments. Over all I think that this franchise is going great places. We may have one or two more building seasons, so don't panic if things don't go our way initially. But once Haley and Pioli get what they want, look for consistent 10+ win seasons. Don't worry, we won't have to spike the Kool-Aid too much longer.