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Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)
Military leader

Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

A retired U.S. Army General, Montgomery Meigs has commanded U.S. and NATO forces overseas and is now President and CEO of Business Executives for National Security.

Dick Vermeil as mentor?

One cannot, in front of a team on the firing line, strip a coach or leader of responsibility without undermining authority and confidence. The time for decision for the Redskins' owner and VP in charge of football operations was last summer.

When there are doubts in the front office about subordinates, bringing in an outsider to advise can create very difficult morale problems by undermining trust. Lack of trust leads to loss of self-confidence. Football is a game of collision and instinct. Plays accelerate at the edge of human perception. Thinking about what to do after the ball is snapped means hesitation, which means lousy execution. To help Coach Zorn build the effectiveness of his quarterback and of the overall offense early in the fall, Snyder and Cerrato could have brought in a mentor.

That decision would have entailed hiring a former successful head coach known across the league as a senior statesman and teacher - Dick Vermeil comes to mind. The only way this situation could work involves some very unusual management techniques. This relationship depends fundamentally on confidence and trust between mentor and student. The mentor works for and with the coach -- by contract.

The owner and his vice president in charge of football operations could not involve themselves in the relation between coach and his mentor, nor could they interfere in the advice given. In the sanctity of the mentor-coach relationship, advice from the rough and tumble to the very positive can be given and received with no fear of embarrassment or humiliation getting in the way of owning mistakes. That sanctity of this relationship and the skill of the mentor in how he helps his student see opportunities as well as errors, leads to acceptance of feedback and focus on improvement. Even in the toughest situations this process can work.

Unfortunately, the situation with the Redskins, and most importantly for the players on the team, it looks like events have now gone well beyond what a mentor could help to repair.

By Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.)

 |  October 30, 2009; 4:13 PM ET
Category:  Sports Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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