The League

Doug Farrar
Writer

Doug Farrar

A FootballOutsiders.com staff writer

Madden Had it Right

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Perhaps the best example of a team that won consistently with a rouges' gallery was the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. In one of his books, head coach John Madden revealed the differences in disciplines as he saw them. Madden wrote that it's all well and good to have guys who wear blazers and ties, and drink milk and go to church, but that's not football discipline. Football discipline means that we can trust you not to flinch at the goal line and blow a scoring play with a dumb penalty. Football discipline means that you're going to know the playbook -- even if, like quarterback Kenny Stabler used to say, you study it by the light of the jukebox.

Madden was right in saying that he'd rather have a team walking off the plane looking like the local Hell's Angels chapter if they knew their jobs, and there's an intimidation factor there as well. As long as those players knew that when it was time to perform, they'd better do so, or they'd be gone. And if the Raiders of that era couldn't find a place for you, your career was pretty much over. Madden and Al Davis understood the value of the player who knew he was on his last life.

There's still value in that. Where teams like the Cincinnati Bengals get it so completely wrong is in the way they seem to ignore the character issue altogether in favor of sheer athletic ability. On any team, you must have leaders. You must have a core of players who set a tone and a standard. If you have that, you can bring in a Randy Moss and make it work. Ignoring the framework of character entirely is where disaster starts.

You also have to be prepared to release players you know to be trouble when infractions do occur. Otherwise, you have a situation like the Seahawks had with wide receiver Koren Robinson a few years back. Robinson kept getting into trouble, and coach Mike Holmgren kept putting him back in the lineup; ostensibly because he feared what would happen to Robinson if he didn't have football. While that was a noble reason to a point, it also affected the authority Holmgren had with the team for a time. Why, player X thinks, should I follow your rules when Player Y doesn't have to? At that point, it's a valid question.

Teams with character can integrate problem players into their rosters if they're careful. It's when the problem players take over that things go wrong.

By Doug Farrar  |  October 2, 2008; 11:03 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: It's Not Really A Choice | Next: Character Matters, Publicly

Comments

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You seem to confuse how someone looks (Hells Angels) with how they act. The first is image, the second includes character and ability.

Posted by: jfx | October 2, 2008 12:44 PM

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