Do Cowboys have major leadership problem?
Jason Hatcher is on to something
Sometimes, it's not enough to lead by example. Sometimes, the best players on the team have to speak out and make their teammates accountable.
If someone's feelings get hurt, then so be it. No one can be bigger than the team.
Each is a terrific player, and each has an active leadership role on the team. But until they're each willing to hold one another accountable, this team will continue to have late-season swoons and turn in shoddy performances in big games.
One of those three players has to be willing to make one of his high-profile teammates uncomfortable if he's not playing well during an important stretch.
Their work ethic and success gives them the right to question any other player on the team.
But they must have the courage to do it.
It's part of the maturation process, so all hope isn't lost. One or more of those players can improve his ability to lead.
After the Mavs lost to Golden State in 2007 in the first round of the playoffs, I was convinced he could never lead a team to a title.
And that Dirk never would have, but he's evolved as a man and a leader. Do you remember how he called out Jason Terry during the NBA Finals, saying he needed to play better if the Mavs were going to win the series?
Did you hear Dirk call out Terry a few weeks ago, saying he needed to play better on the road?
After the Mavs' win over Boston on Monday night, Dirk told the truth when asked about Lamar Odom's struggles. Dirk said he needed to spend more time in the gym and the weight room and working on every aspect of his game.
See, there's nothing wrong with telling the truth. Players know when they play well, and when they're struggling.
Until the Cowboys' leaders man up and start telling their teammates the truth about their performance, then this team will remain soft and rudderless.
Leadership isn't the issue
But I'm not going to pretend Hatcher represents the conscience of the Cowboys either. He has, however, been with the team since 2006 so what he says has some value.
To me the key word in the aforementioned question is "major."
Leadership becomes an issue when teams don't win. In 2009, the Cowboys won their final three games and what did we all write? Man, what great leadership the Cowboys have, what a great job of persevering through a difficult stretch late in the year.
The players who won then and were the leaders then were on the team in 2011. Did they become bad leaders all of a sudden?
No, they just didn't play as well. Leadership and chemistry are two words that get thrown around by media (and fans) when the real reason why a team did not win is more tangible than intangible. Frankly, the Cowboys just weren't good enough in 2011.
I would suggest the Cowboys might have a follower problem. In other words, they don't have guys that know how to look at how a professional works through the week and do what that guy does. DeMarco Murray figured out pretty quickly that Jason Witten was a guy to watch.
Maybe there are too many guys talking who shouldn't be when this team has its meetings to hash things out.
What gets me is the Ray Lewis part. Lewis is a tremendous leader. He has been for years for Baltimore and will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. A couple of years ago the Cowboys got thrown into the Lewis sweepstakes in free agency mostly by hearsay. He never really was going to leave the Ravens, but some imagined what life would have been like had Lewis joined the Cowboys anyway.
Hatcher is right when he says the Cowboys do not have a Ray Lewis-type leader. But nobody else in the NFL does either. We make the mistake in believing leadership can only be forged the Ray Lewis way. That you have to fire up the troops with pre-game speeches, emerge from the tunnel with a stern game face or grab a facemask or cuss out a teammate.
There is no question that is a part of leadership but it's not the only type of leadership that works. The New York Giants don't have a Ray Lewis type. New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh and New Orleans don't and they seem to win pretty regularly.
All you have to do is think back to 2009 when the Cowboys won their last three games to make the playoffs to see that.
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