ASHBURN, Va. – The big show of leadership occurred last week, when Washington Redskins safety Dashon Goldson, after talking to some other veterans early in the week, called a players-only meeting. This time it worked; the Redskins won a big game the next day vs. the New York Giants.
And Goldson’s leadership was hailed. But calling meetings is not why the Redskins hail his leadership. Rather, it’s because of the small things he does, what he says – or doesn’t say – to teammates. Or, rather, how he says it. Or it’s how he conducts himself.
Those are the reasons the Redskins point to when discussing Goldson. If all you’re doing is calling meetings and voicing an opinion in them, the message could fall flat. If you’re doing everything else, it resonates. Goldson does everything else.
“One of the best I’ve been around,” Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said when it comes to leadership. “You can easily say it’s the things he says, but for me it’s more the stuff he doesn’t say. He just shows you instead of having to talk to you to death and get on your nerves. A lot of people don’t like guys who talk too much. D Gold does a good job of mixing it up.”
Goldson does not hold court with the media for long stretches at a time, opining on anything and everything. That’s not leadership. For Goldson, he’ll say what he needs to say, but he saves his talking for meeting rooms or on the field.
Goldson will point out what players do right, or wrong, in meetings. If he knows something needs to be said, he’ll say it.
“In meeting rooms, he talks to each individual all the time,” Redskins corner Will Blackmon said. “I’m nine years in and he’ll still call me out in a positive way. If you’re not where you’re supposed to be, even though I know I made a mistake, he’ll tell me anyway. You don’t come down on somebody but you talk to them like a human being. I know his motive and his interest is for us to do well.”
For Goldson, leadership is natural. Perhaps he’s no longer the Pro Bowl player he was in 2011 and ‘12 for San Francisco, before he signed a lucrative deal in Tampa Bay. But his stewardship has helped the Redskins’ secondary survive numerous issues, from injuries throughout the season to two suspensions early in the year. Blackmon and Hall have helped as well.
And it’s not as if Goldson is the only veteran voice on the team. Nose tackle Terrance Knighton spoke to Goldson several days before the Giants game about the need for a players-only meeting. End Ricky Jean Francois also has added to the locker room voices this season.
But Goldson, because he plays safety, is in a leadership position on the field. He’s the one who mentioned the need for quarterback Kirk Cousins to become a more vocal leader, but said he did so because he wanted others to know that Cousins is their leader. So he got a point across while also serving to boost another player.
Some players, when new to a team, ease into leadership roles. Goldson said that for him it started the minute he arrived after an offseason trade with Tampa. Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan, who drafted him in San Francisco, told Goldson to be himself. Both people knew what that meant.
“I knew what I wanted to do when I came in here and that was win, so why not, you know, express how you feel?” he said. “I was always a hard worker and did the necessary steps in order to better myself. So, with that being said, a lot of guys see that and respect that. I mean, I would say it was a natural thing for me.”
That wasn’t the case in Tampa. Goldson never felt himself under coach Lovie Smith.
“I respect the guy so much,” Goldson said, “it was just tough because I don’t think he understands the player that I was. They wouldn’t let me be the player that I am or even try to lead the football team. I felt like they didn’t trust us then because they were first-year coaches. It was hard to try and lead that football team from a standpoint of my experience and what I am as a player. It was more their way or the highway.”
But he joined a team in need of direction; the Redskins placed adding strong veteran leadership near the top of their offseason list. Those players have delivered, especially Goldson.
“I wish there was one or two or five or even 10, but there’s a thousand,” Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry said when asked for examples of Goldson’s leadership. “We’ve all been around people that we work with that when something needs to be said and where everyone is kind of saying ‘Oh gosh, should I say something?’ He is that guy that says it and it’s always the right thing.”