Cowboys Article: Great Leaders of Men. 7/3/07

Are you a bad-enough dude to become the next Douglas MacArthur of football?

Any time your favorite sports team goes through a coaching change, you are on the edge of your seat. It is both exhilarating and nerve-racking. Most changes come after a low period in team progress.

You are excited for the change, the potential, the potential for the potential, and you are also nervous as hell that the High Command will make the right or wrong decision. You have your own candidates, your own opinions on roster management, and subsequently your own direction in which the team needs to go.

When Parcells left, all Cowboys fans were on the boat together, just like every other fan base in every other city in every other sport when the coaching change was announced.

So what about this new hiring, with Wade Phillips?

Why are today’s hirings any different than the anxiety brought forth in the past?

How about this: the increasing state of the coaching game. There are small-time parallels between sports and war that make educated thinkers cringe. Fans and media talking-heads routinely refer to athletes and coaches as soldiers, and warriors, and, sometimes, even more ridiculous… men. Bill Belichick deserves to be heralded for his football prowess, no doubt, and certainly Joe Montana and Walter Payton are also deserving of such similar accolades.

Great warriors, leaders of men.

We pay athletes absurd amounts of money to be warriors on the gridiron, give them “above the law” status like they are Steven Seagal, to be a little tongue in cheek. To be a “man amongst men”, using even another cliché. We pay coaches large sums of money to develop these athletes and to influence their lives on a greater scale than football, that’s always a great crowd-pleaser to hear. We consistently say that the new coach will lead our “troops”, our “solders”, lead our men into battle.

Great leaders of men. That’s what Nick Saban and Bill Parcells are.

Not so fast. Let’s take a look at this. For all the celebrity status, all the clichés, all the comparisons to war, all the hope we put in our supposed “heroes” and “legends”, we have what amounts to simple cowardice.

I bet you didn’t know that a decade ago Nick Saban played that black guy from Reading Rainbow on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Nick Saban, great leader of men, great man to send your kid to go play for… what did he do?

He gathered all his assistants in Miami into a conference room, and called in on the phone and told them he was taking the Alabama job. This is literally a few short hours after the last garbage from his mouth that “I’m staying in Miami”. The “I’m staying in Miami” fiasco went on for months. This is after he screamed into the face of a secretary because she brought him the wrong Little Debbie Cake.

Nick Saban, great warrior and leader, was man enough to call-in on a speaker-phone and tell his assistants, whom he lied to for weeks, that he was taking the Alabama job. What a great man to send your kid to play for in Alabama, or anywhere else. He and Dennis Erickson should put on a coaching clinic.

And the people in Tempe and Tuscaloosa cried tears of joy when those two declared their new stomping grounds. 90,000 Alabamians turned-out for a spring scrimmage to get a sneak peak at how a real man will lead their soldiers back to glory.

Another NFL job goes vacant, across the Gulf. Bill Parcells announces his retirement. He shows up every day in the offseason after the “Romo debacle.” Watching tape, checking everything out. Every day, folks. Multiple head coaches and coordinators are hired during this period across the NFL. All evidence shows that the Tuna is coming back for one more year, at least. Most of us resigned to taking one more year on the chin if that was what it would take to get him out of there.

He waited, all that time in the offseason, then what did he do?

Via email, decides to let everyone know how deeply football has affected him, how he has no regrets from football, how it is time to step down. Let me reiterate that this “legend” declared his retirement to his coaches, bosses, and players via an email. Nice job, Parcells.

Great leader of men, Bill Parcells, who brought in ex-Giants players (hated division rivals, at that) to fire-up the Cowboys (a hated divisional franchise) on “tradition”. He was man enough to email everyone and announce his heartwarming retirement. Not to mention the back-door interest in the Giants front-office job. Allow me to lead everyone in a hand-clapping appreciation for this legend amongst boys. Way to look adversity in the face and not be afraid to answer questions from the assistants and team members who he “led into battle” so many times.

Is it too much to ask for the head coach to inspire strong character through personal evidence?

Bill Parcells showed interest in the Dallas Cowboys when the team was doing well for themselves. He was never a good hire, and was never a good fit.

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Wade Phillips will make a Chris Benoit-like splash in Dallas. Wait, what?

Which is why we have an opportunity now with a better fit and a better hire in a guy like Wade Phillips. I am excited for the staff that was assembled and for this upcoming season. Smart, underrated, under-the-radar decisions were made in this offseason for the Dallas Cowboys.

As a fan that cares about his team, I want a guy who will roll his sleeves up and tell people exactly what to do. Someone who will not refrain from acting like a leader and a boss whenever pampered athletes are being soft.

This is what I want from my head coach.

I want a guy who inspires hunger and desire in the players on his roster, and gets them to play better than what they really are. I want a guy, for all head coaching jobs at any level, who is a great leader of men. A guy who lays it on the line and tells it exactly like it is, leading by example, affecting the lives and backbones of every player and coach under him, not just for the season at hand, but for the rest of their lives. Someone who understands that’s there’s more to life, and to sports, than the six inches in front of your face.

There are going to be some usual growing-pains as we transition from the old regime to the new, but Wade Phillips is a guy who is defensive-oriented and still has a fire for this game. He is a very well respected and was somewhat of an overlooked candidate for recent job openings.

Now he has another chance to prove himself, this time with a team that needs work. I think he’s eager to take advantage of all that. Hopefully this will be the staff that the Metroplex has been waiting for, and hopefully the old-school approach to coaching is not all but gone with the wind.

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