Back in the 2003 season the Patriots and Panthers faced each other in the Super Bowl. The thing I remembered the most about that game was in the pregame discussion they mentioned that the Patriots had the most players in the NFL on their roster with college degrees and the Panthers had the second most.
I don't think it is just coincidence sometimes that teams that are focused simply play better. I don't know what the ratio is today, but ever since that day I've found myself hoping we were going after goal oriented finishers.
I firmly believe Bill Parcells drafted that way to a degree. It was Parcells who began to focus on getting Team Captain kinds of guys. Natural leaders. I wasn't always satisfied with the results of the Parcells years, but that focus by him was something I really appreciated.
That's why I was really surprised that he signed off on Terrell Owens coming here. You see, all the talent in the world is useless if a guy thinks he deserves special treatment.
Back to the Patriots for a minute. Watch closely how they operate. They almost never go after the big name, high priced, home run Free Agents. Instead they look for steady guys.
We emulated that with guys like Kosier, Brooking, Rivera, and Eddie George. Sometimes unfortunately guys that near the ends of their careers like Brooking and George don't propel you forward as much as you hope.
The other day I was on hold for the Michael Irvin Show, and I hilariously stayed on hold the entire show and never got on. Jimmy Johnson was one of the guests and you can find the podcast of his segment here.
It aired May 17th. Scroll down if you want to hear that interview.
Around 13 minute mark the mark in the audio Jimmy talks about "the right kinds of guys." Smart guys, tireless workers, and it eventually leads to success. He was talking about players and coaches alike in those comments. Note how much time Jimmy spends discussing his players getting their diplomas.
I don't believe it is a coincidence at all that our 2 most successful coaches in the Jerry era believe in this, nor that Garrett does given he went to Miami for 3 days to pick Jimmy's mind about coaching before he ever got interviewed for jobs.
I also want to stress that Tom Landry was the guru of this thinking. Landry absolutely wanted a certain kind of guy. Let's take Rayfield Wright for instance. Drafted out of a small Georgia school as a TE, he became a Hall of Famer as a RT. Why was he able to make a transition that stark so well? Simple, he was the right kind of guy. Listen to his Hall of Fame speech and what do you hear? I'll tell what I hear. Team.
What was it he said about his commandments? "Thou shalt not touch Roger Staubach." Loved it. Still love it.
So you get a high priced Free Agent like Albert Haynesworth and naturally everyone thinks he is going to put the Redskins over the hump, but what happens? Nine times out of ten a player like that, who has immense talent, thinks he is the savior of his new team. For all of TOs talk about what a good teammate he was because he worked so hard what did he want more than anything else? To be "unleashed."
I tip my hat to the Patriots and Steelers because when a guy gets too big for his britches so to speak, they let him go. I will be honest with you, I thought the Steelers were going to 86 Pig Pen Ruthlessraper at one point during the media scandals over his actions. As good as he is, and I do think he is a good football player, he was getting too big for his britches, giving the team a black eye.
It can be argued whether we went for a big splash Free Agent in Carr. In a lot of ways I do think he is one, but I do see a difference in him and someone like Deion Sanders and I am not just talking about talent. Deion was a top 5 draft pick. Deion was one of the biggest athletic freaks of all time. Carr was a 5th round pick who earned his spot on guts and guile. He hit the books, hit the weights, hit the opponents, and then hit it big.
Guys like that are less likely to be savior mentality sorts than a Deion was. Add a Deion to a powerhouse like the 49ers or our 90's Cowboys, and his talent merely compliments what is already there. It didn't work in Washington despite him going in there with Bruce Smith and a host of other great players near the end of their careers.
It doesn't work because guys who put themselves above the team take the team down.
Say what you want about the results under Garrett. I like what I see. I see a team being built around a mentality. Jimmy Johnson said it in the interview, eventually they are going to see success.
The $64,000 question is when? There are no perfect answers to that question.
I love hearing Jason Garrett say that 89 of the 90 guys under contract are in Dallas working on football. The lone holdout is Mike Jenkins and this is not a bash him thread. In New Orleans and New England players like Drew Brees and Wes Welker are absent. Guys make business decisions all the time. I have no issue with what Jenkins is doing.
I'm more encouraged by the reports that everyone else is on board. That Sean Lee is dialed in. That Dez is leaner and hungrier. That Romo is vocal.
The payoff is not a group of talented players, but rather a team. People ask what we have lacked that has kept us so down. Listen to Troy Aikman's interview with Rich Eisen along with Emmitt and Michael. He talks about sacrifice a little individually for the good of the team.
I honestly believe we have guys who do that and it is going to pay off. Look how it did in 1992. Am I comparing the two years? No, not really, but I absolutely am comparing the mindset and the focus.
I believe firmly you have to build that mindset before you truly can succeed. I believe you have to be so focused that it consumes you.
Now, I'm not talking about the silly TMZ mentality of Tony Romo can't play golf. That's just ignorant. I'm talking about drive and being driven. I believe we are seeing players who are exactly that. Anyone who didn't see that in Sean Lissemore by year's end needs to get their eyes checked. Anyone who didn't see that in Tyron Smith needs a sanity check.
All over the team players are buying in, coming together, sacrificing, and focusing. I like the assembled coaching staff. I believe it was DeMarcus Ware who said he liked the way things smelled a few years back. I like the way things smell right now.
The NFC is really loaded right now. I don't want to get my hopes up too high, but they are up. I see these right kinds of guys and I see difference makers are key positions and I see coaching hires like Jerome Henderson and Jimmy Robinson and it has me amped up.
If our interior OL acquisitions improve this team the sky is the limit. I believe we have some advantages very much in our favor this year as it pertains to the schedule. The key is going to be health and hitting the ground running, and so far we're seeing that.
I get that fans are results driven. I don't always agree with it because I am focus driven. I believe you can't allow negativity around you anywhere. That's why I am glad Terence Newman is gone. When a man like Darren Woodson calls you on the carpet like he did Newman, you aren't the right kind of guy or you need it. That wasn't accidental at all folks. It was a pointed message.
We've got a rookie replacing a long time vested veteran at that spot. Thank goodness the rookie is a true talent. he seems to also be the right kind of guy. He can't participate in all facets of practice yet, but he's on the field, soaking it in, digesting it, asking questions.
If you aren't getting excited yet, you will be. You will be. Pardon my Yoda impersonation there.
As the OTAs and the final Mini Camp unfold, as guys get healthy, as Training Camp approaches, and above all as the season hits the horizon and we start to see it coming, you're going to be excited like you haven't been in a long, long time.
What have we built for 2012? Right now, it's hard to say with any surety, but I will tell you this. Improvement in areas of concern from previous seasons is going to be really obvious. I already see it.