We’ve reached a point in the NFL football season that weighs heavy on some fans, players, coaches, GM’s, and anyone else associated with teams, clubs, or organizations whose 2012 dreams have already been dashed. “Dashed” I suppose is a less harsh way of stating “over” as a result of poor records nearing the midway point. The hope and optimism of preseason training camps are gone with the harsh reality of looking up at the rest of the division or conference.
In the National Football League the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, and Carolina Panthers have just a single win for their efforts. Staying on path will most likely give them….3 wins at the end of the season. A recent Twitpolls.com question The Football Educator put to the fans was this, “What’s most important; playoffs, W-L record, signs of improvement?” Fans answered with a tie between playoffs and improvement. The post season certainly appears out of reach for these teams, but is overall improvement?
What I’ve seen in the past with clubs in a spiral is the tendency to lose focus. Players, coaches, and staff start to shift their thoughts and efforts towards self preservation and maintaining personal status quo. If leadership can’t keep them focused on the team’s mission, and or goals still attainable, then individuals will refocus upon their own. It’s a fine line between failure and success that your team walks at the moment.
So if not the playoffs, how improvement?
General Managers and head coaches must concentrate on emphasizing to their team to FOCUS on what they have control over. Chances of reaching the playoffs may be slim, if not totally out of reach. Yet improvement can be attained. Revamp your mission and overall team goals to more short term benchmarks. Your club should breakdown the process into incremental steps; personal preparation, position meetings, team practice. The moment you’re in is the most important moment. Review and revise after every step. It’s imperative to communicate, communicate, communicate. Keep your club focused on the NOW and off of the “What if’s?”
How your team responds to adversity is a tell tale sign of how close they are as a unit. Does coaching and management appear to publicly criticize individuals or position groups? Are team members outwardly showing on the field frustration or off the field testiness? Do turnovers and penalties still play a major role in your team’s efforts? The tendency of fractured teams is to place the blame elsewhere, to deflect any criticism on to others, and to ensure that close evaluation & scrutiny is diverted elsewhere.
Clubs with strong leadership won’t place blame specifically, but rather review all current plans, procedures, and personnel (coaching tactics, practice schedules, etc…) and look for alternative ways to get their message across. FOCUS and simplify. It might sound cliché, but “One step at a time.”
Improvement despite distraction
If you recall, The Football Educator researched the time frame where most NFL regimes wear out their welcome. After 3 years, with no playoffs and no improvement, NFL owners are inclined to make a change. Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, and Carolina are all clear of the 3 year ceiling. But it’s improvement that will be the ultimate measuring stick.
Carolina has fired their GM (Marty Hurney). Cleveland has changed ownership (Jimmy Haslam) and future front office leadership (Joe Banner). Kansas City rebuffs the rumor mill surrounding their management (Scott Pioli). Jacksonville ownership (Shahid Khan) is looking to London for future fan support. How can it get any worse? I’ll tell you how… By letting all these and other distractions affect the short term ability of the Panthers, Browns, Chiefs, and Jaguars to improve on the football field.
Watch these teams closely and let us know what you see. Tweet me @Ted_Sundquist