Much debate has arisen this off-season over the Cowboys current lack of team leadership, and it’s recent public unveiling from within the Cowboys own locker room. Defensive End Jason Hatcher was oddly the visible insider with enough courage to openly voice his opinions and bring this controversial issue into the spotlight. Back in February, Hatcher was asked his opinion on leadership within the Cowboys.
I really don’t know. It’s just another thing we really need…we don’t have that. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got everything we need (except) a Ray Lewis. When Ray Lewis speaks, everybody listens to him. A guy like that, we really don’t got that. I think we definitely need somebody like that.
You’ve got to have somebody hold you accountable. With a leader like (Lewis), everybody is accountable and guys aren’t doing their own thing. (Lewis) is in there. Everybody’s going in one direction. So once you have that, you’ll be good. We’re still looking for it.
Whether the public manner Hatcher went about communicating his concerns was the appropriate means or not, there’s little denying he was correct. Furthermore, it was likely a necessary catalyst to promote change within the Cowboys culture.
Even when Dallas notched a rare playoff victory back in 2009, the leadership of that team was noticeably comprised of a ‘lead by example’ nature. The core players were certainly not of the highly critical, vocal variety.
In contrast, back in the early 90′s the leadership on those Cowboys teams was publicly intense. Troy Aikman demanded perfection from all receiver routes or the offending party would certainly get an earful once back in the huddle. And a sudden lack of passes heading in their vicinity was likely to follow.
Michael Irvin was even more intense as his leadership was felt throughout the whole team, not limiting to fellow receivers or the offensive unit. Irvin had no problem voicing his displeasure to any starter not carrying his weight, be it in practice or games.
Leaders of this bold nature must first lead by example to even be heard, yet they also will extend their reach and evaluation into the effort and performance of teammates.
While there may be brief moments of strong guidance like this that appeared on recent Cowboys squads, it certainly has been a missing ingredient for the most part. And to reach that next level of performance, its absolutely a crucial piece of the puzzle. It’s almost impossible for dedicated players not to improve their effort when strongly held accountable by productive teammates.