Thursday, September 11, 2014

Keeping the Faith in Football



Everyone is welcome in Marc Trestman’s Chicago Bears' locker room and he believes that a sense of duty and shared confidence leads to success.  He also wants his players to focus on the positive while they play as team members and focus on the present.  

I heard a sports analysts comment on JJ Watt's play for the Houston Texans against Washington last week.  Watt plays intense every minute of the game--like Trestman advocates, Watt never lets up in a game.  That kind of attitude spreads around the team and makes everyone play better. 

NFL coaches have known that players who work hard each down, positively impact their teammates play, and help move the team to the next level.  That next level team is one  that has a shared faith--a faith in its players and the power of teamwork.  You can see confidence build and build as players continue to gel as a team--to keep the faith in football.  A sense of community and trust has a lot of religious overtones as well, but in this post I want to focus on teammates faith in each other.

Ironically, it takes great individual effort sometimes to create a great team dynamic.  Chuck Noll drafted Joe Greene knowing that his play on the field and his insatiable desire to succeed would impact the other players.  Greene was a one-man change-maker on defense and a tremendous team grew around him.  Once, the Steelers players hit a high level of confidence in their team, they consistently displayed it individually as well.  

Trestman and most successful coaches also believe that the quarterback has a special role in team dynamics.  It's not easy, but the best quarterbacks insist on good play from their teammates while taking the heat for team failings.  Quarterbacks  also need to display confidence that others can build on.  When an offense works together and each member plays at a high level, it creates a trust and that trust is another key ingredient.  

Great receivers play consistently well and if they miss a pass, they get right back and catch the next.  If their quarterback is off the mark, they do everything they can to make the catch or knock the ball out of harms way.  In critical situations they are at their best--grabbing the ball and keeping their feet positioned inbounds for the catch or leaping high into the air in the midst of defenders.  Receivers lay it on the line many times a game and a good quarterback does not take that kind of sacrifice for granted.  When a quarterback is working with receivers he can trust, the team is strengthened exponentially.  

When Brandon Marshall was hurt last week in the Bears--Bills game, he went back to the sidelines to have his ankle taped and then ran right back in.  Cutler turned to Matt Forte quite a bit in last week's game and the consistent Forte did not disappoint.  The Bears were off just enough to lose last week, but every game that can build camaraderie and confidence is a positive.  That's why coaches and players who can keep the faith after a loss can see setbacks as lessons.  

Chris Conte was vilified for a miss-tackle towards the end of the game, but he was working against a powerful back who had all ready moved the ball into a winning field goal range.  Conte sacrificed himself trying to do the near impossible and steal the ball from a powerful back running full steam for the end zone.  Lance Briggs and others stood up for Conte.  The criticism came hard after the game.  Briggs explained that he had confidence that the sky was not falling and the Bears would be just fine.  

Teams that can retain faith in each other improve. Teammates need to keep the faith.  

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press 

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships and other fine books on sports.