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The Genesis Of Leadership

Posted Oct 5, 2010

If the Cards start playing better, it's easier to follow

Running backs Beanie Wells (left), Tim Hightower and the rest of the Cards are looking to simply play better after a poor game in San Diego.


From Steve Breaston’s stool in the locker room, it seemed simple, the Cardinals’ woes right now.

It’s not about motivating through speeches or extra meetings. It’s about football.

“Kurt (Warner) wasn’t rah-rah, he played football,” Breaston said. “Like I told Larry (Fitzgerald) the other day, you don’t have to be one of them people that’s always talking. You need to be a guy who leads by playing out there and people will follow that. They’re not going to follow people that are talking and don’t go out and do nothing. Worry about yourself and play football.”

In times of crisis – and Tim Hightower would disagree that’s what this is (more on that in a moment) – the talk often turns to leadership on the roster. Who will lead the Cards out of the woods?

But that’s why the far-ranging message coming from the players (and likely originated by coach Ken Whisenhunt) out of the wreckage of Sunday’s game was self-reflection. Breaston mentioned it and Adrian Wilson said he couldn’t be concerned with anyone else but himself and Alan Faneca, in response to a question about who should be quarterback, noted “everyone needs to focus on themselves.”

Personally, I’ve never understood a lot about the “leadership” thing in this instance. I get leaders in the offseason; showing up to weightlifting and conditioning when you are a high-profile player is a good example. I get it when it comes to studying video and things like that. Again, that’s more about setting a good example than leading, really.

Leadership at this point? It’s playing well, like Breaston said.

Playing well – and winning – always solves everything.

When Hightower was asked about this team and offense having an “identity crisis,” he shook his head. “Identity crisis? Man, I don’t know. I can’t call it that,” Hightower said. “I’m not one to go in panic mode and that sounds like panic to me. We all have to do our jobs better.”

A winning team has leadership. A losing team does not. And I believe the results create the chemistry, not necessarily the other way around.

Wilson was asked, as a leader, if he would be talking to players this week. But – along the lines of Breaston’s point that players won’t follow anyone talking and not playing well – Wilson said only “I have to worry about myself.”

In theory, that gets fixed – for instance, the stars on defense, like the Wilsons, Darnell Docketts, Calais Campbells flash their considerable talents more often – the rest will follow. It’s usually called leadership by example, but in the end, it may be the only leadership that counts.

Whisenhunt believes in not getting too high or not getting too low. His press conferences the day after big wins aren’t coronations of his team, and the ones after bad losses aren’t missives of miserable. When he says, as he did Monday, that “I believe we are going to be a good football team this year” it is genuine.

If it happens, someone will have led the way.

Breaston waits to see who that might be. Because you’ll be able to tell on Sundays.

“We’ve been 2-2 at one point (the last couple years) and it was, ‘Who is going to respond?’ ” Breaston said. “Every time in the past, someone stepped up. I expect that from guys. For this team, this is new. If Kurt and (other departed players) were still here, we’d be, ‘Yeah, we’ll bounce back.’ For this team it is new and that’s where the pressure is coming from and why everyone (outside) is running around with their head cut off.

“We keep saying we have a long season but I want it to click now.”

SOME NUMBERS

Including the postseason, the Cardinals have won eight straight games following a loss.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is 44 receptions shy of tying Anquan Boldin for the most in franchise history (586).

The Cardinals have yet to win the turnover battle in a game this season after doing it seven times (including playoffs) last season for a 6-1 record.
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