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Cal Football Leadership Roundtable, Part II: Coaches & Players

Continued from Part I: Leadership

TwistNHook: I find it very difficult to make an informed judgment regarding "leadership" here. 

Firstly, one person's definition of leader is another person's definition of annoyance.  The point is that it is incredibly difficult to define leader and leadership.  This is an amorphous concept that will not lead to a productive conversation.

Secondly, we have insufficient facts.  We are not in the locker room.  We are not in the practices.  We are not in the huddle.  We can make a series of educated guesses based off of rumor, innuendo, and what we see from our seats, 70 yards away.  Perhaps some of those educated guesses will be accurate, but, overall, they are likely to be inaccurate. 

ragnarok:  That's a very diplomatic way of saying, "This roundtable is stupid", Twist.  Nevertheless, I tend to agree.  Personally, as a fan in the stands, I can't pretend to comment intelligently on this matter.

Avi, could I restate the question here as, "Does Tedford not yell at his players enough?  And if not, does that cause his players not to yell at each other enough?"  Are players under performing because they're not "fired up"?  I don't understand.

Cal fans, what players do you see emerging as our locker room leaders in 2011? How big of a role should Jeff Tedford and the coaching staff play in firing up the team?

TwistNHook: I don't believe the roundtable is stupid, ragnarok.  It is a question that comes up time and time again.  I think it is important to discuss the questions that our readers have.  However, when it comes to this question, I am consistently hesitant to subscribe to any particular theory.  People seem to think that Tedford is not a good motivator, because they do not see him pounding his chest on the side lines.  I don't agree with that at all.  I think motivation is much more complex than pounding ones chest.

We just saw how the Singletary era went in SF and I would not want Tedford to act in a similarly emotional manner.  I believe that it is important for the coach to be a steady rock in times of both good and bad.  Singletary was not that.  Tedford is. 

Avinash: I do not prescribe to that theory either, Twist. Coaches of any hat, emotional or emotionless, can be successful. Harbaugh at Furd and Carroll at USC was supposedly emotional, but so were the more reserved Nick Saban and Chip Kelly.

I DO prescribe to the theory that players can motivate and help each other during tough times, and that our team probably doesn't have quite the swagger of a USC or Oregon sideline. Cal players, for at least the past two seasons, seem to have a more difficult time adjusting to adversity, despite having quality talent on both sides of the ball. Quality talent doesn't get blown out seven to eight times in two seasons without there being issues that exist outside of simple Xs and Os.

TwistNHook: Your last sentence is 100% accurate, Avi, but I don't think we have sufficient facts to make a clearer determination regarding the role of so-called "leadership" in those failures.  I'm not trying to stop this discussion, far from it, but, instead, make my points clear. 

I'm not quite sure how we can address leadership from a player's perspective.  Quite frankly, just yelling at other guys doesn't make you a leader.  Sean Cattouse is always shooting his mouth off and talking a big game...but he gets so worked up that he over-pursues/bites on fakes/and takes himself out of the play.  Tedford's stunt when he head-butted Jared Price struck me as being symptomatic of the issue here.  That type of stuff doesn't fit Tedford's personality and really has no bearing on whether the team will play well or play poorly.

Ultimately, I think that accountability is the key theme here.  Do we have guys who are respected, strong, and vocal enough to hold their peers accountable for practice habits and game performance?  Has Tedford established a culture of accountability or does he play favorites and let things slide?  I seem to recall that when he first came to Cal, the first thing he did was meet with each player, establish goals/expectations, and appoint leaders.  Everyone was held consistently accountable for team rules, regardless of whether they were stars or backups.  In particular, his "if you fumble, you sit" rule was very noticeable.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like players are being held to the same standards as before.

Sadly enough, thinking about this issue just leads me to come up with more questions, not answers.

LeonPowe:  Great sports coaches have succeeded with the entire gamut of leadership styles from fiery to calm, cool and collected. 

As for on on field/locker room stuff, not only are we not there, are we not also looking at the results and then trying tomatch up results afterwards? that bad years had bad leadership and good years had good leaders? I mean that's not exactly rocket science.

For all I could tell Mychal Kendricks emerged as the leader on & off the field by the end of the season.

We'll see if that has any impact in 2011.

Berkelium97: It's much easier to point to mistakes on the field than it is to try to run a psychological evaluation of the team.  The only times we question leadership is when the team is playing poorly.  Even then it's tough to quantify leadership.  Were we lacking leadership when we got blown out by Oregon and USC in 2009?  How about when we won five of the next six, with the final two victories over ranked teams despite our team trailing in the fourth quarter?  And what about when we ended the season with losses to UW and Utah?  Without knowing much about how these guys are interacting with one another on a daily basis, on the practice field, and in the locker room, there's not much to say that is not wild speculation.

The biggest issues here are 1) we can't recognize if leadership exists, 2) we can't measure leadership, even if we could recognize it, and 3) even if we could measure it, it's tough to say how much of an impact it has on team.

atomsareenough: I'm finding it hard to contribute to this because like Twist and Berkelium pointed out, this is all complete speculation on our parts. We might have our perceptions of players and coaches' personalities based on what we see in public and out on the field, but we really don't know what's going on in practices, in the locker room, and in the huddle. Sure, the players are not automatons that simply execute plays based on the constraints of their ability and the competition, so purely analyzing X's and O's might not capture the whole story, but I think we, as emotionally invested observers, can fall too easily into the trap of over-determining things based on narratives that we project onto the team. And as LeonPowe suggests, there's also an element of post hoc fallacy at play as well. We won, so there must have been good leadership. We lost, so there must be a leadership problem.

Anyway, maybe leadership is a legitimate concern, and maybe it isn't. If we've got some sources close to the team who can fill us in a little on what goes on behind the scenes and give us some more perspective like Hydro has in the past, that's great. Otherwise, I'm content to stick with mostly X's and O's, and what the players and coaches tell us is going on. Maybe there are "character guys", and there are personality types we can try to recruit for, but we know even less about random high school players than we know about our own college players, and frankly I'm inclined to suspect that the elevation of personality traits over talent is more of an overblown sports writing cliche than anything else.

As for Tedford, I think that as the captain of the ship, he has demonstrated himself to be willing to analyze, evaluate and adapt his approach regularly to try and accommodate the needs of his team and his players, and he's in much better position to determine the best approach than any of us are. I think if he suddenly wants to give Jared Price a congratulatory headbutt, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that it was genuine and not contrived, and that's between the two of them based on their relationship dynamic. I feel like Tedford's a pretty straightforward, no-nonsense guy who has high expectations and standards, and he is who he is, and I for one like who he is.

Ohio Bear: I tend to come down on the same side as Twist, Berkelium, and atoms on the whole "leadership" question. Without being in the locker room, at the practices, or on the sideline, I am not comfortable saying our woes are attributable to a want of leadership.

What the 2010 team lacked -- it seemed to me -- was toughness. Was lacked the physical and/or mental toughness to overcome early onslaughts by our opponents. We could never really weather a storm and stay in a game once we got behind, except for maybe the Nevada game (which we ended up getting blown out in anyway).

Was that a leadership problem? I don't know. Whatever it was, it has to be fixed. Until the 2009 season, Jeff Tedford's teams had a remarkable knack for being competitive in games and not getting blown out. Since 2009, we have been on the short end of far too many blowouts. Coach Tedford has not gotten dumber during this period of time. Our team just hasn't been tough enough and I think Coach Tedford knows it.