It’s a funny thing culture. We talk about it all the time in sports regarding teams and franchises. We talk about what their philosophies are regarding the way they want to do things and the type of culture they’re trying to breed. Yet as often as it is stated it is also an afterthought in the list of things needed for a successful organization.
Looking back at this past weekend in football (college and the NFL) and the week in sports in general I saw a lot of teams and franchises going in a different directions. I noticed some things regarding culture and the way its being handled by storied teams and franchises. You, obviously, can’t talk culture without starting in Dallas. The Cowboys need something completely different. This past week, leading up to the game against the New York Giants owner/general manager Jerry Jones sounded almost desperate for a new way of running business. Jones, who spent the entire week pumping up Tony Romo and making him sound like he was going to have an historic run through the playoffs that would begin in New York, couldn’t have foreseen his teams would end like it had in Carolina (twice), Arizona, Minnesota, New York and Seattle in the years since their last Super Bowl appearance back in 1996. Only this time before making the playoffs.
Their division mates and rival Washington Redskins have looked forward (Spurrier) looked back (Gibbs) and looked lateral (Mike Shanahan) to find a winning culture in Washington DC. Yet for all the millions spent on players somehow Dan Snyder never spends much on a legitimate quarterback. No disrespect to Donovan McNabb, Mark Brunell, Todd Collins, John Beck and whichever warm bodied lamb they run out there, but you have to have someone capable of playing the position to have a shot at championships. Those names aren’t going to cut it and it has been proven. Mark Brunell and McNabb lost a combined five conference championships before arriving.
In college there were a few teams that made some changes to breed a new culture for their programs as well. While that was nice it seemed the same ugly vices reared their ugly head.
Lets start in Georgia.
Mark Richt has won two SEC championships, over 100 games and two BCS bowls in his time as head coach of the University of Georgia. He’s run into some hard times of late. First it took him a little too long to realize Willie Martinez was not his guy as defensive coordinator and that led to Georgia going from a perennial top-10 team defensively to being sandwiched between the likes of San Jose State and Ohio. This year they were third nationally behind a 3-4 scheme led by Todd Grantham and looked great. The culture was finally changing at Georgia. Until we realized coach Richt’s old penchant for not placing enough emphasis on special teams would bite him a few times. There were missed tackles on punt returns and an All-American kicker who lost his ability to kick. Their were adjustments, but the lack of a special teams coach was apparent in a big way. Especially when it mattered the most. This year they went 10-4. Their last loss in a bowl game to Michigan State. On a missed field goal.
There are rumblings in New York that the Jets are getting tired of the culture brought by brash head coach Rex Ryan. Yet, no one was complaining when he took his team to two straight AFC championship games. for those of you who say that means nothing I pose this question: When was the last time your favorite NFL team went to a conference championship game? I can tell you the last time mine did. 2004-2005 season. Seven years goes by very quickly. Bigger picture? Before Rex Ryan arrived the last time the Jets participated in a conference championship Curtis Martin played running back, Vinny Testaverde was the quarterback and John Elway was preparing his super bowl swan song.
That was 1998-1999. How quickly we forget.
Culture is something that gets overlooked so often in sports It confuses me. We look past it like the minimal signing of a guy we don’t know, yet it is the most important thing when determining the success and failure of your favorite team. Don’t believe me? Ask the Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, and even the Washington Nationals how important positive new change can be. While some are moving forward with a new direction others such as the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins need to start looking for something new.
That starts by changing the old.