The NFL playoffs are exciting, intense, emotional, and fascinating. I enjoy the world’s ultimate team game in the one and done atmosphere of the playoffs. It is intriguing to follow the mindset of each team as they approach game day.
Leadership vs. Leadership
Leadership is the secret ingredient. Leadership in the playoffs is as important as the players themselves. It must be understood that leadership is critical throughout the organization in order to win. It starts with the head coach but must be carried throughout the coaching staff and into the locker room with the players. The head coach casts the vision and process, and the coaching staff sells that process to their units who carry out the plan.
Eagles vs. Falcons
The Philadelphia Eagles winning their game against the Atlanta Falcons is a prime example of leadership at its finest. Doug Pederson is the head coach of the Eagles and never lost confidence in his team and his staff, players, and process when they lost their starting quarterback, Carson Wentz.
Few people outside of the organization gave the Eagles much of a chance to win. The belief in his team and the players’ belief in each other was the mindset of the leadership at every level that the Eagles used to carry them to victory and into the NFC Championship Game.
The players who rallied behind the backup quarterback Nick Foles, and that collective confidence created the momentum of each positive play moving forward.
Pederson, his coaching staff, and the Eagles players were examples of leadership throughout the organization.
Steelers vs. Jaguars
An example of a breakdown in leadership and organizational mindset could have contributed to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Steelers’ safety, Mike Mitchell was quoted: “We’re going to play (the Patriots) again. We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England. We’re gonna win.”
The problem with that statement is the fact the Steelers had to defeat Jacksonville first. That lack of focus on the task at hand is a reflection of leadership at some level of the coaching staff and team. What team members vocalize is a reflection of leadership. I do not doubt Mike Tomlin’s leadership. He has exemplified tremendous leadership on many occasions.
As I believe that leadership must be evident at every level of the team; somewhere within the team that leadership failed. It could have been at the coordinator level, the position coach level, or the players’ locker room level. Although only one player voiced that lack of focus and singularity of goal, it does plant the seed in the mind of the whole locker room.
New England is playing in their seventh consecutive AFC Championship Game in large part due to the leadership of Bill Belichick and the rest of his staff and team.
Leadership will continue to play a key role in determining the outcomes of the NFC and AFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl.
But to reach any goal, you must play one game at a time, one play at a time, one chance at a time.