I viewed an interesting story on ESPN about QB mentoring. It was quite the opposite of what I believed the process to be. As a young linebacker, when I came into the league I was fortunate to have a veteran take me under his wing and show me how to be a professional, while other vet’s told me to go right when I should’ve been going left, ultimately I became a started and 2 years later he was released, but that is the nature of the beast. He taught me how to study, prepare, how to conduct myself as a professional on and off the field. He told me where to go and where not to go, what to do and what to do, and who to hang out with and who not to if I wanted to be successful in the NFL. As he did with me, I felt compelled to pass on the knowledge that was imparted upon me, for two reasons; first, the team is only as strong as its weakest link, so it’s important that the young players progress and get better because you never know when the team will need them to step up and replace an injured vet. Secondly, what happened to paying it forward? I was shocked to observe the attitudes of greats like Joe Montana and Brett Favre. Teams will always bring in younger players to replenish the roster and upgrade the talent level of the team; competition brings out the best in everyone and is the one thing that will make your team better. And if a younger player was brought in to challenge for my job, I competed; simple that’s what sports are all about.
Both Favre and Montana talked about their discomfort in dealing with their backup in waiting. Favre flat out said, “He didn’t feel any responsibility in helping Aaron Rodgers progress,” and Montana said, “He felt uneasy about the presence of Steve Young.” Montana came back from injury early to maintain his job as starter, talk about motivation. Drew Bledsoe still speaks about the Brady transition and how it was a bitter pill to swallow. The success of the team and a personal belief in self are two of the most important qualities needed to be a successful QB. Coaches talk all the time about the team being more important than any one player, the QB is an extension of the Head Coach, the second in charge in terms of leadership on and off the field. So the requirement of a leader is to lead by example and mentor young players in the game and in life. What if a starter gets hurt, next man up. Brady won Bledsoe a Super Bowl ring because he was ready to step in effectively and efficiently when Bledsoe got hurt. That is the role of a backup at any position. So I’m a bit perplexed with the true attitude of these great field generals and their lack of leadership in this area. I wonder out loud if this is the norm or the exception in the NFL, I get it; it is about survival and self-preservation. I understand that ego has its role in sports, for the player who doesn’t believe he’s the top dawg, success will never become a reality, so where is their self-confidence to lock down their position while helping young players get prepared to replace them if they are injured or when the time comes for them to retire? Competition will never go away, and inevitably the day will come when a player’s body just can no longer do what the mind commands it to do. Football is a young man’s game and while the coaches and organizations are invested in the progression and development of their young players, it is paramount to team success that veterans approach this issue from the same perspective, for the overall betterment and growth of the game.