Soothsayer: Leadership and the Dallas Cowboys

My good friend Soothsayer has posted a comment on one of the blog entries which I think all of us should read. If you don’t know Sooth from his many call ins to DCFanatic Radio let me give you a quick bio on him. He hates Jerry Jones, has followed the Dallas Cowboys religiously since a child, has seen the best days of all the Cowboys greats, has dressed as Tom Landry and attended games and has a love for this team that cannot be challlenged by anyone from any generation.

Here’s this from Sooth…

I’ll tell you what a leader is.

When Roger Stauback would change the play call in the huddle and win the game. That’s a leader.

When Staubach, while he was changing the play in the huddle, would turn to Drew Pearson and ask, “Can you get open?” Pearson would say, “Yes.” That’s a leader.

When Charlie Waters, the only player who truly understood the Flex, would walk up to Tom Landry and say, “Coach, we need to be doing this on defense.” That’s a Leader.

When Michael Irvin showed on his first day at Valley Ranch and yelled, “Can lightning strike twice?” Then proceeded to become the hardest worker on the practice field. That’s a leader.

When Troy Aikman, at a press conference after the devastating loss to San Francisco in 94, said, “We will win our third Super Bowl.” Or when at training camp at St. Edwards, he deliberately overthrew a receiver who slowed down on his route as the ball sailed over his head, Aikman barked, “In Dallas, we don’t stop running till the ball hits the ground.” That’s a leader.

When Emmitt Smith dislocated his shoulder, had the trainers pop it back in, then returned to the field and played through grueling pain to win the game against the Giants. That’s a leader.

There are numerous other examples, but you get the point. Leadership is setting the example for your teammates, in the locker room, on the practice field, and in the game. It’s what make the rest of the team elevate their level of performance. It’s what motivates men to win.

Saying “our window is closing” is not leadership. Rather, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Saying “we need to improve” is not leadership. It’s an admission of underperformance.

You never would have heard Staubach or Aikman, or any of the other storied leaders the Cowboys have had in the past, say “we’re running out of time.” No, they all would have said, “Give us one more down.” The former is admitting you’re losing. The latter is stating you’re determined to win.

“Coaching is getting men to do what they do not want to do, in order to get them to achieve what they want to achieve.” –Tom Landry. That’s leadership.

He is a wise man who has lived a pretty good life down there in Texas. Sometimes I think back to beginning of my blog and radio show back in 2005. Never did I imagine that it would bring him in contact with so many great people across the world, but it has and I appreciate that very much. Thanks to everyone who visits.

Let’s hope that at the end of the next Super Bowl all of us can rejoice that once again the Dallas Cowboys are World Champions.


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15 Responses to Soothsayer: Leadership and the Dallas Cowboys

  1. Anonymous says:

    A leader also wouldn’t say ” If losing a football game is the worst thing that can happen to me then I lived a pretty good life”. How can you look at Romo as a leader when he says something like this after getting beat down 44-6 in a game that keeps you out of the playoffs. Staubach and Aikman would’ve never said anything like that. Yet we have some fans that think Romo is a better qb than those two great leaders because he puts up great stats. What happened to the Romo that cried after the Seattle loss in the playoffs? I want that guy back not this too cool for school Romo.

    • lostar2009 says:

      Thnx finally someone speak the truth.. I miss that old Romo too.. not this mainstream Romo

      • Anonymous says:

        Romo did go Hollywood after his 1st season. I remember being in the grocery store and always seeing Romo on the cover of some gossip magazine with Jessica. I’m starting to see the same thing happening with Tebow. More about being a celebrity than winning football games.

        • lostar2009 says:

          Yea it seem as now he is always trying to make a big play or that highlight reel instead if taking whats. there to live to play another down.

          After a while i guest some fans like me was getting tired of it. I just want a qb that can do his job and make great decisions, make the clutch plays when called upon etc..

        • Glenn says:

          I don’t think Romo enjoyed the limelight. He liked the hot celeb woman but not the visibility. WOuldn’t most of you enjoy Jessica or someone similar? You only see his interviews on Wednesday’s. Any other day he can’t be found in the locker room by the media. He’s in the building but not where they can find him!

  2. The Soothsayer says:

    I appreciate the shout out, Fanatic, and the compliment. But you left off the part about Bob Lilly, for space requirements I suppose.

    To my mind, Bob Lilly is the greatest Cowboy of all time. He was the first draft pick, the first Ring of Honor member and the first Hall of Fame member. That man could just flat out play football.

    After the loss in Super Bowl V, he flung his helmet halfway across the field. Because he was pissed. See, that’s the difference. Then, Cowboys didn’t cry after losses–they got pissed. They cried after wins.

    Darren Woodson, another of my favorite Cowboys, in his rookie season won the Super Bowl in 92. He walked into the locker room all smiling and happy. Around him were the veterans who had suffered through the losing seasons of the late 80s and very early 90s, and they were all crying. He asked, “Why are you guys crying? We won!” They were crying because all of their work, their blood, their sweat, their injuries, and their pain had finally paid off. Ten years later, when he was on a losing team, Woodson said he understood.

    Let me tell you something about Bob Lilly. He never lifted weights. His conditioning was pure calisthenics. The man was a natural born athlete. And I’ll tell you something else too. He took ballet classes in college, for the balance and stretching exercises. And no one made fun of him about it.

    In 1971, when he told Randy White, “Rookie, we’re going to the Super Bowl and we’re going to win,” he meant it. Well, that season didn’t start out too well. On one flight home after a loss, a couple of players were laughing about it. Bob Lilly didn’t say anything, instead he punished them on the practice field. And believe me he punished them; they learned their lesson.

    It took at least three players, sometimes five, to block Bob Lilly. He would just wade through blockers. And when he tackled you, it hurt. Then he would help you up.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some Roger Staubach. He is my hero. He was the catalyst that led the 71 team to victory. And No. 12 is the only number the Cowboys have never re-issued. He was the only one who would change the play ing the huddle, because he was in the game and he was determined to win. Craig Morton wouldn’t do that. Danny White wouldn’t do that. Only Staubach would do that. It infuriated Landry, but it won him playoff games and Super Bowls, so he lived with it.

    Do you think Romo has the balls to change the play in the huddle? I don’t. I think he would run the play called, just like Morton or White. Yeah, if the play breaks down, Romo has great escapability and sometimes can make something out of nothing. But the reality is this. Sometimes the coach makes the wrong call. It’s up to the quarterback to make the right call in the huddle.

    We all hope the Cowboys are successful this season. But hope never won a football game. Only determination will. A lot of the guys on this team need to grow a pair and get serious. Because if they’re not really pissed at this point, they’re losers. And it’s just going to be another season of mediocrity. And that sucks.

    • Glenn says:

      I remember some of those things and they were great. Roger could get away with changing plays but remember that him and ole Tom didn’t get along all that well at times. But even Landry knew that Roger could make some miracles. Landry was one of the first coaches to start sending in plays. One of the great chess matches light years ago was watching a QB call a game. It was a rare thing when a play was sent in It was the job of the QB to run the game, start to finish. Today’s games have changed dramatically with the ear piece where the QB’s get the plays. THey are mere machines now and they only have a certain latitude to make changes. Frankly, I don’t see many audibles by Romo. The only change I see, after the “Kill, kill, kill” is the sprint draw play on 90% of those occasions. I don’t believe the modern QB is allowed to make dramatic changes like they did years ago. Today, they have options off every play, which is often based on personnel packages and defensive schemes they are expecting. Don’t see it anywhere near the same as back then. Also too, there is so much riding on every play, every game that coaches take that freelancing away from players. Their jobs can rest on the outcome of any single game and it’s effect on the season. Don’t know that beyond Payton, Brady & Brees, that anyone has the “green light” back there to go completely off script.

  3. Anonymous says:

    With all due respect, i strongly disagree with Soothsayer. It’s not about Bob Lilly, Aikman, Waters or Emmit Smith. It’s about the other guys on the team who did their job. The 30 thru 53 guys.

    • Dee says:

      He didn’t say it was about those guys; he’s simply giving the leadership examples each player possessed that inspired their team. Any sensible fan understands that football is a “team” sport, but teams need leaders to guide them, hold players (as well as themselves) accountable, and to rise to the occasion in critical moments of games. Those guys did, and they were the epitome of leaders. Even talented teams need someone to guide the ship, and this version of the Cowboys don’t seem to have anyone who can take charge. They’re not winning, so obviously, the so-called leadership they have now is simply not good enough.

    • Glenn says:

      Yeah, but some guys set the expectations for the whole team. What’s funny is that it only becomes folk lore if they win! If you win, every team has leaders. If they don’t win, they lack leadership! If teams have good players who play well, they win. Teams that don’t have good players, they lose!

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree with everything you said soothsayer but I have heard romo change plays so that statement is incorrect. Now romo did say himself the window isn’t closing and when romo said we will be in the superbowl people killed him for it. So when are players say we will win or say they could get open they get killed. This leadership stuff is getting blown out of proportion. We as fans hang on to what these players say too much. I don’t care what they say words don’t matter, play does. A lot of people said what aikman and staubach said but they didn’t have the talent. Rah rah speeches don’t mean anything if they did ray lewis would’ve had at least 3 superbowls by now. When you win your a leader that’s it. Eli couldn’t lead anyone until he won,he’s the same guy. Remember tiki barber called eli leadership attempts laughable. Its just when you get a chance you have to take advantage of it.

    • Dee says:

      Until the Cowboys win, the “leadership stuff” has some merit to it. This team has underachieved for far too long. Something has to change because this team continues to suffer one devastating loss after another. They’re constantly finding ways to lose games. The leadership is not good enough.

      • Glenn says:

        When you win there’s a room full of leaders! This team loses games because it’s not a strong team. They have some top tier players in guys like Ware, Witten & Romo but once you leave their top 7-8 players, they move to average and below average very quickly. Notice how some teams suffer an injury and the next man up plays well. Part of that is coaching and preparation but also team building through the draft and free agency. We have kept changing coaches, schemes, trading draft picks etc and not really following a game plan. Don’t believe all the analysts on how talented are team was or is. If it was so talented we wouldn’t have had players aging in front of our eyes like Neman, Brooking, James, Gurode, Columbo, Davis, etc or fielded players such as Ball and Walker at CB”s last year. Our offensive and defensive lines have been pretty bad for at least 3 years. When you can’t control the line of scrimmage, you will lose more big games than you win.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Landry is up there for me, like Staubach and Lilly. I will say this, the times are not so different. As you recall, the Cowboys were called “Next Year’s Champions” for years. Landry broke down in 1965, feeling like a failure for not taking the Cowboys farther. In hindsight, it seems like they were always on top, but the truth is, it took time. I wonder if Lilly, Staubach and Landry would survive today’s microscope? I’m glad they hung in there and turned the corner. Staubach only has to look at the development of Landry’s motion offense and Rookie of the Year HBs Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas and Tony Dorsett to see how it all came together.

    Sooth, you make some valid points, but I can see where these are apples to those glorious oranges in the 70’s and 90’s.


    • Glenn says:

      I can’t imagine what it’s like for an athlete today who doesn’t want to be scrutinized every minute of every day. I worked in the NYC press core and covered all the major sports. Trust me, when I tell you there were those who were out to make their bones by destroying players. Saw more than 1 player run out of town. Saw it more in baseball, Reporters would rip some guys unmercifully till they begged to leave town. In football now, guys who don’t want to be interviewed can avoid it most days. Players today, such as teams QB’s are brought in weekly for Media 101. Notice the sound bites they & the coaches give, virtually all the same because the PR departments have sat them down and rehearsed it, to protect them from saying things that get them grilled.

      We’ve seen people get trapped into saying something foolish and wind up getting fired or forced to quit. Ever hear Garrett, Ware, Romo & Witten talk about the “process”. Last week it was the “window” being discussed and the players were definitely brought in on how to answer that. We’re all tired of the blase answers, but they have to protect the team and themselves from saying things that can haunt them. Such as “if this is the worst thing that happens in my life”. THink about how frustrated any competitor feels at the end of the season knowing their done for the season. You get knocked out and embarrassed. How would you react? When the Cowboys lose, do you want to talk to your wife? Think about it! You don’t want to talk to the media, let alone one that is blaming you for the teams failure that day and probably a guy who’s ragged your team since training camp. Know of any reporters in Dallas who rip the team, an individual player, or the owner every chance they get?

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