Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 2 at Super Bowl XLIII

Day 2 is a very early morning (sort of) as we need to get to Media Day at Raymond James Stadium. 9:00 am is the Cardinals, 11:00 am is the Steelers. Wacky bits will be harvested.

That means a short blog. So, a few quickies:

Pat Kirwan is my football leader. He is sort of booked on the show at 1:30. If this happens, you won’t want to miss it.

Kirwan’s latest looks at the way to get to the Super Bowl

The word "culture" has become the in-vogue term to describe the fiber of a franchise. Culture, in the NFL sense, means creating a winning environment based on shared beliefs and practices.

A tale of two franchises

In this century, no NFL franchise has spent more time on the concept of culture than the New England Patriots. With three Super Bowl championships, they have become a model for changing the culture of a franchise. Head coach Bill Belichick has educated all who work for him to cultivate a team that believes in one common goal -- winning.

The Patriots, however, are by no means the only team that rid themselves of a losing culture. They are just the most recent.

Ron Wolf did it in Green Bay, Bill Walsh in San Francisco, Jimmy Johnson in Dallas, Mike Shanahan in Denver, the Mara family in New York and the Rooney family in Pittsburgh. Each had a way of developing a set of attitudes that changed the beliefs, practices and customs of an entire organization.

This year's Super Bowl pits one of the long-standing successful franchises, the Pittsburgh Steelers, against the upstart Arizona Cardinals. Ironically, it was the Cardinals who tapped into the Steelers model when they hired three Pittsburgh coaches to come to the desert and turn a lost and failing franchise into a winner.
Building a winning culture isn't just an idea; it's a process that takes vision and a plan. Bill Parcells proved in Miami this season that it doesn't have to take years to change the culture of a franchise.

Here are the ingredients a coach or front-office executive must closely look at if he wants to build a Super Bowl winner. He might not hit on every category, but he'd better hit on most of them:

1. The owner -- Everything starts at the top, and the owner of the team must know what it takes to win, be willing to listen and not turn back when things get rough. Coaches such as Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh or Tom Coughlin in New York are blessed with owners who know what it takes to be successful and inherited programs with a foundation in place. Bob Kraft in New England is a perfect example of a man who learned how to win by studying other successful programs and trusting his coach. Less than half the teams in the NFL have this component covered.

2. The tradition -- Make no mistake about it: A coach or general manager who takes over a team that has won in the past can influence the current group by showcasing the franchise's previous glory as a model. The Dallas Cowboys aren't playing very well right now, but they have tradition. The Super Bowl teams of the 1970s gave rise to the Super Bowl teams of the 1990s, and those two experiences eventually will give rise to the next winning team. The Steelers' tradition of winning is a big reason they overcame the toughest schedule in the league this season to reach Super Bowl XLIII.

3. The quarterback -- The most important position on the field is the best place to start if a coach or GM wants to change the culture of a losing team. Trading for Brett Favre was Ron Wolf's first move when he left the New York Jets and went to the Green Bay Packers as GM. Troy Aikman's arrival had an awful lot to do with the culture change in Dallas, as Joe Montana and Steve Young did in San Francisco. Six of the last 10 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks. Without a very good QB, changing the culture might never happen.

4. The staff -- In order to really create long-term change, a coach and GM must fill the roster with good players who also are great men. It doesn't take too many personnel mistakes or bad apples in the locker room to drag a once-proud franchise to the bottom. Smart scouts and great teaching coaches are critical. Belichick does a great job training his scouts to find the type of players he wants, and they rarely bring back guys with character issues or a lack of intellect. Once those players are on the field, the teaching takes over, as evidenced by QB Matt Cassel's performance this season. Look at the Cardinals' offensive line, coached by Russ Grimm. Starting left tackle Mike Gandy has tremendously improved under Grimm. Also consider the effect of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau on his team's success.

5. A special trait -- Sometimes a coach or GM can develop a special trait that's so strong, it can carry the team. Ozzie Newsome, the Baltimore Ravens' GM, built the NFL's finest defense, which carried the team to a Super Bowl XXXV victory. Denver head coach Mike Shanahan built a running game around Terrell Davis, making the Broncos back-to-back Super Bowl champions (XXXII, XXXIII). The Bears believed they had a special defense when they lined up against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI, but it wasn't good enough, and Chicago still hasn't recovered.

6. The tough decision -- The coach and, more importantly, the GM must be able to make the hard decision that appears cold on the surface but is the right thing to do in the long run. Cutting a player, firing a coach or dismissing a scout isn't easy, but the smart teams pull the trigger when necessary. Trading Montana and going with Young wasn't easy, but it enabled the 49ers to continue their winning culture. Sometimes, the decision can backfire, as with Kurt Warner. You have to wonder how many more Super Bowl trips the Rams would have made if Warner was still there.

7. The team -- The locker room is where teams can be made or dismantled. There's no fooling the players when there's a weak link in the locker room or a player interested in self-promotion over what's best for the team. The Cowboys might presently suffer from this issue, and it could be what holds them back from a return to glory. On the other hand, the strong winning culture in the Patriots' locker room has helped players such as Rodney Harrison and Randy Moss flourish in their new home.

8. The building -- There's probably not enough attention paid to this issue. I learned a number of valuable lessons from Parcells and Belichick when they came to the Jets. Everyone was under evaluation. The doctors, trainers, equipment men, travel department, security, public relations and groundskeepers all were under the microscope. Too often, people who are in contact with the players and have little or nothing at stake professionally breed a losing culture in the building. I like to call it the "here we go again" way of thinking. It exists in every business, and as long as it does, losing will creep back into the workplace.

9. The media -- Making information public can be devastating to the security of an operation. I know the media has a job to do, but they don't have a right to know a club's inner workings. Leak word that a GM is trying to trade a player, and watch what it does to the locker room. The media can't help improve the culture of a team, but they sure can help destroy it with a few ill-timed stories -- usually leaked to them by disgruntled employees. I don't think it has to be a "one-voice" mentality, but I do believe the best teams restrict the flow of information.

10. A bit of luck -- Every team needs some luck. For example, the last four teams left standing in this year's playoffs (Steelers, Cardinals, Ravens and Eagles) all received 16 starts out of their quarterback. Great preparation is more reliable than luck, but if something fortunate happens -- like getting a borderline call or an opponent missing an easy field-goal attempt -- it doesn't hurt.

Kirwan on the QB’s in the Super Bowl

National Football Post updates its top 100 for the 2009 draft

Obligatory story on Radio Row in the Tampa paper

With the Super Bowl in Tampa this week, this is the place to talk sports. The epicenter of sports talk is at the Tampa Convention Center. More than 400 radio sports talk show hosts are in town doing their shows live.

You hear radio talk show hosts talking about subjects ranging from who has the better defense, whether Arizona belongs in the big game to what was the best Super Bowl ever.

Steve Duemig, the talk afternoon host of WDAE The Sports Animal here in Tampa, says they call Radio Row "The Pit," because everybody is reporting the same thing and when athletes walk in, they know they are not coming out soon. Everyone wants to talk to the big names.

Duemig says some big name athletes come to Radio Row and usually they are pretty good about hearing some of the same questions over and over. However, he adds most of them are selling something. Whether they are representing Campbell Soup or something else, there is a reason they are coming into town.

But Duemig says not every athlete that comes to Radio Row is great. He says you can always tell before they sit down for the interview -- if the jocks have a bad attitude, he always makes it a short interview. However, if it's fun, the interview can last for two segments. Duemig says he looks for athletes that enjoy themselves off the field.

This is Duemig's 12th Super Bowl on Radio Row and he says without a doubt his favorite moment came not from a football player but horse racing jockey, Jerry Bailey. Duemig says listeners kept calling in and asking questions and Bailey was such a good interview he didn't want to let him go.

Outside Radio Row and the Convention Center, the NFL Network is broadcasting live, with a much more sophisticated set up than the guys on Radio Row, but most of the radio guys mind the cramped quarters at all.

Duemig says it is a blast, especially after they get off the air. He says that's when everyone gets together and it is like a convention.

Here is an email:

Dude you are the one to ask about this….

The Ticket, in its infinite wisdom has updated the website and all the previously saved links/ browser settings have apparently changed. I pull up and stream the Ticket. Can you search out the new link for me? Sorry to ask something so mundane of the on-air-personality, but you are the one I trust to know or get this info.

As someone who does listen to the ticket through my Motorola Q, I do need to update my streaming link with all of the web changes at the station. So, before you panic about not being able to stream the station, try this:

Listen live Link

Con Te Partiro …not the Stepbrothers edition…

Wire in 5 minutes


C said...

The Wire video is outstanding.

Jason said...

Fellow Q user here.

Use this link to watch yourself live!