This Turkey has been harping on the Nittany Lions’ team leadership issues all season long. It is good to see that not only is this deficit now getting a lot of press, but also is getting lip service from Joe Paterno.
“There weren’t enough of them that showed the kind of leadership you would normally expect from a senior class.” —Joe Paterno
You can say what you will about Joe and his present coaching efficacy, but he’s been around college football a long time. He’s seen well led teams and he’s seen the blind leading the blind. He can recognize a wayward team he has to deal with every day, and this is a wayward, passionless, leaderless team. Paterno’s credibility is indisputable, so when he says it, believe it.
You can’t just pick a couple of guys who happen to be seniors and hope that the leadership will happen. Without disparaging Brackett and Ogbu, you generally want your leadership to come from guys who put their money where their mouth is. And when someone is trying to lead 110 diverse, testosterone riddled prima donas, that leader has to be strong, vocal, and respected. Who, on this team, would that be?
Penn State has guys out there who are just going through the motions, and are interested in themselves first and foremost. There ain’t no “I” in “team”, but there’s sure as hell a big “O” in “asshole”. Here’s an example of one, from whom I observed a tweet this morning. I won’t mention any names, but he sure as hell incurred some dumbass penalties on Saturday.
It’s a business…don’t nobody look out for u but yaself
Maybe he’ll declare himself for the NFL draft and get his business butt outta there. This type of negative leadership is pernicious. Unfortunately, preaching like the above tend to attract a lot of parishioners.
If you talk about seniors, I’m gonna miss some. Some I’m not, obviously. There’s a couple of guys thinking about maybe trying to get into the NFL, I’m not sure whether they should or they shouldn’t.
While Joe is typically candid about players’ performance, this is a pretty strong blanket statement. Also, it has usually been the case that when talented players discuss leaving early for the NFL with Paterno, he offers honest advice. LaVar Arrington comes to mind as someone he counseled to go ahead, as he couldn’t serve himself well by staying around PSU for another year. When Joe expresses apathy, one has to believe he thinks these guys are bums and they wouldn’t take his advice if they asked for it, anyway.
Some of the seniors have expressed the sentiment that they tried to teach the underclassmen, but some of it fell on deaf ears. You can lead a horse to Four Loko, but you can’t make him drink. However, they did note that there were several younger students who were interested in learning.
Nevertheless, these types of responses express part of the problem. Leadership is not just teaching or mentoring. Leadership has intangible aspects that are more important that the mechanics of managing people. Leaders in the football context should first garner the respect of those they are chosen to lead by their superior performance on the field. That’s what players understand and want to emulate. There was a dearth of senior statistics generators this year, with the strange exception of Evan Royster, who in this, his senior year, set the all-time Penn State career rushing record, but was not selected as one of the team captains. Leadership is just not his style, but complacency about losses and poor performances seems to have been. Whether Royster thinks he’s a leader or not, his numbers are going to cause players to want to emulate him, and if he exhibits a laid-back, nonchalant attitude, many of the others will think it’s OK to be that way. Does that make sense?
When you look at these guys coming out of the tunnel and running the first few series of plays, do they look like they’re out there to kick ass and put the big hurt on opponents? Do they play together, or is it every man for himself?
It would seem to be more of the latter than the former. My only explanation for Devon Still incurring those two roughing penalties on Saturday was that he was showboating for his run at the NFL draft. We know that Paterno’s teams are not coached to play that way. In fact, Penn State was the least penalized team in Division I-A coming into the Michigan State game.
Let us hope that next year’s team has some decent senior leadership.