Back in the early 1990s, while working for the Cleveland Browns, I took a side trip with head coach
Knight talked about how the many outside distractions, personal and professional, can affect a locker room. He explained that if players could shelter themselves from reading the daily papers, from having to deal with life's daily events -- and basically go to school, and live, breathe and eat the sport they play -- then coaches and administrators would have easier jobs. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. The problem with building team chemistry arises from many uncontrollable outside factors.
Back before the salary cap, when coaches could offer incentives (money) to players for many different things, 49ers coach
Two franchises that face huge chemistry questions this season are the Raiders and the Cowboys. Both head coaches will have to find ways this spring and during training camp to collaborate unity.
The Raiders are a team with very little expectations going into this season, based on their 4-12 record in 2007. They have always prided themselves on being a team of "characters," not character. With the addition of cornerback
When the Raiders were winning and going to playoff games in 2000-2002, it was because the best player on the team at the time was its best leader. Quarterback
The Raiders' practice field and the Oakland International Airport share a fence as a border. Often times when there were too many blown assignments or too many dropped pass during a practice, Gannon would heave a football over the fence showing his disgust. When a wide receiver ran the wrong route or a lineman missed a block, it was not
Who will lead the Raiders this year? Head coach
The first time something bad happens in a game -- and it will -- you need someone who can marshal the troops and get them back on course. Many would say the role of the head coach is to inspire. But often in the NFL, the players will listen to fellow teammates' words of wisdom before they heed their head coach's. The head coach must know what players he can use to get his message across to the team. If the Raiders don't improve on their four-win season from a year ago, it won't be because their team lacks talent, it will be because they don't function as a team.
The Cowboys have Super Bowl expectations, but they have added some unique individuals, which will require some blending in the locker room. Rewarding problem child wide receiver
Newman, the Cowboys starting corner, had this to say about Williams: "He's the same guy, I think, he just sometimes gets kind of a deer in the headlights reaction, some plays ... He had a bad season last year, as far as coverage."
Williams clearly has lost the confidence of his teammates and it will be very difficult to get it back. This kind of battle being fought in the papers cannot unify a team.
Phillips must find a way to get the Cowboys season off to a fast start. "Winning," as coach
Dallas' September schedule is tough, opening up in Cleveland. The Browns won 10 games a year ago and can effectively throw the ball, which attacks the Cowboys' defense in its soft spot (you know they will go after Williams). Then home against Philadelphia, off to Green Bay and back home against the Redskins. That is the kind of month that can make or break a team. Dallas will need solid team chemistry to handle the bumpy road this schedule may bring.