The recent relationship as it were between Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin is a societal and sporting failure on multiple levels, and not the least of which is the leadership of the Miami Dolphins. Incognito is what he is, a large, but small minded man with NFL level physical talent and an overwhelming wealth of insecurities masked as toughness. Martin is a large, fairly intelligent man with NFL level physical talent and considerable insecurities of his own. Theirs was a perverse, parasitic attraction of opposites.
That this relationship was allowed to fester to it’s public destruction lies at the feet of the Miami Dolphins and their failed attempt at crafting a winning football team. This week they fired their offensive line coach and head trainer, as head coach Joe Philbin improbably maintained that he was unaware of the details of his team’s culture. The staff should be fired en masse, but not for moral reasons alone.
The responsibility of the head coach is to assemble a winning football team. This is never accomplished without the development of individual relationships within the organization and the creation of a collective culture. If Joe Philbin was unaware of what was going in in his locker room he was negligent in his duties, and if he was, he was incompetent in allowing a player of Incognito’s mentality to lead.
Incognito felt he had license to “toughen”Martin up, but his misguided methods comtributed to “breaking” Martin.
Coach K is a love/hate figure in college basketball, but he is a significant contributor to coaching and leadership. Coach K is a graduate of West Point, and the United States Military’s “break and build” development model, but the break in the building of troops is not the destruction of the core of who a person is, rather a breaking of the mental barriers between belief and accomplishment.
He speaks of finding the heart of his team, a player who may not be the most talented, but who’s motives are pure and following this heart. As coaches, it is among our most significant decisions who we allow to lead on our teams. It is a decision that speaks for us and will define our outcome.
Philbin failed when he gave Incognito a voice. Teams can succeed with players like Incognito, but only when they exist insecurely on the periphery of a strong and pure team culture. The Bulls succeeded with Dennis Rodman because the team was led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. In the context of a weaker, corrupted culture Rodman proved a divisive distraction.
Championship teams have a heart that leads them on their journey. Mediocre to bad teams are heartless, purposeless collections of individual.