One of the hardest things for a coach to do is establish a winning culture. Wins over losses is the only measurable fans track, but a positive culture must come before results to achieve long term success.
Players must feel a connection to something other than winning before real winning can occur. How can personal goals be diminished or tied into the bigger picture, which are team goals?
This is dictated by the head coach, the CEO.
Noticeable in this year’s FSU team, and those going back the past three or four seasons at least, is a lack of total buy-in – or any at all. This selfishness, these separate and individual agendas, are cancerous and can derail the best seasons.
The biggest question I’m asked is: why does it seem that the players haven’t bought in with Willie Taggart? Don’t they like him? Do they not respect him?
The answers aren’t simple.
Do the players like and respect Taggart? Yes, I believe so, but that’s a surface answer and doesn’t account for every individual player.
Buy-in isn’t about like or respect it’s about committing to the vision of the collective as established by the head coach. In essence, it’s more about liking and respecting your teammates more than you do the actual coach. That’s the bond that is supposed to be the strongest on the team, the brotherhood and unity among the players.
At FSU, I see a few very talented and selfish individuals who never bought in, dating back to the Jimbo fisher era.
Much has been said about FSU quitting against Clemson. This is not new. Quitting has happened once every season since the Peach Bowl loss to Houston. I can overlook it in a useless bowl game where as a senior you may be ready to move on, but it’s not excusable against Louisville and Boston College in the two previous seasons.
One game you even saw a player so disinterested that he fell asleep inside of a loud stadium.
I cannot, nor would I, name players who I don’t think have bought in or who have quit. I’m not around the players at practices, team meetings, traveling to games, hanging out in the off-season enough to say. What I can tell you is that five to 10 percent of a roster with guys in key positions can completely dictate the direction your team is going. Just a handful of malcontents or me-first players – it doesn’t take more than five or six – can sabotage a locker room of 80. To these players, their only interest is what they want and they clique up. This was allowed under Jimbo.
Team leadership at FSU has been called into question for years now. This is why I say the only true critique I have of Taggart is him not signing a full recruiting class this past February and clearing that scholarship space by chopping off heads and removing the selfish players to make an example.
It’s a Sun Tzu strategy of leadership laid out in The Art of War. To summarize, he told the king that he can make anybody execute his marching orders including the king’s servants. He appointed heads and gave them instructions, showed them how to do it, and then tasked them to execute.
If they messed up once, he showed them again and tasked them to execute. If they messed up again, he did the logical thing… publicly executing them in front of the group then appointing new leaders who did it again.
Wouldn’t you know, everyone bought in and did it the right way?
This is what typically happens after coaching changes.
The previous head coach is executed – fired. Everyone under him understands that they had a role in that. In order to not be executed yourself – fired – you tend to straighten up and fly right.
This explains why Florida is performing better under its first year coach, Dan Mullen, than FSU is under its.
Florida is on its third head coach in five years. After Urban Meyer left, long-term success wasn’t found under Will Muschamp who did change the Gators culture, but failed on the field. Enter Jim McElwain who won immediately, but not in a manner palatable to fans. The strong culture Muschamp had built was allowed to erode under McElwain. McElwain was fired and Mullen comes in.
Each coach had a set of transfers or players he needed to process out of the program after the big change was made by the administration. Remember, when it was a coach who willingly left, Meyer, the results weren’t as good in year one, even though Muschamp went 11-2 the next season.
This doesn’t absolve coaches in any way shape or form as it is on the coach to do a better job of auditing his program upon accepting the job. I give Mullen major props for focusing more on what he had already on the roster than what he was trying to bring in new. He also didn’t fall into the pressures of forcing assistant coaching hires and brought in good developers of talent.
He didn’t fall for the, “Florida doesn’t have talent” myth and figured out which players fit best and then recruited guys he felt better fit. The objective was to win now.
Taggart went the opposite route, believing that the talent was already there, trying to bring in the best coach/recruiters to land one of the better recruiting classes immediately. It wasn’t a bad strategy if he was going to play the younger guys earlier because more than likely they are bought in to what he wants.
Taggart didn’t see it earlier, but claims now he sees selfishness and quit. Fans are hoping they will see changes based on his evaluation of film. He put the word out that quitting will not be tolerated and that’s what players will be judged on.
If nothing changes, the heat will be turned up unnecessarily due to him not living up to his promises. Not just by fans, but by the guys in the locker room who are waiting to see if his talk is just that – talk.
Players have to play for each other. My freshman and senior seasons at FSU weren’t the greatest. We had internal conflict. The culture wasn’t toxic, we just didn’t always buy in to what we were told. That being said, we never quit because there was something more important to us than whether we believed running a certain formation or a play call was stupid. We played for the program and understanding that we can’t go to the league if we don’t execute that play, no matter what the call.
To this day I still Coach Bowden getting on the headsets against Miami in 2005 and calling “R heavy, over wing motion, 35 belly” on the goal line. He called my running play to the left where we only had three guys to block five, motioning my lead blocker away from where I was running.
I didn’t get to cry and say, “I don’t believe it’ll work.” I had to try to make it work. It didn’t, but I went full speed and it almost did.
My point being, it was about trying to win the game with the cards that were dealt to me. Not trying to do my own thing.
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/early-mistake-by-willie-taggart-preventing-complete-buy-in-from-seminoles