Why Rex Ryan should not remove the captain patches from the Jets organization

Why Rex Ryan should not remove the captain patches from the Jets organization

The Jets have finished their season 8-8 and will miss the playoffs and everyone is looking for someone to blame.  It’s easy to find the problems on the field by certain player’s ability, coaches and the overall output of the team ultimately by record and the playoffs.  What isn’t so obvious to most is that leadership off the field is as important if not more than on the field.

Leadership should start from the top of the organization and go all the way to the bottom.  Ultimately a team looks to the head coach for the leadership, but then it must be passed down to every player on the team.  Not everyone is leadership material but everyone has a role on the team.  Great leaders make the team better and know how to get the best out of everyone.  This builds team chemistry.

Today in his press conference, Rex Ryan stated that he had made a mistake with naming Santonio Holmes a captain.  No kidding.  His behavior all season showed that.  In fact he said that naming any captain was a mistake stating that he wants everyone to be part of the team.  I’ve also heard that the C is just a patch and the true leaders know who they are.  That may be true, but doing away with what every single team will do in 2012 except for the Jets has me a little worried.

Being a sports team captain isn’t just about wearing the C, it requires a number of things including:

  • the desire to lead by example
  • a passionate belief in team spirit
  • the ability to handle the conflicts that invariably arise when a team is under pressure
  • the desire to put more input in planning the team’s strategies
  • the ability to handle problems which may arise in a fair and expedient manner (eg. disqualifications)
  • the ability to behave professionally and responsibility despite personal feelings of frustration and anger
  • a thorough knowledge of the rules of the game
  • a desire to build relationships with other members of the team, in good times and bad
  • the ability to handle the burden of being captain while still playing in the team
  • the ability to inspire and motivate and raise team morale

What Rex is saying is that EVERYONE will be a leader.  That is IMPOSSIBLE.  To think that every single person has the desire to lead is ridiculous.  Some people are “natural born leaders” while others run from that responsibility and spotlight.  The individuals that run are content with just doing their job, and that’s ok.  Ever hear of the analogy “Don’t send your Ducks to Eagle School”?

Ducks are not supposed to be eagles-nor do they want to become eagles. Who they are is who they should be. Ducks have their strength and should be appreciated for them. They’re excellent swimmers. Ask an eagle to swim or to migrate thousands of miles, and it’s going to be in trouble. Leadership is all about placing people in the right place so they can be successful. As a leader, you should always challange people to move out of their comfort zone, but never out of their strength zone.

Not Only Duck, The Eagles can be frustrated..Even, if you send ducks to Eagle School, You will frustrate Yourself

Birds of a feather flock together. Eagles don’t want to hang around with ducks. They don’t want to live in a barnyard or swim in a pond. Their potential makes them impatient with those who cannot soar. People who are used to moving fast and flying high are easily frustrated by people who want to hold them back.

Read More

By naming captains with C’s you are putting the eagles together.  They are like minded people who can take the team to the next level.  The reason you select a captain and let everyone know about it with the C patch is they have the following qualities above and they can go out and help others.  Why put all the pressure on yourself as the head coach?  You will get a lot more done by having leaders amongst your team .  You ask the best leaders of the team to wear that patch with pride and to send a message to the rest of the team that the C means something.  Now if you have patches but don’t practice real leadership then yes, the system will fail and it should be revitalized not removed.

When Holmes’ acted out, other players see this and think that this questionable behavior must be ok since Rex named him a captain and he’s not doing anything about it.  Then you have others copying the behavior thinking if he gets away with it, why can’t I?

To me, Rex didn’t understand the C system or he did and was trying to get Santonio to buy into being a leader and think team first.  He was taking a duck in Holmes and forcing him to be an eagle and that frustrated Mark and maybe the rest of the team.  LaDainian Tomlinson certainty felt that way.

LaDainian Tomlinson
“I’ll tell you what, it’s tough for guys to follow a captain that kind of behaves in that manner. You’re a captain, guys looking at you. You’ve got to lead by example,” Tomlinson said. “You’ve got to play your tail off until the last play. And when that doesn’t happen, you will have guys look at you in the way that captains shouldn’t be looked at. You should always put yourself out there as a leader.”
LaDainian Tomlinson on Santonio Holmes' Leadership in 2011

Either way, Ryan’s experiment with Holmes’ as a team captain failed and he was the first to admit it.  Removing the patches all together though is not a good idea in my mind.  By failing with Holmes’ and removing the system he will punish the other players who held the captain patch with pride.  This sends the wrong message to the true leaders of the team.

My recommendation is the Jets should bring in a leadership expert like John C. Maxwell to get the team core on track.  With Rex not feeling comfortable about having leaders and captains, he admitted he lost the “pulse” of the team.  Maybe it wasn’t the captain system that failed, but more evident now it was the selection of the wrong kind of captains.   I know the phrase goes, “Don’t hate the Player, hate the game” but in this case “Don’t hate the game, hate the player” seems fitting.

Take the patch away from Holmes only and let’s move on.  Rex, please do not get rid of the system.  Just because you are not comfortable with it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.