Why it takes special players to win under stress
By Roger Sheppard
Why do some players get it and yet others do not? What is it about history that many just don’t understand? I was watching the Cincinnati Bengals play the Pittsburgh Steelers the other night in a wild card playoff game and was reminded of why you don’t trust players that will not understand the importance of staying under control. The stadium in Cincinnati where the Bengals play is named after Paul Brown who was responsible for building the early team. His statement, which is written on the walls of the dressing room is, “The key to winning is poise under stress.” That creed represents the ideology that Brown used to build his team. That creed was violated during the end of a very close game and the actions of a few destroyed the future of many.
A couple of the Bengals lost their poise when it mattered most, and because of that they lost a football game when it mattered most. They were beaten by the Steelers 18-16 after a couple of 15 yard penalties which set up a 35 yard field goal by Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell with seconds remaining.
Here is an account of what happened: With the Steelers out of timeouts and only 22 seconds remaining, Bengals line backer Vontaze Burfict took a wicked shot at the head of Antonio Brown after the overthrown ball had passed. The 15-yard penalty would have put the Steelers at the Cincinnati 32 with 18 seconds remaining, which would have forced them to try a 50-yard field goal if they didn’t gain any more yards. Boswell’s career best was 51 yards. As the situation was playing out, Bengals cornerback Adam Jones threw a punch at Pittsburgh assistant coach Joey Porter, who had wandered on to the field while Brown was being treated. That penalty moved Pittsburgh to the 17, setting up the game-winning easy field goal.
The reason I am writing this story is to illustrate how important it is to recruit players that can play under pressure. It is not real hard to single those out that have a problem with playing under control.
This also gives rise to why the Dallas Cowboys have a hard time winning, especially in the latter part of the schedule when every win matters. It seems that part of the criteria of drafting or picking up players is the belief that they can do something great with “hard to coach” players. Watching the sidelines during the game you find players spouting off to other players and being disrespectful to the coaches. You find receivers ranting about the lack of passes thrown their way. These players become a major distraction and when tolerated by management they become the obstacle of self-destruction. In my opinion it is extremely important to keep these types of players on someone else’s roster. Some coaches call these players “project players.” I call them “losers”. This type of player will often lay down on you under stressful conditions or lose their cool costing you dearly in the crunch.
Back in the early 80’s I was a head basketball coach at a nearby school. I was at the district meeting voting on the superlative awards. There was one player that had more skill than any other player in the district but exhibited a terrible attitude. He was disrespectful to the officials and would often talk back to the coach. When the all-district vote totals were tabulated he missed being a unanimous choice by one vote. That one vote was cast by ME!! The kid’s coach was totally shocked at the fact that I did not vote for him, making him a unanimous selection. You see I feel the importance of using attitude as a large part of the criteria of selection. I don’t care how great you are from a physical stand point. You must display a total package including attitude. You can display confidence and be somewhat showy as long as your stats back it up. There is a large difference in being showy and being a disrespectful jerk. What was proving to this point was when a former player of mine, working for the sheriffs department ask me, “Coach, guess who we have locked up at the Bi-state?” Well you guessed it….. The best player in the District.
What is really beautiful in this universe is the ability to observe those that will and those that won’t. If you will just follow the outcome overtime you will have a great example to follow. There are some exceptions though, so you must be understanding of these rare occasions.