Dye-Gest: Head Coach, QB Set the Tone

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about college and pro football in this edition of his Dye-Gest column.

Former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton (above) has led the Carolina Panthers to the NFC title game.


The two most important people for determining the success of a college football team are its head coach and starting quarterback. You can probably say the same thing about most pro football teams, too, but I am sure in some NFL organizations the director of player personnel has a role comparable to the head coach.

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However, in building a successful college program it is difficult to overestimate the impact of the head coach. He is the one who is either going to accept or refuse to accept mediocrity.

The head coach is the one who has to demand that everybody he manages is giving their best effort whether it is the equipment manager, a graduate assistant coach or players on the scout team. The head coach sets the tone for building an atmosphere in the program that is conducive to success from the top on down.

I enjoy tuning in the NFL this time of year and watching the coaches of the teams that are still alive in the playoffs. Gary Kubiak of the Denver Broncos, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots, Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers and Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals each have their teams one win away from advancing to the Super Bowl.

Each of those guys has done a great job with their team this season. Belichick has had the most NFL success of that group, but each of those coaches is a seasoned veteran and they have all done a lot of things well to get their teams this deep into the playoffs.

Watching the pro?games last weekend reminded me of how important the mental/leadership part of quarterback play is with Cam Newton of the Panthers, Carson Palmer of the Cardinals, Peyton Manning of the Broncos and Tom Brady of the Patriots leading their teams to the conference championship games that will be played this weekend.

Two of those guys, Manning and Brady, aren’t far from being 40 years old and neither are great runners, but they have got a tremendous feel for how to manage an offense and are the type of leaders who inspire the confidence of their teammates, Guys like Brady and Manning, and even a much younger quarterback like Cam Newton, can also have a tremendous influence on how their team performs. They can even impact the defensive play. If their teammates on defense can’t respect their quarterback and if they don’t believe he will get the job done when games are on the line, it hurts the morale and confidence of the entire squad.

It was interesting to watch the old pro, Manning, manage Denver’s offense allowing the Broncos to defeat Pittsburgh even though the quarterback is not 100 percent physically. He was also dealing with cold, windy weather that made passing difficult. However, by avoiding mistakes, staying calm and getting the Broncos in the right play at the right time he set the stage for Denver to stay alive in its quest to win the Super Bowl.

I have also enjoyed watching a coach who is much closer to home do a good job with his basketball team that plays at Auburn Arena. Bruce Pearl is having to work around a roster hit hard by injuries and he has done an outstanding job of rallying his guys and getting them to believe they can win SEC games.

Auburn’s exciting victory over a nationally-ranked Kentucky team was a big one for the program. You knew a big win was coming, you just didn’t know when because the things that Coach Pearl has done to establish an atmosphere that is conducive to winning a game like that one on Saturday set the stage for making it happen.

There is a lot to like when watching a group of young men play with heart and plenty of effort, which is what they have to do to win games after injuries have taken a toll on the lineup.

Following a great effort on Saturday with another one on Tuesday night to defeat Alabama has made for a fun stretch for Auburn basketball fans watching their team show mental and physical toughness.

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