The day after the Chargers lost to the Packers in Green Bay, head coach Mike McCoy called out veterans such as Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, Eric Weddle, Danny Woodhead and Malcom Floyd, saying other players on the team should take note of their preparation and follow suit.
"We need more guys preparing and doing things the way they do," McCoy said. "Not taking anything away from the way guys have prepared, but we’ve got to do a little more. That’s where you have to look at yourself first – coaches included – and say, 'How can I push myself a little more so we get over this hump?'"
It was subtle, but make no mistake: McCoy was calling for his team to step up. That's unusual for McCoy, who has a tendency to protect his players at all costs (even when it's painfully obvious they screwed up).
Later in the locker room, safety Eric Weddle was asked his thoughts on whether young guys are doing as much as possible to prepare for games. After mentioning that teammates know he spends additional hours at the facility watching film and sometimes do (but often don't) join him in the extra study, he said:
"It's up to the individual players. It's up to them if they want to do it or not. You can't go home (with them). You can't push them. You can do as much as you can as a teammate to try and guide them and give them as much info and guidance as you can, but if they do, they do, and it's great. If they don't, then it shows.”
Here's my take:
McCoy is pointing to players who were here before he even arrived, who are "special" and "great" (and who have been that way since before he was hired as head coach). He's asking younger players to learn from them; to not exactly copy their specific preparation, but to take note of the way they go about their business of preparing for their opponent -- whether that be extra film study, extra work in the weight room, extra recovery, extra drills, whatever. He's asking players to take a look at their individual preparation and see where they can do a little more to get past the hump of being good, and get to the place of being great.
Players like Rivers, Gates, Weddle and Floyd came into the league at a time when social media wasn't near as prevalent as it is now. Guys were all about football, all the time. They weren't necessarily thinking about second careers or branding themselves or their image in the way those things are revered today. It's a different generation in the locker room -- not just across football, but across sports (and jobs) everywhere. That's not to say football isn't a priority for young players, but to say that it sometimes competes with a multitude of other priorities.
"Extra work" is individual to the player. John might need more rest and rehab, Sam might need more film study, Adam might need to bury his head in the playbook. I point that out to say: It's not about sitting in the facility to make a point or to mimic exactly what veteran players do to prepare, but it is taking note of how the best in the business do it and using that to fuel your own personal growth and development. It's about looking at yourself and figuring out what you need to do to get better. That extra one-percent every day. It's about accountability as a team to do that, and that accountability starts with the front office. There has to be a mentality, an identity that nothing less than everything you have will be accepted (no matter the cost -- whether it's taking away social media, calling for more team building, setting a precedent that doesn't allow for selfishness). There has to be a will for players to not want to let their teammates down, to not want to disappoint them. That doesn't rest just on the players. That rests on the coaches and front office, too, to run an organization that -- with every minor detail -- holds players to an expectation and standard that can't be ignored. That isn't about micro-managing, but rather, about building a culture.