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Chalk Talk: Atmosphere Matters


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Stock piled with talent, the perfect team as far as skill and talent goes. Your quarterbacks are Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Your runningbacks are Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Keep going down the line placing whoever you think are the best players at each position on your team for the offense, defense and special teams.

That's a pretty good looking team, right?

Until you mix oil with water.

There seems to be this thought process that all you have to do is upgrade your talent on a football roster and you're magically a contender. As Redskin fans, we should know this to be false. Deion Sanders, Jeff George, Bruce Smith... Those are some of the many names brought in because they were big name players who could immediately upgrade the team. And they were all (I say all, but what I mean is mostly) upgrades talent wise, so what went wrong?

Atmosphere. It matters more than most here seem to think it does.

If there are rifts and cliques in a locker room, it can completely destroy a team.

The game of football is about doing your One Eleventh. If you take anything from this post, take that from it. All the "upgrading" in the world will do you no good if you can't get the players to work together.

Sure, some will claim it's easy to get it to happen, just threaten them with their money... But it's simply not that easy. When you evlaluate a player, you need to take your current personnel into account, and I'm not talking for X's and O's.

For example, let's say our star runningback is named Bobby Bob. Mr. Bob is a very eccentric character who doesn't mind running his mouth. And now we're thinking about signing a new wide receiver who has a very similar mindset. It's my belief that it's necessary that if you sign this new receiver, you must part ways with Mr. Bob (unless you know they can coexist). This is just an example, not a rule.

The saying that it starts at the top is very true. With a new infrastructure at the top, we're surely going to turn it around, right?

Sure... If it trickles down to the bottom. On a team, whether it's players, coaches, support staff, or whatever you'e only as strong as your weakest link.

So what defines the weakest link? It could be anything from physical skill to attitude to behavior to not being trustworthy. There are a ton of different reasons someone can be a weak link... And likewise, theres a ton of reasons why a slightly less skilled player may be a better fit than some big free agent.

Atmosphere also carries over to facilities. The nicer the facilities, the better you feel. Great film rooms and technology, great locker rooms and a great well equipped weight room are among the things that help set a great tone. Sure, there's a line on how far you go with the ammenities, but the better you feel, the better you'll play.

But, I'm not necessarily even talking about physical facilities. What about the atmosphere IN the facility? I know I've been to places and buildings that just have a losing vibe to them. A blah vibe. And conversely I've been in buildings where all you feel is pride and tradition. In my experience, it's those places that help breed a winning attitude and team.

If you have bad atmosphere, you must make changes to make it a great environment that people want to be a part of. What changes you make are paramount, and as someone who hasn't been inside the building or the organization, I can't tell you what changes are necessary (if there are any more that ARE necessary).

Character matters... Sure you can get away with a few misfits... if you have the surrounding cast to offset them every chance they get. You'll get some flare ups with someone with a bit poorer character, but in the end when you have a team where everyone is together, those problems get nipped in the bud a bit quicker and it's much easier to recover from.

This isn't a utopia, you're never going to get 53 guys on a roster who are all about we and not at all about me, but you can strive to get as many of those pieces as you can and make your Team that much better.

Talent is great... But Atmosphere is a severely underrated aspect of a great ball club.

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