Answers in Search of a Question: Repeating the Past

"We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself." -- Lloyd Alexander.

    "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."  "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it."  "Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it."  "Those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it."  "Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it."

    The above quotes have one thing in common: they are all misquotes of George Santayana's famous aphorism: "Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it."  It is often helpful to look backwards as we try to understand the direction we are taking as we move towards the future.  This is especially important for us as we try to discern the direction that McDaniels is leading us.  Listening to voices from the past might just give us some insight into where we are headed, and lend us hope that we will not simply be seeing a repeat of the last ten years.  More after the fold.

    In one sense, this is a continuation of the stories that I have already done regarding coaches who have reached the Super Bowl.  I will continue to do this periodically, since each time I've done one of these articles, questions have been raised which were not in the original story.  It continues to be a source of fascination to realize that seven coaches have won a combined nineteen out of forty-four Super Bowls.  It's amazing to think that 43% of the Super Bowl wins have been achieved by such a small group.  Those same seven have also accounted for 33% (29 out of 88) of the coaching appearances in the Super Bowls to date.

    Today's article is based on a couple of different things.  First, McDaniels is, by all accounts that I've read, well-versed in NFL history and strategies.  I'm inclined to believe that he has, at least, book knowledge of what it takes to build a winning franchise.  I would also suggest that his eight years with the Patriots gave him, at least, some hands on experience with such a process.  Since McDaniels hiring in 2009, there have been widely varying perceptions of what he is trying to accomplish.  During the free agency period of 2009, when he brought in a number of veterans to bolster the defensive secondary, there was a sense that we did not understand his approach.  It became assumed that he was focused on "winning now."  It was further assumed that he would use the draft to build for the future.  That draft met with mixed reactions.  The 6-0 start bolstered the belief among some fans that McDaniels was of the "win now" school.  The 2-8 finish caused many to believe that he was focused on long-term team building.  The start that we have seen to the 2009 free agency period once again has many fans believe that he is in the win now school.  How the rest of the draft will play out, we'll have to wait and see.

    My own inclination is to believe that McDaniels is attempting to walk the fine line of balancing both options.  By bringing in veteran players through free agency, he attempting to create a culture of winning in the present, while using the draft and the installation of his long-term vision as the means to develop the players into a consistently competitive team over the long-term.  How well he will accomplish this remains to be seen.  One thing that I believe would help him, would be to listen to voices from the past, if he is not already doing so.  As we listen to these voices, let us also see if we hear echos of these great minds in the the things McDaniels has been saying.

Chuck Knoll, Pittsburgh Steelers (1969-1991), Super Bowl Record 4-0 (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
"A life of frustration is inevitable for any coach whose main enjoyment is winning."
"Before you can win a game, you have to not lose it."
"It's not pleasant when you lose your whole football team."
"The key to a winning season is focusing on one opponent at a time.  Winning one week at a time.  Never look back and never look ahead."
"The thrill isn't in the winning, it's in the doing."
"Some coaches pray for wisdom.  I pray for 260-pound tackles.  They'll give me plenty of wisdom."



Bill Walsh, San Francisco 49ers (1979-1986), Super Bowl Record 3-0 (XVI, XIX, XXIII)

"We have a lot of players in their first year.  Some of them are also in their last year."
"Nothing is more effective than sincere, accurate praise, and nothing is more lame than a cookie-cutter compliment."
"There's so much to orchestrate."
"The running game in pro football has gotten so boring.  There's just four or five plays they can run.  I think the whole thing is headed in the wrong direction and I think that's unfortunate."
"You have to reinvent yourself each year, . . . What helped us was that there was some turnover each year."
"It's going to take fans to a whole new level of fantasy."



Joe Gibbs, Washington Redskins (1981-1992), Super Bowl Record 3-1 (XVII, XVIII, XXII, XXVI)

"A winning effort begins with preparation."
"Failures are expected by losers, ignored by winners."
"People who enjoy what they are doing invariably do it well."
"We want to go back to the glory days."
"We have a smart football team, and they understand."
"Look for players with character and ability.  But remember, character comes first."



Bill Belichick, New England Patriots (2000-Present), Super Bowl Record 3-1 (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX,
XLII)

"What pleased me most probably was that we made decent steps with fundamentals and the foundation of the team."
"In the end, for me, it's more about having the best players that we can have on the roster.  I think you have to look at it that way.  You have to be cognizant of the overall makeup of your team, but you try and get the best players you can."
"A lot of times a player has a lot of versatility.  That's really what their strength is and what their role is."
"You can play hard.  You can play aggressive.  You can give 120%, but if one guy is out of position then someone's running through the line of scrimmage and he's going to gain a bunch of yards."
"One thing that could be a problem is breaking old habits.  It's not that you don't understand what the new responsibilities or plays are, but just the fact that you've been doing something a long time and you're kind of used to doing it, it's a habit, and that's not what's required in the other system and that means kinds of undoing something before you can even start to do something new."
"There is an old saying that the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that.  On a football team, it's not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together."

   

Bill Parcells, New York Giants (1983-1990) New England Patriots (1993-1996), Super Bowl Record 2-1 (XXI, XXV (NYG), XXXI (NE))

"Don't worry about it.  It's just a bunch of guys with an odd-shaped ball."
"I like linebackers.  I collect 'em.  You can't have too many good ones."
"Success if never final, but failure can be."
"Now matter how much you've won, no matter how many games, no matter how many championships, no matter how many Super Bowls, you're not winning now, so you stink."
"Something goes wrong, I yell at them - "Fix it" - whether it's their fault or not.  You can only really yell at the players you trust."
"When you don't know that you don't know, it's a lot different than when you do know that you don't know."



Tom Landry, Dallas Cowboys (1960-1988), Super Bowl Record 2-3 (V, VI, X, XII, XIII)

"Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they want to achieve."
"If you are prepared, you will be confident, and will do the job."
"When you want to win a game, you have to teach.  When you lose a game, you have to learn."
"I don't believe in team motivation.  I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on the field and be prepared to play a good game."
"The secret to winning is constant, consistent management."
"Setting a goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan."



Don Shula, Baltimore Colts (1963-1969), Miami Dolphins (), Super Bowl Record 2-4 (
III (Bal), VI, VII, VIII, XVII, XIX (Mia))

"I don't know any other way to lead but by example."
"I think what coaching is all about, is taking players and analyzing their ability, put them in a position where they can excel within the framework of the team winning."
"One thing I never want to be accused of is not working."
"Success is not forever, and failure isn't fatal."
"Sure, luck means a lot in football.  Not having a good quarterback is bad luck."
"I don't want a player that's content with not playing."


    You may have noticed that I chose to include just seven Super Bowl winning coaches.  The first five (Noll, Walsh, Gibbs, Belichick, Parcells) each have appeared at least three times in the Super Bowl and have posted a winning record in those appearances.  The last two (Landry and Shula) were included since they had appeared in more Super Bowls than any other single coach.  You may have also noted that some of the quotes are set in italics.  These are the quotes which I believe I have seen echoed (to at least some degree) in how McDaniels has gone about being the Broncos coach.    The five quotes, I've listed below are the ones that I believe I have most clearly seen in McDeaniels' coaching philosophy.

  
"The key to a winning season is focusing on one opponent at a time.  Winning one week at a time.  Never look back and never look ahead." (Noll)

"Look for players with character and ability.  But remember, character comes first." (Gibbs)

"In the end, for me, it's more about having the best players that we can have on the roster.  I think you have to look at it that way.  You have to be cognizant of the overall makeup of your team, but you try and get the best players you can." (Belichick)

"There is an old saying that the strength of the wolf is the pack, and I think there is a lot of truth to that.  On a football team, it's not the strength of the individual players, but it is the strength of the unit and how they all function together." (Belichick)

"I don't believe in team motivation.  I believe in getting a team prepared so it knows it will have the necessary confidence when it steps on the field and be prepared to play a good game." (Landry)

 


What quotes from coaches have you heard that you believe McDaniels should take note of?

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