As training camp starts we begin to see players who will succeed and players who will fail. Some will fail quickly and obviously not have the package to play in the NFL, at least for the Broncos. Others will be in those final cuts that are so heart wrenching to a player's dreams since very few will be picked up by another team. For all those who succeed there is one character trait that I think is underestimated and even under-appreciated.
When we think of attributes we want in our players we think of physical talents like speed, quickness, strength, burst, jumping ability and so on. To get to this level one has to be an elite athlete with innate gifts. It takes hard work to hone those physical skills and make the most of what nature has given you.
We also want character traits such as leadership skills, toughness, high pain threshold, and fearlessness.
We want intelligence that works on the football field - not necessarily book intelligence although that isn't a negative, but athletic intelligence is something quite different. The ability to see differently and anticipate; an uncanny insightfulness that unconsciously picks up subtle clues others don't see. Some players have an understanding of certain games that almost seems magical. Peyton Manning always sees the open receiver. Wayne Gretzky always knew where the puck was going to be.
However, there is one character trait that makes everything come together and work to make an elite athlete. I think that trait is discipline.
No matter how many talents you are given, if you cannot be disciplined in your practice and honing your skills, you will never achieve what was possible. When you are tired or even exhausted it is discipline that pulls you through. When you are seemingly lost and it looks like you are about to be defeated, it is discipline that allows you to keep on fighting. When there are unexpected early catastrophes, discipline allows you to remain in the present and overcome fear and hopelessness.
It's interesting that in a small way training camp resembles boot camp. There is an emphasis on building bonds between the team to rely on each other and surrender isolated individuality. Working together as a team lets you win games and may keep you from getting killed in combat. There is a huge emphasis on discipline because when everything is falling apart and the plans have been totally trashed by circumstance, it is discipline which allows the best outcome to occur.
In one of the most curious statements about last year McDaniels commented on how his team didn't respond well to their first loss to the Ravens. After 6 wins they were brought back to reality by the punishing defeat. What doesn't make sense is that the team psyche seemed so fragile that this single loss threw them totally off their game and led to multiple losses and an absolutely disappointing 2-8 finish. How could a team react this way? Did they think going into the break that they were so good they would go undefeated? This can't be realistic. So why were they unprepared for a loss? Why weren't they resilient enough to rally for the next game and put this one behind them? I see this as a failure of discipline in many ways. I also fault both the coaching staff and the team leadership in allowing this team funk to be established. We'll never know if more games would have been won by correcting this team psychology, but even one more win would have placed us in the playoffs and given all of us a different feeling about the season.
I hope that this year this problem has been addressed by the coaching staff and leadership. I hope that discipline in all areas is emphasized in the players we keep and the type of team we become, for It is discipline that is a very underrated character trait .
Your humble fan,