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Mentoring is not the ‘job’ of the starter

But it’s a great perk if developed organically as players work together.

Joe Flacco was asked yesterday if he considers it his job to mentor Drew Lock.

Jeff Heuerman was asked today if he considers it his job to mentor Noah Fant.

Given how the mainstream sports media went berserk over Flacco’s very reasonable comments about why it’s not his job to be the mentor, it’s safe to assume that the baited question will be asked of every veteran who may have a standout rookie chasing his starter position.

So before this mentoring “issue” gets out of control (if it hasn’t already, as Joe Rowles excellently highlighted), let’s talk about what “mentoring” actually is.

As a noun, it means “trusted and experienced adviser.” As a verb, “to mentor” is “to advise or train.”

Are players brought on the team to be “advisers?” No. They are here to win games.

There are certainly cases where veteran players are expected to help lead a young group of starters in that pursuit of winning (a la DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller), but they are not asked to join the team for the purpose of teaching the guys behind them how to get better.

But if you’ve played team sports, you know how this goes - mentoring occurs as players go through the trenches with each other - on the field, in the locker room, on the road, etc.

You work out with, sit in the “room” with, possibly go in the game for the guys playing the same position/same unit. Naturally the starter becomes a mentor by way of example.

His film is the one you’re watching. His questions are the key inquiries. His mistakes are the ones to be learned from - as Flacco plainly noted in his explanation about mentoring Lock:

“I’m not a selfish person, I don’t think. There are times where you have to be selfish. But listen, Rich does such a good job in those meeting rooms. Drew is going to learn from listening to him talk and then us getting the reps on the field and seeing how we all do it as a collective group of quarterbacks,” Flacco noted. “He’s going to learn by watching us do it and watching us do it well. That is how he is going to learn the timing and all of those things is to be able to see it on film and hear Rich talk about it with me and digest as much of that as possible. Like I said, I hope he does learn from me because that means we’re out there lighting it up.”

So is it his job to make sure the others in the room are paying attention, getting the corrections, making the mental notes?

Absolutely not.

You can argue it’s his job as a leader and a good teammate to be helpful if asked a question - and I don’t think there is any evidence to claim Flacco hasn’t done this - but it should not be his first (or even second) thought to go to the guys behind him on the roster and make sure they’re catching up.

That’s on them. And it’s on the coaches to recognize if they’re doing that and make sure they jump in when necessary to help.

As Vic Fangio said:

“That’s on Drew to soak in and learn,” the head coach said. “Joe’s learning a new system himself. As we move along there will be a lot more interaction to get to know each other, but primarily it’s on Drew to learn.”

Heuerman reminded reporters that while teaching the rookie Fant might be included, he saw his job as doing “whatever I’ve got to do to make this football team as good as we can be to go win games...whether it’s teaching him, running, blocking or doing whatever.”

So back to our grammar lesson.

None of the players are brought on the team for the job of “mentor.” They are not trained as advisers. They are trained as football players.

But can they engage in mentoring?

Yes - and they already are.

So perhaps, sports media, you can move on to a different question of the players, such as “how can you help the Broncos win?”