If you’re in the mood for a great sports argument, start yapping about leadership. It’s an underrated lightning rod, somewhere between Kelly Jennings and Chone on our local incite-o-meter.
Some consider leadership on a team an absolute essential and an underappreciated, if unquantifiable, skill. Others consider it mere fodder for the uneducated sports fan, a hollow characteristic often used as an excuse to mask mediocre talent.
Do good teams prosper because they possess good leadership? Or is good leadership nothing more than a secondary team trait that grows naturally once talent breeds success?
Argue this one until the keg runs out.
Or just watch the Seahawks this season.
They’re the perfect case study. They’ve unloaded a U-Haul of veteran leadership over the past week, all in the name of getting younger, bigger, stronger, more athletic and, they hope, better. Gone are three players — quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and safety Lawyer Milloy — who kept the locker room together. They possessed every leadership quality: credibility, likability, expertise, experience, respect, savvy and a willingness to speak up.
Hasselbeck guided the offense to Super Bowl XL and commanded the huddle for most of his 10 seasons in Seattle. As a rookie in 2005, Tatupu directed the defense and enjoyed a six-year run as the brains of that unit. Milloy wasn’t a part of that Seahawks’ stretch of consistent success, but over the past two seasons, he did much to help return the Seahawks to competitiveness.
Now, they’re former Seahawks. And the current Seattle team can be nicknamed the 31 And Unders. If a player ever looks old on the Seahawks’ practice field, assume it’s Take Your Dad To Work Day.
In 2010, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider inherited a team lacking in youth, athleticism and size, and 18 months later, they’re peppy little SeaPups now.
They’re also a franchise without a face. No true stars. No established team identity. The Seahawks are, for now, Carroll’s lab experiment in the public’s eye.
“We don’t even have a player rep or anything on this team right now,” said running back Justin Forsett, noting that the Seahawks’ NFL Players Association representative, Chester Pitts, is no longer here.
So the Seahawks are headed to an inferno wearing gasoline shoulder pads, huh?
“Actually, I don’t know if we lost too much,” Forsett said. “Those guys are pretty vocal, and they’re great leaders, but we’ve always had leaders who weren’t as vocal. We’ll be OK.
“Remember, Lofa and Hasselbeck weren’t always here.”
Forsett started naming past Seahawks. Jim Zorn. Steve Largent. Cortez Kennedy. Football is the most transient of all sports, and players will adjust. They always adjust.
But how soon? If you believe leadership is essential, then you’re hoping Tarvaris Jackson can win over the locker room. And you’re hoping some leaders emerge from a group that includes Forsett, Marshawn Lynch, Brandon Mebane, David Hawthorne, Earl Thomas, Russell Okung, Robert Gallery, Sidney Rice and Mike Williams. And you’re hoping guys like Leon Washington and Michael Robinson continue to set a good example. The Seahawks have plenty of candidates.