Nobody likes to be the bad guy. Nobody wants the be one to say no. Nobody wants to be labeled as “the fun police.”
It’s much cooler to be the one who is constantly bearing good news, delivering presents and spreading cheer. It’s much easier to play the life-of-the-party, happy-go-lucky role.
But eventually, someone has to be the heavy. At some point, somebody has to provide a reality check.
That’s where leaders come in. They’re willing to step up, make the necessary decisions that might be unpopular and keep the group on track.
Whether it’s a boss, parent or team captain, having someone to fill that role is vital to the success of any organization. It’s paramount to have someone who knows when it’s time to stop goofing around and get down to business.
That’s why last week’s “field day” at the end of the Broncos mandatory minicamp was so concerning. It demonstrated a lack of leadership.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with some fun and games. A team choosing to skip practice to horse around a bit isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there can be some positives that come from it. There’s a reason companies host various kinds of “team building” events.
But there’s a time and a place for it. The reward has to be earned.
If a sales department missed their goal by 50 percent, it’s probably not the right time to leave the office early for an afternoon at TopGolf. If a 16-year-old flunked three classes, letting him or her play hooky to go to the waterpark probably doesn’t make much sense.
So when a team is coming off of a 5-11 season, a disappointing campaign that was blamed on a lack of an offseason in 2020, it’s probably not the best time to skip a day of practice. When a franchise is in the midst of their worst four-year stretch in more than five decades, it’s probably not a good idea to bring in the Kona Ice truck.
Vic Fangio should know this. The Broncos head coach is an old-school guy. He’s a grinder. He’s the one who preaches about “death by inches,” a mantra that suggests he’s all about doing the little things right.
So why on earth is he giving his team a day off? What is he rewarding them for?
Maybe he’s trying to get them to buy in. Perhaps he’s trying to win over his players by offering them treats.
That’s a dangerous strategy. It’s the parent who wants to be their kid’s best friend. The end result is that no one is providing the direction that is needed.
But it’s not all on Fangio. He’s not the only one at fault for this misstep.
The Broncos top players are also to blame. The team’s leaders could’ve easily stepped in an vetoed the coach’s decision.
Von Miller, Justin Simmons, Shelby Harris, Kareem Jackson, Bradley Chubb or any other high-priced veteran should’ve had a simple answer when Fangio proposed the day off: “Thanks, but no thanks.”
They could’ve easily said that they appreciated the thought, but believe it’s more important to go to work than to break out the dunk tank. That would’ve been the best-case scenario.
They could’ve changed the team’s culture for the better in one moment. They could’ve shown that they’re all about winning and the last four years haven’t been acceptable.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way these Broncos are wired. In the past year, they’ve repeatedly shown that winning isn’t a priority.
Instead, this is a team that worries about losing their bye week due to COVID, boycotting the start of OTAs so players could continue to work out with their buddies, and having a field day instead of a walk-through. Those sound like the concerns of a franchise that is 23-41 since the start of the 2017 season.
Misplaced priorities are the hallmark of bad organizations. An unwavering focus on getting good results is a trait shared by all successful ones.
That’s what was worrisome about the Broncos field day. It’s just the latest example of the team not understanding the proper order of things.
Work comes before play. Always.
It may sound harsh, but a 5-11 football team has more work to do. Or at least they should.
But according to the head coach and the Broncos top players, that’s not the case. They’re good. They’re all set. They’ve done what needs to be done.
That’s the message they sent last Thursday. And that’s the mentality that gets them beat on Sundays in the fall.
Unfortunately, nobody wanted to be the bad guy and deliver that reality.
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