Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis yesterday talked about the leadership formation in his football team. Lewis had previously called out his whole roster for being too nice after a loss to the Cleveland Browns, and now is looking for more from quarterback Andy Dalton and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga.
Lewis’ exact words were, “We’re looking for our quarterback and our middle linebacker to take hold of our football team, and I think that’s important for us, I think both guys are such good people, that you’ve got to be a little bit of a (jerk).”
This is the second time in a week that Lewis has challenged Dalton. Previously, Lewis spoke to the media about how Dalton needed to be more consistent with his accuracy against the Denver Broncos. At 3-4, the Bengals are at somewhat of a crossroads for their season, so it is no surprise that Lewis is doing everything he can to light a fire under his team.
However, he may not be going the right way about it.
Even though he surprised everyone last season with his exceptional performances, Dalton is still a relatively young football player and very inexperienced quarterback. During his second season, he is still learning and developing as an individual. Therefore, putting more pressure on him than he already carries is a risky move.
Dalton may flourish with extra strain, but it also could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There’s no nice way of putting it, the 25-year-old quarterback hasn’t played well this season. He has thrown 13 touchdowns, but 10 interceptions. His inconsistency reading defenses and throwing the deep ball has been a particular let-down this year.
Instead of asking Dalton to worry about being a good leader and setting an example for his teammates, the Bengals should be looking for him to be selfish in a way. By focusing on improving his own personal game, Dalton would exponentially help the team more than he would by being a better leader.
The Bengals are a young roster, but Marvin Lewis has been set in his ways for a very long time. Lewis is looking to his quarterback and middle linebacker to be leaders, because those are the typical leadership positions in the NFL. However, while those are the typical positions leaders come from, they do not exclusively emanate from there anymore.
Players like Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers, Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts and Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers have all been effective leaders for their franchises in recent times. The common denominator amongst those players is not their position, but their experience.
Instead of asking for more from Dalton and Maualuga, Lewis should be looking to players like Leon Hall, Nate Clements, Andrew Whitworth and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to carry more accountability. Even a younger player like AJ Green who has seemingly mastered his position at an early stage, should be asked to do more ahead of Dalton.
Cian Fahey writes for RantSports, Irishcentral, Balls.ie and the Guardian. You can follow him on twitter @Cianaf