You can make the case that the Cowboys haven’t had a long-term leader since Darren Woodson last reported to work at Valley Ranch in 2003.
That makes the three-time Super Bowl champion safety, who should be in the Ring of Honor, an awfully good authority on the sensitive subject. Woodson was dismayed to hear that Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher couldn’t think of one leader on the current team.
“Man, that’s shocking to hear that,” Woodson said during a Tuesday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3’s Ben and Skin Show.
However, Woodson doesn’t believe that the Cowboys need a Ray Lewis-like leader, as Hatcher suggested on the Ben and Skin Show last week. In fact, Woodson considers the rah-rah style of leadership to be overrated, and he says that with all due respect to fiery former teammate Michael Irvin.
“The rah-rah speech is not going to win games for you,” Woodson said. “And I don’t care who’s giving it to you – you can bring Knute Rockne back. No one is going to motivate you between the lines. It’s about preparation the week of, and it’s about the top guys in that locker room and your role players understanding their role on that football team.”
Woodson didn’t consider Irvin a great leader because of No. 88’s animated pregame speeches. Woodson considered Irvin a great leader because of his insane work ethic, which Irvin made sure rubbed off on his teammates.
The standard was set in Woodson’s mind one hot summer afternoon before his rookie season, when he watched Irvin run routes on the practice field until he puked, wash his mouth out with water and run more routes.
The standard was reinforced on a regular basis by role players such as Daryl “Moose” Johnston and Tony Tolbert, who were quick to call out teammates who stepped out of line.
“If a guy walked in late, you better believe Daryl Johnston was going to jump him for being late,” Woodson said. “If a guy fell asleep, you better believe Daryl Johnston was going to jump him. He was a role player who understood his role, but he was a leader and he was very well respected within that locker room.”
As a defensive captain for most of career, Woodson didn’t put much stock in speeches. But he certainly wasn’t shy to speak up when he felt it was warranted.
“I wasn’t a rah-rah guy,” Woodson said. “I told guys the truth. I also told guys, ‘You don’t have to love me, but you’re going to respect me because of my actions.’ I think that’s what they need.”