NFC East: dirk nowitzki

Of leadership and DeMarcus Ware

June, 20, 2012
Perhaps because we crave certainty in an uncertain world, we have an inclination to define our pro athletes -- to decide what they are and glue that definition to them. Reputations become impossible to shed, evolution becomes an inconceivable concept. Once you're the guy who botched the field-goal snap at the end of a playoff game, you're always going to be the guy who can't come through in the clutch, kind of no matter what else you do in the decade that follows.

This occurred to me while reading Tim MacMahon's column on Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware and the need for him to assume a leadership role on the team. Does the fact that Ware has not, to this point, been a vocal locker-room leader mean that he never will be? Tim thinks not, and points to the nearby example of the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki as proof that "a star can develop as a leader throughout the course of his career."
Nowitzki, like Ware a nice guy, has acknowledged that he had to force himself out of his comfort zone to become a leader. The Cowboys need Ware, a captain, to do the same thing.

There is actually an advantage to Ware's quiet nature. If he sounds off, his teammates would know it's fueled purely by a desire to win, not to craft an image. He's not going to flap his gums just for the sake of it. His words would be especially impactful.

"A guy like that says something, you're going to listen to him," said defensive end Jason Hatcher, who praises Ware as a lead-by-example guy but created waves this winter with honest comments about the Cowboys' lack of vocal leadership.


"When you sit back and think about it, guys come in and they look up to you," Ware said. "They look up to how you play the game. You've got to sort of set that example and also let them know where they stand in the whole scheme of things."

Teams evolve, and so do players. The guys who were the locker-room leaders on the defense early in Ware's career are, by and large, gone, and he's now the guy to whom teammates look. The success of the Cowboys' defense, assuming they continue to upgrade personnel this year and in coming years, will rest largely on Ware's ability to lead it. Whether he needs to do that quietly, vocally, by example or some combination of all of those, that is who he is at this point in his career -- the one to whom leadership responsibility must fall. The good thing for Cowboys fans is that he appears, based on what we read in Tim's column, to know that.
Good morning. It's a week of rest for two of our teams, as the Redskins and Cowboys enjoy their byes while the Giants and Eagles move in opposite directions. But the links favor no team, and are here as always with two juicy tidbits on each, brought to you now in order of current standings.

Washington Redskins

Mike Wise has revised his questions about the Redskins after their 3-1 start, and is now asking things like, "It is too early to think about the playoffs?" It is not. Remember, each year in this league, five teams make the playoffs that didn't the year before. Last year's Redskins won six games, and this year's defense is greatly improved. They are no sure thing, obviously, but it'd be crazy to think they don't have a chance.

It turns out now that Tim Hightower injured his shoulder on the third play of Sunday's game. He's got a couple of weeks to heal up, but the question is whether Ryan Torain took his starting running back job away from him with his strong relief performance. Don't expect to get an answer on that anytime soon.

New York Giants

He may still not be in Tom Brady's class, but Eli Manning is playing like a top quarterback, Filip Bondy writes, mainly because he's not throwing interceptions. Manning right now looks like the anti-Tony Romo. Where the Cowboys quarterback is never going to adjust the way he plays based on game situations, Manning has the ability to push it when he needs to push it and play it safe when the game calls for it. He's looked mature and reliable the past two weeks, which is what the Giants need him to be more than anything.

The biggest thing working against the Giants as the season goes along is the schedule, whose second half appears very challenging. The players know it. They also know they've lost games late in the past two seasons after hot starts and blew chances at making the playoffs. They're talking a lot about "finishing" games in New York, but the Giants are also thinking about "finishing" their season. Long way to go.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki had some words of encouragement for Romo via Twitter on Monday, and Mac Engel writes that there are comparisons to be drawn from the journey of Dirk and the Mavs, who became champions after going through some difficult times and challenging losses.

Part of Romo's problem right now is receiver Dez Bryant, who's trying his best but has been unable to run at full strength and be at his best for entire games due to the thigh injury that keeps him from practicing every week. If the bye allows Bryant and Miles Austin to heal ... well, it might not stop Romo from throwing dumb interceptions all of a sudden, but it surely should make the Dallas offense more effective and reliable. Shouldn't it?

Philadelphia Eagles

As if the 1-3 start and three straight fourth-quarter losses weren't bad enough, the Eagles have now lost their best defensive lineman (Trent Cole), their best offensive lineman (Jason Peters) and one of their best defensive tackles (Antonio Dixon) to injury. Dixon looks as though he's out for the year, and Cole and Peters could each be out for a month. The Eagles' next two games heading into their bye are road games at Buffalo and Washington, each of which is 3-1, and any recovery Philadelphia hoped to make in those two games will be made far more challenging by their sudden thinness in the trenches.

You want coaching staff changes? Keep waiting, Andy Reid says. He's standing behind his guys. One of the things the Eagles liked about their team heading into the season was the veteran coaching staff they believed could meld all of the new faces together and make them into a cohesive unit. Hasn't happened yet, but Reid says he's not planning any coaching changes at this point.

The chat returns today, so yay for that. And we'll see how far those Boys and Birds dropped when the Power Rankings come out this afternoon. Other than that, plenty of goodies planned for the blog. You'll just have to keep coming back and checking it.