Why Character and Leadership Matters in the NFL

Sam SnyderCorrespondent IJune 28, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  (L-R) Ray Lewis #52 and Ed Reed #20 of  the Baltimore Ravens look on as teammate Willis McGahee is attended to by medical personnel after McGahee was hit hard by Ryan Clark #25 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Every year we see the same players act out and play the diva. Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Brett Favre (recently to an extent), Jay Cutler, Plaxico Burress, and many other smaller names are the usual suspects. These are the players who take the "me first" attitude: no matter what happens, it has to benefit them. Or they take the "I'm better than you" attitude.

We also see the troublemakers. No one knows why they can't stay out of trouble. Notable players are Brandon Marshall, Tank Johnson, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Matt Jones, Chris Henry, Leon Hall, and many others.

Of course, who could forget the morons like Michael Vick, Donte Stallworth, and Plaxico Burress, who lack basic decision-making skills, and have paid the price?

Likewise, we see players who lead their team and are prime examples for leadership and character. Players like Ray Lewis, Ben Roethlisberger, Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Brees, Ed Reed, Brian Dawkins, Kurt Warner, and James Farrior, just to name a few.

Now look at all the players and their teams. Notice that the leaders are all on successfully teams, and that the divas a criminals all belong to the laughingstocks of the league. It's no coincidence.

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Terrell Owens has been a productive and top-five receiver for the 49ers, Eagles, and Cowboys. But at the same time he also destroyed each team to an extent, the 'Niners being the worst. It's because his "me me me" attitude gets in the way of the team's performance.

The Bengals are in the cellar of the AFC North partly because Chris Henry and Leon Hall can't keep their noses out of trouble. The same goes for the the Broncos. Brandon Marshall can't stop beating up his girlfriends, and Jay Cutler wants everything his way. Now they are in a state of disarray .

Ray Lewis, the heart and soul of the Ravens and the greatest team leader in recent memory, has consistently led his teams to success in some way, although not always a good win-loss record. Brian Dawkins led the Eagles to five NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl.

Ben Roethlisberger and James Farrior anchored the Super Bowl-winning Steelers this past season. Larry Fitzgerald and Kurt Warner's leadership made a huge impact in their surprising run to the Super Bowl and their first NFC Championship.

If this isn't proof that character matters in the NFL, then I don't know what is. As I have stated before, the NFL is about winning and losing. Players with strong characters are winners, players without any character are losers. It's that simple.

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