Great Defense in the NFL: Attitude, Will, Leadership, and a lot of Craziness

Joseph McNealCorrespondent IMarch 25, 2010

Defense – the act or action of defending 2: capability of resisting attack b: defensive play or ability 3: means or method of defending or protecting oneself, one's team, or another

Protection, justification, argument, resistance, guard, cover and shield. These are words that are synonymous with defense. They are also indicative of what it takes to be a successful defensive team in the NFL.

The Oakland Raiders have had defenses that exemplified this in the past and have shown signs of this as recent as last year. They have just not shown consistency week in and week out. What is missing for them to do this?

Looking at each game last year, there were moments that you thought they had figured it out and were playing defense on a championship level (See the Eagles game).

There were also moments last year that you thought they were a Division II college team playing the national champions (See the Giants Game).

Playing great defense in the NFL is what wins championships. It does not take the 11 best players to do this; it takes 11 players to work as one. This has been proven over and over again. What needs to be done to get the Raiders on the same sheet of music so to speak?

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Great defense in the NFL equates to four ingredients that must be present to win. Those ingredients are:

·         Attitude

·         Will

·         Leadership

·         Craziness


“Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”   

Vince Lombardi


“Without self-discipline, success is impossible, period.”

Lou Holtz


“Winning isn't everything, but it beats anything that comes in second.”

Paul "Bear" Bryant


Having the right attitude is needed by everyone. Vince Lombardi hit the nail on the head, “Individual commitment to a group effort: that is what makes a team work. Defensively, the Raiders have to adopt that attitude. They have to be about the team and not individual stats.

Self-discipline is also something that has to develop and be demonstrated on a more consistent basis. There were several games last year that the defense had stopped their opponent, only to commit a bad penalty.

In a lot of those cases, their opponents went on to score points because they were able to stay on the field. There can be no success without self-discipline.

Having a winning attitude is a huge need for a winning team. The defensive squad of a winning team has the attitude that they can stop anyone (see the 2000 Baltimore Ravens).

The Raiders need to find that attitude once again. The Raiders Super bowl winning team in 1984 had that attitude and displayed it on the biggest stage possible. Winning is habit forming but so is losing.

Winning may not be everything but it beats anything that comes in second. Bear Bryant knew that second place was nothing more than first loser.


“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.”

Vince Lombardi


“You're never a loser until you quit trying.”

 Mike Ditka


“There's no substitute for guts.”

Paul "Bear" Bryant


Having the will to win is just as important. Determination to stop the other team is what separates winning and losing teams.

The first quote by Vince Lombardi says it all. The Raiders have players with the strength and knowledge but they seem to be lacking the will.

This was an area that used to be one of their biggest attributes. In the glory years of the organization, they were known as a second-half team. They would not accept defeat. They would find a way to win, the will to win.

Watching the defense in several games last year it seemed at times as they had quit playing. It was like they were going through the motions and not playing up to their capability.

Mike Ditka stated that you are never a loser until you quit trying and there were times it looked like they quit trying. They have a great deal of talent but at times they seem to lose their will to win.

The offense did not help them a lot but they have to find the will inside of them to deal with whatever is thrown at them.

Having the guts to keep playing even when you are losing is what it takes to be successful. In 1981 playoffs, playing the Browns in freezing cold weather, the defense showed the guts it takes to win.

The Browns drove the ball down the field and were in position to win the game. The Raiders Mike Davis intercepted Brian Sipe’ pass in the end zone to secure the win.

That showed the guts of the team.  This is what the present team needs to find, the guts, the will to win.


“In life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard.”   

Theodore Roosevelt

“I don't know any other way to lead but by example.”

Don Shula

“Football is a game played with arms, legs and shoulders but mostly from the neck up”

Knute Rockne

On every winning team there has to be good leadership, on and off the field. The Raiders have that leadership and it shows at times. They brought in Richard Seymour last year.

He has won Super Bowls and is a very good field general. Having Richard and Nnamdi Asomugha gives the Raiders two great leaders on the field.

In the first quote, President Theodore Roosevelt said that in life, as in a football game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard. That is the kind of leadership that has to be shown.

Leadership by example is one of the best ways to get your teammates to play at the next level. It is contagious. Seeing a teammate crush someone going over the middle makes the rest of the guys want to do the same thing. It is not talking the talk but walking the walk.

Last year in the Eagles game, Trevor Scott started with a sack. At the end of the game, the Raiders had six sacks. They were all over Donovan McNabb. That was a fantastic demonstration of leadership by example.

Knute Rockne’s quote really hit home. The game is played with arms, legs and shoulders but mostly from the neck up.

Football is a thinking game. You have to mentally stay in the game at all times. Defenses have a tough job of staying disciplined but also being able to change as needed throughout the game.


“Let’s go out there like crazed dogs and have some fun.….When you’re yelling and your eyes turn red and you feel like slapping your mother, that’s when you know you feel like playing football.”

Lawrence Taylor

 “If me and King Kong went into an alley, only one of us would come out. And it wouldn't be the monkey.”

Lyle Alzado

“Football is easy if you're crazy as hell.”

Bo Jackson

“I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.”  

Jack Tatum

Not playing with a full deck is an absolute must if you want to play defense. One person who epitomized this way of thinking was Lawrence Taylor. The quote was him addressing his defensive teammates on the side line and was picked up on camera for NFL Films.

He was absolutely insane and was able to get all of the other guys on his team to be just as insane. The thing was, it was controlled insanity.

That is something the Raiders have been missing for some time now. They need that guy who is nuts when he hits the field and gets all of the other guys just as nuts.

Lyle Alzado was one of nuttiest guys that played for the Raiders. He was a complete maniac when he hit the field and never stopped bringing it. He had all of the guys around him just as nuts. His quote says it all.

This kind of craziness is what you need to play good defense. During this time of his career, I would have bet on Lyle and given 3-to-1 odds.

Bo Jackson was one of the best running backs that ever wore the silver and black. His quote says it all; football is easy if you’re crazy as hell.

Playing with craziness is what the present Raiders defense needs. They need to hit the field with reckless abandon.

Bringing the pain is what a good defense does. Jack Tatum said that he likes to believe his best hits border on felonious assault. How could you not be crazy if that is your mind set?

The great thing about that is the other team knew it too. They had to prepare for a bunch of guys who were crazy and played like it.

Getting the defense to play with attitude, will, leadership and a lot of craziness on a consistent basis will be the key in getting them back to being a winning team and eventually a championship team.

Let’s hope that it will happen sooner than later. The final quote is one that truly tells you how the defense needs to think about each other. They all need to be crazy.

“I don't really trust a sane person.”

 Lyle Alzado