Whatever happens between Ken Whisenhunt and the Arizona Cardinals in the future, don’t tell me he lost the locker room or that players quit on him. I hate these words and they invoke bad memories of playing 10 years in the league on losing teams. I have observed many professional football players, none that were great but some that were good, that pulled up their stakes and didn’t play with the passion and intensity needed to win football games. I have seen it with my own eyes. But don’t tell me they quit on the coach.
Players don’t quit on coaches; they quit on themselves.
When I use the word “quit,” I mean it emotionally. Quitting or the word quit doesn’t involve a conscious act of cognition where a player refuses to play or honor his responsibilities, quitting happens within the soul where emotion, passion and intensity resides. Quitting, as it pertains to football, is about refusing to engage the spirit and essence of the game. There is desperation and there is DESPERATION; there is intensity and then there is intensity that makes you shoot your hands under a man’s chin, hoping his head might come off and roll on the ground. That was too much, but you get my point.
This is the kind of intensity and desperation football players at the highest level our species can generate should play with in order to play the game properly. In fact, the game demands you play it this way. Or you might get what you had in Seattle.
I think there were guys that pulled up their stakes and quit against the Seahawks. Not everybody, but enough. How else can one explain what we all witnessed?
But don’t tell me they quit on Ken Whisenhunt. You, as an individual, are either predisposed to quitting or you’re not. Guys didn’t quit on the coach, they quit on the situation of losing nine in a row and not having a quarterback. They quit because that’s what they’ve always done in the past when things got tough. They quit because that’s who they are.
And there were many players that didn’t quit against Seattle — and they know who they are! There are many players on the Cardinals roster that would never quit because the world would personally explode before their very eyes before they ever allowed themselves to curl up in the fetal.
These players have mastered the art of taking their profession personally. These players understand their name is their number and their number is their name; they play for no one nor nothing but the standard they have set for themselves. They have internalized their pride in purpose and are accountable and dependable to themselves first and then their teammates/coaches. They know nothing else.
In high school you would run through a landslide in flip-flops to be acknowledged by your coach. In college you played for your school, played for pride and, yes, even played for your coach. But in the NFL, you don’t play for a coach. You may be on the roster and his name is above yours but you don’t play FOR a coach. You play as a sole-proprietor, you play for the money (because to do anything else is masochistic), you play for the Clan, you play for kith & kin, you play to pay your wife’s Gucci Card. You are a mercenary…and you know it.
This is why I can say with certitude that players don’t quit on coaches because they never play for coaches to begin with. Players quit on themselves. And that’s an indictment of them not their coach, their teammates or Ken Whisenhunt.
Then again, we do live in a culture where we blame others for our problems.