“I desperately want to be coached.”
It’s a simple statement, but it’s all you probably need to know about not only his learning style but also Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ leadership style. There’s always room for improvement. It doesn’t matter if you are a grade school kid in Pop Warner or the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player. Great players never stop learning. They are always seeking to learn from every experience and mistake.
And what Rodgers is doing is no different than any other professional that takes pride in their work. He doesn’t settle for complacency and is always looking for opportunities for improvement. Those yearly reviews so many of us get, you know, the yearly sit-down with a supervisor that highlight our strengths as well as point our our weakness (or as the business community likes to call opportunities for improvement)? He’s apparently doing it after every game, especially when he himself makes a mistake. Some of us grit our teeth, try not to roll our eyes and do everything just to get through the meeting while he is actively seeking it out. Admirable, if you ask me.
That doesn’t sound like a guy who’s too big for his own pants. It takes a lot of maturity to have that sort of self-reflection when you’re considered to be one of the best at your craft. Contrast that with my own 9 year-old whom I coach in youth soccer. Can’t give her a single suggestion whether its taking a step back to belt a goal kick or how to corner an opposing player, she won’t have anything to do with. And that same attitude is often shared with her teammates. Is it because I was a poor coach? No, it’s because a 9 year old (or even a college or pro athlete for that matter) wasn’t willing to receive feedback.
When you stop wanting to learn, you have accepted that you’ve learned everything that you can, you have reached the pinnacle of your abilities, and it’s now just a downward slide of decline from there.
No, really, that’s what it means.
Would you want to see a doctor that hasn’t opened a medical journal or learned anything new in thirty years? Quite frankly, that’s a recipe for negligence at best, and malpractice at worst.
An extreme analogy, but the sentiment is the same. There is always room for improvement. If there wasn’t, we’d all be wallowing in our own mistakes for perpetuity. If you watch the sidelines close enough, you can see that behavior on just about any Sunday, the angry player that bristles when the coach is talking to him. It’s usually some hot dog that doesn’t like being called on the carpet and sees constructive feedback as a personal attack.
Do McCarthy and Rodgers argue? You bet they do. We’ve seen it play out as well. But we we will never see is the behind the scenes work after a game, breaking down mistakes so that they don’t become bad habits. And let’s face it, stronger avenues of communication are vital when it comes to winning games. Sure, players and coaches can argue, but who is it serving? How does that make a team better.
This offseason, McCarthy made, perhaps, a very powerful move and was extremely forward thinking when he decided that the quarterbacks and receivers would have joint meetings to discuss plays and review film. Bringing all of the stakeholders in an offensive passing play together can only make them a more cohesive unit. The two positions are no longer functioning in two closed circuits where the QBs try to decipher what the receivers are thinking and vice versa. Now they can come together and analyze what went right in a successful pass but also thoroughly dissect plays that have gone wrong. The subtle nuances of a play can be broken down where the receivers and Rodgers itemize every aspect of a play–from hand signals on the line, to reading the defenders, to route completion, and finally the throw itself. It’s a brilliant strategy when you think of it. The passing play starts when the ball is hiked into Rodgers’ hand and finishes when the receiver brings it in and is either dragged to the ground or goes out of bounds. Rodgers can provide insight into what he’s thinking to the receivers and they can provide him with necessary feedback in return.
It’s teamwork and collegiality at it’s most efficient.
And it takes the big boy pants to be ready to receive that type of intimate feedback. There can’t be finger pointing in either direction. Such a team meeting only works when you’re not only willing to provide constructive criticism, but needs to be ready to receive it as well.
Does that mean he’s not an arrogant SOB at times? Absolutely not. All quarterbacks to a certain extent are. They have been groomed to be so since a coach decided they were going to throw the ball way back in Pop Warner.
But what it does say it takes a heaping dose of maturity to be willing to accept that type of self-reflection and feedback from peers. That’s something that takes years to develop and not something many rookies have. Perhaps that is why the Packers are as good as they are. They aren’t a mutual adoration society.
A good team wins games, sometimes on sheer luck. A great team is constantly striving to reach that next peak and become an even better team.