You gotta believe: Teams fight grip of losing
By The Associated Press Sunday, October 11, 2009
Undeniably, the NFL has some awful teams this season. Fans of the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Browns, Rams, Panthers and even the Titans — winless all — can argue over the degrees of deplorable play.
Throw in some clubs that somehow have managed a victory, such as Buffalo, Oakland and Detroit, yet generally are feeble, and you wonder how deep the culture of losing runs in some locker rooms.
Losing can be just as contagious as winning, as they've discovered in Kansas City, where the Chiefs have lost 27 of 29 games, and baseball's Royals aren't regal at all, but perennial tailenders.
New coach Todd Haley is trying to get his players to forget the 0-4 start and concentrate on being 0-0 beginning the second quarter of the schedule. Asked if he is fighting a culture of losing, Haley said:
"Yeah. It's the whole building. It's not just the players. It's not just the coaches. It's marketing, it's everybody, because it's human nature to fall into that trap. It is a fight."
Haley believes it's a fight that can be won because he was a part of doing so in Arizona, where as offensive coordinator he helped the Cardinals win the NFC last season.
"But you need to believe in the right way, believe in your way," Haley said. "There's obviously different ways to (turn teams around). But you need to believe that you've been part of that, and know what it takes, build confidence among your players that you're going to get positive things to happen. That's the thing hurting us right now."
Well, one of the things. The Chiefs also can't move the ball, can't stop anyone and have weak special teams. They began last Sunday's meeting with the Giants by fumbling away the opening kickoff, and it didn't get much better.
Still, the Chiefs might not be the worst team in Missouri — the Rams also are 0-4, have been outscored 108-24 and shut out twice. They brought in Steve Spagnuolo, the mastermind of the Giants' defense that beat up Tom Brady to win the 2008 Super Bowl, and made a strong effort to upgrade a sieve-like offensive line.
Nothing has worked so far.
Same thing in Tampa, which has had some great success this decade, including the 2002 title. But the Bucs fell apart late in 2008, losing their final four to miss the playoffs. That led to a housecleaning on the field and in the front office, and the results have been, well, invisible.
Considering how terrible football was in Tampa from 1983-96, just the thought these Bucs could plummet to that level has to be terrifying.
"If you think about last year, you might as well just chalk up the rest of the games, too, because you're probably going to lose those ones as well," said Raheem Morris, at 33 the youngest coach in the NFL. "I have a coach (linebackers coach Joe Barry, who also lost 16 games with Detroit in '08) that has lost 20 in a row, and he isn't worried about that. He's worried about winning the next game.
"That's your confidence, and that's your level when you're talking about that stuff. You don't worry about that at all. You go out and you play football games. Eight in a row, who cares? Your next game, when you win, you still lost eight in a row. It doesn't matter. The most important thing is your next one."
But how do you avoid the mindset that the next one will be a loss. And the one after that. And the one ...
In Detroit, of course, they know all about losing every week. Sure, the Lions beat Washington two weeks ago, ending a 19-game slide that included 0-16 in '08. Does that mean they're a vast improvement over last year's historically inept bunch?
Not necessarily. The culture of losing still has to be fought off.
"I just keep looking forward," said offensive tackle Jeff Backus, whose 132-game career coincides with Detroit's plunge to the bottom. "I see positives — the new front office, coaching staff, players — and believe we're headed in the right direction. Whatever happened before this year, I don't waste any time thinking about it."
Some current losers spend a lot of time thinking about it — by design. The Titans and Panthers both made the playoffs last season, with Tennessee posting a 13-3 record, the league's best.
In recent years, Jeff Fisher's club has rebounded from 0-5 to 8-8, and from 1-4 in 2002 to the AFC championship game. The hope is that the past is, indeed, prologue in Music City.
"Putting winning and losing in perspective is a hard thing to do, but you have to keep it in perspective," Fisher said. "Because if you dwell too much on the losses it's hard to get out of the hole. They understand that."
The Panthers, who won the highly competitive NFC South last season, also claim they understand the need to harp on the positive even when the vibes are so negative. They had Bob Marley's "Everything's Going To Be All Right" blaring in the locker room Monday.
"Just having a bye and watching all the football games this weekend lets you know just how big the game is to each and every one of us," running back DeAngelo Williams said. "We've got to get back on the winning track. I've always been told the character of a man is not when things are going well, it's when they're going bad. We still have a positive look over here. We know we can turn things around and we're going to try to turn it around starting Sunday."
For the Raiders to turn it around starting Sunday would be truly amazing. They play at the unbeaten Giants in what looks like a monumental mismatch. Yet, they must believe, or else they're beaten before the plane lands in Newark.
"What we have to do is grow up a little bit more, I think really kind of find ourselves, and that is just hard work and execution on Sunday," coach Tom Cable explained. "One thing I'm trying to do is make it be that simple, because it really is. I think as long as we stick to that and stay the course, we'll come out of it.
"Because you fail one time or three times, however you want to look at it, doesn't mean that you start over and throw your hands up. ... You keep going until you get it right, you keep pounding that rock until you get the jewel out of it that you're looking for. And that's the thing with this team, I've said it for a long time now, that you don't give in. You keep moving forward until you get it right. When you get it right, you hold on to it."
Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
("The culture of losing still has to be fought off." One of the greatest strengths the Steelers is that we have a culture of winning that is now almost 40 years old. - mesa)