Leadership is layered in the NFL: How it works on Sundays

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On a recent ESPN special, Nick Saban was talking to Kobe Bryant about leadership. Saban summarized a point Kobe made by saying, "Everyone wants to be the beast, but not everyone wants to do what the beasts do."

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Hope and optimism are everywhere around the NFL, even for teams that did not win a game a year ago. That is actually part of what makes the NFL so great. The parity, which exists more than in other leagues, offers plausible hope that the Cleveland Browns can turn it around and go on a surprise run. You laugh, but ask Kurt Warner's Rams. This stuff happens.

We usually see a surprise breakthrough every year -- do people remember that last year's Eagles were coming off a 7-9 season? How quickly we forget. In 2017, the only team in the NFC to make the playoffs from the previous season was the Atlanta Falcons, and they sneaked in on a wild-card berth. In the AFC, only the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs were able to repeat their 2016 playoff success.4

But, let's get back to Saban's point. What separates teams that consistently contend each year? It is how those organizations construct their rosters, and it isn't just the talent.

Start with the illusion: Anyone who follows football in August knows that nearly every team has had its "best offseason training program" ever, a new O-coordinator or defensive wizard is on board and has the secret sauce that was missing from the previous coach. Guys who got in trouble off the field are ready for a second or third chance and saying how much they've grown up. There's a "newfound chemistry," and, of course, a new yoga program is going to take a player to the next level. Did I forget the rising star ready to take on a new role? OK. Check.

We hear these stories every year. Then the season starts, and one by one, what was once a season full of promise and hope nfl jerseys china nike

The differentiator? Leadership, from top to bottom, is critical. No joke: This is way more crucial than a lot of those other clich├ęs. Here are some aspects of it.

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