Stu­pid­ity, lead­er­ship are not same thing

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

In a Den­ver locker room where Pey­ton Man­ning once was the sher­iff, the voice of author­ity is now cor­ner­back Aqib Talib, who doesn’t care if you’re his foe, team­mate or mother. Talib will bully you, shut your mouth and then ex­pect you to make him break­fast in the morn­ing.

The Bron­cos have is­sues. Too many to count. But one rea­son the de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl cham­pi­ons are 8-6 and in dan­ger of miss­ing the play­offs might be stu­pid­ity dis­guised as lead­er­ship.

On Wed­nes­day, I asked Talib if his con­fronta­tion in the locker room with team­mate Rus­sell Okung af­ter a 16-3 loss to New Eng­land was much ado about noth­ing.

“I ar­gue with my mother, and she still makes me break­fast,” Talib quipped.

I chuck­led. Talib is the best cor­ner­back money can buy in the NFL. He’s in­tense to a fault. He would rather beat your butt than back down. He’s no-fil­ter funny. He’s the lit­tle crazy ev­ery foot­ball team needs.

But if Talib is the face of your fran­chise, then the road to the Su­per Bowl is more like-

ly to end up in the ditch than with a pa­rade through down­town Den­ver.

Long be­fore Talib shouted down Okung af­ter a loss that hurt so bad the Bron­cos were fight­ing mad, the brother­hood was fray­ing at the edges. There is a nat­u­ral di­vide be­tween the of­fense and de­fense on ev­ery NFL team. One unit has to sit and watch while the other plays. Coach Gary Ku­biak, a for­mer quar­ter­back, tends to re­fer to the of­fense as “we” and his de­fense as “them.”

Here’s the prob­lem: In the span of the last 12 months, the di­a­logue be­tween a strong Den­ver de­fense and its weak lit­tle brother has gone from “Just don’t mess it up for us, OK?” with an arm around the shoul­der to an an­gry shove in the back that screams: “Why do you al­ways have to be mess­ing it up?”

I re­call cor­ner­back Chris Har­ris telling me dur­ing the Su­per Bowl run, “A punt is not a bad play for our of­fense.” But, of late, Talib could not even trust Jor­dan Nor­wood to catch a punt af­ter the Den­ver de­fense makes a stop.

Even on his last legs, when Man­ning had lost his throw­ing touch and fre­quently played like a bro­ken-down old vet, he ruled the locker room. Team­mates did not nec­es­sar­ily love Man­ning. But they re­spected him to the nth de­gree. Would Talib have had the guts to tell Man­ning to shut up? No way. No how.

The trou­ble with the Den­ver of­fense is big­ger than the lack of an ef­fec­tive run­ning game. The Den­ver of­fense has no voice.

It starts with the play-call­ing. The Bron­cos have no iden­tity on of­fense, be­cause it seems the coaches spend more en­ergy to build con­sen­sus than score touch­downs. Who’s in charge here? Is it Ku­biak, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Rick Den­ni­son or quar­ter­backs coach Greg Knapp? There are too many cooks in the kitchen and too many com­pet­ing voices in Trevor Siemian’s ear.

For Christmas, Siemian bought his of­fen­sive line­men win­ter coats with a built-in Skit­tles dis­penser. Hey, I want one of those. But it’s not a gift sent by a CEO. It’s a present that re­minds us Siemian is 24 years old, just one of the guys, try­ing to fit in.

When C.J. An­der­son went down with an in­jury, the Bron­cos lost more than their best run­ning back. The of­fense lost a player with as much spunk as Talib. Be­ing a 21st cen­tury man, An­der­son has tried to con­trol the con­ver­sa­tion via Twit­ter, which might work in pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics, but doesn’t re­ally trans­late to tackle foot­ball.

The of­fense is sick and tired of hear­ing it stinks. But is there any­body on the Bron­cos with both the star power and lead­er­ship chops to pull the of­fense out of this mess?

Mov­ing food around his plate with a fork, re­ceiver De­mary­ius Thomas looked up from his lunch, an­tic­i­pated the sore sub­ject I was pok­ing at and chal­lenged me to ask a di­rect ques­tion.

So I asked Thomas: Was there any­thing he could do out­side of mak­ing big catches to be a leader?

“I just need to do my job. And that’s mak­ing plays,” Thomas replied. “That’s it.”

Ac­tions speak loud­est. Got it. No ar­gu­ment here.

Man­ning threw 151 touch­down passes in 65 reg­u­lar-sea­son and play­off starts for Den­ver. He came off the bench once for the Bron­cos. Man­ning did not throw a TD pass that af­ter­noon against San Diego, but led a march that ended in a Su­per Bowl vic­tory.

Lead­er­ship is more than telling some­body to sit down and shut up.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.