It's been an interesting offseason for Detroit Lions' quarterback Matthew Stafford, to say the least. First, pundits have questioned if his mechanics are too broken to have NFL success. Now, Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka is called his hat wearing choices into question with additional over-analysis.
"If you're the leader of the football team, I think you've got to stand up and be that leader, assume that role." Ditka said. "A lot of it is what you do on the field, certainly. But I think a little has to do with appearance, too. You know, respect the game, respect the team. That's all."
Ditka said he meant no harm in the comments and has faith in Stafford the player, but only wanted Stafford to see the importance of leadership and appearance as it relates to playing quarterback.
"I'm not knocking him. I'm just saying that's the first thing I would tell him if I inherited him. When you're going to do an interview, put it on like it's supposed to be on, not backwards, sidewards whatever way they put them on anymore."
Regardless of how successful, iconic or respected Ditka is in the business, he's a bit off base on this one. Fact is, even though perception is reality with regards to appearance, so is winning. Ben Roethlisberger has been wearing his hat backwards for years on the field, even during trophy presentations and is no less revered as a team leader. Colin Kaepernick does the same, and only looks less successful as losses mount, much like Tony Romo. What differentiates Roethlisberger from Kaepernick, Romo and Stafford? Just two Super Bowl trophies and countless playoff wins.
Football isn't exactly like the business world. Simply because Stafford wears his hat backwards in press conferences doesn't mean he's lazy, unmotivated or unprepared for success. It also doesn't mean that he doesn't have what it takes to lead or lacks a respect for the game. Perhaps it's simply his style. Chances are, the same pundits calling him out now would be lauding him for his free spirit and redefinition of the position if he was a winner.
If Stafford wants to stop the criticism of every move he makes on and off the field, the best thing he could start doing would be winning. It's easier to nitpick someone when they're sitting on the sidelines instead of leading deep playoff runs. When a quarterback is tossing interceptions and falling short of team goals, everything is magnified, from personal appearance to arm angle.
Should Stafford come back rejuvenated under Jim Caldwell's coaching in 2014 and lead a major resurgence for the Lions, nobody will be talking about his choice in hat direction or even motivation in seeking out offseason quarterback mentors. Fact is, none of that is a story currently if the Lions don't fall apart down the stretch and lose the NFC North last season.
Hats off to Ditka for sharing his opinion, but in this case, the coach is misguided. Stafford can fix his image most by winning, even if he doesn't change how he wears his hat in the process.
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