By Bruce Allen

This is another peek inside Bill Walsh’s Finding the Winning Edge.

There is a chapter entitled “Handling The Pro Athlete” which deals with ways in which to promote sound player relations. It also addresses challenges that can arise, including substance abuse, diversity in the locker room, domestic violence and player assistance programs.

The chapter concludes with a look at the “Future dynamics of player relations” and tries to forecast circumstances and factors that may affect player relations in the future. Keep in mind that this book is now 10 years old, having been published in 1997. See if what Walsh predicted has come true:

  • Players will become even more preoccupied with “self.”
  • Agents will become even more dominating factors in the lives of the players they represent; these agents with provide counsel on all matters involving their players and will act in a self-serving manner.
  • Only the most informed (i.e. knowledgeable) and most talented (i.e. demonstrated ability to teach) coaches will gain the respect of players.
  • Because of the money involved, players will be even more concerned with their current situation, as opposed to having a long-term perspective.
  • Players will give even more attention to their “unique image”; as such, the media will become even more of a major factor in the player’s life.
  • As they earn and accumulate wealth, players will be even more susceptible to the “lure” of an unacceptable life-style.
  • Players will reprioritize their sense of loyalty; their allegiance will be given to their agents first, then to their friends, and next to the media. In this regard, the team will not fare well.
  • Players will be even more inclined to engage in histrionics on the field during the game. Such attention-seeking demonstrations will continue to be an outgrowth of a player’s attempt to achieve notoriety by drawing attention to himself.

These were only some of the items mentioned in a rather lengthy list. Of the above, I found several particularly interesting. The third one down, which deals with coaching, seems to fit well with Bill Belichick, who certainly fits both criteria. It also fits a coach like Mike Shanahan. These two are among the longest tenured coaches in the league and certainly considered at the top of the coaching pile.

The role of agents in the lives of players is right on the money, as well as the obsession with image. The “unacceptable life-style” one I found interesting. Could this apply to someone like Michael Vick, who perhaps felt that he was protected from the consequences of his actions somehow?

The last item is one that has become an everyday occurrence among all athletes. From Terrell Owens to Chad Johnson, Ray Lewis, and yes, Randy Moss, these on-field demonstrations just seem to get more prominent each season, despite the efforts of the league to keep them more subdued.

Was the coach a prophet here, or were these things easy to predict? Talk about it in the comments.