You don't have to be a bully to get things done. What you do have to be is consistent. Decide who you are and stick with it. I told my players with the Jets the very first day I met with them that I was not going to yell at them. I said I would not rant and rave. I told them I wasn't going to do that because it wasn't my style. 'You never have to worry about me calling you out in public. I don't play games like that,' I said. 'If we've got an issue, you come see me. We'll talk. We'll get it figured out. But I will not yell and scream because to me, that's just wasting my voice.'
I think 25 years ago, or maybe even 20 years ago, a coach might have had to use those screaming, berating tactics to get his players' attention. There are a few out there today who still believe that that works, and sometimes it does. But whenever I encountered those kinds of coaches when I was growing up, all it did was make me say, 'I'll never coach like that.' The last thing I want to do is be on television grabbing a player by the collar and hollering at him or running out on the field and hollering at the officials. Today, I believe you have to embrace your own personality and gauge the personality of your team. I know who I am. And so I'm not going to try to be something else.
Our best running back, one of the best in the league, Curtis Martin, told me that when he was a rookie with the New England Patriots, his coach, Bill Parcells, made him run the same play over and over again to see if Martin would break. That's Parcells's way. And it's a way that has made him one of the best football coaches in history. That's his way, but mine is different. That doesn't mean one is right and one is wrong, despite his record. It's just that his way worked for him. I think, so far, that my way works for me. I know Curtis Martin's will, and I know that he will never break. So I know that I don't need to test him. Maybe Parcells didn't know that when Curtis was a rookie, but I'll bet he knows that about him now. Curtis Martin will never break. If a coach tells him to do something, he's going to do it. I have unbelievable confidence in him. I don't need to try to break him down.
And another thing I've learned along the way: When you holler at the top of your lungs at people, all you really get is a bad headache. I'm certainly not going to holler at a guy in the middle of a game. First of all, nobody hears you anyway. The players aren't listening; they're watching the game. It maybe looks good for TV because the announcers say, 'Look at the coach; he's going crazy, he's so involved in the game.'
But the fact is that the calmer I can be, the more the team is calm, especially when things are going badly. When a player makes a mistake, I don't really need to go jump in the guy's face. He already feels bad. I'll walk over and talk to the guy, but I don't make a big deal out of it. I generally don't do it right after the play, either, because the guy is still upset about the mistake to begin with. I pick and choose when I'm going to go and get the guy, and I speak to him in a teaching voice, where I'm trying to figure out what he was thinking. I listen, and then I tell him, 'Okay, here's what we need to do.' That's how I communicate with players in the heat of the battle.
Yelling and screaming at someone, whether it is in football, in business, or in your own home, only draws attention to yourself, and what does that accomplish? When your coworker makes a mistake, does yelling at her really make things better? Think about it. Wouldn't an even-toned query as to what she was thinking at the time seem a lot less confrontational? Confrontation only begets bad feelings, and I've rarely seen good things accomplished when bad feelings exist between people.
When someone makes a mistake, whether it be your coworker, your boss, or your kids, most likely that person already feels bad about what he did wrong. Screaming at him makes it worse, not better. Ask yourself, what is the goal? Isn't the goal to correct the mistake so it doesn't happen again and then move on? Hollering may sometimes be an effective tool. Sometimes you have to get mad and raise your voice to get your point across, but more often than not, I find that a soft voice and piercing eyes are just as effective, if not more so. The people you manage want to be respected and guided in the right direction that will earn them your praise.
Children, especially, need a map to follow. But parents need to understand that in enforcing the map, they must be consistent. If you start out by saying that you'll understand no matter what the problem is, make sure you are understanding when your son confides in you. Don't say you'll understand and then blow up when he comes home and tells you about a mistake he made. Don't throw his trust aside by losing focus because you're so disappointed. You told him you'd work through it with him. Try not to focus on the actual mistake, but rather on how he reacts to it-how he can learn and grow. That's what's important.
Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't tighten the screws from time to time. But learn how to do it without standing on a soapbox letting everybody else know that you're tightening the screws. When one of my players gets into trouble, I read him the riot act, but I do it in private. I don't believe in airing dirty laundry in public. Don't tighten the screws with your son with his friends around, just as I don't do it with the rest of my team around. You don't need to hang people publicly to make them accountable. Do it behind closed doors; they'll get your point.
I think my team understands where I'm coming from. I've been consistent from the very beginning. The guys told me that after our very first game together back in 2001, which we lost, they were concerned about how I was going to react. But when I didn't come into the locker room ranting and raving and then didn't change practice, didn't make them run, didn't do anything differently, and didn't change my voice, that's when they knew we would be okay. I think if I had started yelling and screaming and changing the way we'd been doing things, then I would have lost them. Anything we accomplished after that would have come from emotion rather than achievement. Because I didn't panic, because I stayed consistent in both my demeanor and my beliefs on how things should be run, my players were able to say, 'Coach is okay. And if he's okay, we're okay.'
And I stayed the same way, even after our fourth straight loss in a row during the 2002 season. Flying home after that game in Jacksonville, I was worried about what I would tell the team and how I could convince them that changing the quarterback didn't mean that I was panicking. It was time to make a move. It wasn't out of desperation; it was because Chad Pennington, I felt, was ready. But how could I convince my players that I wasn't desperate?
I stayed up much of the night coming up with a plan of attack so that when the players came back into work, they weren't just sitting around with their heads in the dirt, moaning, 'What are we going to do?'
I didn't scream. I didn't holler. I didn't rant and rave. I told them we were changing the quarterback, and I told them in the same voice I'd used for two seasons. I let them know that I was concerned and that this was me trying to find a way out of our situation. I was myself.
Some people call me a players' coach. That's fine. That doesn't mean I'm soft. Dick Vermeil told me that means that I know how to communicate.
I know this: If I go down, I'll go down as I am. In my heart, I'm doing what I think is right every single day. That's all anyone can do.