Earlier today, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham published a terrific article about the Seattle Seahawks, looking in-depth at the Richard Sherman trade rumors and compiling a clearer picture on what was going on after talking with several people involved.
In short: the Seahawks’ defense doesn’t care for quarterback Russell Wilson or the handling of Wilson by head coach Pete Carroll and his staff. The defenders apparently think that Wilson isn’t held accountable despite what defensive players see as faults and mistakes. One of the more striking elements of the story was a time when Richard Sherman picked Wilson off in practice and yelled, “you f—ing suck” at the quarterback. So relations with Wilson and the Seattle defense aren’t good, and Wilson doesn’t sound like the most popular guy in the locker room.
Now, that kind of thing probably goes on more often than we think in NFL locker rooms (though perhaps not always to that extent), but after reading the story I was reminded of Chris Ballard’s approach to Andrew Luck and why it’s so important: because Ballard has continually preached that it’s not all about Luck.
For example, when Ballard was asked about Luck in his introductory press conference, he replied:
"Alright, let me say this, because Andrew's a great player, but it will never be about one guy. It will never be about one guy. It's about all 53 men in that locker room, it's about all 63 men, including the practice squad, that we have. It will never be about one person. It will always be about the team. And is he a good piece? Absolutely. But he's just one of the 53 men that we have to go win with."
That’s a sentiment that he’s echoed throughout the offseason, including in a recent interview with the MMQB’s Albert Breer:
“Everybody knows how hard that position is to find. When you have a guy with special talent at the position and he’s got special character on top of it, that’s a pretty good thing. But the one big thing I’ve made a point of here, it’s not just Andrew. We’ve got to have the best 53-man roster, and that includes Andrew. That’s how we’ll help him, by making the roster around him better both offensively and defensively. That’s what we’re gonna do. It can’t be just about Andrew.”
In that Breer interview, Ballard also mentioned how impressed he was by Luck’s presence in the locker room and how his teammates reacted to him, so Ballard thinks that Luck is a very key figure to have in the locker room and his teammates like him.
Let’s be clear: Chris Ballard thinks Andrew Luck is a very special player, and he’s also discussed what makes his quarterback so special. But his emphasis in approaching his new job of rebuilding this Colts team is to maintain the approach that Luck is just one of 63 guys. It’s an important position, yes, but it’s not all about Luck.
We don’t know for sure the dynamics of the Colts locker room and whether they’re keeping Luck accountable for mistakes at the same level as other players, and we don’t for sure know about the locker room reaction to Luck (though based on what we’ve heard from players, coaches, Ballard, etc., we can guess that it’s very positive), so this isn’t a direct contrast to the Wilson situation. But I do think that Ballard’s emphasis of it not being all about Luck is a way that the Colts can help protect against that sense of division in the locker room toward the quarterback. By treating Luck as both a very special player and yet at the same time just one member of the team like everyone else (something I’m sure Luck loves), it seems that Chris Ballard is setting a healthy precedent with his new team.
We know that the quarterback position is the most important one on a football team, but if a team doesn’t handle it the right way it can become divisive, like it sounds has happened in Seattle. We don’t know the details of the Colts’ dynamic in this regard, but we do know that with Chris Ballard’s emphasis this offseason it seems like the Colts are trying not to stumble into a situation like the one the Seahawks are facing.