A few weeks ago I told you what former Dolphins Nat Moore and Shawn Wooden had to say about the need for veteran leadership in the locker room and how that helps young players learn to be professionals.
The subject fascinates me because it goes beyond the field, into relationships and team chemistry and things that may not be readily apparent but still matter.
Looking at the Dolphins locker room I don't see a ton of veterans, as we all know this is a very young team, so I've been wondering about what players fit the leadership role.
In a recent rundown of the leadership voices in all 32 NFL locker rooms, Thomas George of NFL.com names the loudest, most wise, most effective or most attention-grabbing voices in each NFL locker room. He named Joey Porter Miami's defining voice.
And I cringed.
Don't get me wrong, Porter's voice has a place in Miami's locker room. He is the team's resident motivator, and agitator. If there is a confrontation to lead, be it before, during or after the game, Porter is there. If there is an opposing player to call out, he will do it.
But this approach has its limitations. Porter is awesome on the attack except when his attacks ring kind of hollow. Remember when he guaranteed a victory over somebody or other in 2007 (not worthy of looking up, frankly) and the Dolphins got whipped? Remember when he called out the NFL and, to an equal degree, Jacksonville receiver Matt Jones, last year on a national conference call?
Jones, arrested in the offseason for having cocaine in his car, was still playing during the regular-season and Porter ripped the league for allowing that to continue. He also took a couple of swipes at Jones. What he apparently didn't know is that Jones had already been suspended but was playing while awaiting an appeals hearing.
Jones fired back at Porter for getting in his business and it was stupidity unleashed for about 24 hours. Jones eventually served the suspension after his appeal failed.
Porter also famously declined to come off the field last year even as coach Tony Sparano was demanding he do that during the first Baltimore game. Sparano was not happy the incident was caught on TV, making him look powerless to get the team's sack leader off the field and so he fined Porter.
The point is Porter's is something of a cartoonish voice. He is loud and intimidating but not always effective or bounding with wisdom.
I think in searching for locker room voices on the Dolphins one has to go beyond Porter.
On defense I see Jason Ferguson as a rock. He's neither quiet nor loud. He strikes the right balance between keeping teammates loose and tightening the screws when necessary. He has been mentoring several younger defensive linemen, Paul Soliai among them.
Ferguson is a voice other players respect.
Chad Pennington is that on offense and perhaps throughout the locker room. When he tells the receivers they are going to work on pass routes with him, no one complains. They work on pass routes with him. When he calls meetings to study opponents and tells other players to show up, well, they show up.
Pennington is a voice other players respect.
I assume Jason Taylor will regain a piece of the leadership mantle he gave up when he was traded to Washington last year. Taylor, along with Vonnie Holliday, were the defensive line leaders for quite some time and Taylor was admired by some of the younger players.
If Taylor can play well and is willing, he can regain a voice other players respect.
Ronnie Brown is gaining that kind of voice. Ricky Williams has that voice when he wants it. Justin Smiley and Will Allen can also, on occasion, and their mentorship of Jake Long and Vontae Davis is proof of that.
The Dolphins, a young team, are not overflowing with veteran leadership. But as I think we can agree, they are not a team with only one loud leadership voice in the locker room.
[BLOG NOTE: Remember to come back here tomorrow for the Sunday column update. The column this week centers around Miami's search for a No. 1 receiver.]