With the Super Bowl just a few days away, I think it was a great time to look back at some of the best leadership moments from this past football season.  The following are my The 40 Most Memorable Leadership Quotes From This Past Football Season.

Some are enlightening.  Others are challenging, inspirational or instructive.  Many are educational. But all are memorable.

My 3 Favorite

  1. “How bout them Cowboys!  I want to thank the Eagles fans for allowing me to have a career in the NFL.  Thank you.  I am honored as an undrafted free agent to be selected to make the Cowboys’s 2nd round draft pick.  And on behalf on the five-time world champion Dallas Cowboys, Hall of Fame owner Jerry Jones, Gene Jones and the Jones family, Coach Jason Garrett, all the Cowboys players who played before me, that played with me, and played after me, and with the 60th pick in the 2nd round, the Dallas Cowboys select defensive back from Colorado, Chidobe Awuzie!!!” – As shown in the video above, Drew Pearson savagely trolling the Eagles fans during the NFL Draft.  The NFL Network’s Rich Eisen responded, “That is an all-time great NFL pick and announcement.  I am standing and applauding!  Drew Pearson (is) soaking in the hate and spitting it back!”
  2. The Definition Of Greatness – “Greatness is playing great when greatness is required… Being a great player is you are great when that is the minimal amount required to succeed.” – Joel Klatt on The Herd With Colin Cowherd, September 21st
  3. Great Leaders Always Point To A Brighter Tomorrow.  If Not, Why Would You Even Follow Them? – “We’ve got 88 wins this decade so it’s the best decade in Clemson history.  But I always say the best is yet to come.” – Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney, ESPN College Gameday January 1st


  1. Case Keenum On The Minnesota Miracle – “”It’s probably going to go down as the third best moment of my life behind giving my life to Jesus Christ, marrying my wife, and this one right’s there close.”
  2. Carson Wentz On Faith – “I’m very open about my faith. I’m not going to hide from it or back down. I also like to try to walk the fine line in being too much and hitting people over the head with the Bible – that’s not what I’m about… I love Jesus and I’m going to talk about it. You can’t be around me for more than 20 minutes; it’s probably going to come up.”

The New England Patriots

  1. 12 Stitches – Brady reflecting on his hand injury, “I thought out of all the plays, my season can’t end on a handoff.  In practice.  We didn’t come this far to end on a handoff.”
  2. What Makes Tom Brady Great – “The competitive drive, the sense of urgency that he (Tom Brady) has – for him to be able to get into this mode, this warrior mode, and go out there and have the game that he had after everything that happened this week, it shows how he can block out the noise and focus on what he has to do.” – New England Patriots back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer after New England’s AFC Championship game win over Jacksonville
  3. Open Heart Surgery – When asked about Tom Brady’s injured hand after the AFC Championship game, head coach Bill Belichick said, “We’re not talking about open heart surgery.”
  4. Are You Willing To Give Up Your Life? – “If you’re going to compete against me you better be willing to give up your life because I’m giving up mine.” – Tom Brady in episode 1 of Tom Vs. Time documentary

Nick Saban

  1. Rat Poison – “I’m trying to get our players to listen to me instead of listening to you guys.  All that stuff you write about how good we are, all that stuff they hear on ESPN – it’s like poison.  You know what I mean?  It’s like taking poison – like rat poison.  I’m asking them, ‘Are you going to listen to me or are you going to listen to these guys about how good you are?’  Just like your question right now – we get stopped three out of four times, like that’s a bad thing.  We’re not going to beat everybody 66-3.”
  2. Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast – “If you go to Alabama and you walk into the equipment room and the assistant equipment manager is folding a towel and you ask him what he’s doing, he’ll say, ‘I’m preparing to win a national championship.’  (He’s not saying), ‘I’m folding this towel.’  (He’s saying), “I’m folding this towel the best a towel’s ever been folded because I’m preparing to win a national championship.’  That attitude permeates the entire organization.” – Coach Jim Mora on the December 28th The Herd With Colin Cowherd
  3. The Best College Coach Ever – “I want to go on record as saying that in all of college sports I think what Nick Saban has done at Alabama is unlike anything anyone else has ever done and it’s harder than anything anyone else has ever done… I admire them more than any other program.” – UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, ESPN January 8th
  4. “Let’s don’t waste the failure… If you don’t waste a failing you (will) learn from the mistakes that you made so you have a chance to improve and face the next challenge.  You never want to waste a failing.”
  5. Systems Eat Silver Bullets For Breakfast – “85% of people who open restaurants fail.  95% of the people that get a McDonald’s succeed.  So there’s something about the system that must mean something.  I think our system is something we’re always trying to improve.”
  6. “The two most important things that affect winning and losing are – A. Getting good talent.  How do you bring talent to your team?  And in our case, that’s recruiting.  Secondly, how do you develop those players so that they can be the best players they can be?  That’s what we always try to focus on.”
  7. The Play Doesn’t Care – “Do they have the will to win?  Everybody wants to make the play.  Everybody wants to win when you come out of the tunnel.  But in football you have to play 25 plays in a row.  The play doesn’t care who makes the play.  The play has to come to you.  (As a) receiver, you have to run fast 25 times.  You might not get the ball ’til the 26th time.  Who has the will to not get frustrated, to own their own mind to persevere to win the game?”
  8. Great Leaders Personally Own The Quality Control Aspect Of Their Programs – “You’re there (on the field during practice) to see the flaws.  You’re a part of quality control.  You’re not depending on somebody else to tell you, ‘This isn’t working anymore.'”
  9. Success In Life – “I hope you take something from this and the resiliency that you showed in this game helps you be more successful in life.”

Mike Lombardi on the GM Street Ringer podcast

  1. Trust Is The Foundation Of Successful Relationships – “Everything about great quarterbacks I’ve been around is trust. Trust in your receivers. Trust you’re going to be in the right place at the right time.” – December 16th
  2. Solutions-Based Vs. Sustainable – “There’s two kind of organizations. There’s solutions-based which makes decisions based on the day of the timing and there are sustainable organizations which are organizations that look at a decision and see how it affects them today, tomorrow and down the road.” – January 5th
  3. The Difference Between A Great Coach And An Average Coach – “What makes you a great coach and what makes you an average coach? What makes you a great coach is your ability to spend those extra hours on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday is digging into details to see how the game is going to go and make sure you’ve covered every situation and have something unique that you prepared for that you think you’re going to get that you have an answer for.” – January 14th
  4. Talent Evaluation – “The only way you can evaluate a player is in the most critical game.” – January 24th

Louis Riddick and Greg Cosell on ESPN’s NFL Matchup

  1. Recognition And Reaction – Matchup analyst Greg Cosell said, “It’s so critical for quarterbacks on 3rd down (to) wining before the ball is snapped… Recognize and react before the ball is snapped.  You win before the ball is snapped.  You get your team in the right position.”
  2. “Before you can win games you have to figure out how not to lose them.” – December 9th
  3. How To Get Momentum As A Leader – “I’ve got three words – Injuries, Availability, and Consistency.  Those are three things that have affected Joe (Flacco) this year.  Injuries to himself.  Availability as far as his wide receivers and the consistency of his wide receivers.  If he can get all those things trending in the right direction you know he can get hot.” – December 30th
  4. You Never Have To Recover From A Good Start – “First down is the key.  Bill Walsh used to talk about it all the time.  Don’t worry about third down if you can’t take care of first down.” – January 20th
  5. What franchise quarterback does that?.. It’s stupid in every way.” – Riddick on ESPN’s November 6th NFL Live regarding Jameis Winston


  1. Relationships Are The Tracks Success Runs On – “I wanted someone I knew.  I wanted someone I knew well.  I wanted someone that could get it done to be our coach.  I wanted Jimmy Johnson.” – Jerry Jones Hall Of Fame speech
  2. Great Leaders Know Everything’s About Relationships – “Our overall organizational philosophy is everything’s about relationships.  If these player’s know how much we care about them and how much we love them, we have their trust.  Then you can be really demanding of people.  But if you’re going to coach them hard, you’ve got to love them hard as well and that’s what we do.” – Penn State head coach James Franklin, Fox Pregame Show October 28th

ESPN College Gameday

  1. The Problem Is To Identify The Problem – “If you’re assistant coaches are more important than your head coach, that’s a problem.” – Rece Davis, September 2nd
  2. You Have One Job – “I don’t care what you feel like.  Maryland doesn’t care what you feel like.  Our fans don’t care what you feel like.  You got a job to do.” – Texas head coach Tom Herman
  3. Highly Successful Coaches Demand Alignment Throughout The Entire Organization – “The biggest thing you have to have is alignment from top to bottom.  I’m talking from the president all the way down to the receptionist in the football office… Know what your standards are.  Know what your expectations are… Everyone knows what you expect out of them and what you demand out of them on a daily basis.” – New Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen when asked by Kirk Herbstreit on December 2nd what is the key to sustained success and avoiding complacency.
  4. Live In Vision Rather Than Circumstance. – New Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said, “You either live in circumstance or you live in vision.  Once you put the vision out there, map out how they have to get there and what you have to do to create the habits and what you do to have championship habits.”, December 9th
  5. A Leader’s Most Dangerous Weapon – “What’s most dangerous about Baker Mayfield is his mind.” – UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly, January 1st


  1. “It’s a results business.  I understand that.” – Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio announcing his termination during his post-game news conference.
  2. If You Want To Get Better, Select The Right Leader – “The Cleveland Browns are where they are (worst record in the NFL) because of not taking Carson Wentz last year.” – Mel Kiper Jr. during the NFL Draft
  3. Hot Sauce – “Right now he throws the ball with one tempo and that is heat.  The challenge is going to get him to throw different kind of passes.  Customer service.  Not everybody ordered their plate with hot sauce.” – George Whitfield on Matt Carroll during the NFL Network’s Elite 11 series
  4. J.J. Watt – On his hurricane relief efforts, Watt said, “This is so much bigger than any game.  This so much bigger than any season, any sack, any touchdown.  This is lives.  This is hopefully helping people rebuild their lives and hopefully getting them back on their feet… This is humanity, football is a game.  This is life.  This is hands-down the most important thing any of us will go through, not just me.”
  5. Don’t Hire Who Is Available.  Go Get Who You Want. – “This is a guy we wanted and were willing to give what we thought was a very valuable commodity and exchange for him. So, we’re excited moving forward that he’s going to be a part of our future.” – San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch after trading for Jimmy Garrapolo
  6. The Fundamental Role Of Leadership Is To Properly Evaluate Reality. – Former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said, “I’m going to coach this team as long as my key card works.”  15 hours later he was fired.  Sports Illustrated December 11th

To receive more leadership insights from Coach Saban, click HERE or on the image to the left for my new ebook The Leadership Of Nick Saban: Timeless Truths From The Incomparable Head Coach Of The Alabama Crimson Tide.  Enjoy!

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