Home > MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL > August 24 – Follow the Leader?

August 24 – Follow the Leader?

So I was listening to a certain sports radio station on my way to work this morning, and they were discussing the pre-season NFL game between the Cardinals and Titans last night. One of the commentators was ranting that Arizona will go nowhere this year because Matt Leinart (who was pretty bad), and Derek Anderson (also pretty bad) will not step up and “lead”. After discussing what the Cards need at that position – a leader – and even suggesting Ken Whisenhunt beg Kurt Warner to come back, a fellow commentator suggested the Cardinals need a leader at QB like a good NBA team needs a good point guard to lead.

Which got me to thinking – sometimes the idea of “leadership” gets fuzzy. Was the commentator saying Warner should come back because of his leadership, or because – in the NFL – the QB, and the numbers he puts up, are the most important on the field?

Truthfully, in the NFL is where the line gets blurred the most. That’s because the QB is usually the offensive leader on the team. Rarely do you find a RB or a WR that is the “leader” – many times such a player gets labeled a diva when they “want the ball”.  However, there is no question the QB is the most important when trying to predict outcomes. How different will the score expectation be for the Steelers without Big Ben in for the first 4 games?

In baseball, it’s the starting pitcher. Many baseball “experts” make their recommendations based solely upon who is starting that day. He is the most important player in predicting outcomes. But how many pitchers are “leaders”? They play once every 5 days! Here the line is very clear. The “leader” is usually an everyday player, and many times is labeled a captain. Some teams (like my Mets) are still looking for one.

Basketball is really the biggest “team” sport in this regard. There is no one position that contributes the most statistical significance to outcome. Outcomes are still predicated on who is playing – if Amare sits out a game for the Knicks next year, the predicted score will most likely be lower. But there is no assigned position that is the key to the predicted outcome. (One could argue that in the 80s it was the center, but that’s for another time. Now the center is likely the least significant). Although the leader may be a point-guard, as the commentator pointed out – mathematically no one position is greater than the other 4.

Hockey is fairly straightforward – the goalie, especially a hot one, can dictate a game, and is the most important in the mathematical model.

Any thoughts? Feel free to comment. (Please?!?!?)  AFC North Re-Preview coming tomorrow.

Categories: MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL
  1. August 24, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    I agree with most of what you said, but a physical statistical leader isn’t always the leader. In football, a lot of times it’s a linebacker, such as Ray Lewis, who potentially through his leadership, increases the performance of a whole defense. Though the QB’s often decide the game, they’re playing against the defense, so they, arguably, decide the game just as much.

    In the NBA, I’d say the point guard’s the leader. Like a QB, he’s the one with the ball in his hands the most and if he gains the respect of the rest of the team (ie. Rondo with the Celtics), the team can go far. If a team trusts the ball carrier, they’ll work a lot better together. However, with that said, the NBA is a superstar driven league and I’d actually say it’s the least of the team sports (other than baseball). You need a superstar to win in the NBA, but not so much in hockey or the NFL (2001 Patriots).

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