Today, Mike Hartline had this comment to the media about losing his starting job:
"I'm disappointed. It stinks," Hartline said. "You don't ever expect to win the starting job and then lose it because the guys around you aren't performing the way they should. It's disappointing, but at the same time, it's best for the team. I'm a team player, and that's just the way it has to be." [emphasis mine]
I know Mike Hartline is a young man, and I understand his disappointment. What I don't understand is why he places the blame for his failure of leadership on others.
Look, even if what he says is true, and I'm sure it is to some extent at least, I can't understand what he hopes to accomplish by airing this grievance in public. Yes, it always sucks getting demoted, but what Hartline needs to learn (and should have learned before now) is that when you are the quarterback, you are seen as the team's leader, at least on offense. If the other guys don't do their job, that is a failure of leadership.
Hartline's complaint reminds me of a quote by Arnold H. Glasgow:
"A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit."
Blaming others for failure when you are a leader is, in itself, a failure of leadership first and foremost. Many in the Big Blue Nation have rebuked Hartline for his comments on message boards and blogs, and I hope he finds out about it and comes to appreciate why people feel his words were inappropriate.
Rich Brooks gave us a lesson in leadership the other day when he accepted all the blame for his complete failure to properly prepare the team for Florida, and he was right -- as the leader of this program, the blame for that failure belongs squarely on his shoulders. That's what being a "team player" in the context of leadership means, Mike.
But apparently, Hartline hasn't yet learned that shouldering the burden of blame, particularly when it belongs mostly with you, is what leaders do. Leaders are interested more in protecting their teammates than themselves, even when their teammates are blameworthy. It's one way you earn respect, and learn humility -- two things which all great leaders have in abundance.
Hartline may not be solely responsible for the poor offensive performance, and I don't think he is. But when you accept a leadership position, it is with the understanding that you will accept responsibility for failure -- yours, and that of every single on of your charges.
Hartline can do better, and must if he wants to play quarterback in any capacity -- both in leadership and execution. But the first step in self-improvement is a good long look in the mirror, and if what you see isn't pretty, don't blame the mirror.