OT - Position correlation to "me-first" behavior?

Submitted by lastofthedogmen on January 2nd, 2019 at 10:26 AM

The recent Antonio Brown episode brought to mind this question that's been percolating in the back of my mind for a few years. It seems to me that most of the selfish attitudes that we see in pro football are displayed in the wide-out position. I have no studies or data to back this up, just seeing what's reported in the news. My question is two-fold: a) is this observation correct, or is it skewed reporting that makes it seem so; b) if it is correct, is it a case of the position attracting people with these attitudes, or does something about the position foster these tendencies?

It's my belief that the more one is removed from directly perceptible reliance on teammates (eg, each lineman sees how the other linemen support or detract from his own success, the qb sees how the linemen and rbs protect him, whereas the receiver sees himself running routes against a couple dbs) the more one sees success as a result of one's own skills and merits, and less as the result of a whole team effort.




January 2nd, 2019 at 10:32 AM ^

I noticed waybackwhen after Bo retired...  That Bo's players after making a play would coagulate immediately with congratulations as if one.  If a sack, the other players would come running and congratulate the sacker as if one.... Then with Mo I noticed it fade a bit then with Carr even more. Maybe sign of the times. But I did notice it .  Now u say a play made and the player runs to open spot and dances with nobody around. Might appear minor to others but not to me. 


January 2nd, 2019 at 10:40 AM ^

Have noticed this as well. Watch any of the videos from the ‘85 team for a good example. Hammerstein or someone else makes a play and the other players are all around. This was stressed on my defense in high school (‘80s). We had a conditioning drill in practice where everyone on defense sprinted to the ball after a play was made. It became second nature.


January 2nd, 2019 at 10:47 AM ^

There was a psychologist who worked with the San Diego Chargers (RIP) back in the 70s or 80s, I believe. He wrote a book about it afterwards and described personality traits tied to particular positions. I recall him saying that WRs tended to share the same fear--a hit to the face. They tended to be the most narcissistic, as I recall.

Not sure how anecdotal or accurate the book was, and I'm too lazy to look it up, but it might be a resource in your position-based analysis.


January 2nd, 2019 at 11:24 AM ^

It would not surprise me that certain positions tend to possess similar characteristic traits.

We have to be careful not to imply causality.  Correlation perhaps; causality, no.

In a team-oriented sport like football, there's only a small number of positions where one has the opportunity to shine as an individual -- QB, WR, RB, and maybe CB.  That those positions would tend to collect people who enjoy being in the spotlight is not a shocking thing.


January 2nd, 2019 at 11:51 AM ^

And add in that WR's are dependent on the QB and share in their success whereas RB's tend to get the credit for their accomplishments.  RB's seem to try to share their success with the OL because the public tends to ignore them, despite how important they are to rushing success.  Also WR's don't have as many chances to make an impact so I think you tend to see the "look at me" response when they score more that with RB's or QB's who get those chances more frequently.



January 2nd, 2019 at 11:52 AM ^

It was Arnold Mandell, who wrote the Nightmare Season and did, apparently, notice that.  But it was based on, it seemed, one team that also had a massive drug problem, a drug problem he certainly didn't help as he prescribed a lot of amphetamines to said players.  Now, I don't blame him because players were under immense physical stress, but we're making a ton of hay out of some observations from a guy who talked to NFL players 40 years ago.

I absolutely believe there are some general personality traits that you need to be successful at football - toughness, fearlessness, confidence, a high pain tolerance.  But I don't think they are necessarily positive or negative.  A WR who is "narcissistic" may be so because he thinks he's better than everyone else, or that he knows he's out on an island and doesn't have anyone else to rely on to get the ball into the endzone.  He's got to beat the corner across from him, the safety waiting to light him up going across the field, etc.  But he also has to want to block for the running back on screens, or a QB scrambling, etc.  

I just think people want to paint athletes who make them mad as bad people, which is weird to me because literally every characteristic we dislike in someone can be viewed as a positive trait in someone we like.

Mpfnfu Ford

January 2nd, 2019 at 11:16 AM ^

I mean, Ben Roethlisberger has beefed with practically everyone he's ever come into contact with and took the front office's side against a teammate, not sure the AB situation tells you anything other than Big Ben is a miserable prick.


January 2nd, 2019 at 11:40 AM ^

It was probably just the timing of it all*, but he got a TON of passes for basically being a sexual predator and dangerous alcoholic.  Yeah, he's pretty good at football, but as a person he doesn't seem like a particularly good person to be around.

*Well, and some other stuff that veers way too much into politics


January 2nd, 2019 at 11:36 AM ^

I swear, I thought this post was going to also mention rap music, baggy pants, and kids looking at their phones.

No, there is no proof that WRs are more selfish because they probably aren't.  Antonio Brown seems like a weird, broken dude.  But lots of guys seems sort of selfish when they are making millions of dollars.  Leonard Fournette didn't play his last game because he was pissed off.  Cornerbacks, linebackers, linemen, QBs, every position on the field has assholes who play it.  They also have guys who play hard to the whistle, who recognize that the people who pay their salaries don't care about them the minute they aren't useful, who love the game more than life itself, and everywhere in between.  They are all humans, and because we remember the high-profile ones we extrapolate themes or trends where none exist.



January 2nd, 2019 at 12:05 PM ^

I don't agree.  Let's be honest: the vast majority of high-profile prima donnas in football have been wide receivers.  Next most have been cornerbacks.  Obnoxious prima donnas are almost never found among offensive linemen.

Yes, there are examples of selfish jerks at other positions.  But if you pick a random player out of the group of Known Public Selfish Jerks, WR and CB are likely to be the position much more than any other.  It's OK to say that "most selfish jerks are wide receivers" and "most wide receivers are not selfish jerks" at the same time.  Both are true.


January 2nd, 2019 at 1:37 PM ^

We don't know about "obnoxious prima donnas" at offensive line because they (a) aren't talked to, and (b) aren't prominent.  Richie Incognito seems like a terrible person who is a cancer, and my guess is there are other linemen who are like that.  But we use "prima donna" with WRs and corners because its become second-hand for overly confident.  But Tom Brady screams at people when they hit him, yells at his receivers and linemen, and throws hissy fits on the sidelines.  He's incredibly smug and self-confident.  But for some reason he gets a break.  Also, just off the top of my head guys like Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, TY Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins, etc. all are/were great WRs who seem like down-to-earth guys.

Also, I reject the premise that "known public jerks" is an accurate assessment of people who are actually assholes to any degree more than other players or positions.  We know about CBs and WRs because they are prominent on the field and they get reported like outliers.  But again, it's probably got some solid selection bias going on.


January 2nd, 2019 at 12:17 PM ^

Anecdotally, people often seem to gripe about the egos within the ranks of wide receivers, but I am not sure how you would frame this as something which you could sit down and study. I am sure the OP is just the person to do it though. 


January 2nd, 2019 at 1:29 PM ^

The Steelers have become a joke of an organization, from the top down. This Rooney running the show now is nothing like his dad, as he would not have stood for this me, me, me bullshit. The head coach of the team is next in line. Among many things, first, he is a horrible game manager and play caller. As it pertains to this post, he is way too much of a players coach. Nothing wrong with having a good relationship with your players, but you can't best buds either. He allows the students to run the university, so to speak. No wonder you have knuckleheads like Brown and QB 7 acting as such over the years. Used to be a huge fan of the Steelers, but that all went out the window 2 years ago. Even before that fateful day, the writing was on the wall that these were no longer the Steelers whom I had come to love. The team has been the biggest bunch of underachievers, or paper champions if you will, since their last SB win in 2009. That is squarely the fault of their ownership, and their cheerleading coach. Terry Bradshaw was spot on. Gone are good guys like Ward, Keisel, Randle El, Foote, Polamalu, Tuman. Tomlin won with Cowher's guys and has been outclassed by the Pats ever since. If the Steelers organization decides to get back to its blue collar PGH roots (clean house), then I'll be happy to watch once again. People like Antonio Brown, and his "me" attitude, do not fit the mold of PGH, nor does that attitude fit the Steeler Way. At least it didn't used to.