— Building a football team, even at the professional level, requires a certain amount of cultivation to go with accumulation.
The Philadelphia Eagles have focused on the latter so much the past couple of years that they have completely neglected the former.
We're seeing the disastrous results of that approach now, with a lack of leadership at the very top of the list of things wrong with this team. The Eagles could be in first place in the NFC East and talking about nailing down home-field advantage for the postseason instead of trying to figure out what keeps running over them every week if they had taken into account one more thing when they started their extreme makeover after the 2010 season: Personality.
This team has none. Or rather, it has 53 personalities. Which is the same as none.
There's no cohesion whatsoever — no identity.
Doesn't matter that they all get along and hang out together and all that other stuff. There's no unifying force.
Best example: Safeties Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen are the best of friends. They're at each other's houses all the time, hanging out, doing favors for each other, all the stuff friends do. Both of them are great guys as well, always accountable, rarely too busy to talk to reporters, often insightful.
Yet on Sunday, they can't seem to get on the same page about anything, fouling up two or three times apiece with mental mistakes that opponents have come to count on like clockwork.
Thus, the big-play factor.
Everybody screws up from time to time, but on most teams there are neutral and nasty (if necessary) forces to remind players of their limits. On this team, who does this?
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha? Hardly. He's still trying to "adjudicate" how his subtle comments about defensive strategy in Weeks 5 and 6 played into the dismissal of Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator in Week 7.
Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie? Uh ... no.
Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans? Possibly. But he just arrived a few months ago. No matter what kind of leader he is, it takes time to build the same kind of rapport and earn the same kind of respect he had in Houston.
Cullen Jenkins? Hard to say with him. He sure did a good job of getting in coach Andy Reid's face in the preseason. Since then, can't say what kind of personality he is. Besides, it's only his second year in this system. Hasn't been here long enough.
Mike Patterson? Solid player and person, but has a personality as far away from Type A as you can get.
Jason Babin? Please.
Michael Vick? When he's not shaking his head up and down while being asked by the trainer in front of him how many fingers he has up, maybe. But he's on offense. He has too much to worry about to straighten out defensive teammates.
We can go up and down the rest of the roster, but you get the idea.
This is not to say leadership can't develop down the road. Second-year center Jason Kelce, for example, was grooming for that role until he was lost for the season with a knee injury. That changed the dynamic. Ryans, as mentioned earlier, needs more time.