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  • Writer's pictureRyan McWilliams

Is Culture Overrated In Professional Sports? Spoiler Alert: Not At All!

Updated: Jul 19, 2021

Every athlete that has ever played at a high level has likely heard the term ‘culture’. What does it mean? In athletics, many would agree that culture relates to the values, beliefs, atmosphere, and behaviors of a team or organization.

Joe Douglas, General Manager of the New York Jets, speaks at a press conference.
Photo Credit:

Successful NFL Organizations Possess A Great Culture

So to answer the question, “is culture overrated in sports,” I’d pose a question of my own. What do the Patriots, Chiefs, Ravens, & Steelers have in common? All four of these teams are led by head coaches and a front office staff who have years of NFL experience, care about their players, and establish a work ethic that is unmatched. These 4 franchises have experienced success and have a history of winning. So, in my opinion, culture is definitely not overrated in professional sports.

I’d go as far as saying culture is underrated in professional sports.

Current and former players of Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid (other than Le'veon Bell, sorry Lev) have nothing but great things to say about him. For example, Reid has been praised for his ability to connect with players on and off the field, caring about them as people first and foremost. His sense of humor, professionalism, and his family values have all been mentioned by his players as to why they love playing for him. These are qualities that relate to success and positive culture in the locker room. Something a Jets fan can only hope for.

The New York Jets Have Historically Struggled To Establish Culture

The New York Jets culture has been non-existent and could even be described as a joke over the past decade. As I painfully sat through the Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles & Adam Gase eras, all that I heard throughout every offseason was that the Jets are “changing the culture.” Although I enjoyed watching them each offseason, short films and documentaries such as “One Jets Drive” or “Hard Knocks” led every Jets fan to believe that positive change was coming. We were fooled time and time again as the Jets organization seemed to talk the talk but could not back it up on the field.

There was no culture change, especially over the past 2 seasons. There was only embarrassing loss after loss. As we desperately looked for answers, we tuned into the head coach’s post game presser. Our fearless leader Adam Gase had no answers for our lack of preparation or shockingly awful game plans. Halftime adjustments? Never heard of them. Twitter feuds from star players seemingly occurred weekly and our culture had never been worse.

Robert Sale smiles as he fields questions at a press conference for the New York Jets. Quote on Photo says, "Get Used to the Mantra: All Gas, No Brake."
Photo Credit: SNY via Youtube

What Type of Culture will this Regime Cultivate for the Jets?

Now I know I sound negative, but that is all in the past. The new regime of GM Joe Douglas and newly hired head coach Rob Saleh have promised the same culture change that we’ve heard about since we drafted Mark Sanchez in 2009. Why should we trust them? Do they actually understand culture and how to change it? What have they done for us to believe they are going to turn this team around? While the Jets off-season moves were promising, these questions will be answered in time. However, I believe there is a different feel around One Jets Drive in Florham Park, NJ this year. Robert Saleh seems to have one of the best reputations in the NFL coming off a successful stint as a defensive coordinator for an elite San Francisco 49ers team. His press conferences have an energy to them and the ideas about how he will run the team do not seem like typical Jets fashion. His former players love him and he seems to be a true leader of men. Every Jets fan says this, but this feels different this time. That vibe is what makes me think this regime has what it takes to maximize the upside of this organization.

I think we may have finally found our first step of positive culture change in green & white. MetLife Stadium is going to be rocking this Fall. Hopefully the Jets can put a team on the field that is going to make us proud so stick with us over at Jet Up because we might just have something special cooking in the Meadowlands.

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