The 49ers released this video of the team’s post-game celebration following the team’s week 13 15-14 victory over the Chicago Bears. It’s always fun to be able to catch a glimpse of what takes place behind the scenes, especially in a sport that is in many ways inaccessible to the everyday fan.
What I found particularly intriguing comes after Kyle Shanahan’s speech, at roughly the 1:20 mark, when kicker Robbie Gould takes center stage. He references a speech he apparently delivered to the team the night before the game, when he asked the players on the team to “find your why.” Now, I obviously have no context with which to dissect the meaning of this statement. Perhaps Gould is imploring the players to find or remember reasons to play for each other, or to define what it is within each of them that compels them come to work on Sundays and give the game, and each other, everything they have. Only the players in that room know to what exactly Gould is referring. He goes on to talk about what he perceives to be the high ceiling the 49ers have, and how the team is only just beginning to realize the extent of what they can accomplish.
It is important that this type of speech is coming from a kicker. Kickers are players that many fans, including myself, do not usually associate with having a meaningful impact on the camaraderie of a team. Yet here is a kicker that seems to have addressed his team the night before a game, in a leadership capacity. And if you observe the players as they listen to Gould, it is plain that they are interested in what he has to say – they respect him.
Granted, all we see here is a small snapshot, after a game during which this kicker scored all the points, after his triumphant return to a city and team that unceremoniously dumped him last year. This is an important moment for him, and it’s evident that Gould has not quite gotten over it. For all I know, this is the first and last time he has ever inspired the team by speaking.
Then again, perhaps it’s not. Often times we have heard Kyle Shanahan discuss leadership at the press conference podium. He has made a point of saying that leadership on a football team can come in a variety of ways, and not just from flashy playmakers, or those players that we see yelling at the troops every time they are on the sidelines. In this article, for example, in his response to a question about vocal leaders, Shanahan notes:
…to me, the leaders out there are the guys who have a standard with how they practice, what they do every single day. They don’t need to tell you anything. They just show you and you know who’s going to be there day in and day out. You know exactly what you’re dealing with and those to me are the real leaders.”
The qualities mentioned in this quote certainly seem consistent with someone like Robbie Gould. And given Shanahan’s emphasis on leadership and the variety of characteristics that define a leader, and given what I have seen and heard from John Lynch, I can only imagine that there are already quite a few of these unconventional leaders on the Niners’ roster.
Any 49ers fan can easily rattle off the obvious leaders on this team – Eric Reid and Joe Staley jump immediately to mind. I look forward to see what other leaders emerge on this football team, particularly as this group continues to gel. I can only expect more of these unique and diverse leaders to be added to the roster throughout the offseason. These 49ers are becoming a high character football team full of men that hold themselves – and each other – accountable. It’s gonna be fun to watch.