This column on Arizona Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun during preseason training camp in 2003.
PLOTTING A TURNAROUND
By Ed Odeven/Odds and Evens column
July 31, 2003
Day in and day out, Dave McGinnis pours his heart and soul into his job. He has one goal, and only one goal, making the Arizona Cardinals a winning football team.
To call it a demanding job would be an understatement. NFL head coaches routinely work 16-hour days. It’s a job that certainly differs from his previous posts as the Cardinals defensive coordinator, the Chicago Bears’ linebackers coach and college coaching stints at Texas Christian, Missouri, Indiana State and Kansas State.
“(As a head coach) you are in charge of everything, when we’re going to eat, when we’re going to travel, what we’re going to do,” McGinnis said. “You are in charge of completely everything, not only the football team but the whole football atmosphere you are in charge of. It’s a full responsibility, and I’ve always wanted to be out front.”
McGinnis joined the Cardinals in 1996 as the defensive coordinator. He had been the Bears’ linebackers coach for 10 years and coached a trio of Pro Bowl stalwarts: Wilbur Marshall, Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson. In late December of 2000, he took over as the head coach, replacing Vince Tobin.
In each of the past two seasons, McGinnis’ youthful Cards have shown stretches of success. They won five of their final eight games in 2001 en route to a 7-9 finish. They jumped out of the gates with a 4-2 start a year ago, but stumbled to a 5-11 record.
After victories at home at Sun Devil Stadium, he’s always high-fiving fans in the stands, thanking them for supporting the team. And he takes the blame when things go wrong. (“Believe me, all the anger and disgust that I know is out there, it’s tenfold right here on me,” McGinnis told the East Valley Tribune after a 27-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9 last year, the team’s third straight loss.)
It’s impossible to stick a label on McGinnis. He’s simply a genuine, down-to-earth individual with a good sense of humor and a refreshing sense of politeness — he always calls you by your first name.
Ask him if he patterns his coaching style after anyone. Here’s what he’ll tell you: “Well, I’m not going to be like anybody,” McGinnis said. “All I want to do is treat my players with dignity and respect and get this thing straightened out to win ballgames. I’ve been influenced by a lot of people, and I will take any idea in the world from anybody. (Legendary Grambling coach) Eddie Robinson said if you take one idea it’s stealing; if it’s two, it’s research. Well I research the hell out of anything.
“I call coaches all the time. … Anytime we have league meetings I get together and visit with a lot of them because there’s so much knowledge out there and so many guys that have done this a lot of different ways successfully for so many years. I will take from anybody and I’m not afraid to go up and ask anybody questions about how to get better.”
McGinnis takes the time to make people feel good about themselves.
After third-year receiver Bryan Gilmore made a nice reception in the right corner of the end zone in Wednesday’s practice, McGinnis loudly blurted out, so everyone at NAU’s East Fields could hear, “Hey Bryan Gilmore, that looked like a football play right there.”
He also knows the importance of being critical when the situation arises.
Moments before praising Gilmore, McGinnis was voicing his displeasure after a poorly executed blocking scheme.
“Keep pushing it, keep pushing it,” he barked out.
A demanding coach, a stickler for details, a perfectionist, McGinnis has earned the respect of his players and coaching colleagues.
“One thing I do know for sure is that in this organization Dave McGinnis is one of the solid things they’ve got,” said Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. “I love him. I like playing for him. I like working with him.
“If there’s any goal that I ever had for this organization it would be to see him get back to the playoffs. That would be my goal – to see him get there and let him get some of the benefits that he deserves, because a great person like that, and a great motivator like he is and the way he takes care of his players and all is something. For me, that’s the kind of coach that I want to play for.”
Why do so many others share that view?
Because, “trust and respect and truth are all big things in David’s life as a person, and he reflects them each day,” offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan said.
Those are qualities all leaders should have.