Entering Week 7 of the 2015 NFL season, both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans were labeled as monumental disappointments. They entered the year with lofty expectations, only to get pulverized during September and October. By the time Halloween rolled around, they were a combined 4-10 and the odds of their making the playoffs seemed miniscule.
What happened since? Two astonishing turnarounds. The Chiefs won 10 straight games, and the Texans won seven of their last nine. Now these former laughingstocks are preparing to meet each other in the AFC Wild-Card round.
Turnarounds like this certainly aren’t common. Losing often breeds losing as team morale takes a nosedive and people start throwing blame around.
So, how did the Chiefs and Texans avoid crumbling under the weight of their atrocious starts? To put it simply, they stayed positive. Here are four amazing quotes from players and coaches during their teams’ tough stretches, as well as the lessons behind them.
1. “We are taught and I was always taught this is a team sport,” Nate Washington told the Houston Chronicle. “So, what I did out there is totally irrelevant when we come out here with a loss, especially a loss like we had. So, we just have to go back to the grind.”
The Lesson: Don’t Play the Blame Game
Houston Texans receiver Nate Washington said this after the Texans’ 44-26 drubbing by the Miami Dolphins in Week 6.
It would’ve been easy for Washington to denigrate the Texans’ porous defense. After all, the offense put up 26 points, and Washington scored two touchdowns. But a defensive unit that had been considered one of the league’s best heading into the season was getting crushed week in and week out. Yet the players didn’t turn on each other. They refused to shift blame and emphasized a team-first mentality.
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Guess what? The defense turned it around. It would’ve been easy for fractures to form in the locker room after their disastrous start, but players on both sides of the ball remained focused and continued to work hard. At the end of the regular season, the Texans’ defense had allowed the third fewest yards per game in the NFL.
2. “I just told them ‘I’ve never been 1-5. It’s a new experience for all of us, probably. The question is, What are we gonna do about it?,’” Andy Reid told the MMQB.
The Lesson: Accept the Challenge
This quote was part of Andy Reid’s post-game speech after the Chiefs lost an ugly 16-10 game to the Vikings and their record tumbled to 1-5.
It would’ve been understandable for Kansas City to pack it in right there. They had just lost their best offensive player, Jamaal Charles, to a season-ending ACL tear, and history was squarely against them. Since 1970, only one team that started 1-5 went on to make the playoffs.
The players and coaches could’ve begun going through the motions and waiting for their nightmare season to reach its merciful conclusion. But they didn’t. They looked in the metaphorical mirror, accepted their circumstances and decided to work their butts off to dig themselves out of the hole.
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Reid didn’t roll over and die, but he also didn’t yell his head off at the team. He simply delivered a strong, matter-of-fact statement, and everyone rose to the challenge.
3. “Guys, we’re probably not gonna win this game,” O’Brien recounted to NFL.com. “So what I’d like you to do is go out there and compete like hell. Treat it like a new game, and let’s see what the score is at the end of the second half.”
The Lesson: Take Things One Step at a Time
This quote was from Bill O’Brien’s halftime speech during the Texans’ aforementioned matchup with the Dolphins. Entering halftime, Houston trailed by the stunning margin of 41-0. For many teams, the locker room scene after that debacle would’ve featured lots of screaming and players hanging their heads. But O’Brien saw an opportunity for a fresh start, and his approach sparked the team’s amazing turnaround.
The second half score says it all: Texans 26, Dolphins 3. Since O’Brien’s halftime speech, the Texans have outscored their opponents by a total of 94 points.
4. “This team is different, it’s a different 1-5. Don’t get me wrong. You are what your record says you are. But this is one of the best rosters I’ve [been a part of],” Derrick Johnson told the Kansas City Star. “You see where we’re 1-5, and it’s like ‘Man, you’re way off.’ Nah, we’re not. What we won’t do is doubt ourselves or lose our confidence, because we know this is a good team. One win will change the whole aura.”
The Lesson: Don’t Lose Faith in your Abilities
Derrick Johnson said this to the media after the Chiefs’ 16-10 loss to the Vikings dropped their record to 1-5.
Once the losses start piling up, it’s really easy for a team to lose confidence. How can you keep ending up on the wrong side of the box score if your team is actually good?
But once a team loses confidence, they lose any chance they had of righting the ship. It’s important to believe in yourself and your teammates. You’ve spent hundreds—if not thousands—of hours practicing and training with them. You know you’re capable of great things. Continuing to believe in yourself and your teammates is the only way things will improve. Losing confidence takes the fun out of the game and leads to even more losses.
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The next time your team is going through a rough patch, remember these quotes and the attitudes behind them. As long as you remain confident, composed and united, you can dig yourself out of the hole.