The following is an article written by Carl Dubois of The Advocate. It is a tremdnous look into one of the most powerful parts of the Nick Saban philosophy -- "being process driven" as opposed to being "result oriented." Carl does a great job of painting the way the 2003 National Championship Team viewed goal development. We gave this to our team yesterday:
They called them "Tiger Goals 2003." They posted them on the wall of the corridor leading from the locker room to Tiger Stadium.
They followed them and won a national championship.
LSU seniors and other leaders met before the season to compile a list of goals. That list matched the personality of coach Nick Saban, as it was process-oriented rather than result-oriented, but Saban said the players chose their 2003 goals on their own.
Half a year later, the Tigers celebrated a No. 1 ranking in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and a BCS national championship after a 21-14 victory over Oklahoma in the 2004 Nokia Sugar Bowl. Saban said the team's determination to live up to their goals helped them achieve their success this season.
"We started out this year saying that we might not have the leadership that we need, and we challenged everybody to be responsible for their own self-determination," Saban said. "I have never seen a group of players that were able to do that and become so close and unified in the way they did it."
LSU senior offensive tackle Rodney Reed said the Tigers wanted to set goals that were realistic. The 2002 team authored a list that was topped by the most result-oriented goal in college football: Win a national championship.
The team finished 8-5, losing four of its last six games.
A year later, the 2003 team refrained from specific outcomes on its wish list, and in so doing, created a foundation for the kind of success LSU hadn't seen since 1958. The Tigers won a national championship without expressly setting out to do so.
It was a decidedly Saban-like approach, and the proof is in the payoff.
Here, in ascending order, are the goals on the "Tiger Goals 2003" pyramid, with some reflections from Saban and his players about how the team followed them.
Saban said often that the Tigers had the best chemistry of any team he's been associated with in 30 years of coaching. Players said it took many forms, and it started when they bonded during demanding offseason strength and conditioning workouts.
LSU defensive end Marcus Spears, whose 20-yard interception return for a touchdown proved to be the difference in the Sugar Bowl, used words that evoked references to the first goal on the list -- when he could have been talking about what a great play he made.
"I think the big key was it was a total team effort on the defensive side of the wall," Spears said, using a cliché but saying it with sincerity and conviction. "We didn't have one player stepping out from each other."
Not even senior tackle Chad Lavalais, a consensus All-America, tried to put himself above his teammates, Spears said.
"Even though Chad is a great player, he believed in everybody around him," Spears said, "and he believed that when he wasn't there, somebody else was going to be there (to make a play)."
Saban said the Tigers were an inclusive group, not a divisive one. Everyone on the team accepted everyone else, he said, like he'd never seen before.
"It was because of the older guys' willingness to accept the younger guys to be a part of the team," Saban said, "that made a big difference on this team."
Together Everyone Achieves More
If this goal sounds similar to the first one, that's because it is. It's instructive to note the Tigers put a lot of emphasis on goals that valued teamwork.
Freshman running back Justin Vincent said he spent a lot of time around the seniors, who earned Saban's praise by choosing not to follow sports convention and ostracize, haze or alienate newcomers. Saban said there was no class system on the team, a rarity for a large group of such diverse people.
Vincent, the Most Outstanding Player of the Sugar Bowl, said senior offensive guard Stephen Peterman typified the Tigers' belief in teamwork this season.
"He's like a great mentor," Vincent said of Peterman. "There's nothing more you could ask for in a teammate or a person. He showed me the ropes, told me to take things in stride."
LSU's offense didn't score a second-half point Sunday, but Reed was grateful the defense came to the rescue with a smothering performance against an explosive Oklahoma offense.
"All of our credit goes to our defense," Reed said. "Our defense played just lights-out and just put us in so many opportunities to be successful. I guess the offense did just enough. It was a team win, and I'm just proud as heck of everybody who was involved in it."
Saban said the players showed their faith in each other during the most trying moments of the championship game, such as when Oklahoma blocked a punt to set up a 2-yard touchdown drive that tied the game at 7-7.
"They believed in themselves, they believed in each other, and this game was no different than a lot of other games we played this year," Saban said.
Players throughout the season talked about trusting the system, trusting that if they did the work, they would see it bear fruit. The season-ending eight-game winning streak and BCS national championship proved it in a big way.
The Tigers gave credit to Saban and his staff. Implicit in their remarks was the notion they trusted the coaches because they saw how hard the coaches worked.
"I think the chancellor of LSU is happy that the coaches don't work on an hourly salary," quarterback Matt Mauck said. "That would be a lot of money. They put in a lot of effort.
"The knowledge that they pass along to us is the reason we have success."
Dominate Your Opponent Every Day
The idea is to outwork the other guy, to do something each day to get the edge, to run that extra sprint or do that extra repetition in the weight room in the hope of seeing it pay off down the road.
Before the championship game, Peterman said he's a believer in that approach, a Saban staple.
"One thing that definitely rubs off on me is his idea to dominate and create a nightmare for the other team," Peterman said. "I try to go out there every time and dominate the guy I'm going to play against. The way he preaches that all the time, it rubs off on you."
LSU uses a weightlifting program, inspired by Gayle Hatch and adapted for the Tigers by their strength coach Tommy Moffitt, that helped Tennessee and Miami win national championships four years into the system. Saban added an offseason running program featuring a brutal stretch of 26 sprints of 110 yards.
Lavalais said the strength and conditioning program is one aspect of trying to dominate your opponent every day.
"I'm not saying it's impossible to do," Lavalais said of the workouts. "You can do it, but they make it so hard to where the games come easy. There's no game I've played in that's as hard as the 110s that we run in the offseason.
"That's a testament to the coaching staff, the strength coaches. If you go out there with the mindset that you want to get better and try to kill all these sprints and the weight training we do, when it comes time for the game, it's a breeze."
Spears said the Tigers buy into the system, and it works.
Lavalais said players on other teams tell him they don't do nearly as much as the Tigers in the offseason. He smiled when he said it, then laughed, knowing it is probably a big difference-maker.
Discipline, Focus, Execution
Saban's ability to focus is almost legendary at LSU. The discipline required in long hours of work is hard for most people to sustain. Execution, he believes, is a product of repeatedly doing the work.
LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert and Athletic Director Skip Bertman said they see the Tigers as an extension of Saban's personality, and in the areas of discipline, focus and execution, they both said they've not been disappointed by the team.
Saban's team had precious few discipline problems and no embarrassing off-field incidents that put the program in a bad light. As for focus, Emmert said it starts at the top, with perhaps the best example he's ever seen.
"He is incredibly focused on the task at hand," Emmert said of Saban. "Many people work very hard. Many people work as hard as Nick does, but to stay as focused on the detail of what needs to occur and to have a systematic game plan for achieving that success is, I think, a really distinct characteristic that he has."
The underlying message here is also to finish games. LSU saw a big opportunity slip away at the end of 2002 when Arkansas rallied in the final minute of the regular season for a touchdown and a 21-20 victory over the Tigers. That sent the Razorbacks, not LSU, to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
LSU was not without its mistakes this season. Replay the games on videotape and you'll find flaws. You'll also see defenders closing holes, wrapping up on a tackle and bringing the ballcarrier down, offensive linemen staying on their blocks and heading downfield to deliver another.
Wide receivers did that too.
Finishing plays and finishing games with the right competitive spirit, Saban said, is how you finish a season the right way. Few will argue with the results of an LSU team that didn't lose in eight games after Oct. 11.
Positively Affect Someone Every Day
Saban said veteran cornerback Randall Gay roomed with freshman Daniel Francis early and helped him with his struggles to learn how to play defensive back in Saban's system.
"That happened on every level of our team," Saban said. "Every older guy helped every younger guy like I've never seen."
Be A Champion
Saban couldn't have scripted it any better. The Tigers didn't wear on their sleeves their desire to win a championship. They instead were careful to emphasize the steps needed to get there.
In so doing, they won three championships: the SEC Western Division, the SEC overall title, and the BCS national championship.
Today they can walk with their heads held high as champions because for the last six months, and more, they tried every day to carry themselves as champions.
"That's the thing," Reed said in August. "You can set goals that anybody can accomplish every day, whether it's in the classroom or on the football field. If you do those things every day, follow the goals and pay attention to the details, good things will happen to you."
He was right.