Chris Petersen: 'Discipline is the hardest, worst and most important part'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Friday March 31, 2017

Cornerbac Marcus Peters made his second Pro Bowl this past season and was named an NFL All-Pro. Two years ago, Chris Petersen kicked him off the Washington team.

Petersen joined Brock and Salk this week and shared his philosophy on player discipline. Peters had gotten into several confrontations with coaches during Petersen’s first season there in 2014. In early November, he was kicked off the team, and the following spring, he was a first-round pick.

Did Petersen regret it? Did it make the team better? (They lost the next two games). Did it need to be done? Did his talent play any role in the process?

The discipline part of things, when you have over 100 guys, it’s the hardest part of the process, it’s the worst part, and it’s the most important part,” Petersen said. “If you don’t have extreme discipline — and discipline can be used in so many different ways — but it’s the discipline of the program. How we’re going to do hard, tedious and grinding things over and over to get what we want. If people aren’t part of this process and disciplined in our process, then it’s not going to work.

“So when you have to make those decisions — whether a guy fits or not — is he making you better? Is he making you worse? Did you help him grow? You factor in all those things. It’s never black and white. … A lot of coaches operate completely different and have tremendous success. But you have to be you. That’s the only way something going to work. You know if it works for you or it doesn’t.”

Nick Saban often describes discipline not as punishment, but as something that is meant to change behavior. It’s what coaches have to factor every time.

Petersen doesn’t want to boot a player to the curb and leave him alone. It needs to be a process that helps everyone involved. It’s not just about getting rid of a cancer on a team or something, and it's never something celebrated. 

I never think, ‘This is going to make us better.’ It’s so painful and hard,” Petersen said. “You just have to believe in the long run it’s going to be better for everybody, including the player. Hopefully he learns and gets better, but it’s not going to help our program right now. Are we going to be able to do this long term? It’s never out of the blue. We have a bunch of meetings with guys to make sure expectations are crystal clear. Then it’s on them to figure it out.

“Everybody thinks it’ll be a seminal moment. You don’t think of it like that. It’s hard. You have to be strong and gritty to make those kinds of decisions, because they’re not fun. You feel like you got slugged in the gut. But you have to do what is right for the people around you, your program. You feel like it’s the right thing, but it’s not like, ‘This is going to be a good thing.’ You don’t feel that when you make changes with players or coaches or anything like that.” 

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News,, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to