When casting TNG, one gets the feeling that, not only were they going for a diverse crew, but they were also intentionally looking to not simply duplicate the TOS cast. Thus the youngish cowboy-diplomat captain becomes a seasoned man of letters, and his XO is the up and coming young fellow quick with a bit of wit or his phaser.
See also: the totally different bridge stations, and the lack of a chief engineer for the first season.
I can't say that I saw him as a father figure to most of the cast outside Wesley (or sometimes Data or Ro). Just a really good mentor.