Sunday, January 5, 2014

Frustration and Loathing

As published in The County Times ( in Feb 2009

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Whoa is Redskins nation my fellow Southern Marylanders!  Like many of you, I’m a fan, a big fan, of the burgundy and gold.  Unlike most of you, I also am…or was…a Daniel Snyder apologist.  In the face of the constant criticism lobbed in Redskin owner Snyder’s direction over the years for his frivolous spending on free agents, his apparent aversion to the NFL draft, and his lack of patience with coaches, I’ve been the fool that’s stood up and defended his passion – albeit frustratingly misguided – and willingness to spend whatever it takes to acquire talent.  But I simply can’t do it anymore.  He’s beaten the optimist out of me.  I’m tired of knee-jerk trades where draft picks are swapped for aging or overrated players.  I’ve had my fill of players who land in D.C. and do little more than pick up a disgustingly inflated paycheck.  I’ve had enough of the organization’s near-sightedness.  There’s no vision beyond the tip of its outstretched arm, no plan beyond the current season.  Sadly, there’s no end in sight for the sick and loathing Skins fan.  Players can be released.  Coaches can get fired.  But there’s no one to protect an owner from himself.  Owners have lifetime contracts. 

There’s little doubt Daniel Snyder’s heart is in the right place.  He does run a classy organization and treats players very well.  And undoubtedly, he wants to win badly (or is it desperately now?).  The problem is, the foundation is skewed.  The organizational structure of the Washington Redskins is fatally flawed.  Off the top of your head, name the elite NFL franchises.  Chances are most of you rattled off Patriots, Steelers, Colts, Eagles and Giants.  It pains me, but I’ll give you Baltimore too.  These are teams that contend, year after year.  They weather injuries, the ebb and flow of every NFL season and more often than not are in the championship discussion at playoff time.  You know what they have in common?  A NFL tested and true organizational structure.  They all have coaches that coach, personnel men that acquire talent and owners that do little more than pay the bills.  Such was the structure in D.C. during the glory years of the 1980’s.  General Manger Bobby Beathard picked the players, Joe Gibbs coached ‘em up and flamboyant owner Jack Kent Cooke cut the checks.  The three didn’t always agree, but they respected each other, stayed in their swim lanes and won big.  What is maddening is Snyder was an impressionable young fan during this period.  Wasn’t he paying attention?  Apparently not.  Snyder the owner dabbles in, if not significantly influences, personnel decisions and often undermines his coach with close, personal relationships with star players.  It is a convoluted set-up that, despite the money spent, has yielded inconsistent returns at best.  And with free agency, version 2009, nearing its dawn, is there any doubt Redskin 1 is gassed up and ready to wine and dine the next big catch?

Success in life, whether it’s in business, marriage or in personal endeavors, is as much about figuring out what you’re not good at as it is identifying your strengths.  Yet recognition of one’s shortcomings is only half the battle.  Once skill gaps are identified, it takes foresight to pick the right person to fill voids and courage to then step away and let that person do the job.  After a decade of listless mediocrity, you’d think a NFL owner would consider an approach used by the most successful teams and a structure that led to the richest period in team history.  But Snyder has shown no inclination to change and no interest in hiring and empowering a talented General Manager.  It seems for as long as he’s owner, Daniel Snyder will have a significant voice in the football operations of his franchise.  Unfortunately, without a change in organizational structure, there’s no reason to think Skins nation will be hailing anything more than the occasional victory.  Hopefully I’m wrong.  Here’s to Daniel Snyder making a fool of me…again.  

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