A Burgundy and Gold Obsession
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A Burgundy and Gold Obsession

The fans don't know. They think they do. But they don't.

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These were the words of a Redskins bigwig during a meet and greet over more than a few drinks 6 years ago. The staff of another burgeoning Redskins site had been invited up to Landsdowne Resort in Ashburn to discuss a possible relationship. I was lucky enough to tag along for the ride, and get a glimpse at the views of a man behind the man running an NFL franchise.

Over and over we heard the same thing, categorically, emphatically, knowingly, smugly.

'The fans don't know. They think they do. But they don't'

Bigwig's point was (beyond fans being glorified idiots who lack the sheer brain power to comprehend such weighty matters as managing an NFL team) that fans lack the insight, wisdom, and information needed to have a viable opinion.

His example (he only had one that I recall) was the departure of Champ Bailey. While fans felt the front office was stupid, perhaps even irresponsible trading a Redskins Pro Bowler and DC icon like Bailey for some systems back in Clinton Portis, Bigwig begged to differ. Bailey (per Bigwig) had gotten into some naughty business which the wife was understandably none too fond of. According to our man, Bailey was told, he'd either find a new team in a different city to play for, or he'd be looking for a new wife. We fans were too stupid to have considered factors like this, Bigwig smugly informed us.

And he had a point. We don't know these players, coaches, or key players. We really don't know the details of their lives, the daily dynamics of their existence, or the inner-workings, politics, and relationships within the Redskins organization.

But we're a hell of a lot smarter than Bigwig thinks. We might be smarter than a lot of those who hush their voices and appear busy at Redskins Park when he walks by. We might even be smarter than some of them he's helped hire.

Lets take a look at what we fans did know...

We knew running an NFL team today from top to bottom is a monumental job, challenging even for men who have won Super Bowls in previous decades. We knew dropping the job unceremoniously into an unsuspecting and inexperienced Jim Zorn's lap was like buying a lottery ticket. You might win a few bucks once in awhile, but sooner or later, you're going to wish you kept your wallet in your pocket. It shouldn't surprise Bigwig that we knew this - since Jim Zorn himself knew it. That's why he didn't apply for the job. His only mistake was, in the face of such a ridiculous offer, not knowing how to refuse it.

We knew more. We knew that you can't build a dominating team, hell, even a good one, from the edges out. Sure - we're fans. We cheer, and applaud, and hope beyond hope when our team goes out and buys the best skill position players it can find that these moves turn us into a juggernaut. But we know in our gut they'll never pan out meaningfully without long-term and major investment in the trenches. We'd seen it borne out in our childhoods as we saw average QBs made superstars, because those men in the trenches protected them, kept the dogs off them, opened up holes you could run a diesel through, and bought them time to throw long completions to a bevy of low-profile receivers. We knew it. We've all but shouted it for a decade.

Fans knew stability and consistency and work ethic and steady belief in a system and team identity matter. They're patient - and still would be, if their head's weren't spinning from 6 head coaching changes in a decade. The revolving door of leaders who've mostly tried, and mostly failed to lead the Redskins to something greater than mediocrity, is still revolving. As soon as our current leader has expressed sufficiently how much the current mess is his fault, and no one elses, he'll be the next one out the revolving door.The fans know it has to stop if we're to have another era of success in our lifetimes. The fans also know enough to be skeptical it will. Because despite the one common denominator during the past decade, the Redskins lack of sustained success has got to be these failed coaches fault - right?

And we knew something else. We knew that the truly successful NFL franchises - the ones we're now jealous and envious of - aren't driven by their owners. We might not even be able to name these teams owners without thinking hard. They find talented people (some even hire General Managers) with proven track records, experience, and the right attitude, and they get out of their way. They don't have meddling owners who send their defensive coordinators vanilla ice cream, or vocal players big-screen TVs. These successful owners shelve their ego, as hard as it is for an extremely successful man, they put it aside. Because they 'get' that they lack the core expertise to build this beautiful thing called a winning franchise, but that others possess the knowledge. So they humbly step aside and let others more qualified make it happen.

The fans knew all along, an NFL owner can never create a winner in the NFL.

But he sure can screw it up beyond belief.

If we fans were cynical we might even say our owner doesn't know.

He thinks he does.

But he doesn't.

Updated 10-18-09 at 10:19 PM by Boone

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Comments

  1. Aston Gambino's Avatar
    Excellent article, Boone. Pie's in his face now, and not in a happy, we-just-won-a-baseball-game kind of way.
  2. Neophyte's Avatar
    This one is brilliant. Thanks for sharing an up close and personal side of things that the vast majority of us will never get to experience. Although, at this point, I would be hard pressed not tell said unnamed exec that I was pretty sure he didn't know either and I had all the proof I needed every Sunday.
  3. Pravda's Avatar
    Pretty damn good J. Pretty damn good. Nothing like a good turn of phrase to make your point for you.

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