Saturday, April 21, 2007

Grading Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder

A few days ago, I said I would not bash Daniel Snyder for awhile. I lied. Someone started a poll over at The Warpath Fan Forum asking readers to grade Daniel Snyder as owner of the Washington Redskins. Here's my response, grammatically improved:

D, maybe D+ for effort. Last year, when I thought he was mostly hands off and deferring to Gibbs, I would have given Snyder a gentlemen's C.

  • Wealthy, and not afraid to use it to stock the team

  • DC-based; Snyder is unlikely to ever move the team to LA

  • Put in elevators to the upper deck of FedEx - consumer focused

  • Put in Easy Pass system to speed up concession lines - consumer focused

  • Lured Joe Gibbs out of retirement - however it turns out, this is a home run (pardon the metaphor)

Needs Improvement:

  • Not football smart. His flawed concept for building a team only disrupts progress. Taking "win now" short cuts yields an unbalanced roster, overdrawn salary caps leading to unnatural acts to skirt the issue. As a result, the Redskins are better at manipulating contracts for a few stars than building a resilient team with a flow of young talent under development.
  • Not an organizational leader. NFL teams are akin to corporations like General Electric. Snyder runs the Redskins like a 1990s dot com. Dot coms got their value from creative software engineers working in a free wheeling way to create a niche product. A few very good people with bright ideas developed innovative products. One or two stars could make you a winner. The problem was they were one hit wonders. They grew fast, and tanked faster.

    For GE to be successful, they think and act organizationally -- operate for efficiency and effectiveness at every level, and across-the-board. It's not enough to have the best visible products -- light bulbs, jet engines, generators, appliances. They want the internals to be as good, the accounting department to be as efficient as manufacturing. Acting organizationally, they have sustained success. They are not a one hit wonder.

    Jack Welch, GE's legendary chairman & CEO strove for -- demanded -- that his executives achieve organizational excellence, achieve and maintain top three market share, and break bureaucratic boundaries to work together efficiently. That's quite a challenge for a massive corporation like GE. They didn't always succeed, but they always had a reservoir of highly regarded management talent in demand by GE and by a host of other companies eager to emulate them.

    By outward appearance, Snyder seems to focus on the fun part of the business -- assessing talent (which he is not best qualified to do), hanging out with players, and negotiating contracts. He gets props for business marketing, but the Redskins' front office is not highly regarded. They seem geared to accommodating Snyder's rule than to best practices (I don't blame the personnel; they gotta eat.) In so doing, they aren't getting results on the field or in serving their customers. Jack Welch would have thrown the bunch, including Snyder, out. Developing a true top tier front office is not as glamorous as picking talent, but it's a lot more important than Snyder treats it. Until this is fixed, the Redskins will be at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Snyder, alone, proposes a trade for Lance Briggs and then he tells Joe Gibbs! Did Snyder talk to Gregg Williams before hand to understanding how Williams might use Briggs in his defense? Did he take advantage of the brainpower on his staff to assess the trade offs of a Briggs move? I doubt it. If I'm wrong, I apologize. Somehow, I sense that an apology will not necessary. That's the kind of move Snyder was making in 2001. It's what he said he would stop doing when he made Gibbs team president. (F- on that one)
  • Flawed vision. Snyder wants to win now. Laudable, but misguided; it might lead to a single Super Bowl one day, and will be followed a break-up of the team. Instead he should target consistent playoff appearances and build the best front office/scouting team in the NFL. Then he might have a resilient team that overcomes injury by reloading from the bench with a sound salary structure. Instead, the Redskins rebuild with another team's unwanted stars. A better vision is to build a perennial playoff contender with our stars, capable of winning 10 or 11 games a season. Consistent playoff appearances boost the odds of getting to a Super Bowl.

    The difference is subtle. I know the Skins won't win the Super Bowl every year. I can live with that. A perennial contender is much more fun to watch. I would much prefer the frustrations of Philly or Denver fans than what Snyder has given us.

Now, I swear, I promise this is my last Snyder rant, until the next time.

Photo: Daniel Snyder,
Photo: Jack Welch, former chairman & CEO, General Electric,

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