News that Josh Harris and his group have reached an agreement to buy Washington leaders Last week was perhaps the most unifying event in the nation’s capital in decades. It marked the beginning of the end of Dan Sinder’s terrible reign and brought hope that the troubled football franchise was headed for better days.
Not immediately, of course. The league has yet to complete its review of the record $6.05 billion in sales to Harris and his group of heavyweight investors like Mitch Rales, David Blitzer and Magic Johnson, and NFL Owners must still vote on it. They may also need to delicately negotiate their way out of the many investigations that still dig into Snyder and the toxic workplace he built.
When all of this is done — and it will be, possibly by the start of the 2023 NFL season — fans can really start looking forward to a brighter future for a franchise that went 164-220-2 and made the playoffs just six times in Snyder’s 24 years at the helm. It won’t be easy for the new bosses to restore the franchise’s once-proud luster, and it probably won’t happen quickly.
But there is a way back to glory if they do it the right way. So here’s a look at some of the items that should be at the top of the new owner’s long to-do list:
Decide who is responsible for the soccer process
If the ultimate goal is to build a winning franchise again, this will be the most important decision the new owners make.
For now, Ron Rivera is in charge, as it has been since 2020. Martin Mayhew was brought in a year later, but it’s the head coach who makes football decisions. Is this the structure Harris wants? And those people he wants are in charge? It is almost certain that he will not make any changes now. But by the end of the season, he needs to make a decision and commitment.
Rivera, 61, was a respectful, steady hand on a ship sinking in a sea of turmoil. But his three-year record — 22-27-1 with no winning season and only one playoff berth in a 7-9 season — doesn’t inspire confidence. Of course, the record could be said to be miraculous given Snyder’s influence and long-running quarterback issues. But it’s still not good.
Situations are different, but for what it’s worth: when he bought Harris Philadelphia Seventy SixersHe fired GM Ed Stefanski the same day the sale closed. But when bought New Jersey Devils In 2013, GM retained Lou Lamoriello for two more years.
By the end of the 2023 season, Harris needs to decide who he wants to lead the leaders for the next five years or so.
Once those people are in place, don’t get involved; Focus on work instead
The worst thing a team owner can do is hinder the people who run the sporting side of his business. This always leads to terrible decisions. Just ask anyone who has worked for Snyder for the past 24 years.
The good news is, Harris isn’t known for being a snob. Also, as the owner of three professional sports teams, he probably doesn’t have time to get intricately involved in day-to-day decisions.
And in retrospect, he seemed like an owner who knew his niche.
“I want the vision to continue [the general manager and CEO]”But I’m not going to be invisible,” he told NJ.com after his first year as a Devils owner. “The most important job I have as an owner is to pick the two men next to me and then provide the resources and hold them accountable.”
This is the right approach. But he could definitely be more hands-on with the business side of the process, whether it’s team boss Jason Wright running things or someone else. There were plenty of unhappy and paranoid employees working there, including longtime survivors of what many have called the toxic culture of the Snyder era.
Harris needs to rebuild the trust of these employees, and make their workplace more pleasant and efficient. There will certainly be major changes to personnel and structure. But that’s a lot more space for Harris than his next quarterback pick.
Start working on a new stadium
FedEx Stadium has long been an embarrassment and is probably the least friendly stadium in the NFL. From Snyder’s constant tinkering of capacity and chassis, to maintenance failures, to poor location. She is only 26 years old, but she looks much older.
It’s clear that the Chiefs are desperate for a new building (and a new training facility, too) and it looks like they have plenty of options in Maryland, VA or perhaps in D.C. on the site of the old RFK Stadium. There was little movement on that front because, according to a team source, many local politicians didn’t want to do business with Snyder, and some felt they couldn’t because of uncertainty about whether he was selling the team or whether the league would. Force him out.
However, some of them are eager to take on new ownership. Harris should – and certainly will be looking to – quickly capitalize on that. Sure enough, he’s already starting to lay the foundation.
Invest in the team (not just by paying players)
An NFLPA player survey released in the fall that showed the Chiefs ranked last in the league in terms of facilities, treatment of players, their families, and more should have been unsettling—if only the Chiefs cared. They get terrible marks for everything from tiny hot tubs, to tiny lockers, to bad drainage and lack of hot water in bathrooms, bad food, lack of space on team trips, being forced to take roommates on the road and being treated like families.
Harris has shown a willingness to spend what is necessary with his other team and do what is necessary to make organizations attractive destinations for other players. He has a lot of work to do to get to this point in Washington, but he has to upgrade the facilities and hire the right people to make life more comfortable for his players.
It’s the only way to impress the good players who have other options in the future.
Reconnect with franchise history
First of all, the new owners are unlikely to rebrand the franchise. Perhaps the name “leaders” is here to stay. And they will certainly never go back to the previous name due to its racist connotations. But that doesn’t mean the franchise can’t embrace its history further than it is now.
There are plenty of ex-players who didn’t want any part of their old franchise during the Snyder era, and many don’t feel welcome anymore. Snyder was sued by a group of former “Pigs”—a legendary offensive lineman who is as much a part of Washington football history as any group ever has.
Fans love winning more than anything, but history and tradition come second. Harris needs to welcome all the old players back. Honor them at games, invite them to training, and have them talk frequently to the team so they can connect with existing players. Very few of them are around the franchise and its media operations.
This needs to change. For as leaders advance what they hope for a better future, they will make everyone happy by staying in touch with their glorious past.
Ralph Facciano is the NFC East correspondent for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He’s spent the past six years covering the New York Giants and Jets for SNY TV, and prior to that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him on Twitter at @employee.
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