Fail to the Redskins: Worst-Run Franchise on the Planet
They play in the largest stadium, FedEx Field in Landover, Md., in the richest sports league in the world, the NFL. Just a few years ago, they became the first team in the United States to eclipse the $1 billion mark in value. Each of the last three seasons they've paid out more than $100 million in players' salaries, including in 2007 when they topped the league with a $123 million payroll.
But the most Washington's NFL team has to show for its riches since Daniel Snyder bought it 10 years ago is a 2-3 playoff record. That is if you don't count the unprecedented ignominy it achieved last Sunday in losing 14-6 at home to the Kansas City Chiefs, which left Washington with just a 2-4 record over the first six weeks of this NFL season despite having played a winless team each outing -- believed to be a first such stretch against abject wretchedness in NFL history.
As such, the Redskins are now the worst-run franchise in pro sports in the country, if not on the planet.
This isn't an easily won designation. There are a lot of poorly run sports teams around, like Al Davis's Oakland Raiders, Donald Sterling's Los Angeles Clippers and Peter Angelos' Baltimore Orioles. But those teams aren't on the Forbes magazine list of ten highest valued sports franchises on earth like Washington.
And I'm not just venting because I was born in Washington D.C. and was all but reared in section 312 of RFK Stadium where my parents were fortunate enough to own what were once precious season tickets to Skins' games. I'm just not finding any team as underachieving as Snyder's club, given all that is at its disposal.
The wealthiest team on the list is Manchester United of the English Premier League, which is England's reining champion. The Dallas Cowboys are second and, although they haven't won a playoff game since 1996, they remain a perennial playoff team. Snyder's team is third and the rest of the top five is rounded out by the Patriots, two seasons removed from an almost perfect season, and the Yankees, who appear this baseball postseason to be steamrolling to another World Series title.
You have to go all the way to the tenth-wealthiest team, the Houston Texans, to find a club equal to Washington's lousiness, but at least it has an excuse: It's an expansion team. Washington's been around since before World War II and had been to at least one Super Bowl in each the 70s, 80s and 90s.
None of this is to suggest that value and profit are the only way in which sports success can be had. The New England Patriots, the most successful NFL team this decade, are traditionally near the bottom of the league's payroll ladder. That suggests outstanding management. But a lot more teams with a lot of money fare better than Snyder's club.
It isn't just all the money and so little to show for it that makes Snyder's team the worst managed that exists these days. It is all that swirls around it too.
The starting quarterback, Jason Campbell, was yanked against the Chiefs and replaced by 37-year-old Todd Collins.
The accidental head coach, Jim Zorn -- he was hired to be an offensive coordinator but got bumped up after no other viable head coaching candidate could be lured -- was stripped of his play-calling duties after Sunday's six-point offensive outburst. That job was expected to be handed to Sherman Lewis, who until the team called him two weeks ago was five years into retirement from the NFL and serving as a 67-year-old bingo caller at a senior citizen center.
Two of the team's key players, running backs Clinton Portis and Mike Sellers, had to be separated in the locker room recently.
There were the two reports in The Washington Post when this season kicked off that showed the team was adding injury to the insult of its loyal fans who were suffering with so much mediocrity. The first story uncovered that the team had sold tickets long thought to be highly coveted to scalpers. A second story found that the team was suing individual ticketholders who'd fallen on hard times in this recession for reneging on long-term contracts.
There are the growing anecdotes about what a lousy game-day experience fans have at FedEx, which I can attest to, where parking and leaving can be nightmarish and alcohol-infused rowdiness is at an uncomfortable all-time high.
And the U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to rule on whether the nickname of the team, Redskins, which always makes me uncomfortable to write, is as offensive as defined and should be retired. It's a fight began in 1992 when seven American Indian activists filed a lawsuit to challenged the name saying it was too offensive to merit trademark protection.
But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said earlier this year the group had taken too much time to challenge it under the statute of limitations.
"In a really perverse way of looking at things, the Skins are probably generating more buzz right now than almost any team in the league and that's good for publicity," Larry Grimes, a sports industry mergers and acquisition specialist, told me Monday from his suburban Washington office.
"Now, are they selling more jerseys?" Grimes asked. "Probably not. Is there a large segment of the market developing that ... just doesn't care anymore about the Redskins this season? That could very well be going on and we just won't know about it till all is said and done."
There are signs that Washingtonians are, indeed, getting restless. A sports talk radio station a few Sundays ago found takers outside FedEx for paper bags it offered fans to wear over their heads. A Post photographer captured a fan at the Chiefs game sporting a "Trade Snyder" T-shirt in a sparse crowd as the game wore down.
Owners can't be traded, of course. They can only be embarrassed.