It’s Tuesday, we’re taking out the trash.
I worked for four professional sports teams before opening Qoxhi Picks in 1981. Those four stops illustrated one thing as an absolute; the play on the field or court was in direct alignment with the proficiency of the front office.
My longest serving tenure, with the Oakland Raiders, started in 1973. I was fortunate to work with and learn from some of the giants in the field. Al Davis led an organization that had all of us thinking the role we played, whether setting up travel plans, producing a program, preparing the equipment, typing the game plan or completing a pass to Fred Belitnikoff for a touchdown, was all interconnected. How we did our job in the organization contributed to our winning organization.
My three other stops, with a National Basketball team, Major League Baseball team and professional soccer team, all struggled on the court and field in exact measurement of how effective the front office was. I was perhaps still too young to understand all that I was learning, but hindsight has a way to shed light on past situations.
The challenge in my current position is to see clearly what teams and organizations have what it takes to win and which ones are doomed to failure.
There are more failures than successes in the NFL. Some would consider that only one of the 32 organizations win each year, and that is true if the final standard is winning the Super Bowl. But, success and competence can be measured in more ways than simply who wins the final game of the season.
The Raiders had the advantage that their majority owner and general manager knew football. Some teams are habitually hampered by ownership that meddles in the football operation and limit the effectiveness of even competent staffs. Daniel Snyder of the Washington (to be named later) Redskins comes to mind.
Snyder’s success, earned after he dropped out of college, was with a marketing firm he built and sold for 2.1 billion dollars in stock in 1996. Three years later, he purchased from the Jack Kent Cooke estate the Washington Redskins. Under Cooke’s leadership, which was pinned to hire good people and let them do their job, the Redskins had been one of the NFL powerhouses for nearly three decades when Snyder purchased the team.
For the past 22 years, the Redskins (until they have a new name) have made more mistakes than Paris Hilton would in the Scripps National Spelling Bee competition. In his attempt to buy a winner, Snyder tossed money around to sign talent past their prime like a drunken sailor on leave in a sleazy bar. When that didn’t work, he tried to recapture the magic of the past and brought back head coach Joe Gibbs, who had won three Super Bowls with Washington before Snyder’s arrival.
That didn’t work either.
Now, he has another competent head coach, Ron Rivera, who led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl 50 and got this Washington squad into the postseason last year.
The problem Rivera will have in both the short and long term, is he will have to overcome not only his opponents on the field, but the incompetence from ownership. That never turns out well.
Last season, the Redskins had the lowest projected win total before the season started, five, and advanced to the playoffs. But, before you acknowledge that accomplishment, know that Washington was playing out of a division where the three other teams in the NFC East Division, like Washington, failed to have a winning campaign. The Redskins advanced with a 7-9 won loss record.
The Redskins will never go over the top with Snyder messing with his toy. So too are the Dallas Cowboys doomed.
When Jerry Jones bought the storried Dallas franchise in 1989 with money earned in the oil and gas industry, one of his first moves was to fire the only head coach the Cowboys had ever known, Tom Landry. It was a necessary decision, and it was followed by the best choice Jones made as owner with the hiring of Jimmy Johnson.
Johnson and Jones had been teammates on the 1964 Arkansas Razorbacks football team, a squad that split the National Championship with Alabama. Johnson joined the Cowboys and his shrewd leadership both as a coach and in personnel decisions was critical in developing the Cowboys into the best the NFL had to offer. He and Jones teamed for a pair of Super Bowl wins to complete the 1992 and 1993 seasons before their egos clashed and their partnership ended.
Two years later, in his second season, Johnson’s replacement, Barry Switzer, took advantage of the team Johnson had built and won the Super Bowl to complete the 1995 season. But, anyone paying attention, could see that what Johnson had built with Jones was headed south as soon as Johnson was out of the picture. Two years after winning the Super Bowl, the Cowboys record was 6-10 and Switzer was fired.
Dallas has been the picture of mediocrity ever since.
Last season, in Mike McCarthy’s first year with Jones in Dallas, the Cowboys went from okay to downright bad. They enter this regular campaign after losing all four of their preseason scrimmages.
Tomorrow is Wednesday, the garbage collectors will be working outside my office and with the trash goes the Redskins, Cowboys and rest of the NFC East teams, the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
The NFC East is the only division where every team in it has won a Super Bowl … but based on ownership this division will not be winning another one in the near future.