Perpetual glory has a tendency to spoil a man.
Or a fan.
Or fans, plural!
Such is the case with the embarrassment of riches to which Washington Redskins fans have become accustomed over the past two decades.
Yet, despite this unparalleled streak of success, there still seems to be no end in sight to the shrewd stewardship of one of the premier franchises in all of sport—nay, one of the premier organizations in all of business!
This week’s news provides the latest in an endless line of examples of the Redskins’ organizational excellence. After only eight months on the job, COO Brian Lafemina has parted ways with Washington, along with three other high-ranking business ops employees Lafemina brought with him to the team.
Whereas a lesser organization might have let the highly-respected Lafemina continue on for at least a full year in his efforts to refocus ticket-sale efforts and improve fan relations, the Redskins know better. You see, Lafemina made the tremendous mistake of attempting to deal with reality on reality’s terms, actually admitting publicly that the vaunted Redskins’ season-ticket waiting list no longer exists.
This flies in the face of Redskins’ PR best practices. Specifically, admitting there’s no waiting list reflects a loser mentality. The Washington Redskins are winners. They’re aspirational. If the organization wants there to be such high demand to see this team play that there’s a season-ticket waiting list, then that list exists. Period!
Unfortunately, Lafemina didn’t understand the Washington Redskins’ culture before he arrived in Ashburn. Lafemina is no fool, though. He had become painfully aware that he was a bad fit, and he had evidently planned to bail on the team.
Being the exceptional leaders that they are, once Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen caught wind of Lafemina’s plans, they wisely were never going to give him the satisfaction of leaving on his own terms. Thus, they preemptively fired him.
This type of reaction is what makes the Redskins’ head men such a formidable duo. They understand that it’s important to assert dominance over employees in this way in order to remind the remaining staffers—as well as the public—who wears the crown.
Mediocre leaders might care about things like “is firing someone the day after Christmas tone-deaf?” or “does this look like a craven attempt to distract fans?” or “does anybody think we know what we’re doing?,” but you won’t see any of that nonsense coming out of Redskins Park! There, leaders are sharp enough to hide behind generic “we can’t comment on personnel matters”-type statements and simply removing the fired employees’ names from the team website rather than addressing the issue substantively.
That’s the smart way to play it, as was pulling the “you-can’t-quit-because-you’re-fired” on Lafemina. His cardinal sin of transparency and honesty made it crystal clear he was never “Redskins material!”
Speaking of Cardinals—let’s talk about another brilliant move: cutting D.J. Swearinger.
As everyone reading this knows by now, the oft-released Swearinger undermined the credibility of the coaching staff by airing complaints related to preparation and/or play-calling at several points this year. Another, weaker team would have tried the cowardly approach of finding an effective way to handle the conflict behind closed doors in order to prevent it from repeatedly boiling over publicly. By contrast, Bruce Allen and company astutely chose to permit Swearinger’s grievances to blossom, until such time as the front office bravely released the 27-year-old safety (coincidentally within hours of being eliminated from playoff contention).
It would have been all-too-easy for the Redskins to continue to tolerate Swearinger’s disruptions. After all, he’s a solid player, as evidenced by his status as a Pro-Bowl alternate. But that wasn’t going to happen on Bruce Allen’s watch. I applaud President Allen for sending a clear, unmistakable message: when it comes to building a roster, some things are more important than on-field talent!
And, just days earlier President Allen also had the smarts to claim Reuben Foster, a very good player that the 49ers had just released. This move also showcased President Allen’s pristine football acumen—a carefully crafted philosophy that helps Washington build the best roster possible by jettisoning malcontents like Swearinger and snapping up potential contributors like Foster.
I think it’s that principled, thoughtful, consistent methodology that has cemented President Allen’s legacy as one of the greatest football minds of this or any other generation.
That’s also why it pains me to see a small-but-vocal minority of fans impugn the good name of President Allen, including an unfortunate hashtag that I won’t stoop to repeating here. I suppose that the ignorant cries of ungrateful rabble is the thanks President Allen gets for all of his tireless work. Ditto Dan Snyder.
It’s almost as if fans don’t know—or, worse, don’t care—that the value of the Redskins’ franchise has skyrocketed to $3.1 billion in recent years. That’s what success looks like, folks! I’d love to explain in painstaking detail to these cretins that the purpose of a business is to make money. Duh!
But it’s not just the money, of course. It’s all the winning. The non-stop, overwhelming, glorious winning.
Now, I’m sure all you skeptical “stat heads” and “analytics” types reading this right now want some hard evidence. I know how fond you are of your precious “numbers.”
Well, try this one on for size, pencil-pushers: President Allen has overseen an impressive 59 victories since coming to the Redskins. That’s 59 great memories for all of us! Fifty-nine terrific days that have helped endear President Allen to Redskins fans the world-over!
And that’s to say nothing of the longer-tenured Snyder, who has presided over a whopping 139 wins during his ownership of the club. You do the math!
I want to be clear on this point, though: Over and above the immense monetary value President Allen and Mr. Snyder have added to the franchise, and even beyond all the wonderful moments for which we all owe them an undying and unpayable debt of gratitude, is the creation of that culture I referenced earlier. One cannot put a price tag on that aspect of their achievements.
People may throw around words like “toxic,” but you know what toxicity does? It kills off the weak. It poisons those who aren’t cut out to be winners.
Time and time again, President Allen and Mr. Snyder have shown that they are the unmistakable, undisputed, and unimpeachable leaders of this organization. It’s impossible not to be impressed by their skill at consolidating and retaining power, especially with President Allen’s ability, even in the presence of more “talented” coworkers, to maintain a vice-like grip on the Redskins’ front office.
A lesser leader would have lost control years ago. But not President Allen. Simply put, he’s a survivor, not unlike the noble cockroach, whose eternal nature is unsurpassed in all the animal kingdom.
So, too, is President Allen’s.
But all things must end eventually.
Whatever the future may hold for this team, make no mistake: Once this era is over, we will almost certainly never see its like again. We should all note that fact, because understanding its singularity will help us all fully appreciate just how mind-numbingly astounding this era of Redskins history has been—and continues to be.
An embarrassment, indeed.