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The 5 O’Clock Club: Washington Commanders - the most improved team in the NFL in 2023

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

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In a recent article published on ESPN, Bill Barnwell ranked the 32 franchises on the basis of “most improved”. Barnwell’s definition was: “what a team did during the offseason to increase its chances of winning a Super Bowl, in the short term and long term, given the roster and resources it had to work with at the end of the 2022 season.”

Barnwell ranked the Commanders #1 out of 32. Here is the nutshell of his reasoning:

What went right: Team owner Daniel Snyder entered an agreement to sell the franchise. What, you thought this was going to be about signing offensive lineman Andrew Wylie? You can make a reasonable case that no team made a more significant move to aid their chances of becoming a Super Bowl contender this offseason than the Commanders did by beginning to extricate themselves from their disastrous ownership group.

Snyder has overseen things for 24 years. Here’s how the Commanders have fared under his ownership versus what things looked like over the prior 24 seasons:

The difference is staggering. Washington went from being one of the league’s best teams to one of its worst. The pre-Snyder Commanders had more actual MVPs than the Snyder-era Commanders had of players who received a single MVP vote. They won more Super Bowls before Snyder than they did playoff games after he took over the team. One of those two victories came in 1999, the year he took over the franchise. The one playoff game the Commanders won after Snyder started to reinvent the franchise to his liking came in 2005, in a game in which quarterback Mark Brunell threw for 41 yards. Even in the most successful moment in the Snyder era, things weren’t pretty.

All of this is about what happened on the field. It doesn’t even begin to consider how the organization’s reputation was dragged through the mud by scandals involving inappropriate behavior toward the team’s cheerleaders. How the team’s stadium spewed fluids onto fans and its playing surface led to injuries. How the organization was forced to settle a lawsuit for allegedly defrauding its own season-ticket holders. How Snyder sneered at the idea of changing the team’s nickname until there was a real threat from sponsors. How the team used its PR department to attack the city it is supposed to represent.

The legacy of the Snyder era is just how great it is to be an NFL team owner. Snyder took over one of the most popular franchises and enjoyed virtually no success during his time in charge, and he will make billions of dollars for agreeing to move on.

The team’s new ownership group is led by Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris and a group of partners. They will have their ups and downs and make mistakes, as every ownership group does. It would be foolish to assume that they will immediately restore the Commanders and football in Washington to its prior heights as one of the crown jewels of the NFL. It would be even more naive to pretend Harris or virtually any other competent executive would not represent a major upgrade on the outgoing owner. No move this offseason has been more significant.


Do you agree with Bill Barnwell that the sale of the franchise from Snyder to the Harris group was so significant that it warrants Washington being ranked as the #1 most improved team in the NFL?

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  • 79%
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