COMMENTARY | Brutal honesty spawns quintessential sports dynasties.
I learned this reading books by three of the sports world's greatest coaches: Pat Summitt (University of Tennessee women's basketball-retired); Bob Ladouceur (De La Salle High School football-retired); and Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University men's basketball).
All three cite their willingness to be totally honest with their players as key to their success. They ceaselessly, and often mercilessly, told their players whatever they believed needed to be said no matter how painful it was for their players to hear. If they thought they lacked heart, they told them that. If they didn't think players deserved to be champions, they told them that also. If they doubted their work ethic, they told them that, too.
Taking my cue from them, it's time to be brutally honest with the Washington Redskins franchise. As I watched them get humiliated by the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday--the second debacle in this season's first two weeks--I thought about how long it has been since this was an organization to believe in, trust, and admire. Since they won their third Super Bowl in 1992, this franchise has had a minuscule number of respectable seasons such as last year's NFC East championship. But ever since the first Joe Gibbs era when they won three Super Bowls, the Redskins have been, almost invariably, a dysfunctional, underachieving, and unappealing franchise. Sorry to say it this way, but the Redskins have been for decades a legion of laggards and, too often, losers. Since 1993 they have won only 34 percent of their games (137 wins and 184 losses), and have had 12 seasons with a losing record.
Did you see the way they played yesterday against the Green Bay Packers? The defense reeked. In the first half of the first two games they've allowed 50 points. Yesterday's ineptitude formed a microcosm of the Redskins for the past 22 years.
Coaches have lacked leadership gifts
Since 1993 this team has trotted out a gaggle of ineffective head coaches. So far, none has proven to be the answer. Remember Richie Petitbon, Norv Turner, Steve Spurrier, and Jim Zorn? None of these coaches has inspired the Redskins to play at their highest level and bond as teammates the way they did for Joe Gibbs during his first tenure of wild success. The current head coach, Mike Shanahan, has shown promise but I don't sense he has the goods--those leadership gifts--to make this team Super Bowl winners. When Shanahan won two Super Bowls with the Broncos, he had superstar John Elway on his team. There are no Elways on this roster. I don't sense he connects with his players the way Gibbs did.
Joe possessed that intangible presence that made players believe, respect and want to follow him. He exuded authenticity and trustworthiness. Likeable, genuine, hard-working, Gibbs connected on a visceral level with his players. A superior leader has an innate quality that can't be taught. I'm sure these other coaches have worked hard and wanted to win. But they have lacked the ability to get players to buy in to what they say, their philosophy of life, their beliefs.
During these Redskin Dark Ages they have also been saddled with an owner, Dan Snyder, who no one in their right mind would ever want to be led by. Synder repels everyone around him because he's preoccupied with his power and money. Selfishness and shallowness ooze from this land shark. Players and coaches don't view him as someone to be inspired by and sell their souls to; they see him as a cold businessman who they want to take a paycheck from and never have any interaction with.
The coaches he hires take his money more to make a lucrative salary, buy a big house, and retire comfortably than to win a Super Bowl. They get selfish because they don't trust him. Snyder protects his power because he doesn't trust hardly anyone. The players get selfish because they don't trust the owner nor the coaches.
Rampant selfishness and distrust create cancer within any organization. Inept leadership kills cohesiveness. Without cohesiveness Super Bowls don't happen. There is no real effort by the Redskins organization to sacrifice as individuals for the betterment of the team and organization. They have been bereft of trust and effective leadership.
Charles Hartley was born and raised in the Washington, D.C., area. He has been writing about sports, including the Washington Redskins, for more than 25 years.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- Washington Redskins
- Green Bay Packers
- Joe Gibbs