Hi Washington Football Family,
I'm still very much riding high on the performance Coach Rivera and the team put in on the field. Coach would say that there is much to improve on but that Sunday was a glimpse into what this team, with its new culture, can do. I could not agree more and am ready to ride the ups and downs this season as that culture fully takes root.
Tuesday is the classic "Day Off" for the guys on the squad, where they are focused on recovery, spending a little time with family, and pivoting their attention to the next game. A deep breath if you will. I thought that I would take advantage of that natural break in the week to give you a weekly update on the business side of the Washington Football House. I want to use a slightly longer format to answer some of the things I expect are on your minds, since 140 characters doesn't allow you to get details and often brings out the shittiest aspects in all of us 😊.
Each week, I plan to cover three things:
- Reflections on gameday: My unsolicited but hopefully not unappreciated musings on the previous week's game. I won't comment on gameplay (just because I played doesn't mean I know what I'm talking about), but I'll reflect on my own experience of the game and highlight the great things folks in our organization did to pull it off.
- Business question of the week: I get lots of questions through social media and snail mail regarding some of our business and operations decisions and I'm eager to answer those. I'll pick a question a week and answer it with some detail. And I can't talk about the new identity every, single, week y'all… 😊
- Encounters of the week: I engage a bunch with fans, sponsors, and media each week and so many of those moments are meaningful/hilarious/special in some way. I want to highlight some of those moments as best I can each week.
How does that sound to you all? If you're game, here we go…
Reflections From Eagles Week
I was reminded this week that leadership is not just an innate, inherited quality, but it can be cultivated intentionally as well. You've probably heard of the inspiring halftime story where Coach Rivera was unable to give a motivational speech at halftime due to the fact that he was receiving an IV to manage the symptoms of his cancer treatments. **Pause to reflect on that for a moment. What an invested, sacrificial leader** In his place, Dwayne Haskins stepped into the void and gave what was by all accounts an impactful speech about asserting the team's will on the opponent. When I heard this, I remembered a moment during training camp when the offense had a particularly poor Saturday practice, resulting in Coach Rivera giving the team, ahem… a talking to. But more than this, Coach let the team know that he expected them to provide the visible and vocal leadership when it is was most needed. And the next time there was a need, down 17-7 against a division rival, a leader rose to that expectation. No doubt Dwayne had all the intrinsic qualities to inspire men in that moment, but I have to think the expectations set out by Coach helped the captain deliver what was needed in the moment. This reinforces my desire to set similar expectations for our leaders in business operations. Making it clear that leaders are expected to care for and empower the people working under them, as well as unequivocally holding people accountable to that standard through good policies and corrective actions, will shift the business culture at the club.
I was also struck by how good it was to be back around football. The strategy and gamesmanship of calling the play or disguising the coverage; the physical power on display with each big hit; the unbridled passion of the guys and those cheering them on (I was hoarse all day from yelling). Mind, body, and soul all engaged intensely for 60 minutes. It's a special experience. My two youngest kids weren't yet born when I was playing, so this was their first exposure to this unique environment. Like the rest of us, they are now hooked.
Business Question Of The Week
From Twitter handle @niquesr42: Why don't we have crowd noise before visiting teams snap the ball? I see other teams working their crowd noise before the snap.
This isn't exactly business, but it does fall into the operations portions of the organization that I lead, so I'll take it. It's also a really good question! The crowd noise is actually the same in every single NFL stadium in order to ensure competitive balance. The league office provided a single soundtrack of crowd noise that sounds like the loud murmur of voices in a beer garden or Oktoberfest event. To talk over it, you're somewhere between a normal speaking voice and trying to holler at someone in a nightclub. But there is no fluctuation between or within plays. The track just rolls.
However, the broadcasting partners can do whatever they want with the crowd noise that comes across your television screen. So, what you hear at home is completely different than what the guys hear on the field. Do you feel deceived (bamboozled, hoodwinked, I tell you)? But I think the spirit of your question is about what our operations team can do to help the team on the field. One thing we can do is quickly get replays on the jumbotron for our coaching staff to quickly evaluate referee calls. That may allow Coach Rivera, Del Rio, or Turner to get out a challenge flag if we are quick on the draw on the big screen. We can also deflate the footballs...Just playing.
Encounters Of The Week
The Gold Season kickoff party for season-ticket members was held remotely this year due to COVID-19. As we endured the ever-present technical challenges and engaged over video, I was able to have some really fun interactions with fans in the chat thread. It started with someone noting that they were from near my hometown in Southern California, and that led to everyone sharing where they were dialed in from. Our GLOBAL fan base is inspiring to me as we had folks from all across our nation and around the world. I loved watching everyone proudly and competitively "rep their 'hood". And, when my introductory comments covered our process to establish a new identity and brand, there was a flood of comments advocating for their preferred names. The rapid typing was both hilarious and frightening… I know y'all heard not one damn word of what I said after that point 😊… and that's all right. The passion you exude is more important than any stump speech I can give.
Additionally, I often share personal reflections unrelated to the Washington Football Team on my Twitter account. This past weekend, I was inspired by our fan base's responses to my reflections commemorating 9/11, a day that has shaped many of us in profound ways. I heard from those who lost loved ones that day. I heard from those who acted on behalf of the victimized as first responders, bravely running into poisonous debris. I heard from those who enlisted in the military in the following days and weeks, compelled to do something tangible to protect our country. I heard from those who long for the sense of collective purpose we seemed to have in those times. I heard from those who experienced increased discrimination and hostility because of their ethnicity or faith after that day. I'm grateful for the openness of those exchanges. I was moved. It has motivated me and my family to double down on our support of first responders, military veterans, and the marginalized in our society. Washington Football fans are truly remarkable in so many ways.
On Sunday, I will travel on a quick turnaround to Arizona to watch our guys take on a big challenge against my former team. I'll be eager to spend some time with the Cardinals' business executives as I continue to gather wisdom from peers in pursuit of being the best possible team president I can be. In particular, the Cardinals have done a great job rapidly expanding their fan base over the last decade and tapping international markets to grow their football family. I'm eager to learn from them. As for the game itself, while I have fond memories of playing in the desert, I have no divided loyalty this week. Here's to a great week ahead and a proper smashing of my friends and former colleagues on game day 😉.