Hi Washington Football Family,
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 use a slightly longer format to answer some of the things I expect are on your minds, since 280 characters don't allow you to get details and often bring out the shittiest aspects in all of us 😊. So here we go…
Reflections From Ravens Week
One of my former coaches always used to say, "a loss is a loss, you can't dress it up;" losing never feels good. But it was hard for me to walk away from the game discouraged due to the visible improvement across several aspects of the game and the remarkable display of strength, courage, and character from Coach Rivera. Much has already been written about the challenging week of treatment that Coach endured, and those who watched the television broadcast saw his physical strength and mental resolve as he fought to remain physically present on the sideline with the team. It left many inspired in our club and around the world as the images and story spread through the media. I've been privileged to see his mental and physical endurance each day at Inova Sports Performance Center as well as the way Coach's close circle has supported him. Stephanie Rivera is a coach herself, and she is displaying that same steadfastness and inspirational leadership as she helps lead Coach through this fight. I find their relationship, the way they navigate this challenge, and their continued focus on serving others in the midst of everything to be remarkable. I took this job, in part, because I knew about Coach's strong character. I had no idea how deep that strength (#RiveraStrong) really went, and I'm an astonished witness to it.
In context, the Rivera's fight is the latest chapter in a long history of this franchise leading the sports world's fight against cancer. Tanya Snyder created the slogan and brand, "Think Pink," over 20 years ago and built it into a national campaign as she and Dan navigated her cancer journey together. This offseason, we will take a hard look at what we are doing philanthropically, including with the Washington Football Charitable Foundation. We do a lot of things in the community, but there are topics and areas where we can really do something special. I'm keen to work with the various folks leading our philanthropic efforts to bring even sharper focus to our efforts so we can really match the scale and magnitude of past efforts like Think Pink. I'm also eager to propel an even greater degree of purpose-driven activity into our sponsor relationships with values-driven companies. For example, how can we do something big for veterans in partnership with iconic, high integrity companies like USAA?
Business (????) Question Of The Week
Why haven't you tried to sign [fill in the blank player]? You need to fix the [xyz position] immediately? Why don't you do your damn job and fix the roster?
I have created a masterplan for how I plan to rebuild the roster and filmed a short video laying it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ
In all seriousness, I am the chief executive of the business operations of the club. Coach Rivera is the chief executive of the football side of the club. I focus on dollars and cents (the money, straight cash homie), the fan and sponsor experience, and the impact we have on the community. Coach is focused on wins and losses and playoff berths. We have a great partnership, and I value his thoughtful partnership on the business because he is an astute leader. But we each know where we add the most value. Yes, I played seven years in the NFL, and that does give me some deeper insight into football performance than other business executives. However, professional coaches and scouts have spent a lifetime refining their craft with experiences, tools, and techniques that I have never been close to. It would take a good dose of hubris for me to believe I could opine on talent like coach and our scouting staff, a group filled with former players who played even longer than me. (I've never evaluated a free agent safety, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night…)
There are ways in which the business side, and my background as a player, can meaningfully support the team's on-field aspirations. For example, our practice fields are built on a flood plain and have serious drainage issues. As Rob Rogers, our Senior Vice President of Football Administration, and I toured the field, my mind immediately began stating, "I couldn't cut at full speed with this moisture on the ground. This could prevent guys from playing with pace, getting proper timing in practice, or worse. The additional fatigue and joint impact from additional practices on the indoor field might catch up with us at the end of the season…" Because of that mental track, the decision to invest in a large-scale practice field renovation was an obvious one, where a traditional return on investment analysis may have missed some of the on-field factors. Last week, the League Office made a rule change regarding sound on the field, allowing teams to play music at a higher decibel at any point before the huddle breaks. So our Gameday Entertainment crew cranked the music when the Ravens were in the huddle this week.
Encounter Of The Week
In the coming weeks and months, you are going to hear more about two major priorities -- the development of our new identity and the search for our new home -- and both will really get moving this winter and into the new year. In support of both of those efforts, I am meeting with many community, business, and government leaders in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. The last two weeks have had a Maryland theme as I've had the pleasure of spending time with both Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks and Governor Larry Hogan. Both are remarkable people, primarily because in spite of all their accomplishments, they seem to be incredibly authentic, salt of the earth type folks. Across both conversations I heard a shared commitment to inclusive economic growth -- business projects that substantively, not nominally, drive business to women-owned, veteran-owned, and minority-owned businesses, which are too often overlooked in major development efforts despite having the capability to lead and contribute. They also shared their personal passion for the team, I don't mean to put them on blast, especially because Gov. Hogan has to play it neutral 😉, but both leaders grew up Washington Football Team fans and have great personal memories of cheering on the team at RFK and FedExField. County Executive Alsobrooks also said something that really stuck with me as I help develop and foster new ways of engagement - "while my generation and older are die-hard Washington Football Team fans, it's a bit of a mixed bag in younger generations. You don't want to lose a generation of fans here." I sure as hell do not 😊! It has me and my team thinking about ways we can more deeply engage philanthropically in Prince George's county and partner with the County Executive on challenges like youth inactivity in the context of a pandemic. How can we use our commitment to youth sports to creatively get kids active and engaged in a time when many activities have shut down to preserve public health?
Lastly, I want to note how inspiring I found County Executive Alsobrooks and Gov. Hogan's mutual respect for one another and eagerness to collaborate with each other, across party lines, on behalf of the state. I've also started to engage with leaders in DC and Virginia and am really looking forward to the big meetings ahead on my calendar. I'm proud to call this area home!
This week we welcome the Los Angeles Rams. I grew up in the LA area but my family held Raiders season tickets, so there is no worry about divided loyalty here! I'm excited to see us put another notch in the win column Sunday.