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The Washington Redskins: Stupid Is as Stupid Does

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In March, I wrote an article about how the Philadelphia Eagles were taking an intelligent risk on a cheap asset named Michael Vick. I explained how this was masterful value investing at work. I explained how this was part of a long history of methodical, intelligent decision-making by the Philadelphia Eagles organization. And finally, I reminded readers that the key to successful investing was identifying that optimal nexus between price and value.

Last night's torching of my lifelong team, the Washington Redskins, at the hands of Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles reminded me just how good one team is at doing this and just how terrible we are at it here in D.C.

A tale of two cities
In case you didn't catch the game, by halftime, the Eagles had already begun to set records. Vick and the Eagles set a new record for points in a single half (45), total yards in a game (592), and produced the second-highest regular season total of points ever (59). It was a thrashing of epic proportion. And Vick, a guy the Eagles had picked up just 1.5 years earlier at the cost of an adequate back-up quarterback, personally accounted for six of those TDs.

Then we have the Redskins.

A lot has changed here in D.C. after a dreadful 4-12 season that seemed to never end in 2009. There are new coaches, new front office, new faces, etc. There's new spirit in the air, too. But one very important thing has not changed: the ownership.

The puppet master
The Washington Redskins organization and its fans are still at the mercy of the single worst executive in pro sports, a man who has proven himself myopic, greedy, and petulant more times than I care to remember. The man, of course, is Dan Snyder. And what is clear to me is that even when things appear to change wholesale, if the guy in the top office is the same, then everything else will stay the same, too.

The latest insult
My evidence for this accusation comes in the form of yesterday's gut-punching news -- no, not the news about getting smashed by a division rival -- the other news. Yesterday afternoon, just hours before the game, the team announced it had just re-signed former Eagle Donovan McNabb to a blockbuster deal. Allegedly worth about $78 million in total, the contract appears to closely resemble that of another very significant name in professional football: Tom Brady.

The problem, of course, is that while both quarterbacks are closing in on the twilight of their careers and are armed with proud track records, one is playing at an extremely high level as part of a winning organization with the fundamental elements necessary to win championships and the other is fuddling along as part of some horrid, patchwork mutant of an organization without any clear direction to it.

Just who's in charge here?
Yesterday's goings-on reveal to me just who is back in charge of the Redskins organization. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan appeared to have been making the type of difficult, long-term decisions that lay the foundation for success over time. He started by drafting a marquee lineman rather than some flashy skill player, he sternly dealt with Albert Haynesworth's lack of effort, and just two weeks ago he made a gutsy call to bench the Redskins newly extended quarterback for not living up to expectations. These are the types of tough, unpopular decisions that lead to productive entities. And that is precisely why this latest news stinks of another's handiwork.

The McNabb contract is a fat, incentive-laden deal that despite a significant opt-out, has all of the hallmarks of some of the "brilliant" acquisitions Snyder has made over the years with aging, former all-stars that all went sour quick. Snyder has made them countless times with names like Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jeff George, Jason Taylor, Albert Haynesworth, and numerous others -- all excessively expensive, all way past their prime -- and they have a lot more to do with selling tickets than building teams.

Snyder's leadership over the years has laid the groundwork for season upon season of mediocre, if not outright terrible, performance. While I like McNabb as an individual and think he has a few good years left in him, the point is: IT'S NOT ABOUT TODAY. IT'S ABOUT TOMORROW, YOU FOOLS! That's what Snyder clearly doesn't get, and as long as he's in charge (regardless of the coach), these types of ridiculous, short-term, greed-driven decisions are going to be part and parcel of the entire organization.

For my part, my economic boycott of the team will continue (just as it has for the past four years). For the Redskins part, I'm sorry for the players. They'll never experience the leadership that they deserve under an executive who just doesn't get it.

The Foolish bottom line
We're talking about the Redskins and Dan Snyder today because the organization's ongoing struggle is representative of a much larger issue in America today. Myopia on the part of investors and corporate decision makers is profoundly affecting the way in which institutions are led and money is made (or not made).

When I look around, I see questionable leadership at companies such as Chesapeake Energy, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Blackstone that quite frankly, reminds me of Dan Snyder. Equally so, I am reminded of the economic rewards that are generated by visionary leaders at companies such as Whole Foods, Netflix, and Costco when the customer's experience is prioritized and the business is designed to succeed over the long term. It's so incredibly obvious to me.

Dan Snyder will never understand this, and neither will many business leaders empowered today. The question is: Will you? And will you invest your time and money in the people who do?

Fool Nick Kapur wishes Donovan McNabb the best of luck. Kapur has no interest in any security mentioned above.

Chesapeake Energy and Costco Wholesale are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. Costco Wholesale, Netflix, and Whole Foods Market are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. The Fool owns shares of Costco Wholesale. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (19) | Recommend This Article (52)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 8:56 AM, Gonzhouse wrote:

    You didn't even mention that Joe Gibbs, who put together memorable teams in the 1980's, was brought back and couldn't do anything under Snyder.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 11:36 AM, anon02 wrote:

    Snyder is a delight to other NFL owners, especially those in the NFC East -- and to fans of every team which plays the Redskins.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 11:36 AM, TMFOpie wrote:

    Great piece, Nick. It's just been a week of ironies. Vick probably would not have come to the Iggles unless Donovan was there. Now #7 is the B.M.O.C. in Philly while McNabb is languishing in Snyder hell, with reports that his guaranteed money is far, far less than the whopping dollars reported on Monday. If Vick can continue to build on his stellar play and take the Birds the distance, something Donovan did once with a loss in the Super Bowl, then imagine the money Reid will have to shell out to keep Vick in midnight green.


    TMFOpie and lifelong Eagles fan

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 11:44 AM, thethirdpig wrote:

    Sometimes, in value investing you have to take what you can get:

    “For an ordinary individual, the best thing you already have should be your measuring stick. If the new thing isn’t better than what you already know is available then it hasn’t met your threshold. This screens out 99 percent of what you see.” - Charlie Munger

    I think when the Redskins look out at the quarterback landscape, they don't see many who are both better and cheaper than Donavan McNabb. So they're simply trying to solidify what they have. I would say, this is unlike Deion, Albert or Bruce. Hopefully, this is a step in the proper direction.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 11:48 AM, outoffocus wrote:

    Didn't Dan Snyder use to own Six Flags? Didn't Six Flags just come out of bankruptcy?

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 11:52 AM, jles658 wrote:

    I would like to produce shirts to sell with Dan Snyder's face with the big "red circle" and line through it, indicating "NO". With the slogan "Ban Dan" Any takers????

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 12:04 PM, nudediscgolfer wrote:

    Dano and the Un-Washed Foreskins had their chance to get Vick a VA tech grad. Not like they had to shell out the money and would get another Albert Aintsworth (what a bum he should be kissing dano’s butt for all the money he received by cleaning the all the bathrooms in that over crowed FexEx Field).

    NEWS JUST IN: Eagle just scored again.

    NudeDiscGolfer is a Lifelong Steelers Fan!


    Mike Vick was arrested by authorities early this morning.

    He is being held on the charge of


  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 12:06 PM, LeeMart1n wrote:

    Here in the UK we have an ongoing ownership issue with our soccer teams, a situation lately exacerbated by US takeovers of some of our highest profile clubs including Manchester United and Liverpool. Both clubs have had major debt problems since being taken over. The club considered the perfect example of how to run a soccer business - Arsenal - has been the subject of takeover saga, as yet still to be resolved...

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 1:17 PM, dfrizzle03 wrote:

    birds' best move= getting rid of that worthless bum mcnabb

    he can enjoy laughing at his passes that hit the receivers' feet in D.C.

    the philly fans were fed up with him, and soon the D.C. fans will be too.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 2:29 PM, thejatrain wrote:

    I have been a fan of the Redskins since I was 6 growing up in Iowa and it pains me to like them now. I really don't want to benefit this owner in any way. I'm not so sure that the McNabb deal is that bad (though I do think it's not very good), but what killed me was taking season ticketholders to court last year when there is a list many years long of people willing to buy those tickets. What an incredibly moronic thing to do. Talk about undermining support for your organization. Snyder, please sell the Redskins to someone else! (Someone who will get them back to DC, please!)

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 2:30 PM, RockOYates wrote:

    As a long suffering Washington Redskins fan living in the Florida Keys, I have quit wearing my 'Skins hat because of Snyder long ago. You may not know this, but remnants of the ex-owners, the Jack Kent Cooke family, live down here and own several of our newspapers and radio stations. The great grandson of Cooke is sports writing for the paper.

    The whole Cooke family has been incredibly quiet about the dismantling of one of sports' oldest, proudest names by Snyder. I will be sure to pass this on to the youngest Cooke, Nick.

    Snyder has got to go. I know where I'd like him to go. He needs to come down to the Keys and go fishing with me, Russ Grimm, Sonny Jurgenson, Dexter Manley, Doug Williams and Riggins. We'll take him deep sea fishing. You know, way out there in the deep blue water. Near Cuba. Or on the way to the Bahamas.

    "Look, Dan, see that mermaid down there?"

    "Where? I don't see anything."

    "Bend waaaaaaaay over, almost put your face to the surface of the water." And then Russ Grimm comes up from behind and kicks his first field goal ever, with Snyder flying ten yards over the transom.

    "Oh, Danny Boy, the bars, the bars they are a callin'", and off we go, leaving Danny Boy to deal with the 'cudas and the sharks.

    One can be mean, and dream, and try to be comical about it. But to be serious, Snyder is a perfect example of a spent CEO who is a destroyer of wealth, who doesn't know when it is time for himself to go. (Snyder reminds me of Robert Nardelli, Witless Whitman & Chainsaw Dunlap, sucking the life out of every company they touched.)

    At least I have the Miami Dolphins as my AFC team. At least these guys took a recent Monday Night shellacking and have refused to give up, losing two close games on bum calls, and winning another two since.

    Let's see if the Redskins can bounce back. You never know. McNabb might be so embarrassed that he actually spend extra time at practice this week. Maybe he and Haynesworth can face off and hit each other on the chest pads until one or the other wakes the F up?

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 3:23 PM, bugsdaddy61 wrote:

    Redskins Schmedskins. The Lions rule as destroyers of talent and shining examples of how not to be successful. (challenge that!!) While Snyder is a royal doofus, he doesn't come close to the string of losers William Clay Ford has chosen to run the Lions into the ground. Check that, far below ground.......he continues to install basements at unheard of depths......

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 3:46 PM, CMF_FoolishErik wrote:

    As a former Cowboys fan from my childhood, I feel your pain. Every Sunday I feel your pain... I find it almost comical that they are arch rivals. Perhaps misery loves company.

    Nowdays I root for the team with Espirit de Corps. I don't care how far up or down the standings they are, if they relentlessly summon the will to be winners, from the owner all the way down to the waterbottle girls. The real telltale to the team's spirit is how those on the injury list and backup positions behave during a game. If even they are "all in", that's the team with the longterm winning future.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 5:20 PM, DBrown7 wrote:

    How barren is the landscape of quality QB's? I hear the Eagles would demand at least a 1st and 3rd round draft pick for Kevin Kolb, who has accomplished exactly what? I believe the Redskins only gave up a 2nd round pick for McNabb.

    The McNabb contract is not nearly as generous as first reported. In my opinion, Snyder has made much worse deals than this.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 6:31 PM, Thomfranklin wrote:

    Speaking of the Cowboys, FoolishErik, this just in from the HURL board courtesy of DwDonhoff:

    Although they won last weekend...

    The Texas State Police are cracking down on speeders heading into Dallas.

    For the first offense, they give you 2 Dallas Cowboy tickets. If you get stopped a second time, they make you use them.

    Q. What do you call 47 millionaires around a TV watching the Super Bowl?

    A. The Dallas Cowboys

    Q. What do the Dallas Cowboys and Billy Graham have in common?

    A. They both can make 70,000 people stand up and yell "Jesus Christ".

    Q. How do you keep a Dallas Cowboy out of your yard?

    A. Put up a goal post.

    Q. What do you call a Dallas Cowboy with a Super Bowl ring?

    A. Old

    Q. What's the difference between the Dallas Cowboys and a dollar bill?

    A. You can still get four quarters out of a dollar bill.

    Q. How many Dallas Cowboys does it take to win a Super Bowl?

    A. Nobody remembers.

    Q. What do the Cowboys and a possums have in common?

    A. Both play dead at home and get killed on the road!

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2010, at 8:22 PM, ikkyu2 wrote:

    Been a fan of Vick since he was a Falcon; been a fan since he was an Eagle last year. Last Monday was no surprise!

    Your thesis, which is highly relevant in sports and investing, is why I have always said I would buy a mutual fund with the Motley Fool "Founder CEO" tag. Like Shannon Sharpe always says about the teams in the playoffs, "You have got to do what got you here!" Founder CEOs know how they got there and they know how to keep doing it. Andy Reid knows that; Dan Snyder doesn't.

    Steve Jobs knows about that; Steve Ballmer knows what got him to MSFT's #2 position, but it's not working for him as the #1.

  • Report this Comment On November 20, 2010, at 9:38 AM, busterbuddy wrote:

    Stupid. Well Forrest Gump ended up very rich, I do believe. And you know, I'm not too sure but, I think I'd like to be more like Forrest Gump. I bet he never had to take Lexapro or levitra.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2010, at 1:20 PM, TMFMitten wrote:

    Point of clarification: Those Eagles records were team records, not NFL records. My Packers hold the record for most points in a single half (49), and the 59 points scored can't be second most in NFL history, given that the highest NFL regular-season score was 72 (by the Skins!), and I can remember one game back in the '80s where the Bengals scored 61 against the old Houston Oilers.

    That was still an ugly game for the Skins, though. My condolences.

    -- Adrian, who knows way too much about NFL stats.

  • Report this Comment On November 23, 2010, at 8:05 PM, wellsliq wrote:

    The return of Joe Gibbs was a godsend, but with Jason "the Turkey" Campbell at qb

    and Snyder's stupidity there was no prayer. Campbell was to be the next great qb and he failed from day one. Why did he stay on? Snyder. Had to be.

    You missed the biggest Turkey of all compliments of the Eagles - Trotter.

    I was a Redskins fan since l956. When #5 came aboard, that was the last straw. On third down, he never converts specially in the fourth quarter. He will throw uncatchable balls at 100 mph and off target as well.

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