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The Washington Redskins have been the talk of the NFL this season. The problem is, it's been for the wrong reasons.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the franchise's plunging attendance, but another, even more desolate situation is unfolding at the quarterback position.
I'm talking about Robert Griffin III, more commonly known as RG3. After winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award last year, Griffin has failed to stay healthy in 2013. Even more concerning, his skills appear to have regressed. So much so, that the Redskins have put him on ice for the last three games of this season.
Are there practical business lessons to be learned here?
In the words of Marv Albert: YES!
Lesson No. 1: Talent is an asset, so treat it like one.
In any business, talent is your most important asset, and it should be treated as such. Griffin's talent was clearly on display in 2012, when he led the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Statistically speaking, he finished third in the NFL in QB rating, first in yards per attempt, and first in QB rushing yards. Griffin even scored as many fantasy points as Peyton Manning! Unfortunately, an ACL and LCL surgery ended his year and limited his offseason.
How did the Redskins handle their best player in 2013? By starting him Week 1 without playing a single snap in the preseason. Even worse, they allowed Griffin to play hurt even when opposing players feared for his safety.
Companies that treat their talent this poorly hardly ever win in the long run. A few names that come to mind are GameStop (NYSE: GME ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , and Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD ) . All of these companies were among Glassdoor's 10 worst to work for last year, and each has had to deal with a disgruntled work force in the past.
Lesson No. 2: Create a healthy work environment.
In perhaps their most egregious offense, though, the Washington Redskins have failed to surround their star QB with any semblance of a healthy working environment. The constant bickering between team owner Dan Snyder and head coach Mike Shanahan is a distraction, and it has deterred RG3's development. A workplace where your employees are not exposed to upper management's issues typically fares better than one that's drama-filled.
Lesson No. 3: Mentor your best employees.
With that being said, it's equally as important to mentor your best employees. According to most reports, Griffin's relationship with Shanahan is strained, partially because owner Dan Snyder has meddled too much, and the quarterback has lacked a mentor.
Shanahan should be serving as a mentor, and if not him, the Redskins should have signed a wily veteran to back up RG3. Many of the NFL's most successful quarterbacks have had a helping hand in their first few seasons, from the Aaron Rodgers-Brett Favre combo to Andrew Luck and Matt Hasselbeck. Instead of that, Griffin gets the 25-year-old Kirk Cousins, and league punching bag Rex Grossman.
Lesson No. 4: Always think long-term.
One final mistake the Redskins seem bent on repeating over and over again concerns their strategy. The hallmark of any good business is the ability to sacrifice some short-term needs for long-run success. As Wharton Professor Eric W. Orts, author of Business Persons: A Legal Theory of the Firm, likes to say, "You want to have long-term sustainable growth that is going to raise everyone's boats."
That's a great quote. I just don't think Washington's front office has ever seen it. According to Philly.com, the Redskins have the second oldest roster in the league. Four of the team's five starting linemen are 28 or older, and they've given up 15 more QB hits than any other team in their division this season. This isn't an indicator of sound, long-term thinking. Instead of surrounding Griffin with a nucleus of young, high-potential guys, the Redskins have done the opposite.
Go to school, Washington!
In case you didn't notice, the Washington Redskins have failed all four of these lessons miserably. Lesson number one is something that can be remedied sooner rather than later. If RG3 really does sit out the remainder of this season, it's a step in the right direction. In 2014, he needs to be 100% healthy before hitting the field.
Lesson numbers two and three can also be addressed quickly. If Mike Shanahan is gone after this season, the team can look at hiring a guy like Art Briles, the head football coach of Baylor University. Briles coached Griffin in college, and would serve as an ideal mentor to him in the NFL. If Dan Snyder can remove himself from the QB-coach relationship, that'd be even better.
Lesson No. 4, however, isn't something the franchise can fix immediately. It will take a few years of smart drafts, while avoiding the overpriced free-agent signings they've succumbed to in the past. Washington doesn't have a first-round selection in the next NFL draft, but a step in the right direction would be to trade talented backups like Kirk Cousins and Roy Helu Jr. for more picks.
There's obviously no way to know if Washington will learn from these mistakes. If the franchise is able to do its homework, though, I'm confident the team can make the grade in the long run.
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