With the first playoff game for the Washington Redskins in a half-dozen years on the horizon, I'm a bit giddy. But even today -- as I write, about 25 hours from kickoff -- I remain devoted to educating, amusing, and enriching ... at least until the pregame shows start this evening.

So let's take a look at the Redskins, a franchise in flux since Joe Gibbs first retired from coaching in 1992.

David the Greek
Back in 1998, in the heart of the Norv Turner Era, as the team got off to a rousing 0-5 start, Fool co-founder David Gardner wrote the following:

The Redskins have demonstrated one of the truisms of NFL football, namely that the coaching staff matters. ... [T]he same teams with the same coaches go back to the playoffs year in and year out. ... The Redskins made it to the playoffs virtually every year of Joe Gibbs' coaching reign in the '80s, winning a few Super Bowls. (And if Joe Gibbs came back to coach them again, they'd quickly return to the playoffs, and stay there.)

David's point -- eerie prescience aside -- is that the best teams have the best coaches. And you can pinpoint the best coaches by looking at their track records: winning percentage, playoff berths, and, ultimately, championships. Take a look at this year's playoffs. Of the eight current NFL coaches who have Super Bowl titles, five are in the playoffs again this year. (While we'd have to do a more significant analysis to call this a trend, it is worth noting.)

Netflix has a Super Bowl year
Track records are just as crucial in business. Many of the best CEOs can be identified by their previous corporate successes. One example is Reed Hastings, current CEO of David's Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) -- which doubled in 2005.

Before Netflix, Hastings founded Pure Software in 1991. After four successful years, the company sold out to Rational Software at a rich premium.

Folks who were aware of Pure Software's success were keenly interested when Hastings started Netflix. And those early-comers to the party have been richly rewarded.

Another business leader with a track record is FoxHollowTechnologies (NASDAQ:FOXH) founder and chairman John Simpson. Before FoxHollow, Simpson founded five other biotech companies -- Perclose, Devices for Vascular Intervention, Advanced Cardiovascular Systems, LuMend, and Cardiovascular Therapeutic Technologies -- that were sold to big pharmas like Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT) and Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) for big rewards.

The Foolish bottom line
Joe Gibbs is back in the playoffs for the same reason Netflix and FoxHollow have been good stocks (FoxHollow's recent slide aside). Success follows talented leaders.

As you're watching the playoffs this weekend, think about your portfolio. Think about your watch list. Have you studied the qualitative factors of your stocks? If "no," make it a 2006 resolution to find out all you can about the CEO running your company. (And if you're a stockholder, it is "your company.")

Quality of leadership is just one way David Gardner identifies superior investment ideas for Stock Advisor subscribers. David also looks for companies with strong consumer appeal, sustainable advantages, strong past price appreciation, and first-mover or top dog status. (See: Netflix.) To date, his Stock Advisor picks are beating the market by nearly 30 percentage points. Access his research and ideas by taking a 30-day free trial, full privileges included. There is no obligation to subscribe. Click here to learn more.

Now let's see what the 'Skins can do against the Bucs ...

Roger Friedman is the managing editor of newsletters and the author of Nipple Confusion, Uncoordinated Pooping and Spittle: The Life of a Newborn's Father . He does not own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy .