SNIDER: New Commanders owner needs quick fixes, long-term vision


Josh Harris is in a race. The incoming Washington Commanders owner needs to quickly make a needed good impression, oversee widespread organizational changes and start stadium talks.

And that’s just the beginning.

No. 1 is making peace with fans who have abandoned the franchise. The hard-core 20,000-plus who attended games regularly last season are a given. It’s the several hundred thousand fans who swore never to give outgoing owner Dan Snyder another dollar that require courting.

Harris needs a long talk with coach Ron Rivera over dealing with Snyder’s messes. It took Rivera two long years to realize just because past problems weren’t his fault didn’t mean the franchise’s leader didn’t need to make amends.

Harris now carries that burden. And, it will feel like Sisyphus pushing that bounder up a hill forever. An opening speech of promises won’t be enough. Washingtonians are too jaded for that. Winning is ultimately the only thing that regains fans and that will take a few years.

Meanwhile, someone who just spent $6 billion can’t seem like a money grabber. Today’s fans want “enhanced experiences.” That means more than simple giveaways – though last year’s hog snout was a nice touch.

Player-fan gatherings on Monday-Tuesdays around town would be nice. Obviously, players need to be compensated by the team and events should be free to the public so it doesn’t seem like another money-hungry opportunity.

Face-to-face meetings create lifetime loyalty. Fans want to meet Terry McLaurin, Sam Howell, Emmanuel Forbes and more. A selfie, autograph or handshake buys more than a million dollars of fandom.

Bring back old players for more than some hokey homecoming game, too. Sprinkle them throughout public gatherings to engage older fans. Meanwhile, get rid of Major Tuddy.

Next, the business side needs to regain local advertising revenues. Snyder burned so many relationships. Get those back with discounting rather than demanding loyalty. The more the business community buys in, the more their customers do, too.

Any chance of a new stadium in 2027 means starting talks now. The team has one year to pick between renewed interest of Virginia, Maryland and the District. RFK should be the first choice, but if the city can’t get the land from the federal government soon, move to Plan B. Dirt needs to be moving by early 2025 at best, which requires a signed deal by mid-July 2024 to provide time for permitting.

Hopefully, Harris has a design team ready because Snyder’s moat-inspired theme was obviously a loser. The next stadium is intended for future fans, not past. Have a Legends section with VR technology for fans to race Darrell Green’s 4.1 speed, stand before an offensive line blocking for a run or have passes digitally thrown to them. Forget your father’s marble markers. This needs Instagram imagination.

Finally, it’s too late for coaching changes this season. But, Harris needs to change the “coach-centric” impact on player acquisition. If the new owner feels general manager and scouting moves are needed, it must come by training camp to ramp up for the 2024 draft.

There are quick fixes and long-range moves required for this franchise to regain its top 10 standing among NFL teams. It won’t happen quickly overall, but a good first impression is critical.

Follow Rick Snider on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks

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