What Jerry Jones. Robert Kraft and Dan Snyder Can Teach Us About Leadership

And other observations about our modern NFL owners and coaches

Not. A. Fucking. Thing.

Good. Now that I have gotten that out of the way….

Warning. This is an unapologetic rant about my favorite sport. I have skin in the game (pun intended) and I care about the only sport that can get me to sit on my ass for multiple hours on a Sunday. Mind you, I’m on my bike on a trainer, but still sitting on my ass for hours.

As is always the case in the NFL, teams with embarrassing losing records kick out their coaches. Or, even if they do have a winning record (Jimmy Johnson, anyone? But I’m ahead of myself) they can be canned, given the mercurial stupidity of the owners.

The Packers, always and forever in search of the next Lombardi, dumped Mike McCarthy. He is now the latest in a long line of soon-to-be-loser coaches for the monumentally ignorant Jerry Jones, who for a million different reasons is a cancer in the NFL.

But for his money, his butt would have been bounced a long time ago, if anyone who cared about the game- or the once-great-Cowboys- gave a flying shit. I stopped caring about the ‘Boys right about the time Troy Aikman retired.

Interestingly, Aikman recently called Jones out on his bad choices, behavior and losing record. Jones, as he always does, came back with the comment that were Aikman in is position, “he’d do the same thing.”

Well, no you idiot. Jones, who is a classic narcissist, cannot even begin to countenance the notion that there is any way to do his job other than how he does it. Which is why the ‘Boys are perennial losers, as is the owner. A rich loser, but still a loser. Ask Cowboy fans how they feel about a two-billion-dollar team and a no Super Bowl in years. Many years.

Leadership is about knowing how to hire the right people and when to step aside.

How to empower your best talent to do what they are hired to do.

What a pity the NFL doesn’t throw a flag on Interference by Owners.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Dave Adamson on Unsplash

As for poor leadership, a few cases in point.

Jones drop-kicked his winning coach, Jimmy Johnson. Not because the man couldn’t win, but because he did win Super Bowls.

Sharp intake of breath.

Help me out with this. You can the coach who took you to the Show TWICE?

He gets you and the fans exactly what they want and you show the man the door? Did some prostitute just suck your brains out through your dick? (Yes. But that’s another story, see below.)

Because Johnson’s success sucked far too much attention away from Jones’s tiny-dick ego. Since then, Cowboys’ fans have watched America’s Team falter, fail and fuck up, largely because Jones’s intense, insecure need to stick his unwanted nose into locker room business has undermined the efforts of every (mostly mediocre, mostly malleable) coach since. Jones cannot bear to have the spotlight on anyone else but himself.

When a leader can’t countenance success in the ranks because they feel it takes away from their importance, they doom their enterprise to mediocrity.

Bill Parcells, who coached the ‘Boys from 2003–2006, is neither malleable nor a shrinking violet, which is what Jones prefers. I would have given anything to have been a fly on the wall for meetings between those two giants. One who is competent, the other who isn’t. Parcells was not a man to have some idiot owner micro-manage him or his personnel decisions.

How intriguing that coaches like Wade Phillips went on to get a Super Bowl ring when they got out of that hot house of hot air.

And lest we forget, one of Jerry Jones’ FIRST acts was to can the great Landry, install Jimmy Johnson, and then can Jimmy Johnson after that man- as of yesterday a Hall of Famer-won him two Super Bowls. There’s a sick pattern here.

I’m not alone. The fans are gathering at the gate.

The same kind of stupidity has been taking place with the Redskins. My dad was their first TV announcer. I grew up with football as a primary dinnertime conversation. I lived in DC the year they finally spanked the ‘Boys to go the Super Bowl. The Giants later beat them, but for one incredible night, the entire drunk NFL-loving populations of DC ran outside and beat the holy shit out of every car on the street right outside their bars. I heard the commotion several miles away. Big year for car repair shops.

Snyder, who is a too-rich frat boy who, to my mind, was likely the Last One Picked for Mother-May-I, also can’t figure out when to get the fuck out of the locker room. I remember when he famously tried to cobble together a Super Bowl team by cherry-picking aging Hall of Famers like Bruce Smith and Neon Deion, all of whom were well past their prime. All of whom had done the real work of creating an SB-worthy franchise over years of hard work, failure and teamwork. You can’t shove HOF players with perhaps one or two more years left together and expect them to somehow meld into instant magnificence.

Leaders hire talent for the long run, put superb managers in place and allow the time it takes for those managers to develop a terrific team.

Snyder is the same kind of fool. You can’t buy a winning team. Well, yes you can, Jones did, and he steadily sucked the blood right out of it for his own egotistical needs.

Mike Shanahan, who coached my Broncos, couldn’t bring the Redskins to greatness. Given what happened with the now-backup-behind-the-true-great Lamar Jackson at the Ravens, Robert Griffin III, it would be fair to suggest that the demise of that incredible promise was in part due to the damaging dynamics of Snyder vs. Shanahan. The ugly way Shanahan left speaks to that toxic environment.

The true Redskins great, Joe Gibbs, was dragged back to hopelessly unkind duty in 2004–2007.

You cannot force greatness on a team by hiring once-great coaches or players, especially when the owner can’t keep his dick in his pants when it comes to personnel and player decisions. You castrate your coach, demoralize your team and guarantee failure.

This isn’t leadership. It’s finances-fueled-ego gone berserk.

Which is why these teams- and others- suffer a circus carousel of coaching staff. I would expect to see Mike McCarthy back in an offensive coordinator role just to regain his sense of humor.

Ron Rivera, the current Redskins head coach, led the stop-and-start Panthers to winning seasons, the best ever, but the new owner wanted a change.

Another moron who kicks out a winning coach. Because he can. Hey Sparky, your cats went 5–10 this year. That tell you something about your management decision-making? Your leadership style?

The head coach of an NFL has, by far, the most stressful job in America. It’s bad enough to get excoriated by fans when your team can’t pull it together. But to have to manage the monumental stupidity of rich frat boys who can’t seem to let supreme talent just do their fucking jobs?

Leaders don’t shame their companies with their private proclivities.

And finally, Mr. Kraft. Speaking of keeping your dick out of the locker room. You might have done that well. Too bad you couldn’t do the same with the prostitutes. I don’t much care for the Patriots but their (sometimes cheating-fueled) winning history didn’t need to be tarnished further by your fractious Trouser Trout.

But that doesn’t even begin to top this by Jerry Jones. It’s not just that the man got caught with is pants down in the first place. Imagine how his wife and family felt.

NFL team ownership is a massive power grab. It feeds the ego and makes silly baby men think that, because they own the franchises, somehow that endows their itty bitty family jewels with football coaching savvy. They alone know who to draft. They alone know how to run the team.

Well boys, I might point out that your team records don’t bear that out. If anything your massive new stadiums, which are too expensive for the hoi polloi but which offer expensive box seats for your fellow Rich White Boys- are nothing more than an extension of that deeply insecure need to demonstrate your portfolio. While you pilfer accessibility from the fans, and by the way, fuck up the team so badly that a great many of them, like Elvis, have left the building. Google “empty sports stadiums” and see who is suffering. It’s not just the NFL.

Leaders know their customers. They make their products accessible to their raving fans. They don’t raise prices so high that those very fans can’t possibly partake. That punishes loyalty.

As for the cost? Here are the 2019 prices for a few teams:

New England Patriots $501

Chicago Bears $376

Green Bay Packers $243

New Orleans Saints6 $301

Denver Broncos $278

Seattle Seahawks $248

Philadelphia Eagles $256

Gee. And people wonder why the TV ratings are up. As a lifetime NFL fan, kindly, I sure as hell can’t afford this.

Lots of big teams in lots of sports are watching this happen. Fans feel disenfranchised by their franchises.

I wonder why.

Which is why, when self-appointed leaders (guys rich enough to buy the team) aren’t leaders. They’re owners. Period.

The best owner-leaders are either invisible, or they carefully craft their actions to put attention on the real winners in their organizations.

In this case, Jones should have been shoving Jimmy Johnson in front of the camera and extolling his virtues. Because Johnson deserved it. He had delivered. And got fired for being precisely what he got hired to do.

There’s a saying in leadership, which I have trained for years in the Fortune 100. You’re not a leader if nobody is following you.

Now, kindly. I know this will fall on deaf ears, but hire the talent. THEN GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY. Make the games accessible financially again. But more so, stop using Big Sports as little more than a chess piece in your rich boy’s private club. Like so many other American joys, sports are increasingly the purview of the extremely rich, extremely white and extremely male.

Who like to think they’re leaders.

I can’t wait until Mark Zuckerberg decides he wants to own the LA Rams.

I just can’t wait.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Izaac Crayton on Unsplash

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store