If I Was Running A Company…DC Sports Teams

The best way to know the atmosphere of an organization is by reading articles from media outlets or your friends who work for these organizations.  It tells what direction the organization is heading to.  In this case study, I will use the Washington DC Sports teams, because there are huge differences amongst these teams, and I felt like doing this.

Washington Redskins

Owner: Daniel Snyder
Executive Vice President of Personnel: Vinny Cerrato
General Manager: None

When Snyder became the owner of the Redskins in 1999, he wanted to make a difference.  His strategy was set:  get the big names.  He got big names to sign from Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Steve Spurrier, Adam Archuleta, Brandon Lloyd, and recently Albert Haynesworth for big money.  How many playoff appearances when Snyder was the owner? Two (all from Joe Gibbs’s second stint as head coach).  With all of that talent, how did the Redskins became mediocre?  Snyder focus too much on his business to make money from acquiring Johnny Rockets, Six Flags, and Dick Clark Productions, and uses the Redskins as his own personal fantasy football team.

It also does not help that Vinny Cerrato is gives out instructions and they have no General Manager, who would know if the GM wanted to dump Jason Campbell for either Jay Cutler or Mark Sanchez or drafted a player who lied on why he was suspended from the team.

Luckily for next year, the NFL will not have a salary cap, so he can spend as many big name players as he wants, but is it great for the long-term?

Other notes if you want to work for Daniel Snyder is during the recession, he laid off some Redskins employees, but did not layoff the radio staff, where they did not bring ad dollars and ratings for his station.  In Snyder’s terms, business is like collecting toys, but throws them away after one month of use.

Washington Nationals

Owner: The Lerners (Mark and Ted)
President: Stan Kasten
General Manager: Mike Rizzo (Acting)

Let me start off that the Lerners were Bud Selig’s selection of getting the Nationals, not the highest bidder, so that’s a strike for the Nationals.  The Lerners build a great stadium in the Navy Yard, but then complaint to the D.C. Government that the city did not complete the office since the wirings were not setup and the walls were not completed and asked for $3.1 Million from D.C. to pay for the “damages.”  To add insult to injury, Stan Kasten is asking out of town fans (Cubs, Phillies, Orioles, and Red Sox) to buy Nationals tickets.

It also does not help that your previous general manager, Jim Bowden, and his staff were found in a scandal where they signed 16 year old phenom, Esmailyn González, to a $1.4 million signing bonus, only to realize he’s 21 at the time and his real name is Carlos Daniel Alvarez Lugo.  Several days later after the story, Jim Bowden resigned and is under FBI investigation for bonus skimming of Latin players.

However, there is some potential upside:  Mike Rizzo is the acting general manager and was considered the architect for the Arizona Diamondbacks superb minor league system when he was with the organization.  Another one is when the Nationals make it official when the Nationals are going to select Steven Strasburg as the number 1 pick in the MLB Amateur Draft.  The critical date is August 15, when drafted players need to sign with the team.  Strasburg and his agent, Scott Boras, are asking for a $50 million deal.  Will the Lerners, Kasten, and Rizzo take the bait or they will squander the negotiations for, as baseball scouts have said, the best baseball pitching prospect…ever?

Washington Wizards

Owner:  Abe Pollin, Raul Fernandez
General Manager:  Ernie Grunfeld

The NBA is easy to predict by one measure:  superstars.  The Washington Wizards have all-stars but they don’t have a superstar (I don’t count Gilbert Arenas as a superstar since he can’t play defense).  It is not all the front offices fault because the rules make it tough for superstars to go to a different team (soft cap).  The Wizards also have a curse in the NBA Draft Lottery, where they usually select outside the potential superstars in the draft (example: they pick 6th when the scouts say the can’t misses are in the top 5).  The only time the Wizards won the lottery was in 2001 when Shane Battier, Pau Gasol, and Tyson Chandler were available and they select…Kwame Brown.  For that, blame Michael Jordan for that pick, but with Ernie Grunfeld in the fold, he has selected reasonable talent in the mid 1st round.  However, if there is no superstar, there is no championship on the horizon.

Washington Capitals

Owner:  Ted Leonsis
General Manager:  George McPhee

When Ted Leonsis bought the Washington Capitals in 1999, he acquired a team that missed the playoffs after going to the Stanley Cup Finals the previous year.  The fan base was mediocre at best and the arena was full of out-of-towners and bandwagons of other teams, yet his open personality help warm up to sports fans in D.C.  In 2001, he tried to get notice when he traded for Jaromir Jagr.  The results were disastrous when the Caps only made one playoff appearance with Jagr and in the 2003-04 Season, when the team was at the crossroads, Leonsis decided to dump the high salary players and start developing the young players.  It was a methodical decision as well since the lockout cancelled the 04-05 Season.

What the 2004 season did was the Caps had a chance of getting a top talent in the NHL Entry Draft.  When they won the 1st pick, they select the best player in that draft: Alex Ovechkin.  From there, Leonsis delegate his powers to George McPhee, which was a wise move.  No one realize in the 2004 Draft that not only the Caps got Ovechkin; they also got another all-star from that draft…Mike Green.  With McPhee as GM, the Caps have been to the Stanley Cup Finals once, won the division 3 times, and their minor league affiliate from the American Hockey League (AHL), the Hershey Bears, won the Calder Cup in 2006.  All of that was under McPhee’s watch, but he made the ultimate decision that made the Capitals a household name.

In the 2007-08 Season, the Capitals were a dark horse in the Eastern Conference to go to the playoffs and they had the right to be.  They got Ovechkin, a great minor league system, and a new look (literally and figuratively).  The beginning of the season was terrible as the Caps were last in the league.   McPhee assess the problem by determine that Glen Hanlon wanted a defensive structure, but the talent was offensive-minded.  In Thanksgiving of 2007, McPhee fired Hanlon and select Bruce Boudreau as the interim head coach.  The rest … the Caps went from last to win the Southeast Division, Boudreau won the Jack Adams Award (Best Coach) and Alex Ovechkin won the Hart (MVP), Ross (Points Champion), Richard (Goals), and Pearson (Players’ MVP).

As for progress, they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round last year in 7 games. Last night, they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 7 games in the second round.  Although that was a heartbreaker, the trend is looking upward for the Caps for years to come…if they keep the team together and make wise decisions in the offseason.

It used to be that anyone can get a seat at Verizon Center and have a jolly good time.  Next season, all the season tickets and seats have been sold out and you do not have to tell your fans what to wear…they know what to wear, all thanks to Ted, George, and “Geo-Mapping.”

What all this means

If you’re in the job market, research for the organization you applied for.  Check on current events, social media, trends, and your friends, former co-workers and network to see if this is a great fit for you.  There are some that bring smoke and mirrors, but there are plenty of resources for the job seeker and employer to utilize who would be the perfect fit for each other.

From the D.C. teams I mention above, who do you want to work for?

For future reference: I would like to know HR Case Studies for your teams in your respective city.  Please send me an email at tracy@tranrecruiting.com or DM me on Twitter, if you’re interested to do a guest blog on HR of your sports team.

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