The Washington Times
Thursday, January 10, 2008

A side benefit of Joe Gibbs’ resignation is that it gave Washington Redskins fans a chance to hear from owner Dan Snyder, who has been reluctant to speak publicly in recent years about his franchise.

The Gibbs and Snyder press conference revealed what perhaps is the working philosophy of the organization at this point — a franchise mantra, if you will, worth printing on T-shirts and bumper stickers to put more money in the owner’s pocket.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Say it loud and say it proud.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That was Snyder’s answer to a question about the prospects for restructuring the front office in the wake of Gibbs’ departure — in other words, whether he finally will hire a true general manager.

Snyder’s answer was a version of another cliche for excellence: “Don’t mess with success.”

That “success,” we learned, translates to a 31-36 overall record over four years under Gibbs and a 70-79 overall record under Snyder’s ownership and front office model.

We found out that trading for and overpaying players like Adam Archuleta and Brandon Lloyd doesn’t mean anything is broken.

Maybe it just came out wrong.

Maybe Snyder meant to say, “If I ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Those words could come back to haunt Snyder. They could, in the end, define him.

The phrase’s origination didn’t exactly come from a bastion of excellence. It is credited to Bert Lance, Jimmy Carter’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. Lance was forced to resign because of a corruption scandal dating back to his days as the chairman of the board of Calhoun National Bank in Georgia.

Later, country-western singer Jerry Reed wrote a song called, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Now the phrase is Dan Snyder’s to own.

Really, consider the implications of what he said. Snyder believes the way the front office runs works despite the evidence to the contrary. He couldn’t have this same attitude about his other business ventures. Then again, he’s probably not putting together the menu for Johnny Rockets or out there buying rides for Six Flags.

But Snyder does put the menu together for the Washington Redskins. He does buy the rides for this franchise. And his record — his football record — might be better served if he follows the plan set out by author Robert Kriegel in his book “If it Ain’t Broke … Break It!: And Other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World.” According to promotional materials, the book shows “how and why the thinking of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ is unproductive in today’s fast-paced business world.”

Outside of Redskin Park, there are Snyder critics and Snyder supporters.

The critics charge that he is an ego-driven, meddling owner. The supporters point to his willingness to spend money for the team and to his desire to win. But there is a consensus, for the most part, about one thing: The front office is broken, and the fix lies in hiring a general manager.

Failure to do so will keep the Redskins floundering in a sea of mediocrity broken by a few waves of success. That has been Snyder’s track record.

The irony is that, given Snyder’s resources and his generosity with the payroll, the Redskins could attract some of the best, if not the best, talent evaluators in the NFL — if he were willing to admit the system he developed is broken.

Maybe he has learned from his four years with Gibbs.

In a rarity, the Redskins still own most of their picks in the upcoming draft. Perhaps the success of young, homegrown players like LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty, Rocky McIntosh and free agent rookie Stephon Heyer has convinced Snyder that free agency should serve only as a complementary element in building a team, not as the foundation for it.

What Snyder does this offseason will go a long way toward determining whether he quietly came to the conclusion that his system was broken and began being fixed this past season. But even if there is a change in team-building philosophy, the same decision makers who have made this franchise dysfunctional still are making the personnel decisions.

Snyder can hire Bill Cowher or anyone else he can pay. He could even get Joe Gibbs to come back a third time.

It won’t fix what is broken inside the Washington Redskins organization.

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