By Mark F. Gray
Following another dismal 4-12 season in 2014 Bruce Allen, the president and general manager of the NFL’s franchise in Washington, D.C., uttered the prophetically stupid phrase that continues to define his legacy:
“We’re winning off the field, but we’ve got to start winning on the field,” Allen said.
Allen’s dubious public relations snafus have been compounded by mediocrity on the field over the past two seasons and destroyed whatever credibility the organization had with its fan base. This season, things hit rock bottom thanks to injuries, the acquisition of a possible domestic abuser and its cover up, the release of an outspoken pro bowl alternate for nothing in return and their former personnel director beating them in court.
There was a time they did win off the field. When Daniel M. Snyder first assumed ownership, the NFL franchise’s offseason free agent signings masked its front office deficiencies and gave fans cause for hope. Relics such as Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, Dana Stubblefield and Albert Haynesworth were cornerstones of the team’s offseason dynasty of the early 2000s, under the architect of futility that was Vinny Cerato.
Even those days are gone because of the front office clumsiness that makes its way into headlines and derails their on-field product. The mismanagement of former quarterback Kirk Cousins, then losing him for nothing, was almost offset by a feel good run to the playoffs. Through nine games, the team was 6-3 and in first place despite losing top draft pick Derrius Guice for the season in the first preseason game.
Adrian Peterson is a candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year, but the front office disconnect between Allen, Doug Williams and coach Jay Gruden on his interview is a source of controversy inside the walls of Ashburn. Allen has also been conspicuously silent about what transpired with the Reuben Foster fiasco that left Williams as the face of ineptitude when an insensitive remark about domestic violence created a national perception that the organization condones it.
Scot McCloughan, who was outed for his alcohol abuse on the job by Allen when they fired him, earned the balance of his $2.8 million salary when a federal arbitrator ruled in his favor. Even while allegedly under the influence, McCloughan had just led them to consecutive winning seasons in 2014 and 2015.
After losing with honor in Tennessee, which ended its playoff hopes, the organization embarrassed itself twice during the season’s final week. They released pro bowl alternate safety D.J. Swearinger after responding to questions about defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s strategy against the Titans. The front office botched that by making the move moments before he his weekly radio segment on 106.7 “The Fan.” Swearinger, on whom three other teams put waiver claims, could’ve netted a low round draft pick, but, again Allen chose to let him walk for nothing in return.
The team compounded that by firing the quartet of executives who were hired to improve the fan experience and increase season ticket sales last summer. Once the sales statistically dropped to record lows, the scuttlebutt inside the walls of Ashburn is that Allen had them fired with no secession in place.
Allen must own these failures, yet he continues to operate in Snyder’s graces. The talent has gotten somewhat better under his watch, but the damage he’s inflicted upon the brand isn’t negligible either. Old school fans are disgusted and tuning out while the future fan base is dwindling with each season because all they know is failure.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.