Hi Washington Football Family,
Tuesday is the classic "Day Off" for the guys on the squad, where they are focused on recovery, spending a little time with family, and pivoting their attention to the next game. A deep breath if you will. I thought that I would take advantage of that natural break in the week to give you a weekly update on the business side of the Washington Football House. I use a slightly longer format to answer some of the things I expect are on your minds, since 280 characters don't allow you to get details and often bring out the shittiest aspects in all of us 😊. So here we go...
As a player, I thought I knew a thing or two about rivalries, especially the storied but recently lopsided one between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns when I was a running back for the Browns. However, the rivalry that exists between Washington and Dallas feels different, deeper, more antagonistic... and I'm here for all the pettiness and vitriol. Even without fans, the energy around the stadium was electric. I hear the arguments from some who say the history is lost between these two teams, but as someone who just entered this, I can confidently say this rivalry is very strong.
And as the team warmed up before the game, I saw the historic clips from games past flashing on the jumbotron. As we chart a new direction for this organization on and off the field, it is imperative that not only do we uphold the intensity and excellence of this rivalry, but also that we ensure a clear connection to our past.
As one of the oldest franchises in the NFL, and a great area that former players don't want to leave, we have one of the most extensive in town alumni bases in the league. And while we are trying to reestablish ourselves, we also want to deeply and powerfully integrate our alumni into all that we do as a business. We've started that strategy already by launching "The Legacy" with help from our content creation team, and we're going to continue building on that in the months to come.
This will be one of the strategic priorities that our new SVP for External Engagement and Communications Julie Jensen will be taking on with Doug Williams. We are going to reimagine a new alumni program that not only allows alums to feel better connected to one another, but also more directly integrated into what we're trying to accomplish as a business and a franchise.
So, as we welcome back more fans in 2021 (fingers crossed) and beyond, you can expect to see a stronger alumni presence, both virtually and physically, and feel an unbreakable connection to the history of this franchise!
So are we really going to have to wait until after 2021 for a new name? Are you an idiot, it's not that hard!
So let's get the obvious out of the way: you may have noticed some news circulating around about the search for a new name, and wow, there was a lot of reaction to my casual, off-the-cuff mention that we could still have the "Washington Football Team" name into the 2021 season. If I'm anything, I'm transparent, and I now know that I should never, ever deviate from talking points because I'll say too damn much. :)
What last week showed me is that a portion of our fanbase is eager for a name (you all have filled up my mentions, but that's okay, because we invite that input!) Here are some of the reason I've heard on why this set of fans is so passionately vocal:
1. You don't like being referred to as "Football Team" in games. Some of you think it is clunky and awkward and when pundits tease, it pisses you off. I hear you.
2. We need something to give our organization a jumpstart. The team is in a rebuilding process, and a new name and identity would be galvanizing and exciting for the fans.
3. It's not that hard to pick a name. This is centered on a belief that the work has already been done for us and that we should just pick one. There are some who believe not picking a name show incompetence, which is disheartening for folks.
Before I was hired, the organization announced there would be an 18-24 month process to establish a new brand. And once I joined, I had talked about this being a longer process to ensure substantive engagement with communities. But what I realize is that we need to say that a lot more often, and that you also need to hear the reasoning behind that process.
Folks tend to love or hate the "Football Team" component of our current moniker. Either way, I think we can continue to educate and push broadcasters and others to refer to us as "Washington," because it flows easier during the play-by-play and reminds us all that we still represent this great area.
In terms of giving the organization a jumpstart, I would argue we can rally around the fact that we are still Washington, and we are witnessing Coach Rivera establish a new culture. On the business side, we have new ways of engaging the public (this blog!), new content from our media teams, etc., so our communication should feel different than it did in the past. We hope it feels like a more open and transparent way engage you. Right now, the jumpstart is in these things and we can embrace that.
You, our fanbase, are our top priority, and I understand the push by some to quickly pick a name, I say to you, "We owe it to this fan base and this franchise to do the hard work!" There's a lot of business-y jargon I could throw at you about market analyses and legal hurdles, but that's not what is important. What it really comes down to is including all of our fanbase -- past, present, and future -- in this process. There are a certain percentage of our fans who are very active online, and we hear you loud and clear (Insert fight song remixes and other exuberances here). There's also a large group of our fans who don't regularly participate in our social and digital channels; we need to hear from them, too. So while online polls are an input that we'll use, they're just a small piece of the total picture.
We need to understand why they are important to fans. Are we a deeply environmentally conscious fan base? Are we longing for a simple chant or sound to unify the stadium and make us feel like one? Is preserving "HTTR" as an acronym critically important to connect to our past?
Understanding these things will help us make the best decisions, not just on the name, but also how we design everything around the name from the logo to the fan experience to our charitable portfolio. We are not moving slowly but taking the time to really know you. It's also important to seek out and understand the new fans who we can attract and can bring to the Washington Football household via a new brand.
At our current pace, we hope to have chosen a new name by the middle of next year. While we won't be able to reveal that immediately, choosing the name is just part of the process. For example, let's say we reveal our new name at some point before the beginning of the 2021 season without going through all the detailed design work of a new logo, creating merchandise, and clearing the legal hurdles to secure it all. Not only would that make for a trademarking headache, but it would also be an embarrassing and chaotic launch to what should be a proud and poignant moment for the franchise. And if I've heard one thing consistently from you, it's that you want a professionalized organization, not prone to knee-jerk reactions and making smart business decisions.
So we'll move very quickly, and in the meantime, I'll point you to washingtonjourney.com to make your voice heard. However, we are committed to engaging with you beyond online polls through various means (i.e., virtual focus groups) in the months to come. Just like PFTCommenter gave his pitch when I was on his show, many of you will get to "shoot your shot," too. In preparation for those interactions, there are already several milestones we have reached. We have started putting teams together that are doing market research on our new identity. We are starting to get insightful data that is helping us understand our fans more deeply.
We are off to a good start, but finding a new identity is typically a long process. The Seattle Kraken (super dope name in my opinion!) took four years to launch their brand. It was a two-year process for the Los Angeles Rams to change their logo. We are moving at a quicker pace because we know you want this completed and we do, too. But, at the same time, we want to do right by you, and that does take time.
So yes, we could possibly remain the Washington Football Team in 2021, but I hope you now understand a bit of the "why." I know being patient is not easy, but I promise you this: you won't have to go another season with uncertainty beyond 2021, and if you commit to participating in the journey in the coming months, our identity will be one that we can proudly say is ours.
As I continue to dive into this role, I am realizing there are a lot of changes to be made. We want to turn the organization around as fast as possible, but we also need to pace ourselves. So, I'm trying to set some time aside to spend more time with my family as I've not been present the way I want to. It was recently my son's birthday, and we decided to celebrate by making dirt cup desserts! It was so great to take a break from the fast-paced lifestyle that comes with the NFL season and just enjoy a moment with my family. It was also a great reminder that those chocolate dirt cups look a lot better than they taste...
It's the Bye Week! As the coaches and players rest and evaluate how they can improve the team for the final stretch of the season, I am encouraging everyone on the business side to do the same. We all need to be able to be able recharge and refresh and finish the season strong.