In order for a sports franchise to be successful, it requires a balance between talented players and sufficient management. A disruption in this balance can result in a dysfunctional organization and a lackluster performance by the team. Often times, the result of an unsatisfactory team and organization is incompetent management.
There are some exceptions, for example the 1996 San Antonio Spurs, whose star player, David Robinson, was injured and missed the year. Although the team was led by legendary coach, Gregg Popovich, the team suffered a disappointing season. They went from the second seed in the west the previous year, to among the league’s worst. The team then drafted Tim Duncan, and that franchise returned to its prior level of excellence. This is a special case.
(Note: This article will exclude small market franchises like the Buffalo Bills or LA Chargers, who deal with small budgets)
As the NFL season comes to a close, the storylines continue to pour in from teams searching for answers. While not every team can run as soundly as the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are some teams that just do not get it.
LA Rams’ owner, Stan Kroenke, created nothing but drama for his franchise over the past 12 months by unceremoniously moving the team from St. Louis. He then created a larger buzz when he signed now ex-head coach, Jeff Fisher, to an extension amidst a failed season. Fisher had claimed that his team was “not f****** going 7-9, 8-8, 9-7, or even 10-6 for that matter” (He was right, they went 4-12. Fisher was fired when the team fell to 4-9). Rather than bring in an established voice of leadership, Kroenke hired Sean McVay, a 35 year old ex-coordinator who now holds the title of youngest head coach ever.
The San Francisco 49ers are approaching new levels of inadequate management under Jed York. York’s decision making has been impulsive to say the least. The 49ers, the only team without a head coach currently, are going to hire their fourth head coach in 4 years. This process has been simplified for the 49ers with viable candidates removing themselves from the process (Josh McDaniels). While Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, is mostly likely the replacement there, he would be working under first time GM John Lynch. Yes, the same man who after playing safety for over a decade, took over as a color analyst for NFL on FOX. He has never worked in a front office, but York has given him a 6 year deal because…does anyone really know? In all fairness, the 49ers dealt with the unexpected retirements of Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, among others, but York’s head scratching decisions have made no sense and have derailed a team that is 4 years removed from a super bowl.
Poor management cannot be mentioned without talking about the Cleveland Browns. Their team limped to a 1-15 finish under new head coach Hue Jackson. The Browns have consistently been at the bottom of the league, and just because their owners, Dee and Jimmy Haslam, sent out an apology letter to their season ticket holders, does not mean the dynamics of the team will change. Their drafting has been known to be poor (a quick online search would give you enough of an indicator), but with a plethora of picks and a new coach, the future is somewhat bright.
When it comes to a sports franchise, while the players represent the success of an organization they are not fully accountable. The team can have the best players and the best coaches, but without some competent ownership, they will be destined for failure.
By Charles Goldberg Photo Credit: Getty Images