‘Don’t be Dan Snyder’: Local sports management professor outlines how the next Commanders owner should win fans over

The next owner of the Washington Commanders will have a long to-do list, but what should be at the top? A D.C. sports management professor weighs in.

The next owner of the Washington Commanders will have a long to-do list, but what should be at the top?

“The easy answer to that is win, first,” said Matt Winkler, professor and director of the sports analytics and management program at American University, with a laugh.

He said the second item on that to-do list should be, “Don’t be Dan Snyder.”

That name, said Winkler, “is literally triggering” for fans who long for a return to the glory days under coaches such as Joe Gibbs, who led the team to three Super Bowl victories in the 1982, 1987 and 1991 seasons.

Winkler said the next team owner will likely get an initial buy-in from longtime followers of the team.

“Let’s face it, we’ve all been waiting for this day for years,” he said about the possible change in ownership.

But in order to win younger fans, Winkler suggested the reliance on team history and team loyalty may have to shift.

“Millennials and Gen-Z fans are different,” he said. “A lot of them follow the players and not necessarily the team.”

Getting a talented quarterback will be key, said Winkler. “If you don’t get that right, that’s a big problem.”

And getting that talent won’t come cheap. “A good one is $40-50 million now.”

Winkler said that worries that a new owner may plan to carve out a new identity with a name change shouldn’t be the priority now. “They’ve already gone through that.”

Winkler said the team might opt for a uniform change.

“I could see maybe the jerseys being changed a little bit, maybe being a little more old-school … as silly as that sounds,” Winkler said. “It may help everyone reattach themselves to this franchise that has been really lost these last 10-15 years.”

Another issue that new ownership will have to examine is what to do about the home base of the team. The lease for the stadium at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, expires in 2027. And if a move is in the team’s future, finding the right location could be a real challenge.

“Stadiums are different now. They have to be mixed-use entertainment centers 365 days a year, not just eight Sundays a year,” Winkler said.

The selection of a stadium site combines issues of logistics, politics and community buy-in.

“Let’s face it, sometimes you just can’t put a stadium where you want to,” he said.

The first year for the new owner, whoever that may be, will be one of evaluation, according to Winkler. As for the new owner checking off that to-do list, Winkler said coming up with “a consistent, trusted winner is probably number one on that list.”

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