At a level that strains credulity, frankly.
Over the last couple of years, the team has undergone a sea change on its business side, executives and employees cycling in and out, sometimes for the stated goal of improving the culture of the franchise. Through it all — maddeningly so for many, fans included — owner Daniel Snyder remains, and so does the dysfunction.
How else to explain what happened last week?
No, this time we’re not talking about the vile emails from former team president and general manager Bruce Allen to buddies Jon Gruden and Jeff Pash, or the investigation into the pernicious workplace environment for which the NFL won’t release the findings.
This time we’re talking about the craven use of the memory of a murdered star for WFT’s own gain.
On Sunday, Washington retired the number of beloved safety Sean Taylor, who at just 24 years old was killed in his own home in 2007 by burglars who did not know the Pro Bowler and his family would be there.
But as with nearly everything WFT, it was bungled. To borrow a joke told often on Twitter, there’s a reason so many of us think “WTF” first in nearly any mention of the franchise.
The team announced on Thursday that Taylor’s jersey would be retired on Sunday, just three days later. From that moment, it felt unseemly that Snyder and whoever else is making major decisions there believed a shiny object, in this case the legions of fans and players who adored the hard-hitting Taylor, would distract everyone.
No one pay attention to the mountains of manure piling up around one of the most valuable sports teams on the planet. Look over here! We’re going to honor Sean Taylor!
Of course, current WFT president Jason Wright was pushed out in front of the rightfully angry mob to try to make amends, claiming that the plan had long been to retire Taylor’s jersey during the team’s Week 6 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the team held off on announcing it until 72 hours beforehand because “we thought that saving the news for a game week reveal was the best way to focus the message on Sean and his legacy.”
Wright also wrote that the team “didn’t realize” so many fans would want to travel to FedEx Field for the ceremony. Taylor was killed 14 years ago next month, and he is still spoken of in reverential tones by current and former players and fans alike, not to mention perhaps the most memorable player the team has had in decades. Part of that is because he was clearly special and lost his life before he’d even reached his prime, robbing so many of so much, though no one more than his daughter, who was just a toddler when he died.
There isn’t much to draw fans to FedEx Field these days, to compel them to spend their hard-earned money to watch a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2016 and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. If anything was going to get them out to Landover, it was going to be another chance to honor Taylor.
Yet the team “didn’t realize” that?
Adding to the belief that the whole thing was a stunt to try to curry a smattering of positive headlines after weeks of awful ones, Taylor’s younger brother Gabe told D.C. radio station 106.7 The Fan on Friday that he’d only been told “like four days ago” that WFT was retiring Sean’s number, though he didn’t know how long their father Pedro knew before passing along the news.
Sunday didn’t turn out much better.
Snyder was photographed meeting with Taylor’s family in a hoodie that was two sizes too big, large enough to hide all of the dirt the NFL is helping him keep covered up.
VIPs on the field level were allowed to stand on the burgundy and gold “21” painted on the sidelines. This included Jackson Mahomes, younger brother of Patrick, who did a dance on the number for TikTok.
The retirement ceremony at halftime, if you could call it that, was pitiful for something allegedly planned for weeks. It was also Alumni Weekend for Washington, so after recognizing the former players on hand by decade, the in-stadium announcer read a bit about Taylor as his family stood at midfield around a framed No. 21 jersey.
There was no speech from Snyder. He likely would have been mercilessly booed; an optimist would say he wouldn’t have wanted that sentiment to take away from Taylor’s family’s moment, while a pessimist would say his ego couldn’t handle it. There was no real pomp and circumstance befitting the highest honor any NFL team can bestow on a player.
The one truly touching tribute was a subtle one. Current WFT defensive standout Chase Young taped his facemask the same way Taylor did.
But the piece de resistance, the cherry on the whole craptastic affair? The street sign directing traffic to Sean Taylor Road, the place where Taylor’s family was brought to pose for photos … was in front of a bank of port-a-potties.
Were it not so insulting to the very people you’d brought to the game to see you allegedly celebrate their late loved one, it would be hilarious.
Instead, it’s fitting for the most inept franchise in the NFL.