In the last two years, the Washington Capitals and Washington Mystics have won championships. The Washington Nationals will be playing for one after sweeping the Cardinals.
Both teams encountered set backs and heartbreaks before they won the ultimate prize. For the Capitals, the crushing defeats go all the way back to the 1980s where getting past powers like the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers proved difficult. In the 1990s to 2000s the Pittsburgh Penguins became the ultimate nemesis for the Caps. But, the one thing the Caps could say was, they had a top 3 player in the league in Alexander Ovechkin.
The same could be said for the Mystics. How many times did the likes of Tony Kornheiser mock the Mystics for the Attendance Banners? I’m not saying the jokes weren’t funny, I’m just saying that they were an indictment of where the organization was. What changed? The Mystics leadership built a winner around one of the top players in the league. Elena Delle Donne.
The Washington Nationals have one of the best starting rotations in Major League Baseball led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
That’s the common denominator. It doesn’t matter how the top players get to the organization, it’s that they get there. Whether you draft them (Ovechkin and Strasburg), Trade for them (Delle Donne) or sign them via free agency (Scherzer), talent wins.
The other two teams in the DC Metro area should take heed to this.
The Washington Wizards play in the ultimate player’s league. Talent wins in the NBA. The Wizards have a history of mismanaging their roster and their isn’t a more punitive league than the NBA when you do that. With contracts being guaranteed and the CBA’s complex rules, making mistakes usually hurt you for more than a single season. It’s why top players haven’t chosen Washington as their destination. The city is an attractive NBA city if Ted Leonsis and his management team could get it together. Even if the club was aggressive in getting a star north of market value, they should do such. Once rookie deals expire, it becomes a lot more difficult to keep young players even if you draft well. It’s one of the biggest flaws in the NBA CBA. You draft well and keep those players, then it’s hard to add talent to put out a championship team. Teams are forced to choose whether to keep a young player or use them as an asset to acquire a more established star in the league.
If, and it’s a big if, the Wizards can get this right just once, it could open the floodgates to several winning seasons.
The NFL team has even a bigger advantage. The NFL CBA is structured in a way that teams can get free agents a lot easier than the NBA. Washington has successfully done this under Daniel Snyder. The problem with the team hasn’t been talent acquisition even though they have failed at the quarterback position. The problem has been what has happened once talent has gotten here.
Whether it’s Snyder’s fault, Bruce Allen’s fault, or the fault of whoever the coach is at the time, Washington’s biggest problem is the misuse of talent.
Jay Gruden was fired this week so Washington will be in the head coach search business once again. But, unlike the Wizards, there’s a base of talent that is there. The question is how much has the job been devalued by the reputation of management? If that’s the case, it might be time for Washington to truly go young and hire someone already on the staff. Someone like Kevin O’Connell. Currently, O’Connell is the offensive coordinator. With Gruden gone, there’s a possibility that O’Connell could put more of his stamp on the offense. The last few weeks of the season could be the biggest audition of his career (up to this point).
If the NBA and NFL teams get themselves together, the DC area could rival Boston for the number of legitimate championship contending teams.