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The Washington Redskins and U.S. Foreign Policy

What do the Washington Redskins and President Bush’s foreign policy have in common?

November 27, 2006

What do the Washington Redskins and President Bush's foreign policy have in common?

After the Washington Redskins' trip to the playoffs in 2005 — and with several highly paid off-season acquisitions — the team's fans were abuzz with thoughts of Super Bowl glory for the 2006/07 season. Yet after ten games, the Redskins had won just three.

With such a poor record, there is next to no chance that the team will even advance to the playoffs — much less win the championship.

The Redskins are the most highly valued team in North America, with a worth estimated by Forbes magazine at over $1.4 billion. Despite their losing record on the field, off the field the Redskins are highly profitable, bringing in about $300 million in revenues each year.

Given their financial prowess, the Redskins dominate the off-season acquisition period almost every year. They can afford to pay handsomely for stars in the hopes of bringing a Super Bowl title back to the nation's capital.

And just as the Redskins are spending any sum necessary to realize their dreams of football greatness, the Bush Administration has been putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to its vision for Iraq. In fact, the total cost of the war to date is more than $334 billion — or about $100,000 per minute.

In the eyes of many Americans, the Iraq war is a failure. Yet, the Bush Administration is spending huge amounts of money in an effort to stabilize and secure that country. And the more it spends, the more the war is becoming an even larger disappointment

Similarly, the Redskins spend millions on pricey players — and yet continue to lose. In the last four years, the Redskins have managed just one winning season. Every year it's the same story: More money comes out of owner Daniel Snyder's pockets — and goes into the pockets of players.

Expectations are always high in the Redskins front office, yet it is becoming a recurring theme — spend money, lose games. Both organizations seem unwilling — or unable — to learn from their mistakes. As a result, their goals have sunk straight into the ground.

Along with its penchant for spending, the Bush team shares with the Redskins a tendency to vest trust in veterans who may be well past their prime. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs re-joined the team in 2004, after a 12-year break that began in early 1993 — around the time the first President Bush (George H.W. or Bush 41) left office.

Back then, Gibbs was a big success, leading the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles during his last tenure as head coach — and fans expected victory with Gibbs' return. On his return to the Redskins, Gibbs hired assistant head coach Al Saunders, who now has a 700-page playbook and a new offense in tow. Saunders is not the only old coach on staff. A number of Gibbs' current staff are veterans from the glory years of the 1990s.

Similarly, back in 2002, when President George W. Bush formed his team, he looked to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — veterans of the Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush I administrations.

The one manned the Vice President's office, while the other's task was to whip the Pentagon back into shape after the supposedly overly lax Clinton years.

Experience may be a key factor in choosing leaders, but sometimes you have to know when enough is enough. Just as a new/old playbook has not worked for the Redskins, Rumsfeld's plans have not translated from paper to the battlefield either.

Gibbs and President Bush are also united in their reluctance to make personnel changes. It was only after Democrats took control of both the Senate and House in the November 2006 midterm elections that Bush removed Rumsfeld.

For Gibbs, it took a 27-3 thumping by the Philadelphia Eagles to send Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell to the bench — even though the move had been eagerly anticipated in Washington for a while.

Finally, both President Bush and Mr. Gibbs are deeply religious men who rely on prayer and faith. Indeed, President Bush relied heavily upon his Methodist values and image in the elections in 2000 and 2004, while Joe Gibbs has made it no secret that he is a fundamentalist Christian who sees a role for prayer when it comes to coaching the Redskins.

Yet, with leaders who trust completely in the power of prayer rather than learning from the past, the Redskins and the Bush team have both gotten themselves into big trouble.

What may be most worrisome is that, at this juncture, both the fate of the Redskins and that of U.S. foreign policy — in the eyes of their respective leaders, and intriguingly, the world-at-large — come down to a prayer.