Washington Commanders Managing Partner Josh Harris and members of the ownership group addressed the media earlier today. Here are five takeaways from their introductory press conference.
1. He feels a "tremendous" amount of responsibility to the city to deliver a winning product.
Harris grew up during the powerhouse years of the Washington franchise. Some of his best memories are of him walking to RFK, and he spent his days watching the likes of Doug Williams, Darrell Green, Mark Rypien and scores of other Washington Legends.
So, he knows how important the franchise is to the DMV.
"It's hard to imagine, but I've seen the numbers," Harris said. "The Commanders were once the No. 1 franchise in the NFL back when they were the Redskins and even after that. Not the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Commanders."
That will be something he leans on as he goes on the journey to rebuilding the culture, but he also knows that his task will take more than just his appreciation of the franchise to create a winning product.
"This franchise is a part of who I am and who I became," Harris said. "It's part of my DNA, but I appreciate that it's not just about being a fan. I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to this city to win championships, to create a positive impact on the community and create great experiences and memories for future fans like I had growing up as a kid."
Harris knows it will take time to accomplish his goals, but he's willing to put in the work for the franchise he loves.
2. Excellence, dignity, respect and inclusivity.
Harris believes he and his group of partners are up to the task of building a championship franchise, and that work starts today.
In order to do that, he wants to fill the organization with the best, most committed people. They will be found based on a culture that is held up by four principles: Excellence, dignity, respect and inclusivity.
It's an approach that has worked for Harris in the past. As the Managing Partner of the Philadelphia 76ers and the Co-Managing Partner, Vice Chairman, & Alternate Governor of the New Jersey Devils, he has crafted winning franchises that both made playoff appearances in their respective leagues. And in the case of the 76ers, they have consistently found ways to make postseason runs.
Of the four principles, inclusivity is one that Harris emphasized multiple times throughout his press conference. He knows the DMV is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the country, so he wanted to bring in a group of partners, such as Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who have a diverse set of backgrounds that allow them to bring in new ideas and ways of thinking to the organization.
Harris intends to live by these philosophies as he goes about building the culture, and he expects the people he works with to live up to that high standard as well.
"I look forward to working with Jason [Wright] and Ron [Rivera] to create great experiences, to create that culture and to create memories for our fans."
3. He wants to create a better experience for fans.
Winning on the field is one of Harris and his partners' top priorities on the field. They want to win, and they're to do what it takes to do so. They also know that creating a championship caliber is about more than winning on the field. That's why he emphasized improving the gameday experience for the fans.
"We now think of the stadium as our house," Harris said. "So, we have to make it good for people who visit."
The opportunity, Harris added, is unbelievable, and he knows that they will need to invest in the fan experience to make it one that the Washington faithful will love. He aspires to create an experience where fans want to come out and support the team.
"We're going to throw a party every other Sunday," Harris said. "And when you have guests in your house, you treat them well. You don't have couches that are broken. You don't have TVs that aren't working."
The potential for positive returns is high, and so is the work that will be required to reach that standard. As Harris said, they aren't afraid of that challenge.
4. He wants to give back to the community.
Harris and his group of partners have three top priorities in their first days leading the Commanders franchise. We've already discussed two of them -- winning on the field and creating a quality fan experience. The third involves investing in the community, and that's where Johnson is going to spend a good portion of his time.
"We see the winners in the front row, and not only did they win Super Bowls, but they also made the community great," Johnson said.
Johnson promised that he will be hands on with the team's efforts to invest in the DMV, because he wants to invite the fan base to be a part of what the organization is building in Washington. He wants them to get an up close and personal look at the process of creating a championship team.
"We want to give back," Johnson said. "We want to make an impact on this great community that we're doing business in."
5. He's looking forward to the product that Ron Rivera puts on the field.
Harris and many of the other partners leading the Commanders grew up fans of the franchise, and they have seen from afar the kind of product that Rivera has built since being named the head coach in 2020.
From what he has seen, the roster is steadily improving.
"This is a big season," Harris said. "We look forward to learning and watching and seeing what happens. I'm very excited to be spending time with Coach Rivera and his staff and players and understanding what's going on. I'm very supportive right now of what we're doing."
As Washington fans know, there are high expectations for Rivera's squad heading into the 2023 season. They have a young, new quarterback, Sam Howell, who is slated as "QB1" for training camp. There are weapons on offense, and the defense, led by one of the best defensive fronts in football, is projected to improve and be a major strength for the team.
Rivera knows the importance of success in his fourth season, and he believes his team is up for the challenge.
"We have an exciting and young team, hungry to perform for all of our great fans," Rivera said. "Our coaching staff is already hard at work with our rookies and quarterbacks who are reporting today for tomorrow's first practice."