Column: The sobering reality of Redskins’ attendance numbers

July 18, 2019

FedEx Field is less than full during the second half of an NFL football game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

In their glory years, the Washington Redskins ruled the District. From 1981 to 1992, the team advanced to four Super Bowls in a 12-season span and each game was a huge event at charming RFK Stadium.

Now a lost and mediocre franchise, the Redskins play to tens of thousands of empty seats. Anyone who’s been to a ‘Skins home game at the soulless and inconvenient FedEx Field in the last few years is well aware that the patrons supporting the visiting team routinely outnumber the ones wearing burgundy and gold.

If those optics weren’t enough, the point was hammered home last week when a financial site posted a story spelling out how each of America’s four major professional sports leagues has seen a decline in average attendance between 2008 and 2018. Predictably, the Redskins are near the top of the list — fifth, to be exact — with by far the worst dip in the NFL.

What’s surprising is how bad the drop it is, and how quickly it fell. Over the last decade, the Redskins have seen a 31.1 percent decline in average attendance. The next closest NFL team is the Cincinnati Bengals, at 21.4 percent.

As the article points out, the Redskins actually averaged a league-leading 87,000 fans between 2006 and 2008 — right in the heart of the era of the now-infamous obstructed view seats. A decade later, the organization may have finally confessed its lies regarding the fabled waiting list for season tickets, but is still forced to wrap its collective head around this mind-boggling stat:

Washington was the only team that failed to fill at least three-quarters of seats in its stadium in the 2018 season, losing nearly a third of its fans over the past 10 years.

That’s right. Last season alone, the Redskins’ attendance dropped a NFL-worst 19 percent, and anyone who saw their record-low turnout for the regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts realizes that apathy plagues the ‘Skins.

It’s actually rather poetic these damning stats dropped just after the 20-year anniversary of Dan Snyder buying the team because he is by far the most responsible party for slowly eroding a fan base previously among the best in the sport.

Snyder, and more recently his head henchman Bruce Allen, has taken one of the most beloved brands and mismanaged it to the point that there’s nothing even remotely likable about it anymore.

How do you turn off 27,000 people? Go 72-104-1 on the field, and then say you’re “winning off the field” when you sue old ladies, (allegedly) use a man’s demons to fire him for petty reasons, and get rid of the best chance to win back fans. That’s how.

These numbers prove the Redskins’ fan base — what’s left of it — will no longer fall for the organization’s empty promises of hope. They played that card time and time again in different ways with the talent evaluator supreme (McCloughan), Super Bowl-winning coaches (Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan), and electric on-field talents (RG3 and DeSean Jackson). It’s obvious the ‘Skins have completed the transformation from one of the NFL’s best run organizations to its most dysfunctional. Fans can watch trainwrecks on their phones and TVs from the comfort of home for a fraction of the cost.

The unfortunate collateral damage falls upon the players, many of whom don’t deserve to be banished to the NFL’s wasteland. Local product Dwayne Haskins is likely a better quarterback prospect than RG3, and has a ton of reputable QB coaches at his disposal. But does anyone really have the confidence that he’s so ironclad great that he can rise above decades of dysfunction and mismanagement? Considering Griffin was among the 45 players out of the 52 drafted in the Allen era to not last beyond his rookie contract, the chances aren’t so good.

There’s a civic pride attached to having a great football team in town, as ‘Skins fans of a certain age know well. So it’s truly sad to watch one historically bad stewardship completely ruin a franchise to the point that it’s morphed from Washington institution to national embarrassment.

It’s easy to assume this course is irreversible as long as Snyder is at the helm. But if the football gods allowed Jerry Jones to win multiple rings, some competent drafting around a generational Patrick Mahomes-type talent could lift the Redskins to the kind of relevance that could make them must-see again.

The safe money is on the fans of the D.C. area spending their money elsewhere.

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