Mike Rizzo imparts championship wisdom to Redskins

Ben Krimmel
January 30, 2020 - 2:24 pm
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Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo knows something about building a championship team. And while Rizzo is basking in the glow of a World Series title, the Washington Redskins are undergoing yet another organizational reset with head coach Ron Rivera taking over as the main football-decision maker.

What advice would Rizzo have for getting the Redskins back on top?

"You can't be afraid to make big decisions and bold decisions to accomplish big things," Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington's Redskins Talk podcast this week. 

And Rizzo is speaking from experience: He allowed Bryce Harper to walk out the door for a division rival after the 2018 season, a tough call that likely led to the Nats winning a title a few months later.

While Rivera and the Redskins are far from being Super Bowl contenders, the same bravery in decision making applies to a rebuild, something Rizzo said is no easy task.

"It's very difficult. It's more difficult towards the fan base," Rizzo said. "We were honest and upfront (with the fans) and kind of mapped out what our blueprint was for how we were going to develop this thing."

Rizzo credited the organization's commitment to sticking with a blueprint on how to do things for the on-field success. And he added, "When I took over as GM in 2009, we started implementing the plan where we were gonna build from the ground up. And we saw small increments of improvement. We went from 59 wins to 69 wins. From 69 wins to 80 wins. And then we went on our big runs starting in 2012 'til present."

"It happens most powerfully in places that nobody sees," Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington. "It's down at the grassroots."

The elephant in the room for the Redskins is owner Daniel Snyder. Does Snyder have the patience to undertake what could be a long, painful process of retooling a depleted roster? Getting ownership to buy-in is key to the process, Rizzo said.

"Sometimes you have hiccups and take steps sideways or even take steps backwards," he said. "Ownership better be on board, you better have their support, they better have the blueprint in front of them and believe in the dream. And you better have the personnel in the front office and the decision-makers to make sometimes scary decisions."

While the Nats GM said he would be "too humble" to directly tell Rivera what he should do, Rizzo did have one piece of advice for the Redskins new head coach.

"I would say to Ron, format your teams on that '85 Bears championship team that you were on. That was so close to my heart, I'm a Bears fan, born and raised," he said. "You build it with toughness, with depth, and with a sprinkling of superstars that all rise to the occasion. I think to win and to win championships, I think your stars have to be stars at the biggest moments. And this year, our stars were stars at the biggest moments.

"You look at (Juan) Soto's hit against the Brewers, you look at (Ryan Zimmerman's) home run against (Gerrit) Cole in Game 1 of the World Series, you look at back-to-back (Anthony) Rendon and Soto home runs, you look at Howie Kendrick hitting the grand slam against the Dodgers. These are superstar players that were superstars in the moment, at the most important moment."

Rizzo went on to say that "the brighter the lights got, the better that these stars performed and I thought that was the catalyst that brought us to the championship." 

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