The Richmond training camp represented one of the first real opportunities for the team, coaches, players and fans to all gather in one place since the beginning of the Ron Rivera era in January 2020. With the major changes that surround the rebranding -- the name and logo -- still being kept under wraps until 2022, the 5-day camp in Richmond offered an early glimpse into where the team is headed.
As one of the oldest franchises in the league, Washington has been a rather 'traditional' team for a long time, with very little in the way of uniform updates, and maintaining traditions that date back to the early part of the last century, like the marching band and fight song. In addition, Dan Snyder has been one of the least visible owners in the league for a long time.
What we saw this week in Richmond seems to indicate that things are changing.
First of all, it was great to see Tanya Snyder, newly appointed co-CEO of the franchise, out interacting with the fans in Richmond. She got the microphone in her hand and addressed the crowd to close out fan appreciation day on Saturday, but that was not her first appearance. Tanya Snyder was at camp every day and highly visible. You can see her in the video clip below heaving team souvenirs to the physically-distanced fans. While she couldn't 'mix and mingle' in the current environment, she did what was possible to connect on the larger 'stage', and was successful in a way that simply doesn't seem possible for her husband.
While, like Taylor Heinicke, Mrs. Snyder may not be blessed with the strongest throwing arm, she more than makes up for it with enthusiasm and charisma. Her visibility as the representative of the family that owns the team is both exciting and welcome.
While I've written about Jason Wright already recently, I think it's worth revisiting the energy he brought to the interactions with fans at training camp this week, where he was literally dancing on the sidelines.
The energy and enthusiasm I see from owner Tanya Snyder and team president Jason Wright are so far removed from the demeanor of their 2019 counterparts, Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen, that it's almost stunning to see. This is a franchise that is making a clear effort to not only distance itself from its recent past, but to demonstrate a clear break and a new beginning.
I will say again that, to me at least, this is a welcome and exciting change. It's also, I'm sure, not accidental. There seems to be a clear effort from the owners and executives to build a new level of fan engagement, but also to project a more 'youthful' image for the franchise as a whole that will appeal to younger NFL fans as the team undergoes an overhaul.
Those who were present for 'Fan Appreciation Day' at training camp on Saturday would have gotten the first look at the Washington dance team that was created this year to replace the cheerleaders, who fell victim to the revelations of sexual harassment that surfaced a year ago.
Once again, energy, enthusiasm and youth are clearly on display as the new direction for the franchise. I'm not sure how well this type of change will be received by traditionalists who want to continue to sing the Redskins fight song after every touchdown, but I think this represents at least the correct compass-heading for a franchise that needs to be reinvigorated and is putting a lot of time and effort into getting it right.
Saturday's Fan Appreciation Day even included a bit of live music in the training camp finale that that might connect with those who value the marching band tradition:
The 2021 football season should offer Washington fans a lot to cheer about on the field (assuming the team can keep enough players active to field a team each week) with a stifling defense and a potential big-play offense, but the 2022 offseason that will follow promises to be one that fans will remember as the team introduces its new identity to the world.
I have no idea what the new name will be or what the logo will look like, but based on the past four days of team and fan interaction (insofar as COVID protocols would allow), it appears as if the Washington supporters can look forward to a team identity that will be built around the traditional burgundy & gold colors, but brought into the 21st century. The new-look Washington franchise will be led by Tanya, managed by Jason, coached by Ron, and will enter the scene with music, dancing, energy, enthusiasm and fan engagement. It sounds like it could be a lot of fun!
This revitalized image that is just over the horizon, if paired with success on the field and in the playoffs, promises to be a strong start to the new era of Washington football.
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