Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
On Twitter: dcsportsbog and PostSports  |  Facebook  |  E-mail alerts: Redskins and Sports  |  RSS

Rating the Redskins' national popularity

(By Erik S. Lesser - AP)

There have been countless stories this year suggesting that Redskins' fans are tuning out on their team, and that the owner is losing his fan base. I've sort of been a part of all this, as has my paper, athough my point has always been that fans are more angry than apathetic. Once apathy sets in, then it's really time to worry, especially for bloggers who make a living by posting the radio transcripts of Redskins' stars.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal story that got me so worked up last week made one of the strongest factual claims along these lines:

A Harris Interactive poll taken in 2003 put the Redskins at No. 6 in the NFL in nationwide popularity. In the most recent poll taken earlier this year, they had fallen to No. 17.

Sounds damning, right? You can see the data here; it's a PDF. The thing is, you could argue that a closer look at that poll actually proves the resiliency of the Skins' fan base more than their current discouragement.

Over the past 10 years, that poll--which asks fans to rate their TWO favorite NFL teams--has seen some dramatic movement among Super Bowl teams. The Rams were 29th in 1999. After appearing in two of the next three Super Bowls, they jumped to 5th. Tampa Bay was 18th in 2002, won the next Super Bowl, and jumped to fourth. The Patriots were 19th in 2003, won the next Super Bowl, and jumped to third. The Seahawks were 24th in 2005, appeared in the next Super Bowl, and jumped to 12th.

And it works the other way, too. The Oakland Raiders were third after appearing in the 2002 Super Bowl--the third-most popular team in the country--and have since plummeted to 21st. The Bucs haven't cracked the top 10 since winning that Super Bowl. The Rams haven't been in the top 10 since their last Super Bowl appearance, and have now bottomed out at 30th.

Even the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers, they of the "best fans in the NFL, no bandwagon here, we love our guys through thick and thin" rhetoric have proved susceptible to the whims of wins and losses. Pittsburgh has had one losing season in the past decade, going 6-10 in 2003. The next fall, they rated a pedestrian 15th in nationwide popularity, before jumping to 3rd after a bounce-back 15-1 campaign under rookie QB Ben Roethlisberger.

Now, were all of these franchises "losing their fans" in some metaphysical way during the bad years, and then "experiencing an almost mystical connection with their fans" when they happened to be good? That seems iffy. Sure, a sustained period of excellence can attract a stable national following; the Colts and Patriots have each spent five straight years in the top 10, and could likely stay there through some mediocre times. Still, this is the general point: if you're good, people will like you, and if you're bad, they won't.

Which brings us back to the Redskins. Here are the teams that have not once been ranked outside the top 20 in popularity over the past decade: Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New England, Green Bay, New York Giants, San Francisco, Denver, Miami, Washington. (Two of the years are missing in the data provided, so I'm just working with what we're given.)

So, which of those teams have gone the longest without appearing in a Super Bowl? Miami, and then Washington.

In other words, in a league in which nationwide popularity can swing wildly based on won-loss records, the Redskins and Dolphins have managed to sustain at least respectable levels of popularity despite a decade of dormancy. While other "fan bases" have shot up and then disappeared, Washington and Miami have maintained substantial national support in the face of on-field mediocrity. That shows fan bases that aren't going anywhere. That's something to be praised, not mocked. That's another way to spin these numbers.

(The Skins' national ranking has been as high as 6th in 2003, when they were coming off a 7-9 year, and as low as 16th in 2006, when they were coming off a 10-6 year. Those are bizarre figures that don't seem to reflect win-loss popularity. Mostly, the Skins have ranked in the 8-12 range.)

(If you want a more depressing view of things, for six straight years the Redskins have ranked last in the NFC East in nationwide popularity. Over that span, the Cowboys have ranked first or second in the league every single year. America's Team, indeed. Talk about being resilient in the face of failure.)

And in case you think I'm just mumbling about numbers here, Sports Business Journal this week published a team-by-team list of primetime NFL viewership since 2006. (See it here.) I'm gonna throw out the Chiefs, who made only one primetime appearance in that span and thus have no real sample size.

So disregarding Kansas City, the top 10 ratings were drawn by Dallas, Indianapolis, the Giants, Chicago, New England, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Washington and Miami. Which of these teams have the longest Super Bowl droughts? Yup, it's Washington and Miami again.

I've relentlessly criticized Skins COO David Donovan for saying that fan behavior hasn't changed, and I still think he was wrong: fans right now are angrier than they've been in years. But the point he was trying to make was that fans aren't showing signs of abandoning ship. Guess we'll have to wait for next year's data to say for sure.

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Redskins  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Local Poll Week II: The Obama effect
Next: Mike Wise meets Obama, Part II


I came across an online community for individual seeking interracial love. It is --Mixedmingle dot com--- All singles there are seeking interracial relationships. Interracial is not a problem here, but a great merit to cherish!

Posted by: sallyworking2006 | December 1, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I cherrish how the relatives from around the country, over the holidays, poke fun at the skins' woes. -it's become a tradition over the past decade.

WAY TO GO DAN SNYDER, u lil'-ego-man!

Posted by: Max231 | December 1, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

Steinz I'm starting to feel apathetic ,but only for the Skins chances this season.
once we go on our off season winning streak I will convince myself that we are super bowl bound in 2010!

Posted by: jonthefisherman | December 1, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

Nice analysis Steinz. However, I'm def apathetic about the Saints game because I'm pretty sure the Saints beat both the Patriots and the Redskins last night. I'll be there Sunday, but my health can't afford another week of deep depression due to a Skins letdown.

Posted by: jtheisman | December 1, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I think Steinberg is right, fans are angry as opposed to being apathetic. If and when the Redskins start winning, everyone will forget about the horrible leadership of Dan Snyder and all of his numerous mistakes will be forgiven.

How do I know this? Do you remember the last baseball strike when every fan questions said he/she will NEVER attend another baseball game because they don't want to support a bunch of millionaires?

Well guess what happened since the strike ended. That's right, Major League Baseball set numerous attendance and revenue records.

Posted by: rtbt | December 1, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Let me clarify for you, Steinberg: Daniel Snyder is worthless. He has no idea what he is doing.

I will always have a passing interest in the Skins as they are my football team.

But, they will be worthless under Snyder forever.

No need for fake, positive, butt-kissing PR......

Posted by: CF11555 | December 1, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

I completely agree with CF11555 in that Dan Snyder is one of the worst owners in the NFL. He is as bad as it gets.

However, even though Redskins fans are angry and continue to vent their anger towards Snyder, and justifiably so, they are extremely fickle and they will once again embrace the team if and when the Redskins start winning.

And let me add, I don't see any boycotts of Redskin games and/or their merchandise. The fan base continues to pour money into the franchise.

Posted by: rtbt | December 1, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Well guess what happened since the strike ended. That's right, Major League Baseball set numerous attendance and revenue records.

Posted by: rtbt | December 1, 2009 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Only quibble I have with that: The fans didn't come back immediately. It took a couple of seasons of steroid induced home run smacking to bring them back. But your point is well taken.

Posted by: walkdwalk | December 1, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Worthless analysis. I've been a Redskin fan all my life and I'm 50 years old. I love the Redskins as a team. I can't stand the owner and some of the players he is responsable for bringing to and playing for this team. Enough with trying to defend anything $nyder!!!


Posted by: hessone | December 1, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Just more confirmation that the Washington Post either has a axe to grind or they are just capatilizing off the predicted suckiness of the team and wired structure of management......

Posted by: 4thFloor | December 1, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

If someone had questioned me for that poll I would have said the Redskins were my favorite team. That does not mean that I have spent one cent on merchandise or tickets. That does not mean that I have watched more than a few minutes of any games this season.

In short. Don't confuse fan-base size with fan-base devotion.

I will never root for any other team -- no matter what happens with Dan Snyder. That does not mean I will actively support his team as long as Snyder continues to alienate me with his embarrassing tactics off the field and putrid performances on the field.

What good does it do Snyder if he has one of the top-10 most popular franchises if no one supports the team?

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | December 1, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse


Picky point but the Eagles have had the longest Super Bowl drought of all the teams mentioned. Their trophy case is still empty.

Posted by: SBXVII | December 1, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I think using the nationwide popularity metric to evaluate the fanbase is a little misleading. Every team has their bandwagon fans who may come and go depending on the fortunes of the team, but it's that core 500,000-1 million folks that really represent the fanbase. That core group is rock-solid for teams like Pittsburgh and travels well.
It used to be that way with the Skins, but even if you root for a team the intensity of the connection has certainly declined for many of us. Do I love the Skins? Yes. Are they my fav team? Yes. Do have as much of a connection to them now as I did ten years ago? No. Will I pay for NFL Direct to see them play here in Atlanta? No. Will I buy Skins gear? No. Will I blog about all the hijinks of boy blunder till I'm blue in the face? You betcha.

Posted by: minorthread | December 1, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the tv ratings, 7 of the Redskins 10 games have been played against teams ahead of them in the ratings rankings. Two games vs Dallas, 3 vs. the Giants, 1 vs. Philly, and 1 vs. Pittsburgh. They also had two games vs. the 12th ranked Vikings. They're only game against a team with low ratings is Baltimore who ranks 22nd.

For the most part, I'd guess primetime involve those top 10 teams playing eachother. So, a little more analysis might be needed to really know if people are tuning into the Redskins, the Redskins opponent, or a combination of both.

Posted by: James74 | December 1, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

What's the point Steiner?

Football is a once a week "event", X 4 months. Win or lose its compelling viewing, its easy to follow, and Skins fans will buy the tickets and continue to feed the beast. If it was the only thing for roughly 2 generations locally what would you expect?

Try analyzing the same data points for MLB/NHL/NBA and you will probably find the same results.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | December 1, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse


He said appearing in a Super Bowl. Not necessarily winning one.

Posted by: ts35 | December 1, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse redskins fan are fair weather sheep who know nothing about football....what is your point again?

Posted by: smc635 | December 1, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

You raise good points James74, and market size might also be a factor.

The flip side of your argument though is that the notable teams that the Skins are ahead of in those stats are likely also playing against teams in the top 10 of that list. Certainly a good portion of the Chargers, Jets, Ravens and Broncos appearances in prime time have been against teams like the Colts, Pats, Dolphins and Steelers. Trying to find the schedule info to confirm.

Posted by: ts35 | December 1, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

If I were the Redskin’s GM for a day, I would bite the bullet and do what needs to be done this off season.

1. Admit Zorn and his west coast offense is not suited for existing personnel, thus, Zorn must be let go;
2. Admit Cerrato is not a good judge of talent, thus, Cerrato must be let go;
3. Admit the free agency strategy isn’t working, thus, focus on drafting and developing young talent;
4. Hire an established GM and let him run the show, thus, Snyder must stay out of football decisions from this point forward;
5. Allow the new GM to select and hire the next head coach;
6. Trade Portis for draft picks;
7. Resign Campbell to a cap-friendly contract and hope the next offensive scheme fits his skill set;
8. Trade the likely #6 2010 round 1 draft pick for a late round 1 pick plus extra R2 and R3 draft picks and take Colt McCoy and all the OL you can get;
9. Focus on rebuilding the trenches which wins Super Bowls these days; and
10. Fans agree to give the Redskins a pass while they rebuild (as long as they play hard) for the next two seasons.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | December 1, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I think you are wrong. Myself and the other 9 former season ticket holders in my neighborhood all cancelled. We were all outside doing yardwork while the game was on. And I mean ALL of us. It is apathy. We just don't care anymore and snyder is the reason.

Posted by: lp_lodestar | December 1, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse


Of this season, I can say this: It's the first time in 30 years that I haven't bought even ONE item with a Redskins Logo, nor will I until I see the team run properly.

Posted by: Redskinrex | December 1, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Fans I know are definitely spread out across a wide-range from out of touch optimists to being done with the team, but most that I run across are still fans of the team and just hate the Danny and Vinny. If both those guys were gone tomorrow, I think even fans now who are apathetic would come back to the team. That speaks to their inherent popularity being currently muted by circumstance, as opposed to places like Los Angeles where even when they have a team, they really don't care.

Posted by: ts35 | December 1, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

As a huge Redskins fan, I am always looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, lately the light has been a train of NFC East opponents that mow us down. I do not feed the beast by going to games or getting decked out in Redskins gear. No need, the Redskins are wildly profitable without my $$. Now I am not a big Snyder fan and absolutely hate some of the stuff he has done in the name of ego and money grubbing, but worst owner in the NFL? I don't think so. The one thing I cannot criticize is that he wants to win and puts up the cash (albeit misguided)to bring in players. Think about if we had a Bidwell type owner that squeezed every dime. They funny thing is that 2010 as an uncapped year may play right into Napoleons hands. The campaign should start after the last game of this season. "IT'S NOW OR NEVER" to see if you really can buy a Superbowl Championship.

Posted by: Eradicator | December 1, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Jim Zorn and his quarterback Campbell, can both catch valuable lessons this week from their opposing counter backs ,as they welcome the Saints, I must profess this wont be much of a game in terms of level of competition but these two afore mentioned bozos could see how coaching and quarterbacking is done at this level from their very close viewing ponit on the sideline .

Posted by: zimife1999 | December 1, 2009 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Who knows what the Saints game will result in. There were numerous people saying that Denver, Dallas, and Philly would slaughter the Skins and it didn't happen...Oddly enough I see improvement in the total Redskin team albeit being run by a former bingo caller, second string players and the such.

The offensive system does not suit JC or the rest of the players. Frankly, I don't like it so whether it suited them or not, I've never been a fan of the WC system. If that means getting rid of Zorn so be it. Right now he is too green to be calling HC duties, plus when he was first hired it was for the OC spot...and I wonder what GM thought of that idea????...hire an OC before the HC...

Posted by: impact32 | December 1, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse


I am generally with you, that you can never predict what will happen in a game, but I think it's a pretty safe bet that the Saints are going to put a hurting on us.

First, we could hope that the Saints would have some sort of let down coming off a big win against the Pats. But given that it will be Gregg Williams' first regular season game against the Skins, somehow I think he's going to be a little motivated this week.

Second, since we have an inexperienced and inconsistent offensive line and a QB who is a little gunshy at the moment, safe to say that Gregg is going to have more than a few of his specialty blitzes in the game plan. He confused Tom Brady last night....

Third, our secondary is injured and very inconsistent, with a penchant for letting WRs get behind them. Safe to say that Brees is going to be able to find some guys open to throw to this week.

Again, you never say never, and I wouldn't expect another 52-7 shellacking a la the Pats a couple of years ago, but I'm not holding out hope for a competitive game either.

And I believe the name of the GM you are looking for who hired an OC before his HC would be Jerry Jones.

Posted by: ts35 | December 1, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

"I've sort of been a part of all this, as has my paper, athough my point has always been that fans are more angry than apathetic. Once apathy sets in, then it's really time to worry"

Very true, Dan. I moved to Oakland this year and I've been to a couple Raiders games in the half-empty Coliseum (and I'll be there for 'Skins/Raiders in 2 weeks), so I've seen apathy up close. Aside from a few die-hard fans, nobody cares.

The Raiders and the Redskins have similar problems -- starting with meddling, inept ownership -- but Raiders fans have been dealing with it for a lot longer, and they've long since gotten over being angry. They just don't care anymore. Danny should pay attention to that.

Posted by: js_edit | December 1, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Steinz on this, this demonstrates how unbelievably resilliant the Redskins fan base is inspite of two decades of losing.

The Redskins have not just been bad recently. They have fielded maybe two and one half teams in the past 20 years that could even remotely be considered "good". They have exactly two playoff victories since 1991, and one home playoff game. At the same time, especially in the past 10 years, the Redskins management has continuously made the team the subject of national embarrassment.

In spite of all of this, the team maintains an above average national presence. If Dan could just get his head out of his "behind" and take the necessary steps to build a decent team, the numbers imply that the Redskins would have a national presence comparable to what the Steelers experience now.

Why couldn't he have just bought a team like the Jaguars that have a much better two decade record and yet absolutely noone cares about?

Posted by: jbanks979 | December 1, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

So, Steinberg, all of your blustering about "behavior change" was all a bunch of crap. let's see, team bad = angry fans. what? you're kidding?

Behavior change is not coming to the games and as you know, fans came to the games.

It's nice of you to admit defeat though.

Posted by: popopo | December 1, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

So, Steinberg, all of your blustering about "behavior change" was all a bunch of crap. let's see, team bad = angry fans. what? you're kidding?

Behavior change is not coming to the games and as you know, fans came to the games.

It's nice of you to admit defeat though.
Posted by: popopo

Wow dude,

Way to completely miss the point of what he said. Steinz has been presenting pictorial examples of behavior change THIS YEAR. This post was about how amazingly resilient the fan base has been up to this point despite 20 years of mostly crap.

It's good to read before posting....
Knowing is half the battle!

Posted by: jbanks979 | December 1, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: vexed50verizonnet | December 1, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Intense caring in the face of complete frustration with one's lack of influence is not sustainable. Snyder has simply worn people out. For all their urging him to sell, fire Vinny, get out of the way, etc., he has continued to do exactly whatever he wants to do. At some point, fans admit defeat: "We can't influence him at all." At that point, they have to stop caring in order to dial back the frustration. Everyone has their limit; every day, more reach it. At some point, it will reach a critical mass or tipping point, and begin being translated into empty seats and unsold merchandise. Unfortunately, at that point it's likely irrevocable and we'll end up with, as one poster said earlier, the Oakland Raiders under the truly pathetic Al Davis.

Posted by: salescoach | December 2, 2009 3:38 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: jbanks979 Steinz has been presenting pictorial examples of behavior change THIS YEAR...

sorry, behavior change is when people stop showing up at the stadium. People continued to fill the stadium, so NO behavior change.

thanks for failing jbanks979

Posted by: popopo | December 2, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company