Has Washington Commanders' majority partner Josh Harris finally begun turning the wheels of change following his first football-related hire?
Josh Harris is a patient man when it comes to his sports franchises. When the new ownership group finally wrestled the Washington Commanders from Dan Snyder's grasp for $6.05 billion, a period of assessment was always going to transpire as they learned the football side of things and focused their attention on improving fan experience quickly with the season just a few short weeks away.
Harris and his team of wealthy benefactors have done some tremendous good behind the scenes in a relatively short space of time. FedEx Field is getting the mini-makeover desperately needed, with their primary objective of a new stadium site still in the pipeline as discussions with various state officials continue.
It hasn't been as prosperous on the field.
The Commanders got off to a good start, but four losses in their last five isn't the greatest look for head coach Ron Rivera. They also have the daunting task of trying to overcome the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend in front of another sold-out crowd at FedEx Field.
Rivera's job is under the biggest microscope imaginable right now. Harris is reportedly willing to let things play out before turning to any drastic measures in-season, but the billionaire has already set the wheels of change in motion with his first notable hire to football operations this week.
Commanders owner Josh Harris makes first big football hire
The Commanders confirmed that Eugene Shen will join the franchise early next month as their new senior vice president of football strategy. He is highly respected in the analytics world and brings bags of NFL experience to Washington having worked previously for the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Rivera made the statement following the hire via John Keim of ESPN. But this appointment has Harris' fingerprints all over it looking at how highly he values the analytical side of his other sports teams.
"Bringing Eugene's level of expertise to lead our analytics and software development enables us to build on our data capabilities to help inform decision-making. Eugene brings a great deal of practical NFL experience, and we look forward to bringing him into our conversations about the vision of our team going forward. The willingness of our ownership group to follow through on their pledge to allocate resources to data and analytics is exciting for the future of the franchise."- Ron Rivera via ESPN
While this is sure to help Rivera during his planning once Shen gets into the building, it does nothing to alter the notion that landmark alterations to the Commanders' football infrastructure are coming at some stage.
Confidence is waning in the coach's ability to lead this team. With a gauntlet of difficult opponents down the stretch, all signs point to Harris going in a different direction once Washington is formally eliminated from playoff contention.
This might be a small hire in the grand scheme of things. But it's a sign that Harris and his ownership group are feeling more confident about involving themselves on the football operation side.
That's bad news for Rivera unless significant improvements aren't made over the next 10 games.