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Another professional football season ends. And another mediocre year to ponder for the downtrodden Washington Gridlock.

While twelve teams prepare in earnest for upcoming playoff games, team owner William J. (Billy) Wallis III, the Gridlock’s new third generation owner, nervously paces his office. Just eight months ago, his father, William H.P. (Will) Wallis, Jr. unexpectedly passed away. Until last summer, Billy owned and operated a thriving high-tech medical equipment business, independent of his family. Today, and with literally no football management experience, he faces many daunting decisions.

He pressed the intercom button on his desk.  “Are they here yet?”

“Garrett’s here. Hank’s coming up the elevator now.”

Garrett Moore, the team’s General Manager, and Hank Pitts, the President of Football Operations, were meeting with their owner, as they had every year with Billy’s father, to discuss the state of the team. Billy was nervous. As the owner, he knew he had the ultimate say. But these two men knew way more than him about football. And they each had very strong personalities.

“Just send them in when Hank gets here.”

Billy adjusted his tie, sneaking a peak at his reflection in the mirror. He hoped they would take his opinions seriously. He continued pacing around the room, looking upon a replica trophy from their last championship eight years past. So many championships and beloved leaders once defined the Washington franchise. Such a history of respect from the rest of the league for a rich legacy of greatness.

But that legacy was fading, a little bit more with every passing year.

A set of double-doors opened as Garrett and Hank emerged. Garrett, the GM, 6’3”, lean ex-Pro Bowl wide receiver closed the door behind them. Hank, a dead ringer for actor Wilfred Brimley, strode his short, portly frame toward the couch, all but ignoring his boss standing in front of the imposing owner’s desk.

As Garrett took the seat opposite, Billy spoke first. “Alright, you two. Have a seat.” Quickly noting that both men were already seated, he was thrown off, but resolved to stay on the offense.

“Now, I’m just gonna bottom-line it for the both of you. We sucked this season. Plain and simple. Don’t try to spin me that we’re improving…or building something special. From where I sit, we’re building a steaming pile of shit. What’s our next move?”

Hank, fingering a cigar, spoke up quickly. “Easy one. We fire our quarterback.”

“No, no. He’s got things on the right track. He just needs more support.” Garrett Moore had personally championed that veteran free agent signing three years ago. And his support for that choice had never wavered. But today, after another tough season, he appeared defensive.

Billy was still standing. “All right. Hold it. I thought you two were finally gonna get on the same page.” The young owner finally moved behind his father’s well-appointed desk and leaned back into the executive seat with his arms folded behind his head, an amateur attempt at a power move. “Talk through it, you two. I wanna hear this out.”

Hank was gruff. “He’s way too old. And he just doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing.”

Garrett countered quickly, “He’s got more experience than anyone on our team.”

“Yeah, and his kids are older than some of our players.” Hank let out a cackle, then proceeded to light his cigar, unconcerned of the smoke. He and Billy’s father had always enjoyed a nice Padron Panetela during these chats every year. Nothing was going to change.

And now he had his nemesis on the ropes.

“Bill, I will NOT entertain any thought of bringing back our last quarterback. As far as I’m concerned he will never play for a team of mine again.” Garrett grew feisty. “And have you forgotten, when we moved on from him three years ago, he did not go quietly?”

Hank blew a smoke ring into the air. “He got pushed out. He didn’t think it was fair. Hell, a lot of us didn’t think that was right.”

Garret was getting angry. “Hank, it was my call. Once I made it, you and everybody else on this team needed to accept it and move forward. That’s how it works. I don’t report to you, Hank. I…”

“Was it the wrong call? Well, I think the results speak for themselves. Was it your call to make?  Well, that’s debatable, too, but gentlemen, here we are.” Hank stood to tap his ashes on an ad-hoc plate. “And I just gotta say it and I’m glad Billy’s listening to this, but a whole lotta guys on this team are gonna be pretty steamed if your guy stays at quarterback.” He leaned in, for emphasis. “Can’t say what they might do.”

Garrett shot a look of alarm at his boss, then continued the debate.

“Look, the quarterback position is not up for discussion.”

While Garrett talked, Hank stepped behind them to the office mini-bar and poured himself a drink. “Bill can fire me and make a different call, or he can give you my job and you can decide. Now, since that hasn’t happened, let’s talk about other moves we need to make.”

Hank knew Billy didn’t drink. The amber whiskey probably hadn’t been poured from the decanter even once since the day Will passed. This thought seemed to occur to Hank as he took a sip of his drink, then returned fire. “All our opponents know this guy just sucks, so they blitz us on every down. They’re just pouring in on us on every play. We need to build one hell of a wall on that offensive line to protect us, and keep those guys out of our ass. They ruin everything.”

Garrett seemed ready for this tack. “Well, upgrading the offensive line to that degree will really cost us. Why don’t we try and figure out other reasons why they blitz so much? Maybe we can do some different things to keep them from blitzing. And speaking of cost, when your guy ran the offense, we hemorrhaged money, more than at any time before or since. He made himself a lot of money, and largely at the team’s expense.”

Hank was unperturbed.

“He was uniquely qualified to run this team. And the other players would have no problem taking pay cuts to afford him.”

Garrett got up and grabbed a Diet Pepsi from the table, needing something to do to appear at ease. “Hank, a whole lot of people on this team would quit and play for another team if your guy comes back. I’d estimate at least half our players would opt out of their contracts in protest.”

“So let’em leave. Trust me, Bill. I could replace them all tomorrow with the most talented people you’ve ever seen.” Hank smiled wistfully. “All we ever did with my guy was win.”

What about his current legal troubles?” Garrett glanced over at Billy, hopeful this fact might resonate. “Will he even be a free citizen when training camp begins?”

“He didn’t do anything illegal. You know it. Billy here knows it. And all of that shit’s gonna go away once his lawyers get to the truth. Frankly I’ve never seen a guy in this game get such an unfair shake.

Billy squirmed slightly in his seat. “Hank, we had no winning seasons with your guy at quarterback. Zero playoff appearances. When did all this winning you’re talking about with him actually happen?”

Hank took another puff of his cigar.

“Billy, those records are misleading. We actually won most of those games, don’t let those analytics nerds fool ya. Your daddy understood this stuff. I know deep down he was against…”

Billy cut him off. “Garrett, help me understand why you’re so committed to our current quarterback. Frankly, I could say the same thing about him. We lost more than we won these past three years. And this spring there are two QBs that’ll go in the top five in the draft. Why don’t we trade up and…”

“Mr. Wallis, I understand how tempting that may look from where you sit, and I do understand how a lot of fans not in-the-know may want us to do that.” Garrett really wanted to make this point forcefully. “Rookies are hit or miss. They take time to learn a pro offense, the complexities of what we do at this level, the lightning fast speed of this game.” He paused, then finished with a flourish. “I am 100 percent convinced that our current quarterback is our best bet to lead us to another championship, and very soon.”

The new Washington owner appeared contemplative.

“Garrett, in the last game, I could actually see our offensive lineman in the huddle holding him up between plays. He looked utterly confused. Our running back seemed to be calling the plays on the field. Your guy looked like a crumpled cardboard prop.”

“But he inspires his teammates so much. They pull together under him in a unique way.” Garrett sipped the last of his Diet Pepsi. “Sure, he may have lost a step or three, but what he brings to the party as far as team cohesion and experience…you just can’t put a price on that. I don’t trust anybody else, and I don’t think you should either.”

“So, let me get this straight. The two of you are basically telling me that, of all of the talented players out there, the only two leadership options I have available to me as the owner of this franchise are a guy who can barely stand up and a brazen thief who we might have to break out of prison come this fall. Do I have it right? What have I missed?

Garrett spoke first. “Yes, Mr. Wallis. I believe with all my heart in what we’re doing here. We have the right guy already. I wouldn’t complicate this by considering other options. The risks are too high.”

Hank put out his cigar, sensing the meeting was ending.

“Billy, your daddy would know what to do. Time to put your big boy pants on and make the call. You know the right way to go. Make the call, son.”

William J. Wallis III finally stood up and walked with purpose toward the office door, without a word.

Garrett and Hank both rose tentatively. As they followed Billy to the door, Garrett spoke for them both. “It’s a lot to process, sir. We’ll let you sleep on all of this. Give us a call when you…”

“Oh, I’ve made my decision, guys.” Garrett and Hank looked at each other quizzically.

“I’m firing you both, effective immediately. I’ll pick the players myself if I have to. But BOTH of you need to go. Now!”

Devin Householder

Devin is passionate about writing, reading and remaining in emotionally harmful relationships with losing sports teams. He suffers quietly (except on Sundays) with his loving wife and daughter in Rhode Island.

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