Sun Tzu Week 4 (Bye): The View from the Mountain

Archive: Sun Tzu Washington Commanders

Salutations, Shaolin Redskins fans. Today I write from the mountaintop above my village. From these heights I can look down and across my quiet valley and survey the distant battlefields of the past three weeks. The lull in the campaign gives us an opportunity to gain some broader perspective on the Ball Coach’s tenure thus far.


Sun Tzu said:

“Those skilled in war can make themselves invincible but cannot
cause an enemy to be certainly vulnerable.”

We have heard the Ball Coach say it himself: “I don’t pay too much attention to what the other team is doing; we’ve got to concentrate on ourselves and what we’re doing.”

It is good to see the Ball Coach is willing to cede control in this way–it speaks well of his state of mind. Many coaches mouth these words, but few realize the necessity of “letting go of the enemy.” Excessively preparing for a particular enemy causes a team to play outside of themselves, and they are too often lost when the enemy does something unexpected. Instead, they must ground themselves in their own particular game–building it up as a bulwark against which all foes will dash themselves. Let the opposition take care of itself.


Sun Tzu said:

“He whose generals are able and not interfered with by the
sovereign will be victorious.”

At several points in The Art of War, Master Sun Tzu discusses the role a sovereign plays in military campaigns. The above is one of five examples of circumstances in which Sun Tzu believes victory can be predicted.

An ongoing part of the drama of the Redskins in recent years has been the struggles of team owner Daniel M. Snyder, the sovereign for whom Spurrier labors. It is clear that these struggles have their basis in Snyder’s inexperience as an NFL owner. He was too involved with the day-to-day operations of the team in his first years, and then too distant from those operations last year with coach Marty Schottenheimer. This year he is striving to strike a better balance, but is demonstrating his continued concern about too directly affecting the team on the field. It is an encouraging sign. May he take the above lesson to heart!


Sun Tzu said:

“If you say which ruler possesses moral influence, which commander
is the more able, which army obtains the advantages of nature and
the terrain, in which regulations and instructions are better
carried out, which troops are the stronger; which has better
trained officers and men; and which administers rewards and
punishments in a more enlightened manner; I will be able to
forecast which side will be victorious and which defeated.”

This is the tool with which Sun Tzu has equipped us all to judge the outcomes of any contest. Allow me a loose translation:

“If you say which owner works for the good of the team, which coach is more able, which team obtains the advantages of weather and home field, in which discipline and coaches’ instructions are better carried out, which players are stronger; which has better trained coaches and players; and which administers rewards and punishments (discipline) in a more enlightened manner; I will be able to forecast which side will be victorious and which defeated.”

May this calculus then favor our beloved Redskins as they reengage in battle!

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Eric Johnson

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