Rich Tandler, whose in-depth reporting, unique insights and kindhearted personality made him one of the most respected reporters and commentators on the Redskins’ beat, died unexpectedly Tuesday night. Tandler, who worked as the NBC Sports Washington Redskins reporter, was 63. No cause of death was announced.
It is a crushing loss for the football community, and anyone who knew Rich – even if just for a short while – was familiar with his warm smile, self-deprecating humor and inimitable way of reaching fans with a folksy personality and sweeping knowledge of the team he had covered since 2004.
“Wednesday was one of the two most surreal days I’ve had at Redskins Park, the other one being the day after Sean Taylor died,” longtime Redskins beat reporter John Keim of ESPN.com and president of the PFWA’s Washington chapter wrote on Facebook. “That time, the players mourned a co-worker and friend. This time, we do. A media room that is often full of life – laughter, chatter – was eerily quiet for most of the day.”
The Redskins will pay tribute to Tandler at Sunday’s game against the Cowboys at FedEx Field, according to senior vice president Tony Wyllie. Tandler’s seat in the press box – Row 1, Seat 15 – will be left vacant.
“We’re devastated to learn of the loss of one of our most loved and valued media members, Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “His dedication to covering the Redskins over the past 14 years has made him an irreplaceable presence among our media corps, and he will be in our hearts.”
Redskins coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Alex Smith both expressed condolences to Tandler’s family at their Wednesday press briefings.
Former Washington Post Redskins beat reporter Mike Jones, now an NFL columnist at USA Today, called Tandler “a remarkable guy. One of the nicest that you would ever meet. He always had a smile, and this this belly laugh that you couldn’t help but crack up at any time you heard it.”
Tandler, vice president of the PFWA’s Washington chapter, took an unconventional path to the Redskins’ press box.
“He spent the majority of his life working in the restaurant industry, and around the time that blogs became popular, he was still running a Panera Bread and started a Redskins fan blog,” Jones said. “He would write his musings and link to articles from various media outlets. He liked crunching numbers, he liked discussing depth chart battles.
“Eventually, Rich managed to turn his hobby into freelance work for Comcast Sportsnet, which is now NBC Sports Washington,” Jones said. “And after a period of time, that grew into a full-time position for him. During the last nine seasons of covering the Redskins full-time, Rich often described his work as ‘living the dream.’”
Tandler became a must-read – and must-watch – for Redskins fans.
“Rich really knew how to build a brand,” Jones said. “The fans loved him. Didn’t matter their age, sex or race. Whenever they saw Rich they wanted to say hello and talk Redskins. And he loved it. He got social media. Even better than a lot of people half his age.”
Keim described Tandler during his initial foray into the media as “a voice of the fan, but he did not act like a fan. He obviously had some things to learn, but he grew in his role and became established. There is room for many voices in the media and Rich’s was heard.”
“Rich was a terrific journalist and a wonderful person, and he will be missed terribly by anyone who knew him,” PFWA president Bob Glauber said. “He was the kind of person who was so easy to be around, and his sense of humor and compassionate personality were off the charts.”
The PFWA extends its deepest condolences to Rich’s family, colleagues and friends. May he rest in peace.