I remember the first time that I got into watching professional football (the good old fashioned American kind, thankyouverymuch). It was during the 1991-92 season, and the Redskins amassed a 14-2 record on their way to winning Super Bowl XXVI. The Redskins have always been a part of Washington mythology. But of late, the team has gone from mediocre to crappy to positively Brian Urlacher-unwashed-laundry-hamper-after-a-game disgusting, and back and forth again and again. The Redskins were once a great dynasty; 1992 was their fifth Super Bowl appearance. The closest they’ve ever been since then was a nasty loss in a divisional playoff game to Tampa Bay in 2000. The fact that they even made it that far was a cause for astonishment. It was only about the second or third time since the Super Bowl victory that they made the playoffs.
There can be a number of explanations for such overall crappiness extended over a long period of time. But, as with my other hometown formerly good and currently perpetually unachieving franchise, the Baltimore Orioles, the nasty finger of blame must eventually settle on the ownership. But the Orioles have an advantage here. Though their ownership might be lacksidaisical and generally boneheaded in its decision making, at least it doesn’t try to cruelly squelch any faint glimmer of mediocrity than might try to shine through the tripe. The Redskins, over the past years have had, attached to them at the head, the football shaped lead weight that is owner Daniel Snyder.
Snyder, quite frankly, seems to have no idea how to run a football team, particularly one with as storied a past as the ‘Skins. His mistakes are almost too numerous to list. He kept a dead-in-the-water coach, Norv Turner, around. Turner had an occasional good season, like in 1999-2000, but overall everyone saw that the team wasn’t developing into anything like a coherent unit under his leader. Now we’re on Steve Spurrier, the fourth Redskins coach in less than two years, following the disasterous reigns of Terry Robiskie and Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer proved to be a decent (barely) coach at Kansas City, but just could not make the Redskins work. And now it’s Spurrier’s turn to get kicked in the groin by the Snyder juggernaut. This is Spurrier, who is as about as similar to Schottenheimer as Clorox Bleach is to sulfuric acid.
Supposedly, Spurrier was brought in to liven up the Redskins lackluster Schottenheimerian offense. Guess what? Last Sunday, the Redskins scored three goddamned field goals. I repeat, three field goals. Some high-powered offense that is. Spurrier’s system looked good in preseason, but when the other team actually shows up to play football, it stinks up the joint. The problem is that Snyder maliciously seems to destroy his coaches’ chances for success. He blessed the conservative Schottenheimer with Jeff George as his quarteback, a man over the hill and completely incompatible with Snyder’s philosophy. Is there really any shock that whole situation turned out to be a miserable failure? Things improved once George was sent off packing, but not enough to save last season or Schottenheimer’s job. And, as for now, about the only nice thing one can say about the Redskins Qurterback corps is “Who the hell are these people?” This is not a good thing for Spurriers so-called “fun n’ gun” offense.
The fact of the matter is, Snyder is directly responsible for all these decisions. He fired the very competent Charlie Casserly as GM upon taking control of the team (the same Charlie Casserly that built the Super Bowl champion squad). At various times, Spurrier has amassed teams seemingly consisting solely of unwashed rookies and unknows, and at others, he’s assembled casts of distinguished veterans who ought to win, but don’t because the team lacks unit cohesiveness. The revolving door strategy of coaches and players can’t be good at building any sort of team loyalty or make Washington a very desirable place to work or coach.
Dan Snyder is clearly attempting to become the George Steinbrenner of the NFL. He has the same abrasive management style and the same desire to spend money to ensure a championship team. But Steinbrenner’s strategy, as sell-outish as it may be, at least has one thing going for it it seems to work. The Yankees make the play-offs with monotone regularity. Dan Snyder’s teams, on the other hand, just seem to fall apart at the seams. I think Dan Snyder wants the ‘Skins to win, but his management style leaves much to be desired.