What I Would Do If I Owned the Redskins
It’s been a season of utter dismay for the Redskins and their fans. Like many of us, I had some reasonably high hopes for this team going into the season. I thought we’d be able to compete in the division and for a playoff spot, especially since the Giants looked to regress without ‘Skins-killer Plaxico Burress, the Cowboys replacing T.O. with Roy Williams, which definitely appeared from last season to be a bad mistake, and the Eagles one year older and more brittle. I fully expected the ‘Skins to lose to the Giants in week 1 – Meadowlands is a damn tough place to play, especially early in the season, when defenses are naturally ahead of the offenses. Plus, Campbell and the young wide receivers had another year in the system. They looked good in the first half of the 3rd preseason game against the Patriots, in the one preseason game that “counts the most.” I fully expected to see a 5-1 team preparing to host the Eagles in a critical Monday Night game. Instead, well, the season happened.
Now, at 2-4 that feels like 2-14, the organization is a laughingstock, the “most hopeless franchise in football”, and the provider of endless ridiculous reports and speculations in every pro football media outlet. The team is bringing in consultants like the Bobs at Initech, turning over playcalling duties to a five-years-retired ex-offensive coordinator who rarely called his own plays when he was relevant. All this despite his lack of knowledge of the personnel, the terminology, or the playbook. Why not give the controls to a twelve-year-old Madden player? It has the same chances of success.
Throughout all of this, the owner has remained silent. It’s not unusual, since his policy has been that he doesn’t make public comments while the season is underway. That would be admirable in many owners, demonstrating that the owner believes that the voice and presence of the Washington Redskins belongs to the head coach. What makes it different with Dan Snyder is the fact that, behind his wall of silence, he is absolutely involved with the day-to-day operations of the team. Did Vinny Cerrato bring in a consultant of his own volition? No way. There is speculation that Dan Snyder is the one who ordered Todd Collins into the game against the Chiefs. Others claim that Zorn was thinking of doing it well before then, but the fact that the rumors exist points to the core of the problem: the owner of the Redskins.
If Snyder is going to involve himself this heavily in the team, he needs to be made available for interviews. Period. Jerry Jones is the biggest douchebag in the NFL, and I hate seeing his leering mug on my TV (especially in high-def), but at least the guy is out there, taking questions and dealing with criticism publicly. It makes Synder look like a scheming coward, unwilling to face the music that himself composed.
If I were Dan Snyder, the silence is the first thing I would drop, before I got rid of Zorn or Cerrato or anyone else. I’d make myself available to every media outlet that wanted to ask me questions. I’d take the fire from the fans on talk-radio, I’d answer every question about the direction I’ve led from a once-proud tradition to one that strong-arms its fans to prevent them from wearing paper bags. Snyder is a genius at marketing opportunities, and he’s wasting one. I would not, if I were owner of the Redskins.
Next, I’d commit to Zorn publicly, and stick to it for the season. Same with Cerrato. Let them finish what they started, because blowing it up in the middle of the season won’t get us into the playoffs. I’d allow them to continue their jobs with dignity and professionalism. At the end of the season, I’d thank them, and then I’d fire them. I would then begin a search for an actual general manager, either a previously successful one (like Bill Polian) or one that seems like an up-and-comer (like Polian’s son). I would hire that GM, and task him with a coaching search. I wouldn’t leap for the first Super-Bowl-winning coach that was willing to take my $5-mil-a-year job. I’d let the GM choose the coach and support that choice. I would then use the uncapped year to get rid of the players whose ridiculous contracts keep them tied to the team despite their lack of ability. Next, I would use the draft and free-agency to pick up players that fit the philosophy of the coach, but no matter what, I’d make sure that I had enough money set aside to keep a serious offensive line. Actually, two offensive lines. Injuries are a fact, and all the prayers and hopes for a season mean squat when someone’s ankle gets rolled.
After that, I would let me team compete. I’d use my money and influence to draw the free-agents worth a damn, the second-tier guys that can contribute and don’t require $40 million in guaranteed money. I’d allow the GM to run my team, and I’d sit in my owner’s box and whoop and holler during the game like the ‘Skins-crazed fan that I am, and after every game, not just the wins but the heartbreakers and blowouts too, I’d go to the locker and shake my players’ and coaches’ hands and thank them for their effort that day. I would do things for the fans besides think of additional ways to charge money for their fandom.
I’ve always believed, with a bias I happily admit, that Redskins fans are the greatest in the world. Some of them are insufferable idiots, true, but that’s true of every fanbase. I still believe it. Washington D.C. is an odd city, with a lot of powerful people and an awful lot of the underprivileged. Every time I’ve been there, though, no matter who I meet, there is that bond of fandom. I’ve hugged and high-fived people in suits and people who couldn’t afford a coat after a big win. My most vivid memory of D.C. is walking from the stadium after the first loss of the season, to Dallas at home, in 1991. The crowd was dejected and quiet and sullen as we filed to the Metro stations. As I walked by, a man in a tattered coat standing on some box or other manner of elevated platform yelled out at us, “It don’t matter! We still gonna win the Super Bowl!” I saw a lot of heads jerk up to look at him, and suddenly the people around him, myself included, roared like we’d scored a touchdown. The crowd was buoyant and laughing, infecting the people around us who hadn’t heard the man. I was jazzed enough to give a homeless man a twenty on the way to my car. It didn’t matter. We were still going to win the Super Bowl.
That feeling is, sadly, long gone. Now, I cringe to see what further inanity is coming out of Redskins Park every day. The fans are angry, but even more disturbing, may have begun to simply not care. The players are blaming the media and execution for the offensive ills, which always reminds me of John McKay: asked about the execution of his team, he responded, “I’m all for it.” Redskins fans know exactly what he meant.
It doesn’t mean it’s a hopeless case. Things can change, and in a hurry. If I were the owner of the Redskins, I know exactly what I would do. Would it work? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the direction of the Redskins for the last ten years has unfailingly been the wrong one.