At present, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder seems to be hell-bent on becoming the most hated man in the NFL.
Since buying the team in 1999, some people have almost been gleeful as the young, successful owner failed to bring Washington a championship. When something bad happens to the Redskins, most people will say, "It couldn't have happened to a nicer owner." In a world where Jerry Jones, Mike Brown and Al Davis have done more overall damage to their football teams, Snyder stands out as the single most hated owner there is.
Likewise, Redskins fans have developed an almost singular hatred for Snyder. Fans seemingly can't agree on much, but the one thing they can agree on is that Snyder is the devil incarnate. In their mind, Snyder has taken one of the most storied franchises in NFL history and tanked it under horrible draft choices and big-name free agents. He is frequently accused of building his team like a fantasy football team. His former stooge Vinny Cerrato is seen as an even bigger representation of what's been wrong with the team.
Recently, Snyder has drawn the ire of more people than ever as he seeks to sue a local newspaper for an article that was published about him. While Snyder claims the suit is less about him and more about elements of the article being anti-Semitic and his wife being portrayed in a less than flattering light, people see it as yet another abuse of Snyder' money and a bruise to his ego.
To all this I say...wait a minute.
I agree that Snyder's tenure as owner has been less than satisfying. In fact, it has been more or less abominable.
But let's get to the real issue here; Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. While it hasn't been 12 years of sunshine and roses, the Redskins left their glory days behind way before Snyder even began to think about purchasing the football team.
Immediately after Joe Gibbs' first retirement in 1993, the Redskins hired Rich Petitibon and went 4-12, just a year removed from a playoff appearance and two from winning the Super Bowl.
People tend to talk about current San Diego Chargers head coach and former Redskins head coach Norv Turner with some sort of weird nostalgia, as if things were going so well with Turner as the team's head coach. Turner released Super Bowl-winning quarterback Mark Rypien and drafted Heath Shuler, largely regarded as one of the biggest busts in NFL draft history. In Norv's first year, the Redskins went 3-13. The next year, it got no better, as the Redskins went 6-10.
In Turner's four-year tenure as the Washington Redskins head coach, the Redskins only made one playoff appearance, in which they were booted in the divisional round.
The Redskins were a bad football before Snyder got to town.
Things certainly didn't get better with Snyder as owner, but the notion that he ruined what was once great is patently false. He took over a team that had long since become a losing organization.
Others will talk about the fact that Snyder fired Marty Schottenheimer and should have allowed him to build the football team before firing him. I tend to agree with that, but one has to remember; the Redskins went 0-5 in five straight games for the Redskins in 2001. These were not small losses either; the Redskins had four straight blowouts before finally having a close game with the Cowboys (that they still lost). The 'Skins finished the season 8-8, but Marty's season was firmly at 7-6 when he was fired.
Steve Spurrier's tenure with the football team is looked at as all sorts of moronic and a complete and utter failure, but looking at the scores tells a different story; the Redskins lost seven games in his second season by a touchdown or less. A 5-11 season could've easily been 12-4 if the ball bounced another way.
And while Joe Gibbs' second run is talked about now as a failure and a pathetic attempt to relive the "glory days," the team did make the playoffs in two of those years.
People also look at the Zorn years as a colossal failure...but the Redskins did start the 2008 season with a stretch of four straight wins, and yet again, they lost five games by a touchdown or less. In 2009, they went 4-12, but lost seven games by a touchdown or less.
I know. It doesn't matter how much you lose by; it just matters that you lose. In the minds of many fans, all they want is another Lombardi Trophy. In their estimation, Snyder had his turn at the wheel, and failed.
Snyder is no saint. Far from it, to be honest. But he's not quite the villain everyone wants to make him out to be. He is an owner that cares about his football team. Maybe too much so. Maybe he was too much of a fan that he forgot how to be an owner.
I have to ask, though; would any of us be different?
Even now, as time winds down for owners and players to come to terms in a new collective bargaining agreement, I hear people talking about the free-agent acquisitions the 'Skins should target. These are not cheap names; Nnamdi Asomugha and Sidney Rice and even Mike Sims-Walker would command big paychecks. Names like Julio Jones and Cam Newton potentially have big upside but have equally as much bust potential.
Snyder is not like other owners. It seems that, after last year's 4-12 debacle, he really sat down and started to think about what direction he wanted to take the team. He started thinking like an owner and not a football fan. He had no say in personnel matters. He had every opportunity to speak out in anger over head coach Mike Shanahan's handling of Haynesworth, and more importantly, Donovan McNabb, but he didn't.
He kept his mouth shut. And even when he kept his mouth shut, people still cursed his name.
"This is all Snyder's fault for hiring Shanahan in the first place!" people kvetched. They blamed Snyder for hiring a hard-nosed, no-nonsense head coach a year after bashing Snyder for hiring a head coach who had no power and no spine.
Dan Snyder cannot win. And it's getting old. I am not about to launch a Dan Snyder fan club anytime soon, but when are we going to cut the guy a break?
I know, I know. "We'll cut him a break when he wins us a Super Bowl!"
Super Bowls are not easy to win. Everything Dan Snyder has done, no matter how insipid, how stupid or how misguided, has been to win the Redskins a Super Bowl. His over-the-hill "Dream Team" that included the likes of Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith—he didn't do that just because he liked those guys. He did it to win a Super Bowl.
Every big-name, free-agent signing, every draft choice, has been with the singular objective of the 'Skins getting to a Super Bowl. And perhaps that's the real problem; maybe Snyder and us fans are so obsessed with the desire to win a fourth Vince Lombardi Trophy that we are all shortsighted.
We do not see what it takes to build a Super Bowl team. Oh sure, it's easy to say we should build a team like the Patriots, Steelers or the Packers. But does anyone really know what the means? That means losing.
Drafting players means they need time to grow. Are we going to be so forgiving of the youth on our football team when they blow a big play downfield because they're still learning?
Or will we demand they get benched, that the defensive coordinator be fired and that Snyder open up his wallet for whatever big-name guy who happens to be floating in the ether.
This is a football team that has dealt with a lot of adversity, not just since Snyder became owner, but since Joe Gibbs left the building the first time. It has been a perpetual struggle, but it's not easy, and it won't be easy to build a Super Bowl contender.
But rather than building, it seems fans are content to blame Snyder for everything.
The culture needs to change in Redskins Nation. The owner, at least on the surface, has begun to turn a corner. His lawsuit against a newspaper has little to do with the Redskins, so get over it.
It's time to face a stiff, hard reality check. Building a Super Bowl team is not easy, and the 'Skins are only now starting to turn things around. It won't happen overnight.
The question isn't whether or not Snyder deserves to be owner. That's a question that can be debated endlessly. The real question is can the fans be patient enough during the rebuilding process so that Snyder doesn't feel the need to resort back to his old ways again.
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