In 1999, a life-long football fan realized a childhood dream by purchasing his favorite team.
Dan Snyder, who was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs just outside of Washington D.C., was just 33 years old when he became the owner of the Washington Redskins.
He has become a polarizing figure since then. Redskins Nation knows Snyder is a real Redskins fan who is hell-bent on seeing his team win titles, willing to do whatever it takes to reach those heights.
Yet he has also ostracized himself by moves like confining tailgating and charging fans for wanting to do so. Moves that took a team once ranked as the sixth-most popular NFL team in 2003 to 17th since 2009, according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal.
Despite a famous waiting list for season tickets that numbers over 200,000 people, he sued season ticket holders who had not yet paid because of the hard economic times the country has been in. Actions looked upon as betrayal by one of their own.
It hasn't helped Snyder, who has long admitted he knows nothing about the intricacies about football, has had his teams go 86-106 since his purchase. The Redskins have had just three winning seasons in his regime.
His naivety to the game saw Snyder hire Vinny Cerrato, a guy he thought was a disciple of Hall of Famer Bill Walsh and had learned how to build a winning team. In retrospect, it appears Cerrato learned nothing from Walsh and bamboozled Snyder.
When Cerrato was hired in 1999, he mortgaged the future of the franchise by bringing in old players like Irving Fryar, Jeff George, Mark Carrier, and a pair of Hall of Famers named Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders. His first two draft picks were Champ Bailey and Jon Jansen.
While only Smith helped the team from the free agents group, Bailey and Jansen both helped the Redskins for many years. Bailey, who appears that he will one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, gave Washington four Pro Bowl years in five seasons before being traded for running back Clinton Portis in 2004.
While many of Cerrato's draft picks played in the NFL, his trading away draft picks for old players infuriated fans. Especially in the aftermath, where the Redskins got next to nothing in return.
The Redskins had four years where they had five or few draft picks in the Cerrato Era. They headed into the 2011 NFL Draft with a team desperately needing bodies, but with only seven draft choices to accomplish this.
It was a different draft day for the Redskins in 2011. A draft not seen by the team since the days of Bobby Beathard, the great Redskins general manager who helped build teams that went to four Super Bowls in a 10 years.
Snyder had tired of hearing about the incompetence of Cerrato. He had tried to quell it by banning fans from bringing signs into the Redskins home stadium, and even bought several radio stations that were managed in a heavy-handed manner by Snyder to prevent negative talk about his organization.
He announced Cerrato resigned at the end of the 2009 season, but being fired is more of an apt term for Cerrato. He had already been fired for one year in 2000 before coming back to seemingly systematically destroy the Redskins for revenge.
Bruce Allen was hired as general manager after Cerrato departed. The son of Redskins Hall of Fame coach George Allen, he is the eight general manager of a team that has been in the NFL since 1932.
He follows in the footsteps of such Hall of Famers like Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi, and his own father. Allen had won the George Young Executive of the Year Award with the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and had been the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2004 to 2008.
Not only was he blessed to have learned from his dad, but he also got mentored by Hall of Famer Al Davis. After gaging his team during a frustrating 2010 season, Allen had a plan for the Redskins in the 2011 NFL Draft.
He works side by side with head coach Mike Shanahan, yet Allen pulled off a series of draft day moves that would have made Bill Belichick smile. Belichick, the master of wheeling and dealing on draft day, now has some company in that area with Allen.
Trading down from the get go, the Redskins went from seven draft choices to 12. It was as if the team took a time machine back to the 12-round draft days of Beathard and Charley Casserly.
It was a draft day Redskins fans deserved after having suffered for too many years to want to count. The team desperately needed this, even if the possibility of having to cut draft picks in training camp occurs.
It was an infusion of not just competence, but expertise. For all of the verbal lashings Dan Snyder has taken since 1999, this is the time to pat him on the back for getting Bruce Allen and giving the team a chance to finally turn things around.
Now if we could only get Snyder not to confine nor charge fans for tailgating and be more of a fan than owner on this issue.
Here is a brief break down of the Redskins draft, followed by a grade.
Ryan Kerrigan, Outside Linebacker
After watching the Tennessee Titans shock people by reaching on quarterback Jake Locker, there was more available talent available than expected. Yet The Redskins were intent on getting bodies, and it appears they were not high on Blaine Gabbert.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were high on the quarterback, so the teams pulled off a trade that saw the Redskins switch slots in the first round while picking up another draft pick that they would later trade for more selections.
Kerrigan goes were most draft experts had him. He is your classic overachiever who never quits on a play. He is also a pleasure to have in the locker room.
While he should see time at strong side linebacker, I imagine both he and Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo will put a hand in the dirt on obvious passing downs. Like Orakpo, the only pass defense Kerrigan will offer is rushing the passer.
After a season of drama from Albert Haynesworth in 2010, veterans will enjoy this kid. Kerrigan brings his lunch pail every day and goes to work, the type of player a franchise can never get enough of.
Jarvis Jenkins, Defensive End
A very sound pick up that will be even more effective if free agent Kedric Golston returns. Jenkins is very good at stopping the run, an area Washington needs help at.
He isn't a classic nose tackle, but is versatile enough to get rotated there if needed. He is not going to rack up many sacks, but you will rarely see him get fooled or pancaked.
Some question his stamina, because he was given frequent blows in college, so this is why the return of Golston helps. Jenkins will be good for the Skins rotation playing the five-technique or wherever he is needed.
Leonard Hankerson, Wide Receiver
A big kid with huge, soft, reliable hands. He will not burn any defensive backs, but he will use his body to screen them off. A red zone threat who will be looked on as a chain mover.
With Santana Moss possibly gone, and Anthony Armstrong catching 20-yard passes, Hankerson fills a big need while adding quality depth. He also has the possibility in leading the team in touchdown catches as a rookie.
Roy Helu, Running Back
Helu has to be a Shanahan Special. Shanahan is known for taking running backs later in the draft, then turning them into 1,000-yard backs.
The kid is a one-cut back who hits the hole hard, but his real worth could be he saves Washington a roster spot because of his excellent receiving ability. He should challenge for a starting job right away.
Dejon Gomes, Cornerback
His athleticism is probably what had Washington reach on him much higher than he was rated. Many experts had Gomes going undrafted or in the seventh round.
He has good size and hands, but often whiffs on tackles and needs a lot of work in his deep zone recognition. Defensive Backs coach Bob Slowik has a lot of work to put into Gomes.
He will have to earn his pay on special teams, but there is a chance that this is the only area Gomes can contribute at for Washington.
Niles Paul, Wide Receiver
Another physical possession receiver, possibly signalling the end of Roydell Williams and Malcolm Kelly. Paul needs major work on refining his route-running, but Washington has the great Keenan McCardell at Wide Receivers coach to help him.
He has decent speed to go with a good frame, so there is a chance he can help the team. Paul also has experience at returning kicks, so special teams play might determine if he sticks or not.
Evan Royster, Running Back
The first real bizarre move by the Redskins. Washington is woefully thin at linebacker, and there were a ton of linebackers selected right after Royster was drafted. This includes Greg Jones, a tackling machine who has the ability to start at middle linebacker one day at middle linebacker.
With Rocky McIntosh a free agent and London Fletcher 36-years old, Jones made sense here, especially with the fact that the oft-injured and smallish Robert Henson is the only inside linebacker on the roster besides Fletcher.
Royster was productive in college, but he is not very strong nor fast and offers nothing but blocking in the passing attack. He isn't explosive, lacks lateral agility, and goes down easy too.
Yet he is a very hard worker and smart. Maybe the Redskins plan on trying him at linebacker, because I think he may have difficulty beating out Helu, Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams, Mike Sellers, Darrel Young, James Davis, Chad Simpson, or even Andre Brown for a roster spot.
Aldrick Robinson, Wide Receiver
A smallish, but speedy, wide receiver, Robinson could end up being the best receiver drafted by Washington in 2011. He has great hands and body control, willing to go over the middle without fear.
He should fill in at the slot right away, but he needs work because he comes from a spread offense in college. McCardell was a Pro Bowl receiver known for crisp routes and great hands, so Robinson will get coached up to produce early in his career.
Brandyn Thompson, Cornerback
A small, but not speedy, cornerback Washington hopes can add depth and help on special teams. Though his hips are a little stiff as well as his difficulties with bigger receivers, Thompson has a tendency to gamble.
Yet he has good hands and knows how to play zone coverage. Thompson is smart and a sound tackler. He will have to make the squad via special teams, but he could be solid in the nickel formation one day.
Maurice Hunt, Offensive Lineman
The Redskins finally address the offensive, perhaps a hint they plan on bringing back free agent Jammal Brown. Hunt is a bulky guy who will try to add depth at the guard position
He is strictly a masher for the running game right now, needing work on his pass blocking and assignment recognition. But he could prove to be very serviceable down the road.
Markus White, Defensive End
He had good leadership qualities, which always upgrades the locker room. He is a hard worker who has some pass rush ability, but is raw and needs a lot of coaching in that area and awareness.
Given his size, which is more suited for a 4-3 defensive end, one wonders if the Skins plan on trying him as a strong side linebacker. Yet he didn't show the ability to stand up in college, so his selection is a mystery that will be unraveled in training camp.
If Washington plans on keeping him at defensive end, White might have trouble beating out Jeremy Jarmon, Adam Carriker, Darrion Scott, along with graybeards Vonnie Holliday and Phillip Daniels, for a roster spot.
Chris Neild, Nose Tackle
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Neild not only looks like a nose tackle, but the kid reminded him of New York Giants great Jim Burt. Yet the analysis on the NFL's website says Neild will not be able to play nose tackle at the next level.
One thing all can agree upon is that the kid is an anchor in the trenches, because he is strong and hard to move. He is slow and not very athletic, but Neild specialty is clogging lanes and stopping the run while always working as hard as he can.
Washington's nose tackles are a collection of mediocre journeymen, so hopefully Neild can at least add quality depth. Defensive Line coach Jacob Burney has the responsibility of trying to help get Neild be an effective NFL nose tackle, because a 3-4 defense is never good if the position isn't productive.
Bruce Allen got a lot of bodies in the draft, yet the only linebacker he took is a defensive end who will need a lot of coaching to transition smoothly. He also eschewed the offensive line until the final round.
It was quite apparent the Redskins were not interested in any quarterback available to be had. Talking heads kept mentioning how the Redskins are planning to go with John Beck during the draft. Beck, drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft, is on his third team so far.
Despite the reaches on Royster and Gomes, Allen got good value and possible sleepers at wide receiver. If Jenkins and Neild can contribute to a defense that struggled last year, Fletcher, Orakpo, and Kerrigan will be freed up to make big plays that will help a secondary that is uncertain heading into 2011.
With Carlos Rogers a free agent, the bookend for DeAngelo Hall is unknown. Gomes and Thompson might be able to make up for the loss of reserve cornerback Phillip Buchanon, but neither appear ready to start. If the Redskins do not sign Rogers or another free agent, perhaps the unproven Kevin Barnes gets the nod.
With the lock out back, free agency remains as convoluted as ever. Some assume the 2010 rules will apply, though no one is certain. Since teams cannot contact players, Allen will not be able to flesh out his roster for awhile.
But he did at least add much needed depth at wide receiver and cornerback, got some players who will help on special teams, and got a couple of projects to develop in the trenches after his first two picks.
Kerrigan and Orakpo have the potential to meet at quarterback often, which could create turnovers. Jenkins can occupy blockers, leaving the pair in favorable match ups, as well as help stop the run.
With an even split on drafting both sides of the ball, Allen really fortified the roster through all of his trades. Helu might be the most immediate contributor on offense while Kerrigan and Jenkins appeared destined to start immediately.
Grade : B +
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