By Ronald Guy
Of all the head coaching decisions made by Daniel Snyder — a continuum that spans the legitimate to the ridiculous — hiring Marty Schottenheimer made the least practical sense. On the surface, one could argue that Schottenheimer’s iron-fisted, ‘my way or the highway’ approach was the perfect detoxing agent for the laissez-faire management style of his predecessor, Norv Turner.
Where Turner would ask kindly and meekly for a player’s commitment to the team and the organization, Schottenheimer mandated it. With a roster littered with players in D.C. to get paid and with the expectation of a participative, democratic approach to decision making, there was merit to employing Schottenheimer and his dictatorial style.
With full control of the team and player personnel, King Marty’s omnipotence even neutered Snyder’s influence. The impact on the team was swift. Self-centered players like Deion Sanders — retired before the 2001 season — and Jeff George — released early in the season in favor of Tony Banks, for crying out loud — were offloaded and the Redskins began a transformation from overpaid and soulless to blue collar and substantive.
The culture shock contributed to a dubious 0-5 start, but the team won eight of its last 11 to finish 8-8 — a season that ironically mirrored Joe Gibbs’ first season in D.C. It seemed the days of fiscal extravagance and headlining acquisitions were out and those of frugality, discipline and hard work were in.
And therein lies the problem: Daniel Snyder, circa 2001 (he’s gotten a little better, I think), wasn’t in a place as an owner to delegate decision making, let alone to someone as conservative, old school, equally egotistical and, as I’m sure he perceived it, boring as Marty Schottenheimer. Snyder wanted to be in the mix, in the headlines and relevant. The ‘Skins were his toy and he wanted to play with it; Schottenheimer wasn’t sharing.
So after just one season into the experiment, Snyder attempted to wrestle back control of personnel decisions from Schottenheimer. The coach refused, leaving Snyder with only one option: to fire him and stroke a multi-million dollar “divorce” check.
Schottenheimer exited D.C. as an unemployed but very rich man.
Redskins fans like to romanticize about the progress Schottenheimer made and what might have been had Snyder’s ego and need to entertain himself not intervened. Such opinions are based on nostalgia skewed by the debacle that was Schottenheimer’s successor (teaser).
Would Marty Schottenheimer have turned the Redskins into a 10-12 win team and an annual playoff contender? Probably. But all those promising seasons would have surely ended prematurely and with fans lamenting several infuriatingly conservative play calls at critical moments — that’s what Schottenheimer does.
Do you think Drew Brees would have ever become Drew Brees and broken Dan Mario’s single-season passing record playing run-run-pass-punt “Marty-ball”? Snyder didn’t necessarily err in firing Schottenheimer; his mistake occurred in picking his successor.