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Bruce Allen's Promotion Shows Dan Snyder Hasn't Learned Much

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Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images.
Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

I received another letter from ‘Skins headquarters last week. It dropped in my electronic mailbox just like the last two. There was an immediate difference this time, though. The previous two letters where addressed to “Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation.” I was only carbon copied on last week’s letter. It was sent directly to Senator Harry Reid. Uh-oh. The last two tone-deaf letters — logic-defying pep rallies for the dying nickname — were at least sent to the fan base. The message was kept in the family. This time the organization decided to fire back … at the U.S. Congress. 

There was another difference between this correspondence and the previous two: the sender. Daniel Snyder penned the first two. President Bruce Allen sent the May 23 letter. President? As far as I can tell, this was Allen’s first official act as team president. The team didn’t even announce the move until three days later. I’ll give kudos to Allen for boldness; wisdom, well, I’m not so sure.   

Team Therapist To President?

Allen has been serving as the Grand Football Poobah since Mike Shanahan’s firing, so the move is largely ceremonial. However, it removes any doubt that Allen is Snyder’s man and has full control of and responsibility for football operations. Which, I guess, is a good thing?

It isn’t healthy to perpetuate organizational uncertainty, but I wonder what Allen did, exactly, to deserve such trust from the unpopular owner. Allen has no demonstrated record of NFL success. He was pretty good in Oakland a long time ago (1996-2003) and was subpar in Tampa Bay (2004-08). Since arriving in D.C. three and a half years ago, his primary function, outside of making critical uniform decisions, was serving as the unflappable buffer between The Great Ego (Snyder) and The Great Ego 1a (Shanahan). Now, despite questionable credentials, the team’s politician and therapist to its billionaire and millionaires is large and in charge.

A Disarming Promotion And An Inflammatory Tweet

Wait, wait, wait … I get it. This makes perfect sense. It is all so Snyder. Of course the presidency is being bequeathed to Allen. He is smooth, likeable and reasonably legitimate. In the court of public opinion, Allen’s a refreshing break from the abrasive arrogance of Mike Shanahan. More importantly, though, he’s the son of George Allen, the former Hall of Fame coach of the ‘Skins.

Bruce Allen is the perfect offset, a tonic of sorts, for an owner less popular in D.C. than any politician. He’s a “can’t miss” from a public relations standpoint. Who doesn’t love Uncle Bruce? 

Well, for a start, me, Senator Reid and millions with Twitter accounts.

What were they thinking? Writing a letter to a U.S. Senator and copying your fan base is one thing, blindly pressing “launch” on a social media nuclear bomb flirts with incompetence. And here’s the thing: it was completely unnecessary. The letter that I received, one that presumably only reached those that bothered to sign up on the team’s website (i.e., the fans) already included most of the content in the infamous/offensive tweet, including plenty of contact information for Senator Reid. By tweeting it, the ‘Skins demonstrated an extraordinary misunderstanding of social media, and ensured the issue du jour would go viral and slap another stain on the franchise’s soiled reputation.

Placing Blame, Issuing A Verdict

Who is to blame for this latest, senseless gaff? Jim Zorn has been exiled. Steve Spurrier is back in the SEC. Marty Schottenheimer is still counting Snyder’s millions. Team Shanahan was ousted. Vinny Cerrato’s doing radio shows. Is it Norv Turner’s fault? He’s always an easy target, a natural whipping boy.

Maybe Snyder retained full control of the team’s Twitter account? If so, Allen, assuming he’s not a complete Snyder-zombie and is still capable of objective thought, better wrestle the owner from the computer keys. Snyder unfiltered is as damaging to the ‘Skins as Sarah Palin’s unqualified commentary is to the GOP. Going rogue is only good if it involves consuming elite elixirs from the aptly named Oregon brewery.

Enough nonsense. This is the nation’s capital and, as Harry Truman proclaimed, the buck stops with the president. Allen is to blame for this hot mess. He skipped the honeymoon period altogether, picked a fight, and fast-forwarded directly into the counseling/damage control phase.

His written position on the team’s nickname is unfortunate, but tweaking a U.S. Senator and firing out an inflammatory tweet is alarming. At best, it is no way to kick off your tenure as the top executive of an NFL franchise; at worst, it is proof of Allen’s misunderstanding of the most important off-field issue confronting the franchise in my lifetime (I wasn’t around when the team was nudged by the federal government to finally integrate in 1962, the last NFL franchise to do so). 

So was promoting Allen a mistake? Not really. My expectations for anything this franchise does are just that low. I’m not cheering the move, but I’m not booing it either. “President Bruce Allen” inspired little more than a shrug. See, regardless of Allen’s uninspiring record, stance on the team name or social media ineptitude, he isn’t Shanahan or Cerrato — and that’s a good thing. Although, lauding someone for what they are not (their two failed predecessors) and not for what they are isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.