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Why You Can’t Hate Daniel Snyder Anymore

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After years of ineptitude, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is starting to turn a corner. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
After years of ineptitude, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is starting to turn a corner. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

I’ve come full circle with my opinion of Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins. For years, I was a steadfast apologist, citing his willingness to spend lavishly to acquire talent and his well-intended, albeit misguided, fan’s heart. Through his early missteps, I surmised that Snyder would eventually harness his impatience, grasp the complexities of building a successful NFL franchise and grow into an elite owner. Snyder had a quality you couldn’t create — a genuine passion for the franchise — and had grown up, as had I, watching the franchise’s glory years under the charismatic leadership of Jack Kent Cooke — so surely he would get it. More pointedly, I wanted him to get it; and when you want something, you tend to filter the facts to support the desired truth. 

After Joe Gibbs resigned following the 2007 season and the embarrassing coaching search that ended in Jim Zorn’s hiring as offensive coordinator and awkward promotion to head coach, I began to lose faith in earnest. When Sherman Lewis, a former bingo caller, was hired to take over play-calling duties from an obviously professionally emasculated Zorn, I jumped off the deck of the U.S.S. Snyder. Fortunately, I was quickly scooped up by one of the hundreds of lifeboats that held hateful Redskins fans who had long ago — and wisely so — severed ties with the owner. Loyalty is a virtue only insofar as the dedicated follower prudently selects the followed.

By the time the Jim Zorn “Dead Coach Walking Tour” had reached its crescendo during the 2009 season, I couldn’t take it anymore. Daniel Snyder was roughly 10 years into his tenure, and the franchise had eroded from one of the most respected in the league to one of the most poorly managed in all of professional sports. The tens of millions of dollars wasted on free agents, the alleged mistreatment of staff, the mythical turnstile mounted outside the head coach’s office (Snyder’s had seven since 1999), the shameless financial fleecing of fans (including suing season ticket holders), the tacky promotions, the meddling with personnel decisions and, mostly, the habitual losing had gotten the better of me.

Whenever I approached the FedEx Field gates on game day, I felt more like a Disney zombie than an NFL fan. Was I here because I wanted to be or because I had been conditioned by social pressures and years of dedicated Sunday worship to believe that I needed to do this? Whatever it was, I would literally mumble to myself, “welcome to Dannyland…please invert your pockets and part with your cash.” That sounds unhealthy and short of someone acting on his free will; Snyder’s ownership had left me in a joyless trance.

Then, after the 2009 season and with the franchise at its lowest point since some time before the George Allen regime, Snyder finally noticed the flames enveloping ‘Skins headquarters and the torch-wielding mob outside his windows. He fired Zorn and, more importantly, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato. He somehow conned Mike Shanahan into backfilling Zorn, convinced Bruce Allen, son of former head coach George, to be GM and, in a nearly unprecedented move, handed them the keys to the franchise. Why either man — both of whom were well respected in the league — accepted is beyond me. I suppose even at his weakest, Snyder can still sell a bottle of snake oil to someone that’s already holding two. 

I was initially skeptical of Allen’s and Shanahan’s hiring. On one hand, it seemed implausible that either would have hitched their professional wagons to Snyder absent clear and unquestioned power to run the football show. In 2009, though, it was equally as unlikely for Dan Snyder, the fan-boy turned owner, to admit to his elementary football education and forfeit control of major decisions. Four years later, it seems that’s just what Snyder did.

Whatever opinion you hold of Shanahan and Allen — and neither one’s tenure is beyond reproach — it cannot be argued that Snyder has, for three full season and four offseasons, taken a back seat and allowed competent football men to run his franchise. In that time, the Redskins have cleaned up their finances, paid market value for free agents and cherished the draft — you know, the basic pillars of success followed religiously by good teams and everything the ‘Skins didn’t do in the first ten years of Snyder’s reign. The results — a division title, a franchise quarterback and a core of young talent D.C. can call its own — speak for themselves.

Five years ago, had a ‘Skins fan stumbled on a Genie in a bottle, the three wishes (aside from a Lombardi trophy) would have been the firing of Cerrato, the hiring of competent football managers and Snyder reducing himself to a check-writer. And therein lies why you can’t hate Snyder anymore: he granted all three wishes. Is he still a confounding human being, one for whom every positive story is counterbalanced with a negative one? Yes. Does he remain a shameless marketer who regularly slips his hands into the pockets of fans? Absolutely, but if you don’t like the ticket prices, parking fees, cost of jerseys or other gimmicks, simply don your ill-fitting John Riggins jersey from the early 80s, plop down on the couch and enjoy the games in high definition. Frankly, every professional sports team seeks to reduce the emotions and dedication of fans into a money grab.

That’s the business model; stop feeling sorry for yourselves.

Need a few more reasons to temper your venom for the obnoxiously belt-buckled big daddy in the FedEx Field luxury suite? My advice: research owners of other professional sports teams. Have you seen what Jeffrey Loria has done to the city of Miami and the Marlins franchise? I can’t imagine Snyder being so callous and disenchanted with the product. Are you familiar with why the football team up I-95 in Baltimore is called the Ravens and not the Colts? Acquaint yourself with Robert Irsay; you’ll feel guilty for hating on Snyder. And surely Redskins fans have noticed the Sunday carnival disguised as a football game in Dallas. Any ‘Skins fan being honest with themselves wouldn’t even consider a trade of Snyder for Jerry Jones.

Maybe Snyder isn’t — and likely will never be — Robert Kraft, Steve Bisciotti, Arthur Blank, the Rooney family or the second coming of Jack Kent Cooke. Okay, few are; get over it. I said there was no reason to continue to hate Snyder; I never said you had to like him.