Redskins' front office in motion

Football: New owner Daniel Snyder makes two things perfectly clear: He wants to win, and he's not afraid to make changes.

August 11, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

FROSTBURG -- "I used to say it was pretty difficult to get fired around here," an ex-employee of the Washington Redskins said with a rueful grin recently.

It's gotten a lot easier for Redskins employees to get fired since communications executive Daniel Snyder bought the team recently for $800 million.

Snyder has swept through the Redskins' offices like a hurricane, firing about 25 employees from the general manager to the stadium director to the public relations director.

You need a roster to keep up with who's who in the Redskins' front office. The public relations director Snyder hired quit after three days and was replaced by John Maroon, who left the Orioles to work for Snyder.

In the process of shaking up what was once one of the most stable organizations in the league, Snyder even broke up the Sonny (Jurgensen), Sam (Huff) and Frank (Herzog) radio announcing team that was almost as much of a Washington institution as the Washington Monument.

For the preseason games, Snyder switched Jurgensen, who has become one of his closest advisers, to the telecasts with local sportscaster George Michael and columnist Michael Wilbon. Their commentary will be simulcast on the radio.

Huff and Herzog are sidelined until the regular season, when Jurgensen will go back to the radio side.

Snyder, the league's youngest owner at age 34, seems to enjoy the perks and attention that come with being an NFL owner.

He arrives at training camp in a helicopter and signs autographs, "DMS."

"It's been happening a lot lately," he said of the autograph seekers. "I'm getting used to it."

He plans to invite the movers and shakers of Washington to sit in his private box. He even hopes to lure President Clinton, who wasn't invited by the late Jack Kent Cooke, to his box.

However, not all the attention Snyder's been getting has been favorable.

He got headlines on the business pages recently because his company, Snyder Communications, has lost $350 million in value in the past 15 months although he says that won't affect his operation of the team.

He also raised some eyebrows around the league with his business style. The Ravens filed a grievance against him after he hired their marketing director, David Cope, without asking permission to talk to him. Snyder's position was he didn't have to because Cope didn't have a contract.

He's also talked within the organization about trading for every disgruntled player from Barry Sanders to Jamal Anderson to Carl Pickens to Antonio Freeman.

When general manager Charley Casserly tried to tell him that some moves weren't realistic, Casserly was relieved of his duties. He'll become a consultant -- with a raise -- next month.

The message was that Snyder doesn't like to hear the word "no." He wants things done.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions complained Snyder was tampering with Sanders although there wasn't much the league could do about it because Snyder wasn't publicly quoted as being interested in the running back.

Snyder also promises the Redskins are going to end their six-year playoff drought this season.

"The pressure's on and the pressure is on the players where it belongs. We're going to win. It's that simple," he said.

If they don't, there'll obviously be more changes in the off-season.

Pressure's on coach

The man on the hot seat is coach Norv Turner, who's in his sixth season as head coach and has yet to make the playoffs.

Since the sale wasn't finalized until June, it was too late to find a new coach, so Snyder gave Turner the power usually reserved for the Mike Shanahans and Mike Holmgrens of the coaching profession.

Snyder said he made that move because he felt that Casserly and Turner could no longer work together. It's more likely the real problem was that Casserly had not overruled some of Turner's ideas -- notably the drafting of quarterback Heath Shuler and wide receiver Michael Westbrook.

In any event, Turner now will have no one else to blame if he doesn't have a winning season. If the Redskins don't get off to a good start, Turner might not even make it through the season.

Snyder did bring in former 49ers executive Vinny Cerrato to replace Casserly, but didn't give him the general manager's title.

Snyder also relies heavily on the opinions of Jurgensen, who has no experience running a pro football team, but is a Hall of Fame Redskins icon.

He also brought in former Viking Jim Marshall, noted as the man who once ran the wrong way with a fumble recovery, to training camp. Marshall, who has worked with Snyder in his communications business, said his role is to help the players focus.

Marshall said: "I'm here primarily as as resource for the team. Some of the problems they're having is focusing on their job and their assignments. Those are some of the things I thought I could help with."

Impact will be felt

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