Snyder's slashing style raises Redskins questions

August 13, 1999|By Dan Pompei | Dan Pompei,SPORTING NEWS

Riiinng. Riiinng.

You open your eyes and look at the clock. 11: 45 p.m., it says.

Riiinng.

You pick up the phone. It's your boss.

He wants to know what happened today. In the course of an hour-long conversation, you discuss many things. He brings up the possibility of you doing something you are not very comfortable doing. For the 10th time in as many days.

You are very careful not to tell him it can't be done. He doesn't like to hear that, even though it is the truth. He is wearing you down about it. He's got big ideas. It is obvious he has given little thought to all the consequences of his ideas, and gently you try to put things in perspective. You had better go along with him, you think.

You hang up the phone and close your eyes but do not sleep well.

You work for the Washington Redskins, for now.

There is a clear sense of urgency around the Redskins these days as they go through two-a-days in Frostburg, Md. An edginess, even.

If this team doesn't make the playoffs -- at the very least -- this season, a lot of Redskins are going to be former Redskins, and there is no pretense about it.

You get the feeling Dan Snyder, the 34-year-old who bought the team in the off-season, likes it this way.

One of Snyder's first acts as owner of the Redskins was sending all his employees letters telling them he would retain them. One of his next acts was firing 23 of them, only one of whom he even had bothered to get to know.

Snyder paid $800 million to buy the Redskins, and certainly he can do whatever he wants with the team. Compassion, after all, is an impediment to Napoleons of the '90s. How can you conquer with a heavy heart?

"If you handle your business, you're around," Redskins running back Brian Mitchell says. "If not, you're gone."

It appears Snyder intended to send a message with the firings. He also had to be talked out of cutting a group of players to send another message.

Snyder did make it clear he would not tolerate forks and knives getting in the way of victories. Lest you think no one was listening, take a look at the scale in the Redskins' locker room. Guard Tre' Johnson is weighing in at 325, down some 50 pounds. Defensive tackle Marc Boutte has dropped 35 pounds to 295. Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield has lost an unknown amount of weight and is at a manageable 315. Guard Keith Sims has gone from 330 to 308.

So give Snyder this much: He is getting things done. Well, some things.

He had the interior walls at Redskin Park painted blue and orange. Hey, he made his money in communications, not interior design.

He saw to it that first-round draft pick Champ Bailey will play on offense and special teams, as well as on defense.

It had been decided that Bailey would play only as a cornerback initially, but after Snyder's hounding, it was announced on the first day of camp that Bailey would return kicks in the preseason and likely take a few snaps with the offense on opening day.

He fired a competent general manager, Charley Casserly, and gave final say in personnel decisions to Coach Norv Turner. He hired Vinny Cerrato, who did some nice things in his tenure with the 49ers, to oversee his personnel department.

And then there are some things Snyder hasn't gotten done.

Like trading for Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, Jamal Anderson, Joey Galloway, Carl Pickens, Antonio Freeman and Randall McDaniel. And signing Lawrence Phillips, Charles Haley, Chris Doleman and Ryan McNeil.

Not that he didn't try. Snyder desperately wants to make a splash by trading one of his three first-round picks in next year's draft.

Fantasy football, they call it. Go after a big name with no regard for salary-cap considerations, team needs, offensive or defensive philosophy, chemistry or long-term effects.

Dreaming big dreams isn't necessarily a downfall. Snyder probably wouldn't be so successful without that quality. And he is no one's dummy.

But he must be careful not to allow his great passion for the Redskins to cloud his judgment.

So far, he has shown no evidence of having a plan in place, no big-picture thinking, no vision. He has displayed a scattershot style. Where would trading a first-round pick for a 34-year-old guard on the decline such as McDaniel leave a team in three years?

Snyder also needs to realize that stability is an indispensable asset for a football team. Hardly any are successful without it. Change for the sake of change usually isn't a good idea.

Snyder has to understand that each component of a football team has an interdependent relationship with every other component. Each turn of a gear begets a turn of another gear. It isn't like most other businesses. Football teams require acts of selflessness on all levels.

Snyder's actions have fostered me-first thinking. When receiver Albert Connell kept hearing about Pickens, Freeman and Galloway, he piped up, saying he wasn't real happy. Is he going to be a good soldier when the free safeties start flying?

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