Snyder's mirror has 2 faces

Redskins owner seen as passionate by some, meddling by others

November 12, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Daniel Snyder, the new owner of the Washington Redskins, was watching ESPN on June 18 when he learned the Arizona Cardinals had waived running back Larry Centers.

According to Vinny Cerrato, the team's new director of player personnel, Snyder immediately called coach Norv Turner and said, "Let's get this guy."

"Norv loved the idea," Cerrato said.

The Redskins quickly signed Centers to a one-year, $650,000 deal, and he's been a productive player, catching 29 passes in the first half of the season.

The Redskins like to cite Centers' signing as an example of how Snyder has brought new leadership and direction to the team in his first year as owner.

"He understands football," Cerrato said. "He understands putting the pieces together, and he knows players around the league. The questions he asks are very intelligent about football. He's really a good football guy."

Karl Swanson, his spokesman, said: "Snyder is not just an average fan. He knows a whole lot about football. He knows the subtleties."

That's the way Redskins personnel describe Snyder, a man with a passion for the game who is demanding and expects results.

"I think he's raised the bar, and he's changed attitudes. He deserves a lot of credit," Cerrato said.

Of course, the Centers signing could be viewed differently, as another example of a meddling owner who thinks he can run the team himself.

Snyder already has gotten the reputation around the league as an owner who throws pink slips around like confetti. He's fired a host of employees, including general manager Charley Casserly, who was named the NFL's executive of the year at the midway point of the season by Sports Illustrated for, among other things, swinging the Brad Johnson deal and setting the club up with three first-round picks next year.

Snyder also has managed to get more attention than most of the Redskins. He appeared to orchestrate the addition of veteran defensive coach Bill Arnsparger to the coaching staff, because he was unhappy with the play of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan's group.

Then there was the infamous meeting after the loss in Dallas, when Snyder and Turner met for 40 minutes in the trainer's room.

The Washington Post has called Snyder a "young Napoleon" and said he's received the nickname "Boy George" for being a young George Steinbrenner. In an unflattering Page 1 profile, Snyder was described as insisting on being called Mr. Snyder and rebuking an employee who referred to him as "Dan."

Snyder also bragged he was demanding and wouldn't tolerate losing.

In the Post, he said: "A Redskin is only satisfied with victory. That's a good line, isn't it? Write that down," as he laughed.

Swanson, who said that Snyder was traveling this week and wasn't available to be interviewed for this article, said much of what has been written about Snyder isn't true, is misleading, or is taken out of context.

Swanson said Snyder doesn't insist on being called "Mr. Snyder." He said some of Snyder's comments are made in jest but aren't reported that way, and most people don't realize what a sense of humor he has.

"When his wife was asked in an interview what people would be surprised to know about him, she said how funny he is," Swanson said.

Swanson said Snyder, 34, doesn't show his sense of humor most of the time, because "he doesn't want to be known as a young punk."

Swanson also said the meeting Snyder had with Turner in Dallas was misrepresented and not a case of Snyder berating Turner.

"It was more like four men in a room [Snyder, Turner, Cerrato and minority owner Fred Drasner] shaking their heads and wondering what happened out there," he said.

Cerrato backs that version.

"It was a normal after-the-game meeting. It's become like a fish story. Every time it gets told, the fish gets bigger," Cerrato said.

Swanson also concedes Snyder has made some mistakes. He hired David Cope from the Ravens' organization without asking permission to talk to him, prompting the Ravens to file a grievance. Snyder apparently didn't think he had to, because Cope didn't have a contract with the Ravens, but was told by the league that it's common courtesy to contact teams before talking to their employees.

"We made some mistakes while learning the ropes," Swanson said.

Swanson also said that Casserly was fired because Snyder found out he and Turner didn't get along. He said Snyder and Turner "just clicked," although the sale was finalized too late in the year to change coaches, anyway.

Snyder has put Turner in charge of the football operation. He approved Cerrato's hiring, and Swanson said it was his call on whether to keep Nolan.

"He never threatened to fire any coach. He asked Norv, `Are you satisfied with the job he [Nolan] has done?' and Norv said, `I'm comfortable with him,' " Swanson said.

Snyder has made it obvious that Turner will be fired if he doesn't make the playoffs, but Turner is in his sixth year and has yet to make the postseason. Very few coaches survive six non-playoff seasons.

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