Let rejoicing Redskins sing `Danny Boy' while they can

January 13, 2000|By Ken Rosenthal

Redskins Haters of Baltimore, weep not over Washington's 27-13 first-round playoff victory over Detroit.

No doubt, a Redskins loss to a team that is 0-20 in the D.C. area would have been cause to rejoice. But patience, dear friends, is a virtue.

The more the Redskins win, the more owner Daniel Snyder will convince himself that he's the George Halas of the 21st century.

And the more Snyder becomes convinced of his own genius -- he's 99.9 percent there already -- the greater his chances of long-term failure.

Know what this is?

This is Peter Angelos vetoing the trades of David Wells and Bobby Bonilla, only to be vindicated when the Orioles make the playoffs and upset Mike Hargrove's Cleveland Indians.

This is 1996 all over again, classic beginner's luck.

We're not saying Snyder is another Angelos -- that's an insult to the Orioles' owner. Angelos meddles in too many baseball decisions and runs off too many quality employees, but he's the Dalai Lama next to Danny Boy.

For all his faults, Angelos has never summoned his manager into the trainer's room to meet after a loss, or undermined his manager's authority by meeting one-on-one with his players before an important game.

Snyder, 35, has inflicted such torment on "coach" Norv Turner, and now he's drawing praise in certain Washington media circles as the driving force behind the Redskins' resurgence.

Sorry, quarterback Brad Johnson is the biggest difference in the Redskins. And Johnson was acquired by Charley Casserly, the general manager that Snyder fired.

The truth is, the Redskins won the weak NFC East by default, with only one of their 11 victories coming against a team with a winning record (Miami). Not even their playoff opponent, Detroit, was above .500.

In other words, Turner passed the same easy courses as Brian Billick. And the Redskins would be the Ravens if they played in the AFC Central, except their strength would be offense and not defense.

Their season likely will end Saturday in Tampa Bay, especially if running back Stephen Davis can't play. Then again, the Buccaneers can't be considered a complete lock when they're starting rookie quarterback Shaun King.

Just imagine if the NFL hadn't returned to Baltimore, and Washington, Indianapolis and Jacksonville were three of the final four teams. The city would be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Not to worry.

The Ravens' continued improvement has healed some of the old wounds. And Snyder will get so much face time on Fox if the Redskins upset Tampa Bay, he'll demand his own series.

Suggested titles:

"The FedEx Files." "Everybody Loves Danny." "Boywatch."

Snyder's supporters argue that he's not as intrusive as the national media portrays him, that he brings welcome passion, that he will learn from his first-year mistakes.

Maybe. And maybe his management style is more conducive to football than baseball, where the mentality is the difference between 16 and 162 games.

It's not as if Snyder is the only NFL owner taking a cattle prod to his team. Dallas' Jerry Jones is more hands-on than a sculptor. Minnesota's Red McCombs ripped Randy Moss this season. Pay for your toy, play with your toy. It's the American way.

Still, how will Snyder react if the Redskins struggle next season?

The possibility certainly exists.

The Redskins should improve with three first-round picks -- the No. 2 selection from New Orleans, the No. 12 selection from Carolina and their own selection, which will be no higher than 24th.

But their non-division schedule includes Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Carolina and the Ravens at home, and St. Louis, Jacksonville, Detroit and Pittsburgh on the road.

Ouch.

All of Snyder's questionable practices can be spun positively now that the Redskins are winning. But the moment the team starts losing, who will repair the cracks in the foundation?

Turner is nothing more than a yes man at this point, a sharper version of Ray Miller. He isn't going to stand up to Snyder. And over the long haul, he probably isn't going to maintain his players' respect.

The framework is in place for players to take their beefs directly to Snyder -- a slippery slope that upended the Orioles when the alliance between Angelos and Roberto Alomar led to the departure of Davey Johnson.

Of course, the unanswered question with the Orioles is whether Angelos would have started trusting his baseball people if the team had missed the '96 postseason, and former general manager Pat Gillick's plan to break up the team had been justified.

Both sides had legitimate points -- Angelos believed he owed it to his ticket buyers to keep the team intact; Gillick believed the team needed to rebuild on the fly. But the Orioles' run only emboldened Angelos in future dealings with his front office, just as the Redskins' run is likely to embolden Snyder.

Like Angelos, Snyder loves splashy acquisitions, and he could trade one of the Redskins' first-round picks for an overrated veteran like Joey Galloway. He almost certainly will miss Casserly, the GM who stockpiled all those No. 1s while drafting cornerback Champ Bailey and trading for Johnson.

Redskins Haters of Baltimore, fret not over Washington's apparent breakthrough. One more victory, and Snyder will think he invented the lateral. And as a certain baseball owner discovered, beginner's luck goes only so far.

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