Thursday, January 7, 2010

Change in D.C.? Not really

Mike Shanahan is the latest NFL coach to take Daniel Snyder's money and try to turn his dismal Washington Redskins into the winner they once were.

Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as the head coach of the Denver Broncos in the 1990s, was fired by Denver after missing the playoffs for the third straight year following the 2008 season. He fits Snyder's mold of having a past resume of greatness but I see no reason to believe he will fare any better than the other six guys who have had the job since Snyder bought the team in 1999.

From Norv Turner to Terry Robiskie to Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier to Joe Gibbs.2 to Jim Zorn, they have all failed to put the Redskins back in the Super Bowl where they practically lived in the 1980s. Shanahan will be no different. Hey, I know this time the Skins have a real general manager in Bruce Allen and not Vinny Cerrato, who Snyder finally dumped. But Cerrato wasn't the problem and neither were any of those coaches (except maybe Zorn).

The problem is Snyder and is insistence on throwing money at whatever free agent he thinks will be a good player. The Redskins are notoriously overpaid and when people collect a greater wage than even they think they're worth, they don't produce like they do when they're hungry.

I grew up a Redskins fan. They were the first team I ever liked, mainly because they had a player whose last name I thought was "Hamburger," which seemed tré cool to a 7-year-old in 1973. (It was really Chris Hanburger, who played collegiately at North Carolina but so what?). I've followed them through thick and thin but over the past 5 years, I just can't get excited anymore. Once Gibbs, who is the greatest NFL coach in my lifetime (that's right, Bill Walsh had Joe Montana; Gibbs had Joe Theismann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien!) failed in his second coming in D.C., I knew that Snyder was the problem.

The sad thing about Snyder is that we are roughly the same age and he grew up a Skins fan, too. So I'm sure most of his formative experiences as a sports fan are similar to mine. I remember standing on the field in Candlestick Park back in December of 1999, shortly after Snyder became the owner. I had a field pass from the San Francisco 49ers office and was hanging out watching the teams warm up. At the time, I was not a Norv Turner fan at all and hoped Snyder would get rid of him. I watched Snyder making his rounds, chatting with various coaches and official-looking men and wondered if I should just go up to him, shake his hand and explain that we were both Skins fans since we started school and implore him to not let our team turn into one of the league's laughing stocks.

But I didn't do it and now if I had the chance to speak to Snyder directly, I'd let him know the past decade of failure lies squarely at his feet. But I have to believe he understands that now. Still, I don't expect the Redskins to go back to the Super Bowl until Snyder's association with the franchise is completely severed and that's not going to happen until he's dead or runs out of money.

Good luck, Shannie. You're going to need it!

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