- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder might not have been too far off in his self-assessment in Tuesday’s exclusive interview with The Washington Times.

Although three former Redskins employees who were contacted by The Times declined comment, citing either a fear of being linked to a negative comment about Snyder or a reluctance to dredge up the past, those who spoke on the record generally supported Snyder’s self-portrayal as a maturing figure who is learning from his mistakes.

“I had the perception of Dan that everyone else did at first, but he has really impressed me,” San Diego Chargers chief operating officer Jim Steeg said. “It’s always tough when you’re the new guy on the block, but Dan is perceived totally differently than he was three or four years ago. He has become part of the group.”

After nearly six years in command of the Redskins, Snyder remains at 40 the NFL’s youngest owner. And while certainly not part of the old guard, Snyder does serve on the league’s prestigious broadcast committee.

Wayne Weaver of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the only one of six NFL owners who could be reached for comment, credited Snyder with doing “an outstanding job of marketing his team.”

Indeed, the Redskins have become the most valuable North American franchise under the direction of Snyder, who zoomed from college dropout to marketing mega-millionaire in barely a decade. While money doesn’t buy success in the NFL, even those who have disagreed with Snyder don’t question his commitment to victory despite Washington’s 45-53 record during his tenure.

“Dan has done everything in his power to find a winning formula,” said Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly, whom Snyder forced out upon taking command of the Redskins in 1999. “He has clearly committed the money to win. And bringing back Joe Gibbs, the best coach in the history of the NFL, was clearly the right move.”

Before Gibbs’ surprise hiring in 2004, the Redskins were almost invariably chaotic under Snyder. In a four-year span, he ran through four coaches, including big names Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Spurrier, and generally fostered an atmosphere of distrust throughout Redskin Park.

Each offseason, the Redskins seemed to covet other teams’ stars at the expense of established homegrown talent like cornerback Champ Bailey and running back Stephen Davis. The free-spending Snyder constantly seemed as if he were playing fantasy football with his roster and undermining those hired to make football decisions.

However, Washington added just three starters this offseason — with another expected to arrive via next month’s college draft. And Snyder opted to let cornerback Fred Smoot and linebacker Antonio Pierce leave for other teams this month rather than break the compensation limits he, Gibbs and vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato had set in hopes of re-signing them.

“What I’ve seen since I’ve been back [is that] Vinny, Dan and Joe, those guys have worked so well together,” said Redskins director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer, who returned to the organization in 2004 after a one-year retirement. “There’s just a calmness and a resolve that we’re going to turn this around. We’re going to get better.”

While Snyder’s suggestion of playing a Super Bowl at FedEx Field under a temporary roof drew guffaws from some, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said there was no reason such an idea couldn’t be considered. And Steeg, the NFL’s point man on the past 25 Super Bowls before he joined the Chargers, said an umbrella-like roof is feasible.

“We talked to the people at [stadium architects] HOK, and they said anything’s possible,” Steeg said. “I know the [U.S. Tennis Association] is talking about the same kind of thing for the U.S. Open. As long as Washington would be willing to handle the costs of a temporary roof as part of its Super Bowl bid, that would solve one concern that everyone has about an outdoor northern site.”

Note — As expected, offensive lineman Ray Brown re-signed with the Redskins for his 20th NFL season. Brown, 42, started 14 games in 2004 but figures to be the top reserve this year with right tackle Jon Jansen recovered from a torn Achilles’ tendon.

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