BRISTOW, Va. | On the rare occasions when Dan Snyder speaks to a gaggle of reporters, he doesn’t go long. Two minutes, and he’s antsy to move on. Somewhere in there he usually drops the key adjective he’s using to describe the current state of the Washington Redskins.
So, on Thursday, when surrounded by notepads and microphones after a dedication ceremony at the Youth for Tomorrow school founded by Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins owner gave his latest sound-bite assessment as his team endures yet another circus of a season.
“I’m personally frustrated we’re 5-7,” Snyder said.
That’s actually an improvement. Last year he was “embarrassed” and “apologetic.” The Redskins were free-falling to a 4-12 record. A coach who been calling bingo games was brought out of retirement to call plays. Coach Jim Zorn’s firing was inevitable as early as September. The Redskins, as they have so many times over the last decade, became a punch line.
That was supposed to come to an end this year. New coach Mike Shanahan, the hard-nosed two-time Super Bowl winner with the uncompromising scowl, and new general manager Bruce Allen would restore a sense of professionalism. No more laughingstock Redskins.
No such luck. A yearlong, almost comical to-and-fro with suspended defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has dominated the season. The football world also scratched its head over Shanahan’s benching of Donovan McNabb late in a loss to the Detroit Lions, then scratched its head again when Shanahan sounded like a coaching novice trying to explain it, then scratched its head yet again when McNabb was given a much ballyhooed contract extension — only to learn a day later that the fine print allows the Redskins to render the deal moot at the end of the season.
There have been other lesser amusements. A mix-up caused the team to turn in the wrong name on the inactive list before one game. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall threatened to ignore the defensive coaches so he could always cover the other team’s top receiver. Clinton Portis insulted female journalists, apologized for his remarks, then a week later said he stood by his original comments.
It’s always something with this team, isn’t it?
“No doubt,” cornerback Carlos Rogers said this week. “We’ll give you some news, whether it’s good or bad. We always seem to have some news.”
The big news this week, of course, was Shanahan’s decision to suspended Haynesworth without pay for the rest of the season for “conduct detrimental to the club.” Haynesworth, who signed a $100 million contract that contained $41 million in guaranteed money, stands to become the biggest of many big mistakes made during the 11 years of the free-spending Snyder’s stewardship.
“I wish it had worked out better,” Snyder said Thursday. “I wish he had played better and everybody played better.”
That’s about all Snyder would say about his wayward investment. The owner said Shanahan, who has contractual control over personnel matters, is now the person who “speaks for all of us.” Shanahan, for that matter, said he didn’t even consult Snyder before deciding to suspend Haynesworth.
And to those who are wondering why the Redskins still manage to live in such a drama-heavy zone, Snyder echoed a sentiment he’s had to express all too many times over the last decade: “Have a little patience.”
“When you have a new organization in place with Bruce Allen and his team, and coach Shanahan and all new coaches, things take a little time for them to shape what they want to do,” Snyder said. “It took Joe Gibbs a year (6-10 in 2004) to get his organization shaped the way he wanted to, and the next year we went to the playoffs and made a good run, and we’re looking forward to the same thing with coach Shanahan and Bruce Allen.
“Obviously where we are right now in the season is not where we want to be, but we’re making progress as an organization, and I’m feeling great about Mike and Bruce. They’ve got great leadership. We’re in good hands.”