EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In the tunnel running around MetLife Stadium, Dan Snyder’s quick strides ate up the wet concrete beneath his dress shoes.
The eyes of the Redskins owner fixed on the floor Sunday as a grim, pained expression covered his face.
Snyder’s left hand gripped a half-empty water bottle; a rolled-up piece of paper was in the right.
He didn’t say anything. Instead, the owner looked as if he couldn’t escape quickly enough from the site of the final indignity in a season filled with them.
A season Snyder helped to create.
Four years ago, the owner handed Mike Shanahan $35 million and total control of the rotted-out organization. The coach would bring stability. Cohesion. Direction. An adult to run every aspect of a franchise that hasn’t appeared in the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1991-92. In the process, Snyder continued the brand of knee-jerk decision-making, seduced by big names and quick fixes, that’s defined his time as owner.
The problem isn’t as much Shanahan as the process that installed him as the would-be czar of Redskins Park.
The petulant, disingenuous final weeks of the 3-13 season that mercifully ended with Sunday’s loss to the Giants are beside the point. The dueling leaks and bizarre press conferences simply revealed the Redskins, once again, as setting the standard in professional sports for franchise-wide dysfunction.
Push aside that drama without end and you’re left with Shanahan’s unmitigated failure as coach and personnel man in Washington.
His .375 winning percentage matches those from the much-derided tenures of Snyder flame-outs Jim Zorn and Steve Spurrier. This season’s minus-144 point differential is the worst by a Redskins team since 1961 and, in fact, worse than both seasons combined under Zorn. And, for that matter, Spurrier.
Boosted by historically awful special teams and the unusual late-season benching of Robert Griffin III to protect him for the offseason program, the Redskins lost eight straight games to end the season, their worst such streak since 1960.
Sure, they were a trendy pick to make a deep run in the postseason. But shouldn’t we have seen this debacle coming? After all, when the process is wrong, success, like the seven-game win streak in 2012 touted by Shanahan’s sycophants, is simply an aberration. The truth is a string of failed mid-to-late round draft picks, Alfred Morris excepted, that didn’t provide the talent needed to build a solid special teams unit or add depth on either side of the football. The truth is in free agent busts from Josh Morgan to O.J. Atogwe. The truth is in season-long problems with clock management. The truth is the poor tackling, penalty-ridden, unfocused team that embarrassed itself on a regular basis this season and, in keeping with Shanahan’s scowling example, pointed fingers at everyone but itself.
Why should the Redskins have expected Griffin to match his charmed rookie season after spending last offseason rehabbing from his knee injury instead of developing his wanting skills as a pocket passer?