- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

Marty Schottenheimer may be onto something: the forbidden fruit strategy. The more you say you don't want something, the more somebody wants to give it to you.

For the past year, Schottenheimer, in his role as ESPN analyst, seemingly went out of his way to criticize Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. And every time the question came up recently whether he would be interested in the Redskins' coaching job, it was all Schottenheimer could do not to break up laughing.

Me? Redskins coach? Are you kidding?

Schottenheimer told the world that he didn't think he could work with someone with Snyder's management style. So in the search for someone to replace Norv Turner, you would have thought that the last person that would be hired would be the one guy among the big names Bill Parcells and Dick Vermeil among them who publicly not only said he wasn't interested but embarrassed the owner as well.

It turned out to be a heck of a strategy. Maybe Al Gore should have used it gone around the country telling voters that he didn't really want to be president, that he couldn't really work for them.

For Snyder, it was a brilliant move. The Redskins owner's credibility has been brutalized this year, so what better way to restore it than to hire a critic?

Yesterday, at a news conference at Redskin Park, Schottenheimer admitted his criticism of Snyder may have left some people scratching their heads when he decided to take the job. "I plead guilty," he said. (He is already a big improvement voice-wise over Norv Turner, whose voice often sounded like that of a man who was being asked if he wanted a blindfold. Schottenheimer's voice sounds like it is laced with iron.)

Schottenheimer's explanation? "I obviously didn't have enough information about Dan Snyder," he said.

What was the missing information? How about $10 million?

Snyder's four-year deal puts him third among NFL coaches who also double as general managers or, in Schottenheimer's case, director of football operations. It probably is a big jump from the paycheck he was drawing from the Kansas City Chiefs before he resigned after the 1998 season, and most likely much more money than he was drawing from ESPN.

In a way, it was an offer that Snyder had to make. When it became clear that Snyder was not going to be able to bring in a Parcells or Vermeil, he had to find someone with a proven record who could step in and make changes to a team with a small window of opportunity left for winning.

Schottenheimer fits that bill. He has a career record of 150-96-1 in 14 and 1/2 seasons as an NFL head coach, 4 and 1/2 with the Cleveland Browns and 10 with the Kansas City Chiefs. His teams have reached the playoffs 11 times.

However, it is those playoff games that have kept Schottenheimer from taking a place among elite coaches like Parcells and Vermeil, even though he ranks 12th in NFL history in wins among coaches with more than 100 victories. His playoff record is 5-11.

At the news conference, in front of the stage where Snyder and Schottenheimer sat, were the three Redskins Super Bowl trophies. Each could have represented the three times Schottenheimer's teams made it to the AFC title game and lost.

It is a legacy that Schottenheimer admits still haunts him, and, to his credit, he addressed it yesterday. "My record of 5-11 in the playoffs is a major disappointment to me," he said.

He sees the Redskins' job as a chance most likely his last, at the age of 57 to redeem himself. "I've been given the opportunity to fulfill my dream," Schottenheimer said.

It could be his worst nightmare as well. That is pretty much up to Dan Snyder.

We have seen this around here before, with another owner to whom Snyder has been compared. When Peter Angelos was under heavy criticism in 1995 for being a meddling owner, he felt pressured to hire someone to run the baseball operations, someone who would restore credibility to the franchise. That person, he determined, was Pat Gillick, the general manager who had built the Toronto Blue Jays into World Series champions.

Gillick had stepped down as the Blue Jays' GM and was in a front office advisory role there when Angelos sought to hire him. Gillick didn't have the public forum that Schottenheimer did, but he made it clear to everyone, including Angelos, that he wasn't interested. He had heard that Angelos was a meddler, and he didn't want to get involved in that kind of ownership.

Angelos didn't give up, though, and, with the help of newly hired manager Davey Johnson a friend of Gillick's convinced Gillick to at least meet with Angelos to judge for himself. He did, and Angelos charmed Gillick and said all the right things to convince him that he was not as bad as people made him out to be.

We all know how that turned out.

Schottenheimer and Snyder met for nearly five hours initially, and both said they came away convinced they could work together. "It was a complete eye to eye," Snyder said. "It was a perfect fit from Day 1."

How it fits from Day 2 and beyond is up to Snyder.

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