Under the stewardship of the Cooke family, the Washington Redskins were all about tradition. Players, coaches and front office employees stuck around. From 1971 to 1992, Washington had just three coaches, five regular quarterbacks and one training camp site. Include the next six seasons, which certainly were a bit more chaotic, and the Redskins still had only five coaches, eight quarterbacks and two training camp locations in 28 years.
Fast forward to the present. Marty Schottenheimer was fired yesterday despite eight victories in the final 11 games of his only season as coach. After just 2-1/2 years as the owner of the Redskins, Dan Snyder just found his fourth coach and almost definitely will look for his fourth quarterback, with Tony Banks having been found wanting. Snyder’s Redskins have also held training camp in a different spot in every summer of his leadership.
The never-ending tumult that has been the signature of the Snyder era began as soon as he assumed control of the storied franchise in July 1999 after a six-month struggle in which his partners were rejected and replaced. Snyder, then just 34, sent a letter to all Redskins employees that read in part, “I intend to retain all of you,” but within six months almost all were gone. So was Snyder’s promise to retain his late predecessor’s name on the stadium Jack Kent Cooke built in 1997. Cooke oversaw three Super Bowl titles in a decade and paid for the stadium, but Snyder sold the naming rights to Federal Express, and Cooke’s name disappeared from the facility.
General manager Charley Casserly was rewarded for snookering New Orleans on draft day in 1999 by being forced out three months later with the ink still wet on top pick Champ Bailey’s contract. Coach Norv Turner survived 1999 only by winning the NFC East title. But when the Redskins loaded with overpriced, underachieving Snyder additions like Deion Sanders, Jeff George and Mark Carrier lost four of five games after a 6-2 start in 2000, Turner was axed, too. In a speech at the National Press Club last fall, Snyder said his biggest regret as Redskins owner was not firing Turner as soon as he took over.
John Maroon, who had been the public relations director for volatile Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos for several years, endured less than six months with Snyder and got out of pro sports. Maroon’s successor in Washington, Doug Green, lasted one season. Besides the 14 players who were on the roster Snyder inherited, only four Redskin Park employees predate the owner’s arrival. Between Redskin Park and the stadium, Snyder has gotten rid of more than 100 employees from scouts to groundskeepers. Bailey, for example, will be playing for the fourth defensive coordinator of his four-year career this fall.
Redskins fans have fared no better despite Snyder’s claims to have been among the most devoted of their ilk while growing up in Bethesda. Washington’s average $81.89 ticket price last season was easily the NFL’s highest, and the cost of luxury seats at FedEx Field has more than doubled during Snyder’s regime. And who can forget the training camp fiasco of 2000, when the Redskins became the first team to charge fans to attend camp after the owner broke the team’s contract to hold its summer workouts at Frostburg State? Snyder’s greed not only backfired in terms of public relations but also meant the team couldn’t prevent opposing scouts from watching practices and soaking up information about the Redskins.
Upon taking charge, Snyder also demanded payment from the media for the right to use the Redskins’ logo and name. Those that refused were forced to change the names of long-established shows and publications under the threat of legal action.
Even Snyder’s childhood heroes have been affected by his style. Mark Moseley, the Redskins’ all-time leading scorer, was ejected from a practice because he walked too close to the owner. Gunnar Jurgensen, son of Hall of Famer and Snyder confidante Sonny Jurgensen, was fired from his marketing job at the stadium and ushered out by security guards.
And now Schottenheimer has become the latest to receive the full Snyder treatment.