- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

The surroundings certainly were different. As opposed to the spacious auditorium at Redskin Park, the setting this time was a cramped media room, overflowing with media types. But Marty Schottenheimer still went out as he came in, standing tall, voice firm, looking straight into every camera and the eyes of every reporter.

That wasn't all that remained the same. Now, as then, Schottenheimer was benevolent toward Redskins owner Dan Snyder, who fired Schottenheimer on Sunday after just one season and hired former University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier as the franchise's fourth coach in 13 months.

When he said hello as the new coach of the Redskins just more than a year ago, Schottenheimer said he had read Snyder all wrong while criticizing him as a commentator for ESPN. Marty said he simply needed to get to know him.

Yesterday, while saying good-bye, having gotten to know Snyder quite well, Schottenheimer refused to resume his critique or utter anything even slightly disparaging. He certainly had his chances. But Schottenheimer said in as many ways as the language allows that the Redskins are Snyder's team and he can darn well do with it as he sees fit.

If Schottenheimer, who said he would like to continue coaching in the NFL, was thinking of anything specific Snyder might want to do with his club, he was keeping it to himself.

"I have great respect for the privilege of ownership," said Schottenheimer, whose one and only Redskins team went 8-8 after an 0-5 start.

Later, Schottenheimer said, "When I arrived here, I made it very, very clear it was [Snyders] football team."

And still later, Schottenheimer said, "I think the important thing to consider is this: Dan Snyder owns the Washington Redskins. He made a significant contribution to this football team, this organization and this community. And he is really entitled to make whatever decisions he chooses."

Snyder also made a significant contribution to the Schottenheimer bank account, paying him about $7.5million over the next three years not to coach, the balance of the original four-year, $10million deal.

How about it, Marty? One more time?

"I have, for many years, understood the owner is the owner," he said.

While Schottenheimer was making it clear that he understands the inherent rights of ownership, more murky are the reasons for his departure.

The given reason is that Snyder wanted to take away from Schottenheimer total control of football operations and hire a general manager.

"That was the cornerstone of my decision to come here," Schottenheimer said. "That I would, in fact, have the ability to determine who would comprise the roster of our football team."

But why did Snyder change his mind? And would he have felt the same way if the Redskins had made the playoffs?

"I'd rather Dan have the opportunity to speak to anything he might feel in that regard," Schottenheimer said.

Snyder was not available for comment.

And then there is the biggest question of all: What if Schottenheimer had made the effort to save his job as coach by giving up his job as general manager? Would Snyder still have hired Spurrier, whom he has desired ever since buying the Redskins for $800million in 1999? Isn't that the real reason Schottenheimer was fired?

"I don't want to speculate on that," Schottenheimer said.

Meanwhile, Redskins linebacker Shawn Barber, who missed most of the season because of injury and is one of 19 free agents, said of Schottenheimer's firing as he was leaving Redskin Park, "It is a little surprising to me because we won eight out of the last 11 … but it's the nature of the beast, the NFL. That's what happens. It's what you can do for me now. And we didn't do enough for Marty. It's something the players probably have to look at themselves and say, 'We kind of cost him this.' The first five games probably cost the head coach his job."

During that 0-5 start, Schottenheimer never shied away from questions or criticism. Nor did he during the past week, when speculation was running rampant. And he didn't retreat yesterday. Some coaches would have had a public-relations type hammer out a brief statement and read it without taking questions. Others might not have shown up at all.

Schottenheimer, however, read his own statement, then hung around for nearly a half hour until the last question was asked. He even had some kind words for the pesky press before leaving.

"Let me say once again, I haven't always agreed with everybody's point of view, but that's not what you're charged with," he told reporters. "I've kind of enjoyed the banter, as it were, and I have great respect for people that work hard and go about their business in a professional way, and I believe you've done that. I want to thank all of you for that, and the page is turned."

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